January 14, 2020
By Lynn Burkhead
There have been a lot of “Best of the Decade” stories in recent days discussing what made the “20-Teens” decade so special.
In the whitetail world, one of those stories is easy — the massive 327 7/8-inch non-typical buck from Illinois that was taken by Virginia bowhunter Luke Brewster in Nov. 2018. As the largest hunter-harvested whitetail of all-time, and the third largest non-typical ever recorded by the Boone and Crockett Club, the Brewster Buck is easily in that “Best of Decade” story.
But what about the typical side of the B&C ledger? Well, as impressive as Brewster’s huge buck happens to be, equally impressive is a typical buck from the Deep South that didn’t receive the same fanfare that the big non-typical from Illinois did. But it should have.
Historic typical whitetail
Because when it comes to typical whitetails, a massive buck taken in December 2018 by 49-year old homebuilder William Lloyd of Wynne, Ark. is the top typical of the decade, sporting a gross score of 208 7/8 inches and a net score of 200 1/8 inches. With those numbers, the Lloyd buck is poised — pending future panel scoring — to become the new Arkansas state record, the biggest buck ever taken in the Deep South, the 17th buck netting more than 200 inches in B&C history, and the best typical whitetail anywhere during the past decade!
Not bad for a hunt that took place in eastern Arkansas, a river bottom and delta region that harbors some of the best hunting in the world … for waterfowl.
In fact, because of the clouds of green-timber mallards and rice-field snow geese that hover over the Grand Prairie grounds lying in the Mississippi River Delta country between Memphis and Little Rock, few hunters think of the same region for world-class whitetails.
But as Lloyd proved, the region is certainly worthy of a visit from deer hunters interested in record-book-sized whitetail headbones. He should know, having come to the region’s surprisingly good deer hunting pastime at an early age.
“I guess I’ve been deer hunting almost forever, my whole life really,” he said. “My dad taught me how to deer hunt.”
But when his dad’s time on earth ended a few years ago, Lloyd admitted that his interest in the sport waned for just a bit.
“My dad died in 2016, and I didn’t really hunt,” he said. “In fact, I kind of lost interest in it for a couple of years and skipped ’17.”
Revealing shed find
But his interest was rekindled in 2018 as he became aware of a giant whitetail roaming an area a couple of counties south of where he lives. In his words, after seeing proof of the deer, he figured this was a buck certainly “worth hunting.”
“I knew about the deer from a guy in Wynne, crop consultant, who walked the fields down there,” said Lloyd. “He found a shed back in 2016 and eventually, he showed it to me.”
The sight of that shed gave Lloyd the boost he needed to dive back into deer hunting. After talking to others, he found himself in Lee County, Arkansas, hoping to find a hunting spot in the area the buck frequented. When he knocked on the door of a local farmer with a moderate amount of acreage, the reenergized hunter was in business.
“It was only 160 acres that I was hunting and there were no woods — only beans and grass,” said Lloyd. “I was close enough to the woods where the deer were, but I didn’t have permission to hunt in the woods.”
As the autumn season unfolded in 2018, El Nino-fueled rains left the region awash in water, something that isn’t surprising in a delta region known for its world-class waterfowl hunting.
“Arkansas was so wet, a lot of those beans didn’t get cut,” said Lloyd. “In fact, the spot I was hunting was a draw of sorts, and it held as much as six inches of water, so the farmer couldn’t get in there to cut them.”
While that certainly hurt agricultural interests in the region, it actually helped waterfowlers and deer hunters since the waterfowl that flood into the area and the whitetails that cruise the woodlots around local rice and soybean fields were able to find plenty of food.
As the prime days of the 2018 season began to approach, Lloyd started hunting seriously, spending a lot of time there in November and early December.
“On my second trip, he came out on me one afternoon,” said the hunter. “But he was too far for a shot, being on the other end of the bean field about 500 yards away from me. That was farther than I felt comfortable trying to shoot.”
Besides, Lloyd had an ace up his sleeve – the rut.
“There were two does near me and with the rut going on, I thought he’d come my way,” he said. “A few minutes later, though, he went back into the woods and I didn’t see him again that day. I thought I might have blown my chance.”
Day to remember
Hunting most days over the next couple of weeks, Lloyd was beginning to lose hope that he might tag the buck. But then cameDec. 3, 2018, when everything changed.
“There was really nothing out of the ordinary about that evening, it seemed the same as the rest of them,” said Lloyd, who said he got into place that day about 4:45 p.m. “The place I was hunting, about 80 acres of it was in beans and the other 80 acres was grown up into weeds. I backed off the beans, so I wasn’t sitting in the water, but tried to get as close I could get without getting wet. I was more or less sitting flat on the ground.”
Wearing Mossy Oak camouflage, Lloyd settled in for the afternoon sit, waiting to see what might happen. As he did, he clutched his TC Encore Pro single-shot rifle, a synthetic stock model with a 150-grain .300 Win Mag bullet in the chamber. As the hunt progressed, a light wind blew on the overcast afternoon with temps in the 40s — a cool afternoon bathed in flat light.
Suddenly, Lloyd received a jolt of energy and his heart raced into overdrive at the sight of the big deer he was after.
“He popped out in the nearly the same place I had seen him in earlier (in the season),” said the hunter. “He was only out for a few minutes, and then popped back into the woods. But this time, he came through the woods towards me, although I didn’t know that at the time.”
Another chance after miss
A short while later, the deer hunting chance of a lifetime greeted Lloyd as the giant typical buck popped out into the open again, this time only a bit beyond the 200-yard mark. Sitting in a comfortable position with a Bog Pod bi-pod, the hunter steadied his rifle and prepared to send a shot downrange.
But when he slowly pulled the trigger, the result wasn’t what the hunter was hoping for.
“I don’t really know what happened,” said Lloyd. “I put him in the crosshairs, pulled the trigger, heard a bam (as the gun went off) ... and nothing happened. I just plain missed him.”
But sometimes, things are just meant to be, and that was the case on this gray December afternoon in eastern Arkansas as Lloyd quickly got another shell in the chamber of his rifle. As he did so, amazingly, the buck not only didn’t run off, he actually began to edge closer to Lloyd’s seated position.
“I don’t think he knew what had happened or where the bullet had come from,” said Lloyd. “He actually started walking in my direction, kind of quartering to me. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do.”
As the deer closed to the 200-yard mark, Lloyd found his crosshairs on the buck’s shoulder, settled them, and slowly pulled the trigger again. This time, the bullet struck home in the boiler room, traveling through the buck’s vitals and stopping inside the body cavity.
Getting the whitetail out
A short while later, with no tracking job to perform, Lloyd walked up on the still buck, trying to soak in what had just happened on a fairly barren patch of eastern Arkansas farmland.
“At the time, I thought I was hunting a big 10-point,” he said. “I didn’t have any photos of the deer. Others did, but I hadn’t seen a photo of him. I just knew it was a big deer from the shed I had seen.”
When he realized that the buck was a huge 12-point typical, Lloyd had to suppress a smile, thankful that he had not pulled the trigger on a couple of 150-class bucks he had seen earlier on hunting trips to the bean farm.
“I wouldn’t shoot them because I kept thinking that while I might get another chance at a deer in the 150s, I might not ever get another chance to shoot one of that caliber,” he said.
Sitting with the deer for a few moments as the wind lightly blew and the cloud-obscured sun slowly sank toward the horizon, Lloyd soon realized he needed to get to work on getting the big deer out of the swampy field. But when he went to do so in the evening’s gathering gloom, he had some trouble getting the bruiser whitetail loaded up into the back of his UTV and pickup truck.
“On my Ranger side-by-side, I didn’t know if I could get to him because it was bad muddy,” said Lloyd. “I think that’s why he was staying down in there, down in that draw, because it was remote and couldn’t be seen from the road.”
'Pictures didn’t do it justice'
Eventually, he got the deer loaded up and headed home. The next morning, as friends came over to look at Lloyd’s deer and photos began to spread, it didn’t take long for the story to get out to others in local communities.
“It didn’t take long to circulate,” said Lloyd. “In fact, it kind of went viral in the area that I live in. People that live there in the area where the deer was killed, I don’t think they liked it that someone had come in from another county and had killed that deer. They had seen the deer (too) and (had) hunted it.”
As has often been the case with many other big deer that are tagged by hunters in various parts of North America, local game wardens did their due diligence and visited with Lloyd, the landowner, and checked out the pertinent facts to make sure everything was legal. (Editor’s Note: A call to an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission law enforcement official confirmed that the agency looked into the story of the big eastern Arkansas buck, checked things out to their satisfaction, and concluded that no further investigation was necessary.)
As Lloyd tried to come to grips with the enormity of the buck he had shot in the days that followed, speculation ramped up about just how big the deer was. The hunter knew it was certainly the largest buck he had ever shot, or seen, for that matter. Others that saw the deer opined that it might be one of the best ever killed in Arkansas deer hunting history.
When Boone and Crockett Club official measurer Clinton Latham eventually scored the deer after the mandatory 60-day drying period was complete, he knew he was looking at a special buck.
“My first impression when I actually saw the rack was that the pictures didn’t do it justice,” said Latham. “I had seen pictures of it before we even talked, and from those, I was guessing something in the 190s, maybe 195. Most of the time, or at least a good portion of the time, pictures usually look bigger than the deer actually is. But that wasn’t the case this time.”
B&C scoring results
When the smoke had cleared from the scoring process, Lloyd’s giant buck sported numbers never associated before with a typical buck hailing from the heart of the Southland.
For starters, the 6x8 buck has little in the way of deductions, the symmetry differences and two abnormal points totaling up to only 8 6/8 inches. With a 24 4/8-inch inside spread, main beams of 29 2/8 inches (right) and 29 4/8 inches (left), and mass measurements ranging from 4 2/8 inches to 5 3/8 inches, the buck’s figures add up quickly to a gross score of 208 7/8 inches and a net score of 200 1/8 inches.
With that 60-day official entry score accepted by the Boone and Crockett Club, the buck awaits future panel scoring at the B&C biannual convention in 2021.
In the meantime, the Lloyd Buck seems well on its way to becoming the new Arkansas state-record B&C typical, beating the 2015 season’s Jacob Ayecock buck that was taken in Drew County and scored 195 2/8 net inches.
It’s also poised to become the largest typical buck ever tagged by a hunter anywhere in the Deep South, topping the Ayecock buck from Arkansas for those honors as well as the 191 4/8-inch Buck Ashe buck from Georgia in 1962.
Only the 204 2/8-inch net typical that Robert W. Smith tagged in 2000 from Pendleton County, Ky. is bigger, and that buck isn’t a true southern buck in the minds of many since the county where it was taken is in the Cincinnati, Ohio metropolitan area at the very north-central apex of Kentucky.
Even more impressive are the facts that the Lloyd buck is the biggest typical whitetail of the decade anywhere in North America, the 17th buck north of 200 inches net typical, and only the fourth such 200+ net typical of the 21st century.
Not bad for a spot where most hunters are toting a duck hunting shotgun instead of a deer hunting rifle!