Archery action continues to grow in popularity among Peach State hunters. Here's a look at the best of their bucks from last season. (September 2010)
David Sams' Macon County buck scoring 152 6/8 P&Y points took top honors among typical archery whitetails last season in Georgia.
Photo courtesy of Bill Cooper.
It's often said that lightning doesn't strike the same place twice. But when that old saying is applied to hunting, it doesn't necessarily hold true, as 37-year-old David Sams found out on October 25, 2009.
Sams, a taxidermist with Trail's End Taxidermy in Macon, was sitting in a Loc-on stand on a hardwood ridge that fingered down into a creek bottom. Not only was the thick understory below him the type of habitat in which big bucks liked to hang out, but also it had been productive for Sams in the past. In 2008, he arrowed a 129-inch, 10-pointer from the same Macon County stand. Earlier trail camera photos of a much larger buck in the area further bolstered his confidence in the location.
Preferring the cooler temperatures and rutting activity of October and beyond, Sams seldom hunts during the archery season. Although he had sat in this stand three or four times and had seen very few deer, he was not discouraged.
"It's not a high numbers stand," Sams said. "If you see something, it's usually a buck."
That morning, he reached the stand well before daylight and quietly got set up. The starlit sky and brisk, high-40s temperature suggested the kind of day that would get deer moving. By mid-morning, however, it was starting to appear that the deer would not show.
"About 10:00 a.m. I heard something down the hill," Sams recalled. "I peeked around the tree and could make out parts of a deer about 30 yards away."
Sams glimpsed a piece of antler as the buck walked directly toward him, but it was not until the deer got within 15 yards that he got a good look at the rack. It was immediately clear that this was not only a shooter buck, but also an exceptional one.
"He was on a track straight to my tree," Sams said. "Of course, it was thick in there, so there was no shot directly behind the tree. He maked it to within four steps, and I'm trying to decide which side of the tree he's going to come by me. He stops and starts digging in the ground, throwing dirt and leaves, and my heart is about to blow out of my chest! It was torture seeing a buck like this at 4 yards and not be able to do anything but watch."
After finishing the scrape, the big whitetail began to slowly move again, passing on the left within 2 yards of Sams's tree, before taking a slight angle to the right. The archer knew he must act quickly while the buck was in the clear, so he began to draw his Matthews bow when the buck was only a few feet in front.
"I tried to draw my bow and it wouldn't come back," he recalled. "It felt like someone had zip-tied it together! I tried two or three times, then I started to panic! I'm thinking, I'm going to have this deer walk right by and I can't pull my bow back. I'm going to feel like an idiot!"
The problem was solved almost instantly, when Sams realized that it was the steep angle of the 6-yard shot that was interfering with his draw. He raised his bow slightly and suddenly the string came back automatically to his anchor point.
"I put the pin behind his shoulder," Sams said, "kind of high because of the angle, and let her fly. It smacked him hard."
The big buck ran off frantically, stopping briefly at 40 yards, before resuming his flight and disappearing in the thick brush.
"After I gained my composure, I climbed down," Sams noted. "I got to the bottom of the tree and sat there a few seconds before I looked for the arrow."
Finding the arrow produced good news; it was covered in blood. A prominent blood trail led some 100 yards to the deceased trophy.
Sams stood admiring the 10-pointer lying sprawled in the leaves, something that he had not had time to do prior to the shot. With long, sweeping beams, evenly matched points and an inside spread of more than 19 inches, it was even more impressive than he first thought.
When later officially measured, the big whitetail netted 152 6/8 Pope and Young points, making it the top typical bow-killed whitetail in Georgia in 2009. That makes it the winner of the Typical Archery category of the 2009 Georgia Big Deer Contest, which is sponsored jointly by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Sportsman, and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association. The contest recognizes the top bucks taken by bow and arrow and firearms each year.
And, as if he needed to, Sams capped his most productive Georgia deer season on November 5 with his second P&Y buck in 2009, a Peach County bruiser that scored 138 0/8. It was his fifth Georgia P&Y whitetail and seventh overall.
The second-largest bow buck from last season was taken on October 19 by 41-year-old Glenn Garner of Pine Mountain. Harvesting big deer is not unusual for Garner. In previous years he had downed five P&Y bucks in Georgia, as well as record book bow kills from Texas and Iowa.
Not only is Garner an accomplished bow hunter, but as manager of comedian Jeff Foxworthy's 3,000-acre property in Harris County, he also hunts there.
In the process of planting some 300 acres of crops and food plots each year, Garner has a chance to observe many of the deer on the property during the spring and summer. In addition, an extensive network of trail cameras provided a good inventory of the deer population. A single, late summer photo of a buck with a rack estimated to be in the mid-160s had him pumped for the 2009 season and was a major reason he hunted nearly every day after the season opened.
"I had a phone call that afternoon from a buddy of mine, Chris Redman, the backup quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons," Garner recalled, "and he wanted to come down for an afternoon hunt. I told him to come on and we could hunt over some freshly cut corn and maybe shoot some does."
By 4:00 p.m. Garner had dropped off Redman and climbed into his own stand about 400 yards away. Both locations were at the edge of the woods overlooking cornfields where several mowed strips extended out from the stand like spokes on a wheel. Garner's hang-on type stand was fastened more than 30 feet up a poplar tree and provided an excellent view of the field.
It wasn't long be
fore a few young does and button bucks came out and began feeding. None were mature enough to shoot, so Garner continued to watch them as the afternoon wore on, the sun eventually dropping low on the horizon. At that point, he noticed a pretty decent 8-pointer emerge from the woods and began working its way closer, feeding on the corn. In time, the buck came within 15 yards and Garner briefly considered shooting it, before deciding that it still needed another year to grow.
Constantly scanning the entire field, Garner suddenly noticed a couple more deer in the distance. One was another youngster. But at the far end of the field, some 180 yards away, stood a very impressive buck, head up, surveying the situation. That deer began to feed slowly into one of the strips, only to stop and look directly at the 8-pointer that was still feeding in front of the stand. Seconds later, the big buck began to walk deliberately toward the smaller whitetail with a swagger that was meant to intimidate the lesser rival.
As he scrutinized the buck, Garner soon realized that no one had seen this huge-bodied deer on the property before. Even though this was not the mega buck that he was targeting, there was no doubt this whitetail was old enough and big enough to take.
Meanwhile, the 8-pointer spotted the bigger buck heading toward him and began to act nervous. Garner, in order to calm his own nerves, quit looking at the big buck and readied his bow for an anticipated shot. When the smaller buck glanced over his shoulder and moved away, the hunter knew that it was about to happen.
"Sure enough, he stepped out," said Garner, "and I settled my pin and whacked him. I hit him good, and he ran in a big semi-circle and headed back the way he came."
Just as the buck reached the edge of the field, he stumbled, and then crashed into the pines. Knowing that the buck was dead, Garner climbed down, picked up Redman and drove to where the expired buck lay. It was fortunate that his buddy was there, because the 262-pound buck was more than Garner would have wanted to load by himself.
In addition to the body size, the tall, even rack was just as impressive. A mainframe 10-pointer with two kickers, perhaps the most striking features of the antlers are G-2s and G-3s that range from 9 5/8 to 11 7/8 inches long. When officially measured, the rack grossed 157 3/8 P&Y and netted 148 4/8 following deductions for asymmetry and the two abnormal points.
The third best buck arrowed last year, not surprisingly, came from Fulton County, one of the metro Atlanta counties known for producing many P&Y bucks in recent years.
Kendall Golightly, a 34-year-old real estate developer from Douglasville, had never taken a P&Y buck, but he had his eyes on a large buck that frequented a 4-acre tract of hardwoods surrounded by subdivisions in the northern part of the county. It was connected to a larger wooded area not far from the Chattahoochee River. Multiple trail camera photos showed that this buck's main beams actually crossed at the tips: hence the nickname, "Tips," was given to him.
Golightly admits that pursuing this deer had become an obsession. After the archery season opened, he had been hunting two or three times a week. He passed up several deer, including a 120-class 10-pointer, but had yet to see the buck he was after.
As he left the woods on the evening of September 30, Golightly pulled the memory card on his trail camera and, once home, discovered that Tips had been by there about the same time every afternoon the past four days. He was scheduled to keep his little girl the next afternoon, but felt so strongly that the buck would return to his routine. He begged off on the babysitting duty and headed back to the woods the next day.
"I had this positive thought that it was the day to seal the deal," Golightly said.
About 4:30 p.m. Golightly parked behind a friend's garage and eased down the hardwood ridge to his stand some 300 yards away. Within 15 minutes, he was settled 25 feet up a tree, looking through the open understory towards a well-worn trail that crossed the ridge. After letting things settle down for a few minutes, he completed a rattling sequence, and then waited.
Ten minutes later the hunter heard something to his left and turned to see the small 10-pointer that always seemed to hang out with Tips on the trail cam photos. Almost immediately, he saw Tips behind the other buck at about 60 yards. Eventually, two 8-pointers, a 6-pointer and two does joined the group, which began to feed on acorns scattered about.
For the next hour, they fed up and down the ridge, Tips keeping his distance and seeming to stare right at Golightly every time he lifted his head. Finally, the whole bunch began move off to the right.
When the big whitetail got to within 38 yards, the archer felt like this was his opportunity. Making sure that none of the deer were looking in his direction, Golightly stood up, drew his bow and placed the sight pin behind the buck's shoulder. Unfortunately, a limb obscured the vital area, forcing Golightly to squat down in an awkward position before taking the quartering-away shot.
"He took one more step and I let it fly," he noted.
The excited bowhunter felt good about the shot, but waited an hour before getting out of his stand. His dad and a friend arrived a little later and, after following a spotty blood trail in the dark, they came upon the fallen giant about 85 yards away.
Tips was every thing Golightly had hoped. With 13 scorable points, the buck grossed 162 4/8 and netted 146 7/8 P&Y when officially scored.
Golightly summed it up by saying, "I couldn't believe that all my effort and hard work finally paid off."