How often does a deer hunter break a state record in Georgia? That's ordinarily a rare feat. But two archers topped the same record last season! (August 2008)
Jay Maxwell took his new state-record non-typical archery buck from Fulton County last Nov. 20.
Photo courtesy of Jay Maxwell.
Regardless of whether the specific location happens to be in Georgia or anywhere else, hunting urban whitetails amid suburbia's sprawling checkerboard of mini-habitats has become common.
Usually, the surroundings, the very small acreages involved and local laws or regulations combine to make bowhunting the only viable option. Not only does the bow have a relatively limited range, it's an efficient and, perhaps best of all, silent weapon.
Bowhunter Jay Maxwell lives and works within the cluster of counties surrounding the city of Atlanta. Over the last several decades, this entire area, which could aptly be referred to as a developer's playground, has seen ongoing construction of highways, office buildings, strip malls and residential neighborhoods. In the process, the local whitetail population has been relegated to small, disjointed pockets of undeveloped habitat, large corridors along drainage ravines (sometimes referred to as "greenbelts") and areas bordering the Chattahoochee River.
"I'm always on the lookout for new potential hunt sites," Maxwell said. "In mid-October I scouted a Fulton County tract of woods and thickets approximately a quarter of a mile from the river. Within that tract I located a small stand of big hardwoods bordered by a shallow stream drain and grown-up brushy thickets. There was also a fair amount of deer sign scattered throughout the area. After asking and receiving hunting permission from two of the property owners, I left, making a mental note to recheck the location during the November rut."
Over the following weeks, Maxwell became involved with hunting two other locations, one of which appeared to have great potential, and never found time to revisit the Fulton County site. But two days before Thanksgiving, through an unusual sequence of events, that opportunity suddenly materialized.
"On that particular morning," he recalled, "while traveling between two scheduled client meetings, I received a message regarding the Fulton County location. Supposedly, earlier that same morning, one of the landowners had spotted several deer behind his house and one of them was a big buck. While I was definitely interested in hearing the news, I was well aware that the term 'big' can have dramatically different meanings, depending on the specific reference and the individual. However, knowing the rut was in full swing, and having never hunted the location, I made the decision to take the afternoon off and check out the report."
During deer season, Maxwell always keeps a bow and hunting equipment packed in his truck, so at noon he drove directly to the hunt site. After briefly talking to the property owner to find out the exact details of the deer sightings, the hunter changed into his Scent-Lok hunting outfit, gathered his equipment, and headed to the woods.
"From the information given, I was pretty sure the landowner had observed one or more bucks chasing a hot doe," Maxwell explained. "Not knowing whether or not the deer were still on the property, I decided to follow the woodsline of the big hardwoods, being careful to move slowly and into the wind. The very last thing I wanted to do was jump the deer and have them leave the area."
A thicket of briars, high weeds and saplings covered the slope of a shallow ravine to the hunter's left. Evidence of fresh buck sign was scattered all along the woodsline, including a number of small pines and cedars that been severely rubbed and broken. After walking a short distance, Maxwell suddenly spotted a young 6-point point buck standing about 60 yards ahead, staring into the thick cover of the ravine. As the archer continued to watch, the buck moved slowly into the brush, then abruptly turned and ran back out into the trees.
"Realizing there were almost certainly other deer in the ravine that I could not see, I began to slowly move in that direction," Maxwell stated. "Unfortunately, I immediately jumped a doe that had been bedded down a short distance away. Seconds later, I heard another deer get up, and managed to get a brief glimpse of big antlers as both deer began running."
As Maxwell looked on, the doe, with the big buck following close behind, crossed into the open hardwoods 60 yards away. Trailing a short distance behind the two deer was the 6-pointer, plus two additional bucks with broken racks. After running er-ratically through the open hardwoods, the deer disappeared into thick cover on an adjacent hillside.
"At that point, I was unsure if or when the deer might return," Maxwell noted. "But I knew the wind was still in my favor, and except for jumping the doe, I was confident the bucks were unaware of my presence. I decided to quickly move farther out into the block of hardwoods where, if the deer did come back, I would have a better chance of being within shooting range."
However, before he could complete his move, the doe reappeared, with the bucks following close behind. Once again, the line of deer passed by about 70 to 80 yards away.
"Except for one of the smaller bucks, all of the deer disappeared back down into the ravine," Maxwell said. "While listening to them crash-ing around in the brush, I slowly con-tinued to move from tree to tree, be-ing careful to keep an eye on the one buck I could still see. Luckily, I was able to cover several additional yards in this manner."
Minutes later, the doe ran out of the ravine, continued along the woods line for several yards, and, after reaching a small pocket of brush and high weeds, immediately lay down. Seconds later, the big whitetail reached the doe's location, stopped abruptly and stood practically on top of the female. The three smaller bucks hovered about 30 to 40 yards away.
"The buck and doe were within 60 yards, but it was so thick I had to use binoculars to see through openings in the brush," Maxwell continued. "Every couple of minutes, one of the smaller bucks would attempt to approach the doe and the big deer would run them off. I took advantage of these confrontations to maneuver a few yards closer, eventually taking position in a cluster of vines between the trunks of two white oaks. At this point, I was within 40 yards of the smaller bucks and had to be careful to keep them from seeing me move."
About 20 minutes passed, and as the hunter peered through his binoculars to check on the deer, he was shocked to find the doe missi
ng. Hurriedly scanning the surrounding understory, he spotted the deer off to his right, walking through the brush.
"Realizing the buck would be right behind her, I quickly readied my bow and maneuvered into shooting position," Maxwell said. "The deer were slightly less than 50 yards away, and I was completely comfortable with that range. I only use one pin, and knowing the speed and drop of the arrow I was using, I had no doubts about making the shot. The only problem was finding a clear opening."
Seeing the doe pass through a narrow gap in the brush, the archer came to full draw and waited. As the buck approached the opening, Maxwell mouth-grunted to stop the big deer. The technique worked, but unfortunately the buck stopped a few feet past the opening.
"At full draw, with the buck looking in my direction, I knew my only chance for a shot was to move slightly to my right," the hunter said. "I realized the risk, but there was no choice. My only hope was that the buck wouldn't immediately figure out what I was.
"As I stepped out sideways from the tree, the deer's front shoulder instantly came into view. I remember thinking, 'Here we go -- let's make this happen!' and touched the release. At impact, the buck squatted and then took off running.
"I shoot a Muzzy broadhead, and when I saw that my arrow had penetrated up to the fletching, I knew I was watching a dead deer."
After running a short distance, the buck turned completely around and began heading back toward the hunter. For a second, Maxwell thought that he might need to step behind one of the trees to avoid the deer, but the buck eventually slowed its pace and went down only yards away. Throughout the entire sequence of events, Maxwell had focused all of his attention on getting a shot opportunity at the big deer. While he was certainly aware of the buck's large rack, it wasn't until the moment that he stood staring down at the huge whitetail that he realized the true size of the amazing antlers.
"At the time, I struggled to fully comprehend the entire experience," the archer said. "After thanking God for allowing me to take such a great animal, I sat there for several minutes just holding and examining the rack."
A short while later, after picking up his bow and binoculars, the hunter walked back to the landowner's house, where his truck was parked. Seeing Maxwell approach, the man stepped outside to inquire if he'd seen anything.
"I imagine the expression on my face probably answered the question," Maxwell stated. "However, I immediately told him that I had taken the biggest buck of my life and thanked him for giving me permission to hunt his property. To my surprise, he not only offered his congratulations but insisted on helping me retrieve the buck."
Before heading back to the woods, Maxwell made a couple of quick calls to two hunting companions, who, just as landowner and bowhunter were dragging the buck out of the woods, arrived on the scene. Their initial response was much the same as everyone else's: total shock and amazement at the dimensions of the big whitetail's rack.
Without a doubt, the rack's size is certainly an impressive factor. However, it is the unusual pattern of antler growth that gives the buck such a striking appear-ance. The rack includes 18 scorable points, several of which twist and turn in every conceivable direction. Antler spread is 22 3/8 inches outside and 20 5/8 inches inside.
Tine length dominates as the rack's most outstanding feature. The basic 9-point typical frame includes 12- and 10-inch G-2s and 11- and 9-inch G-3s. Two of the rack's abnormal points exceed 14 inches.
In regard to scoring, significant asymmetric deductions reduce the net typical score to 141 3/8. However, abnormal points total a whopping 72 1/8 inches, which brings the final non-typical Pope & Young score to 213 4/8, qualifying the buck for the all-time record books for both P&Y and Boone and Crockett.
Even more important, the giant deer is now Georgia's new No. 1 non-typical whitetail taken by bow and arrow, topping the state's previous record of 185 7/8 P&Y taken in Jones County during the 1973 season -- by over 27 points, in fact!
However, this story has yet another quite remarkable twist. Amazingly, 62 days before Maxwell took his giant state-record non-typical, bowhunter Brian Stephens of Cumming arrowed a huge 16-point non-typical in neighboring Forsyth County. That buck's final score of 186 7/8 P&Y also topped the old record. Granted, 62 days may be a short period of time to hold a state-record title, but that still exceeds the expectations of most hunters. And a No. 2 state ranking isn't exactly the worst thing in the world.
Editor's Note: Photos and the full story of Brian Stephens' short-lived state record will appear in the October 2008 edition of Georgia Sportsman.)
In April, Jay Maxwell attended the annual Georgia Outdoor Writers Association's awards banquet at George T. Bagby State Park in Fort Gaines, and was presented a plaque and certificate for taking the best non-typical whitetail in the Archery Division of the Georgia Big Deer Contest for 2007. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Sportsman, and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Associa-tion are joint sponsors of the competition.
Last year's two record-breaking non-typical whitetails represent an amazing streak of big bucks taken over the last few years by Atlanta-area bowhunters. A year earlier, Bob Coombs of Roswell used a crossbow to take a giant non-typical buck in Fulton County. That whitetail, which scored 182, ranked as Georgia's top non-typical of 2006, and now stands as Georgia's record whitetail taken by crossbow.
During the 2004 season Taylor McCann dropped a monster 16-point non-typical, scoring 174 7/8 P&Y, while hunting DeKalb County. Chuck Birchfield of Dallas arrowed a super impressive Fulton County 10-point typical that same year that scored 151 3/8 P&Y.
Considering the facts that a healthy whitetail population continues to roam the suburbs of Atlanta, and that firearms hunting is not allowed within the metro area, local bowhunters should continue to see plenty of big older-age-class bucks. Georgia's current archery records will be hard to top -- but if they are surpassed, odds are good that the buck that does it will come from the Atlanta area.