Last year provided a deer season full of giant bucks and great stories. Here's a collection of those accounts from Mississippi deer camps. (January 2009)
Using a borrowed muzzleloader, Gloria Montgomery got her buck in Issaquena County.
Photo by Robert H. Cleveland Jr.
Mississippi's 2007-08 deer season was -- as has been reported over the past several editions -- full of record-book bucks. It was also full of stories involving great if not quite Boone-and-Crockett-class deer.
THE 2-FOR-1 BUCK
Kelly Kennedy couldn't believe how fast word spread about the big buck he killed Dec. 10 -- and another that he found dead -- at Twin Oaks Wildlife Management Area.
Twins Oaks offers only a draw hunt opportunity for deer, and Kennedy had been selected for a Sunday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday hunt. When he and a hunting partner arrived on Sunday morning, they were surprised to learn they could scout.
"I found a scrape line and started following it, and I used my GPS to get a good location," Kennedy said. "When I studied it on a map, I learned I could get in on a different route, on a levee that would be much easier."
That afternoon Kennedy was walking the levee to his stand when he stumbled on a startling discovery. There on the ground, half on the levee and half in water was the decaying body of a giant buck.
"If you didn't walk right by it on the levee you wouldn't see it," Kennedy said. "That afternoon on my way out, we took a saw and cut off the antlers.
The next day Kennedy went back to the stand and continued his hunt. He killed a good one that was traveling with does.
The buck that Kennedy killed was a 13-pointer scored at 164 B&C; the one he found was a 15-pointer reckoned to be in the 150s. Two sets of antlers measuring a whopping 300 inches combined: In a deer-crazy state like Mississippi, that gets people's attention.
"I couldn't believe the crowd that came out to Twin Oaks to see my deer," Kennedy said. "They had called all the game wardens, and they had called their friends. And I guess somebody called somebody back in Pearl River County." Word even beat him home to Picayune, where he's a fireman. "When I returned on Wednesday, I was already getting calls about the buck I had found.
"Two people called about it, but one of them, believe it or not, was a Picayune fireman who lives in Poplarville. His name is Zach Barret, and I talked to him, and I talked to several Picayune firemen that I know, and he had told them the same story."
As it turned out, Barret had drawn a hunt a week earlier, shot at a big buck in that same area, searched for it and failed to find it. "It all matched up," said Kennedy. "I am 100 percent sure that he was the guy who shot the deer, so I gave him the antlers. He was happy to get them."
The story could end there -- but it doesn't. And it got even better for Kennedy. "The next Saturday, I killed a 10-point here at my club in Pearl River County," he said. "It scored 122 inches plus and -- for around here -- is a great deer."
A CHANGE OF MIND
Gloria Montgomery of Madison is a staunch advocate of bowhunting whitetails -- or, at least, she was.
After a pre-Christmas hunt in Issaquena County with several other women, Montgomery was rethinking her Christmas wish list. A giant buck that she took with a borrowed .45/70 rifle during the primitive weapon season kindled a new passion. Her 245-pound monster, an 11-point non-typical with tremendous mass, scored 152 inches and finished second in the Women's Non-typical Division in the statewide Big Buck Contest.
Amazingly, it took Anne Rogers two shots -- taken a month apart! -- to drop her trophy buck.
Photo courtesy of Anne Rogers
"Mollie VanDevender invited several of us for a women's archery and primitive weapon hunt at their camp at Fitler," Montgomery said. "My husband and I have been bowhunting only for the past six years.
"At Mollie's I was using my bow each morning, and then she let me borrow her .45/70 for the afternoon hunts. The bucks weren't coming close enough for bows."
On the second afternoon, however, a buck did step out within 100 yards of Montgomery's stand. "I got the scope on it, and it was huge," she said. "I aimed and shot, and it went down."
An added bonus will come next winter when Montgomery will relive the hunt on TV. "The 'Mississippi Outdoors' TV show had crews at the hunt, and I had one with me that afternoon," she said. "They say that it will be on their 2008 schedule in December."
As for her first gun deer in a long time? "I'm rethinking my archery-only hunting," Montgomery said. "I may have to make an investment in one of those .45/70s. That was exciting."
ONE WITH DAD
A recurring theme of the 2007-08 season is family, and to that chapter let's add the story of Allison Kincade Clark, who began hunting over two decades ago at the age of 7 for the best of reasons.
"I started hunting so I could spend more time with my father," said Clark. "He was a true sportsman -- always in the woods. And I wanted to be with him."
Robert Kincade of Greenville welcomed his daughter's interest and was happy to share both his deer stand and passion for the outdoors. So it was appropriate that on Dec. 17 Clark was sitting in a stand not far from her dad when she killed what he proudly calls "our buck of a lifetime."
Using the lessons taught her, Clark, now married and living in Memphis, shot a monster buck with a 16-point typical. The No. 1 typical for women at the statewide Big Buck Contest at the Mississippi Wildlife Extravaganza, the big animal wore a rack netting 168 6/8 B&C. While that just missed making the B&C all-time record book, Clark has the invaluable story of her kill.
"I had rushed down from Memphis to meet my father for an afternoon hunt in Carroll County," she said. "He told me that the bucks were chasing does and to not shoot a doe without seeing if a buck was chasing it."
An hour after Clark climbed into her stand, a doe came running out. "I just knew a buck was chasing her, the way she was running, so I waited and I watched," she said. "Then he stepped out. I could tell he was massive without binoculars, but I looked through them to count the horns. I quit counting at five and grabbed my .308. My heart was beating so fast and loud that I just knew I was shaking the stand. I had to calm down."
The savvy Clark knew to avoid looking at the deer's head again. "I knew I could not look at his rack or I would get more nervous," she said. "It seemed like I aimed forever because I was trying to make the perfect shot. Finally, I pulled the trigger. He jumped straight up and ran. I knew I hit him, and I heard him thrashing in the woods." When the deer's death agony ended, she climbed down, but decided to wait for her dad.
"I was hunting a stand in a bottom next to a creek not far away, and I heard Allison shoot," said Robert Kincaid of Greenville. "I went to check on her and found her standing over deer blood. She said she'd shot a big one. We tracked the buck and found him 20 minutes later.
"When I saw the mass of the deer and the antlers, I knew we were going to need help. I called a friend who drove an hour to help us. He had never seen a deer like this."
Few people have! In addition to the trophy antlers, the buck was weighed more than 160 pounds field-dressed. "We could not believe what we were looking at," Clark said. "I had never seen a deer that big. He was much bigger than what I thought.
"My husband is a big duck hunter, but he's considering taking up deer hunting now. He made space in his office for my buck's head -- but I think I will put in my office."
HUBBY ASSISTS ON A GREAT 8
Anne Rogers of Jackson is quick to give her husband Steve a lot of the credit for the gigantic 8-point buck that she took Dec. 26 in Yazoo County. It would seem that he worked just as hard as -- if not harder than -- she did during the 40-plus days it took to kill the deer.
The story starts on Thanksgiving Day, when the couple shared a stand in the Big Black River bottoms. "We were hunting together," Anne recalled, "and around 4:30 a big 10-point came out. I got buck fever big-time; my hands were shaking, and I could barely breathe."
Steve tried to calm his excited wife, urging her to take her time. "I missed the deer cleanly at 140 yards," Anne admitted. "Needless to say, I was so upset -- but I did have to laugh at just how nervous I had been. What made it even worse was all the family was in town for Thanksgiving -- and they gave me such a hard time about my miss!"
Rogers sought redemption, and was serious about it: She kept returning to the scene of the miss, hoping the 10-pointer would reappear. "I went every chance I got looking for that 10-point," she said, adding that Steve made it possible.
"I let her go," he said, "and I took the kids. We've got four, and I had babysitting duties so she could get after that deer."
For over a month she returned, often seeing the big body of a buck walking just inside the treeline. Finally, on Dec. 26, a buck emerged trailing a doe out of the swamp.
"Thinking it was the big 10, I shot, and the buck was still standing," Rogers said. "I couldn't believe it. By the time I got the next bullet in the chamber, the buck was nowhere to be seen. I did not see the deer drop or run off. I knew I had missed again. I sat there hoping it would come back."
Frustrated, she exited the stand, having decided to check to see if there was any blood in the field. "There he was in a brushpile!" she said. "It was a clean kill. He was as dead as a doornail."
Steve arrived at the end of the afternoon. "When I walked up, she was grinning," he said.
"It's not a 10," Anne said. "It's just an 8-point."
For the record, it is one of the biggest and prettiest 8-pointers you'll ever see. The rack measured 160 1/8 inches and had 26-inch main beams and 12-inch G-2s and bases Anne Rogers couldn't get her hands around.
THE TEXT-MESSAGE BUCK
Nobody over 30 would have come up with the ingenuity that Matthew Walters did in taking his 174 7/8 B&C non-typical on Dec. 27 in Issaquena County.
"The buck eased in 30 yards from me at 9:30 a.m.," Walters, 20, said. "He laid down in a thicket behind a tree, and I couldn't see him. Two other deer with him had laid down closer. I couldn't move. I tried to wait him out. I knew that something had to give. After two hours, I was cramping."
Walters had his cell phone, but knew he couldn't talk, because it could spook the deer closest to him and send the trophy buck escaping in a different direction.
No problem -- not for a young mind and a product of the cell phone generation. "I contacted my cousin and my father, by text-messaging," he said.
He had already notified them earlier not to come get him.
"His first text was 'leave me 'til dark, big buck,'" said his dad Jerry Walters. "Two hours later, he came back with the plan to jump the buck."
Jerry Walters walked toward his son and jumped the buck as planned. At 15 yards, Matthew dropped it with a single shot.
Is there anything better than a perfect plan? Well . . . yeah -- there's tradition. "What makes it more special is that my grandfather, my dad and my brother have all taken big bucks in that area," Matthew said. "My grandfather has hunted there for over 50 years, and then I got this one."
THE DEAR DEER
Eddie Dear was the talk of Rankin County last deer season.
"It is amazing how fast word spread about the buck," Dear said of the whitetail that he killed Jan. 4. Netting 166 6/8 B&C, it's the second-largest non-typical ever reported in Rankin County. "I've had people calling me, coming by and I even had this one guy stop me on Highway 49 to let him look at it."
Dear was tending to his cattle on private land five miles south of Florence when he shot the buck. "You just don't see a lot of bucks like that in Rankin County," he said. True: Non-typical bucks, especially those with palmation, are little seen there.
"I'm a cattle farmer, and I was on some of the land I lease for farming and hunting," Dear said. "I had gone down to turn my cows into the rye-grass fields and I count them as they come through.
"I was a cow short, and I knew it was one that had a calf so I went to find them. I got on my four-wheeler, put on my orange and grabbed my rifle. I always take it with me like that because I always see so many deer."
Dear started "deer looking" before he started "cow looking" that day. "As soon as I pulled out of
the barn and got to the gate, I glassed the field," the farmer said. "I spotted a doe, and I knew that the bucks were chasing them.
"I got my rifle up, used the scope and spotted this buck in a cane thicket. He thought he was hidden, and he was -- to the naked eye. But that Zeiss 4X12X56 scope found him at 345 yards." Dear shot the buck dead on the spot.
The hunter then called a couple of friends to help load it, and that's when it got a little crazy. "I guess they called a few of their friends," he said. "And by the time we got the deer to the barn, there were, like, 20 people there!"
So how did the guy know to stop him on Highway 49?
"He works up there at The Outfitter where I buy all my guns and bullets and he recognized my truck and he stopped me hoping I had it with me," Dear said. "You know I did. I'd been taking it everywhere I went."