|How The Truck-Buck Weeks Were Won
|By Brad Gill
Originally published in the June 2012 issue of AON
Fifteen weekly and three wildcard winners are headed to the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out on July 21 at Birmingham’s Annual World Deer Expo.
Normally we would have 16 weekly winners and three wildcard winners in the Shoot-Out, but nobody brought a Week 9 entry to our scoring event in April. So, we’ve only got 18 shooters—and 18 hunt stories—in this year’s Shoot-Out. Still, somebody is going to win a pickup truck!
Additionally, if the winner of the Shoot-Out was wearing an HSS vest in their entry photo, they’ll collect a $1,000 bonus.
On these pages are the hunt stories from Weeks 1-8 and the Youth Week. Next month we’ll spotlight Weeks 10-15 and the three wildcard divisions.
Week 1: Robbie Washer
Date: Oct. 15
Net Score: 111 6/8
It was opening morning of bow season, and it was the first year on new property for Robbie Washer, 21, of Auburn.
“I had slipped into my stand an hour before sunrise,” said Robbie. “I was hunting a food plot we made along a big creek. For the first hour and a half, I was treated to a bunch of wood ducks flying in and out along the creek. Behind me were planted pines that had recently been thinned, and in front were pin oaks bordering the creek. I had checked the area a week before the season opened and noticed the pin oaks had already started dropping, so I knew there would be plenty on the ground that morning. Besides the ducks, I hadn’t heard anything all morning.”
Robbie’s morning took a turn for the better at 8 a.m.
“I thought I heard something in the water,” said Robbie. “At first I thought it was the ducks splashing around, but then it started to sound like something was walking in the water. I could see something walking on the other side of the creek, and then I saw two animals walking. At that point I could tell it was two deer, and one of them had a rack. Then I could hear them crossing the creek and slipping on the rocks. I could see the first deer jump out of the water on to my side, and it was the buck. Then I saw the second deer jump out of the water, and it also had a rack.”
Robbie got ready as the deer approached the acorns in front of him.
“The first deer stepped to the edge of the tree line, and I could tell it was an 8-point,” said Robbie. “It started feeding on the acorns and grass. Then the second buck stepped out, and it was also an 8-point, but it was smaller than the first one. So I turned my focus on the first buck. At that point he was about 20 yards from me, and he started turning away. So I stood up, put the pin right behind the shoulder and let the arrow fly.”
After the 23-yard shot, the buck ran off and bolted across the creek.
“I got down about an hour later and tracked the blood to the edge of the creek, and then I backed out and waited for my dad to get there,” said Robbie. “My dad and I crossed the creek and found the blood on the other side. We tracked the blood another 20 to 30 yards and found him hung up in a vine. We had to float him back across the creek in chest-deep water, but that didn’t matter because it was my first buck with a bow.”
Week 2: Chris McGough
Date: Oct. 25
Net Score: 128 4/8 Non-typical
On the evening of Oct. 25, Chris McGough, of Montgomery, was hunting on managed property owned by friends Steven George and Danny Howard.
“I was hunting over a green field they planted in the corner of a large sage field,” said Chris. “At 4:30 two 8-points cruised through the sage at about 100 yards. Both of them were young and needed a couple more years of growth.
“After hanging in there for another 30 minutes, three does came in from the right wood line and entered the green field,” said Chris. “I quickly ranged a spot at 30 yards and gripped my Hoyt Katera and was beginning to feel my heartbeat increase. I knew I was covered in Dead Down Wind but was still concerned they might bust me and start blowing. I prefer a little wind when bowhunting, and there was none.”
The does took a left and went into the woods. They fed off, never giving Chris a shot.
“Then five bucks slowly approached the green field feeding on apples directly behind me at 50 yards,” said Chris. “I was getting excited since two of the bigger bucks were grunting and lightly bumping horns while breaking limbs and shoving each other. While looking at them, I noticed a heavy trail 5 yards from the base of my tree which led to the green field. The bachelor group began to funnel right under me at 5 yards, and at that point I had to make a decision.”
Chris began to size the bucks up to see which would be taking a ride home with him.
“It was hard watching them walk under me, but I didn’t want to take a risky shot,” said Chris. “As the sun rapidly faded, I wondered if the 11-point I wanted to shoot would ever step in the shooting lane. The big 8-point he had been sparring with appeared in the field feeding broadside, and I ranged him at 30 yards. The 11-point followed the same line as the 8-point and wound up quartering away feeding with no idea what was about to happen.”
Chris drew his bow and let an arrow fly.
“All five bucks rushed out of the field and leaped out through the sage,” said Chris. “I made sure to mark where he was standing since my arrow was not visible. I unhooked my Hunter Safety System harness and climbed down and quickly marked the spot with my hat.
“After meeting Steven, we decided to give the deer an hour to expire. We then went back to the green field and had no luck finding blood. We started crawling and retracing the angle of the shot and going over where the deer had run. This was not an easy recovery, but we were not leaving without the deer. We began to grid the area where they ran and came upon a blood trail which led to my blood-covered arrow not far from the 218-lb. 11-point folded up next to a cedar tree. What a relief! While gutting the deer, we noticed the 100-grain RAGE broadhead found its mark and destroyed the heart. It’s all thanks to God who created the wildlife and woods we all enjoy so much.”
Week 3: Hunter Billingsley
Date: Oct. 30
Net Score: 113 2/8
A week before the bow opener, Hunter Billingsley, of Cropwell, hung a lock-on within bow range of a loaded white-oak tree in Dallas County. He wanted to wait until the right time to hunt the area, so he stayed out until Oct. 30.
“Two weeks went by, and I noticed other trees starting to drop, so I slipped in there at lunch on Oct. 29 to find the tree was dropping, and the deer were definitely eating from it,” said Hunter. “There were rubs and cracked hulls everywhere, so I slipped out and planned to return the following morning.”
Hunter was running a little late getting into the stand, and his hunt was already going to be cut short.
“I needed to be back in Auburn to study for a test,” said Hunter. “It was already daylight, and I knew I had a 20-minute walk to the stand. I slipped down the old firebreak as quiet as I could. Once I finally got to the stand and got settled in, I looked at my phone, and it was already 7:20. My first thoughts were that I made too much noise getting in late, and there was no way I would see any deer.”
Hunter confesses that after an hour of seeing nothing, he closed his eyes for a minute.
“Then I heard what sounded like a deer popping acorns in its mouth,” said Hunter. “I eased my eyes open, and the deer I ended up taking was 12 yards from me eating acorns, followed by a smaller 10-point, which was maybe 30 yards away. I was in a bad way, because I was sitting down and knew there was no way I could stand up without being busted. The deer were directly to the right of me. When the deer began to walk, I eased my bow from the hanger and turned the best I could. In my mind I thought when he stepped into the firebreak, I was going to let him have it.”
Hunter drew his bow as the buck was a few steps away from the firebreak.
“When I drew, the other buck saw me and bolted,” said Hunter. “When all this happened, the 8-point froze. I had a small gap a little bigger than a softball to shoot through and knew it was then or never, so I let it fly. The arrow blew through both of its lungs, and he only made it a short run up the hill, and he was out. Everything happened so fast I didn’t know exactly how big he was. I just knew he was big enough to shoot, so when I got to him I was no doubt pleased. He is by far my best buck with a bow yet in Alabama, and I’m thankful the good Lord let him cross my path.”
Week 4: Joe Barnes
Date: Nov. 11
Net Score: 114 6/8
“On Friday, Nov. 11, my son, a friend of his and I were in tree stands early,” said Joe Barnes, of Scottsboro. “Just after daylight, I saw three racked bucks below me but out of range. By 8:15, I had seen three more small bucks and five does. I did not see any more deer between 8:15 and 9, but my son and I had been texting to keep each other abreast of the happenings.”
At 9 a.m., Joe watched two does walk past him at 20 yards.
“As I was watching them, I heard a noise from behind them,” said Joe. “I turned, and a nice 9-point was following them, the eighth buck I had seen that morning. When he was about 20 yards away, I let the arrow fly. His hind legs came off the ground, and he began to run. By his reaction, I felt good about the hit.”
After a text message, Joe’s son was on his way to meet Joe.
“I wanted to stay in the tree but could not stand it,” said Joe. “I got down and walked over to where the deer was standing when I shot. I found my arrow sticking diagonally in the ground, and I immediately thought I had missed. I retrieved the arrow and found dark red blood its entire length.
“My son was there in 15 minutes, and we waited approximately 30 minutes and began tracking. In the first 100 yards we found three or four places where the deer had stopped and bled, but he had not gone down. It was obvious he was losing a lot of blood and would eventually go down but might continue to run if we pursued him. So, we decided to give him more time.
“After waiting another 45 minutes, we resumed and found him 50 to 60 yards from where we had stopped initially.
“My two sons and I purchased this 160 acres of land four years ago and have now killed seven bucks.”
Youth Week: Hunter Bishop
Date: Nov. 12
Net Score: 101 5/8
Hunter Bishop, son of Jared and Sam Bishop, of Phenix City is on his way to the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out for the second year in a row.
“Hunter has been hunting since he was 5 years old, and although he is only 11, he has killed several deer, including four trophy bucks,” said his mom Sam.
Last year he killed a 9-point, which qualified him for Week 6 of the Truck-Buck contest.
“This year, early in the season, Hunter and his dad put out a game camera near the stand Hunter killed his qualifying buck last year,” said Sam. “They had gotten photos of several deer, including the 8-point he killed that he entered and won this year’s Youth Week.”
On November 12, Hunter was hunting with his Uncle John. The stand overlooked a green field. They saw 14 deer that morning, and five of them were bucks. Hunter let a 7-point walk, waiting on the big buck they saw on the game cam.
“Finally, around lunch time, they got down and went to camp,” said Sam. “Later that afternoon, Hunter and John went back to that stand. They watched a couple of small bucks eating and chasing does. Around 5:45 p.m., this 8-point buck walked out from the right side of the field. Hunter shot once, hitting him in the neck and dropped him using a BAR .243.”
Hunter also enjoys turkey hunting with his dad. Over the past few years he has called up and killed nine gobblers.
“When Hunter is not hunting, he enjoys fishing, swimming and playing baseball,” said Sam. “He plays second base for the Red Sox at Phenix City Little League. Last year he made the Phenix City All Star team, which advanced to the regionals. His goal, when he gets older is to play professional baseball. His favorite team is the Atlanta Braves.”
Hunter is in the fifth grade at West Smiths Station Elementary School. He is an honor student and is a member of the Beta Club and Math Club.
“This year the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out will be especially memorable,” said Sam. “Hunter will be competing against his cousin, Tyler Bishop, who won the Youth Wildcard division. We are very proud of both the Bishop boys.”
Week 5: Jim Hardee
Date: Nov. 17
Net Score: 115 4/8
“After hunting public land for years and being a member of several very good to very bad hunting clubs, in 2008 I was finally able to achieve my dream of owning my own little piece of dirt,” said Jim Hardee, of Marietta, Ga. “In 2008, I was lucky enough to purchase 62 acres of beautiful hardwood property backing up to Chewacla Creek in Macon County. Since 2008, I have done everything I can to improve the property. I have planted numerous fruit trees, planted summer and winter food plots and provided my deer with supplemental feed in the off season. I primarily bowhunt my property along with my brother-in-law, Darryl Forrister.”
All of Jim’s hard work paid off on Nov. 17 in primitive-weapons week.
“I was able to take off work early Thursday morning and head to the farm,” said Jim. “I rushed to take a shower and change into my hunting clothes. I had been getting several good photographs of four or five nice bucks on my Reconyx trail cameras in an area I call the West Field. The West Field is a small woods food plot that borders on Chewacla Creek. There were several white oaks that were raining acorns there, so these bucks were ignoring the clover, chicory and wheat I planted in this particular food plot and were concentrating on the acorns.”
The wind was blowing in the perfect direction over Chewacla Creek, so that none of the deer feeding on the oaks or in the plot would detect Jim as he hunted.
“I saw a grand total of one deer that afternoon,” said Jim. “Fortunately, that deer was a real good buck that I definitely had several prior game-camera photographs of. I first saw the main-frame 9-pointer approximately 50 to 60 yards away from my lock-on stand. The buck took his sweet time coming to this one particular white oak tree on the edge of the West Field food plot.”
It took 20 to 30 minutes for the buck to travel the last 30 yards into bow range.
“At 20 yards, the buck stood there for what seemed like an eternity, not offering a good shot,” said Jim. “It was an intense few minutes, what bowhunters live for. The buck took three or four more steps into the clearing and was at 15 yards with his head down eating acorns when I made a perfect heart-lung shot. I heard the deer crash just moments later. The arrow stuck in the deer’s off shoulder, such that there was no pass-through to inspect.”
Jim walked back to the cabin to wait for his brother-in-law to arrive before tracking the buck.
“It seemed like it took him forever to get to the cabin from his home in Birmingham,” said Jim. “When he did arrive, we went straight to the spot where I shot the buck, found a great blood trail and found the buck 40 yards away. Not only was the deer my best Alabama bow buck, it also had a very unique unicorn-style spike emerging from its forehead. I guess, technically, the buck would be classified as a 10-pointer with this extra brow.
“When the deer was scored at the AON scoring event, the DCNR mentioned to me that the unusual brow tine would actually have been caused by another buck breaking off a part of its antler in my buck’s forehead at a previous time. They explained that this would cause the unusual unicorn to sprout from my buck’s forehead. Whether true or not, this was a beautiful buck, a great bowhunt and one I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Week 6: John Hardman
Date: Nov. 19
Net Score: 136 2/8
John Hardman, of Scottsboro, said a point between a soybean field and a thick bedding area had been receiving some action prior to the opening week of gun season.
“On Nov. 2, a good rain shower had just finished a couple of hours earlier when I was sneaking into the stand,” said John. “At only about 60 yards from the stand, I heard a limb pop up above me. I looked up to see about a 140-inch buck take off in the other direction. I eased on into the stand hoping he might come back by before dark. The evening only produced some does heading to the beans but no big buck.
“The next time in the stand was the opening day of the muzzleloader season. A group of bachelors were heading in front of me when a couple of the neighbor’s dogs ran them back in the other direction. I do not know for certain that the big buck was with them, but I recognized some of the smaller bucks that had been with him from our game-camera pictures. I knew I would be back on Saturday for opening day of rifle season.”
When John arrived on opening morning, he noticed the soybean field had been cut.
“I knew this would probably affect my stand but decided to give it another try,” said John. “Around 7:30 a.m. or so, I heard several shots fired from what sounded like across the pasture on the adjacent property.
“Around 8 a.m., I heard a 4-wheeler go across the pasture followed by some guys celebrating. I figured they had harvested a buck and went to pick it up. The celebrating got pretty loud at times and went on for what seemed like 10 to 15 minutes. I remember thinking, ‘They are going to push something my way if they keep on.’ That thought had not been gone long when I heard walking in the leaves. I caught glimpses of a deer moving from their direction toward mine. He was heading up the mountain about 80 yards to my right. A few glimpses of his head revealed he was a nice buck. I could not tell exactly how big his rack was. All I could tell was he was a shooter.”
John began looking for an opening to shoot through.
“I had one hole and one hole only,” said John. “I knew that if he made it past that, he was safely up the mountain to the bedding area. Stopping in the opening, I sent a 150-grain bullet right into his right shoulder at about 100 yards. He was down for the count, He turned out to be my second biggest buck ever.”
Week 7: Bill Smith
Date: Nov. 28
Net Score: 141 6/8
On the afternoon of Nov. 28, Bill Smith, of Guin, called his grandkids to see if they wanted to go hunting.
“It was cold and rainy that day, so they decided not to hunt with me,” said Bill. “I made it to the shooting house around 3:20 p.m. The wind direction was just right for the afternoon hunt. I was sitting there waiting and hoping to see a deer that evening. All of a sudden two smaller bucks came running across the food plot, but they never slowed up before running out the opposite side of the plot.”
Everything went quiet for 30 minutes.
“This big buck stepped into the edge of the food plot,” said Bill. “I didn’t have to sit there and decide if this buck was a shooter or not. I knew he was the second I saw him! I eased my .270 up, and as soon as the crosshairs settled on his shoulder, I squeezed the trigger. There was no tracking job for this buck.
“The excitement that a hunter gets when he or she finally gets a shot at a big buck settled in before the echo of the shot was gone. My afternoon hunt was what we all dream about, but the reality of killing a big buck doesn’t happen very often. I’m thankful that a deer dream came true that November afternoon!
“My grandkids regret telling me no that afternoon. They didn’t miss another hunt for about two weeks.”
Week 8: Billy Smith
Date: Dec. 3
Net Score: 111 7/8
Billy Smith, of Blountsville, climbed into an elevated shooting house at 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 3.
“This stand is located on the south end of a food plot on a ridge overlooking a hardwood hollow with a creek running through it,” said Billy. “The property was select-cut about five years ago and left to grow back natural on the high ground. The wind was blowing 5-10 mph out of the southeast, which was perfect for hunting the creek bottom.
“At 6:55 a.m., a nice buck ran by me with his tail up. He would not stop by grunting, so I let him go. I thought my opportunity had passed until I heard a stick break to my right and a large buck ran off the ridge into the hollow. Two house dogs from down the road spooked him. He stopped in the hollow under a large white oak tree about 60 yards away. When he turned broadside, I shot and he dropped.”
Editor’s Note: Next month we look at Truck-Buck hunt stories for Weeks 10-15 and the Wildcards.