|How The Weeks Were Won
|By Brad Gill
Originally published in the July 2017 issue of AON
Seventeen weekly and three wildcard winners are headed to the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out on July 22 at the World Deer Expo in Birmingham. Somebody is going to win a new 4X4 pickup truck!
If the winner of the Shoot-Out was wearing a Hunter Safety System vest in their Truck-Buck entry photo, they’ll collect a $1,000 bonus.
With 20 AON subscribers shooting for the truck, it means that there are 20 great deer hunting stories to share with AON readers. Last month, we covered the first half of these hunt stories. The rest of the stories appear on pages 20-24.
Kick off your boots, and ease back in the recliner. Each AON Shoot-Out contestant wrote and submitted their own hunting story. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we did.
Week 10: Robbie Washer
Date: Dec. 19
Net Score: 118 2/8
We had been getting fairly regular pictures of this buck on a field at the edge of a cutover. The pictures were being taken mostly at night, but some were coming early in the mornings. I spent all weekend in a tripod hunting the cutover hoping to catch him slipping to or from the field. I saw a few does but no bucks.
It was going to be cool on Monday morning, Dec. 19, so I decided to stay and hunt one more day. Since I hadn’t had any luck in the cutover, I decided to go to a ladder stand I had in some select-cut pines.
Not long after the sun came up, I saw a doe and a yearling feeding through the pines. About an hour later, I saw some movement, so I picked up my binoculars and saw a spike working a licking branch. He trotted off, and shortly thereafter, I saw antlers moving through the pines. He was walking toward me, so I couldn’t tell which buck it was. Suddenly, he turned his head, and I could see the mass and knew it was a shooter. Still not knowing which deer it was, I picked up my .338, found him in my sights and squeezed. He dropped in his tracks.
As I walked toward the deer, I still had no idea which buck it was. To my surprise, it was the deer I had been hoping to see all weekend. There he was on the ground in an area I never thought he would be.
Week 11: Brad Griffin
Date: Dec. 28
Net Score: 139 1/8
It’s crazy how everything panned out on the morning I harvested my buck. I had this buck on camera for two to three years and had been watching him grow. I had approximately 1,500 trail-camera pictures of this deer prior to the day I harvested him. The funny thing is the morning I harvested this deer, I chose a spot in which I had never seen the deer. In fact, the 10-point had become a ghost, and I hadn’t had a trail-camera picture of him for more than 10 days.
I got in the tree way before daylight, and as I sat there, I was frustrated. I was thinking I should be on the other side of the property, in the area he had been coming into on a regular basis.
The sun slowly came up, and within 20 minutes, I had a few does ease through the woods toward me. They seemed on edge, which fired me up because it was the middle of the rut.
The does eased up within 30 yards, stopped and stared at something behind them. That is when I noticed some movement... and a spike walked out. He came trotting over the hill and got approximately 20 yards from them and stopped on a dime. He stared off in the woods in a different direction from the does. At that moment, I saw a big, chocolate-colored rack trotting through the woods. The big 10-point came out of nowhere and walked up within 75 yards of me. I grunted and stopped him and placed a perfect shot.
He ran approximately 75 yards, and I watched him drop. Lesson learned that trail cameras are amazing tools, but bucks are unpredictable during the rut.
Week 12: Phillip Ledbetter
Date: Jan. 4
Net Score: 131 3/8
I have a 240-acre lease that me and my son-in-law hunt in Walker County. My son-in-law put out a trail camera, and it wasn’t long before we started getting pictures of some pretty good bucks. We came up with a “hit list” of three bucks that we thought were big enough to shoot.
I set up in some tall pines that had been thinned last summer. I had hunted this stand a couple of days earlier and had seen two small bucks chasing some does, so I couldn’t wait to get back and hunt it again.
It was cold and windy the morning of Jan. 4. I got to my stand before daylight.
It was a slow morning, and I hadn’t seen a single deer. At about 9:30, I saw movement about 150 yards away. It was a deer coming straight at me. It came into clear view, and I could see it was a shooter buck. The buck just kept coming. He got about 60 yards and turned broadside, and then he stopped. I raised my Savage Model 220 20 gauge and shot the buck. He broke and ran to within 10 yards of my tree and stopped. I shot him again, and he went down.
I looked back at my trail-camera pictures and was surprised to see we had a picture of my buck, and he was not on our hit list.
I sent my pictures in to AON. I compared my buck to the other Week 12 entries, and I thought he would place third or fourth for the week. I didn’t know if I wanted to drive the 50 miles to Leeds to have it measured.
After scoring the buck myself, I knew he had a much better score than I originally thought. So, I made the drive, and I am sure glad I did. I guess my buck just doesn’t take a very good picture.
Week 13: Rick Marquis
Date: Jan. 13
Net Score: 159 3/8 non-typical
My journey for Big Shed started in the 2014-15 season when I found one of his sheds. I thought it was fresh, so I put a camera on the trail. I was surprised when I checked my camera and got a picture of him with both antlers. He was a big 10-point with a couple of stickers.
I had one more week of season and hunted him with no luck. As soon as season was over, I put some feed out on the trail and started getting pictures of him. Then, I leased a nearby piece of property. It was a 3-year-old clearcut. I put in a couple of green fields, and as soon as they came up, Big Shed started using them. He was a big 9-point with bigger stickers.
I got pictures of him all during the 2015-16 season, but he was very nocturnal. He would leave my property and go to the place where I first got pictures of him. The 2015-16 season would end with me not seeing Big Shed again.
I started feeding again after the season and got pictures until he shed. I knew I had to kill him the following season, or he would be going downhill. He was at least 6 or 7 years old.
I ran cameras all summer, but I didn’t get any pictures of him until August. He was again a 9-point and had some big stickers. His body was bigger than ever. I had pictures of him every day coming out of the clearcut through one of my green fields. With no rain, my green fields were at a standstill, not providing any food.
There were hardwoods close, so I knew the deer would be after acorns. I hunted some big white oaks for a few mornings and saw a few bucks, but not Big Shed. I got a few night pictures of him at the acorn trees.
Finally, we got some rain. The green fields came up, and the deer started hitting them hard, but Big Shed was nowhere to be found. I was afraid someone had killed him. After no pictures of him, he came back to the field 20 days later. It was January by then, and he was very run down from the rut. I had not hunted the field in about three weeks.
By Jan. 12, he had been coming to the field every evening and morning. The next day would be Friday the 13th. I wanted to hunt, but I was a little afraid of the wind direction, but my fiancée Phyllis and daughter Angie said I needed to go hunt because I was going to kill Big Shed.
I got in the stand before daybreak, hoping to let things settle down at the green field before daybreak. There was a little wind blowing, but I was thinking that my buck would come from the other direction. I had taken extra caution about my scent. I washed all my clothes and had fresh tarsal glands to help cover my scent. I smelled so bad of rutting buck and doe scent.
Right before daylight, I heard two small bucks sparring in the woods behind me. A few minutes after that, I could hear a buck rubbing a tree out in the clearcut to my left. I thought there was no way that deer couldn’t smell me, but I smelled just like a rutting buck. I usually hunt with a bow, but my nephew Brian “Box Car” Marquis persuaded me to carry my rifle that I haven’t killed a deer with in 15 years.
As it was beginning to break day, I could still hear the buck rubbing the tree. I was watching where the sound was coming from and saw the deer walking out of a trail into the green field. He was walking in a posture mode, thinking he was smelling another buck for sure. I could tell he had a good rack, but I didn’t want to kill a good-looking young buck. When I put the scope on him, I could see by his tall tines that it was Big Shed. I remember thinking as I put the crosshairs on his shoulder what a joy this buck had given me the last three seasons.
When the shot fired, he left like I hadn’t even hit him. He ran through a big brushpile and out into the clearcut for what I thought was 100 yards. I sat there reliving my shot, wondering if I had missed him. My daughter texted me to wish me luck on my morning hunt. I told her I had just shot at Big Shed. She told me all season that if I shot him, that she wanted to come help with the recovery.
She called my son Shane, and I waited for them to arrive. We have spent many wonderful hours hunting together, but that morning would be the best of my life. When we walked up to Big Shed, we were all amazed at how big he was. His rack was much bigger than I had thought. My journey with Big Shed was over after three years of hoping to kill the buck of my life. Now he will be at my home, so that I can relive my hunt for the rest of my life.
Week 14: Scott Swann
Date: Jan. 14
Net Score: 113 6/8
It was a cold January morning. My girlfriend Chelsea and I had been hunting in a shooting house for most of the morning. We decided to change locations and do some stalk hunting. We were walking down some powerline trails and came to a clearing, and there he stood. I shot, and he dropped. Then my dad and brother Michael helped load him into the truck.
Week 15: Loren Farley
Date: Jan. 21
Net Score: 119 2/8
It was a typical January Saturday in Alabama. The deer were supposed to be rutting, and I’d been working all week just waiting on that day to get to hunt. Rain was forecasted at 100 percent for the morning, so I decided to watch it close and try to be in the woods as it was quitting.
I watched the radar and waited for the right time to leave. Then, my wife informed me that she needed the trailer to pick up a piece of furniture, which meant I had to hook the trailer up for her. While getting it ready to go, I saw broken wires on the trailer side of the pigtail. I checked in the barn, and luckily, I had a new one to install. I threw it on as fast as I could, checked the lights and taped it up. I was on my way!
I went down my driveway like Dale Jr. in turn No. 4 on the last lap of Talladega because the rain had been stopped for 30 minutes, and I was still 30 minutes away from my spot. I was already receiving pics from buddies who had killed bucks since the rain stopped. I couldn’t help but think I was too late.
I finally arrived. I packed up as quickly as I could, got into ninja mode and headed in. I hadn’t been to my stand since the previous hunting season, but the area was almost identical as far as sign went, with rubs, scrapes and good trails with fresh tracks.
I was starting to feel better about getting there later than I planned. The rain had really helped me be quiet as I was trying to ease in without disturbing anything.
As I reach my location, I started to look for the tree I climbed the year before and heard a noise that was too loud for a squirrel. I slowly turned and saw a tree moving, and then it bent over and came back to stand up straight again. I knew it was a buck, but I had no visual until it finally came walking out of the thick stuff and gave me a look at its rack.
I knew immediately it was a shooter that met all the size requirements, so I then started waiting for a shot opportunity.
It took a while for him to walk into an opening where I felt comfortable shooting freehanded with my stand still on my back. He walked toward me and stopped, and I settled the crosshairs on him and squeezed off the shot. He ran 20 yards and expired quickly.
I was pumped and couldn’t wait to put my hands on him. I got to him and said my thank-you prayer and finally got to take my stand off my back.
Hunting has been a part of my life for 30 years. It makes for a lot of good stories, memories and friendships. It never gets old, and I still have the hunger to hunt every chance I get. I love being in God’s great outdoors and getting to see and share in all of His creations. I’ve really been blessed in many facets of my life, but I never thought an addiction like this would give me a chance to win a new truck!
Week 16: Todd Threadgill
Date: Feb. 10
Net Score: 136 0/8
It was the last afternoon of the last day of the season, and I decided to come home early from work to take my wife hunting. She declined since she had been sick the last couple of days.
I grabbed my camo coveralls and my 30-06 rifle and headed out the door. I decided to hunt my wife’s favorite spot, which is called the “Honey Hole.” There is usually a high number of deer moving through that area.
I grabbed an old hunting-seat cushion since where I was going to sit was wet and had standing water on the road. I decided to pick a spot toward the middle of the road, so I wouldn’t have a long shot in either direction.
I had been sitting for 30 minutes when a couple of does came from an old cutover and stood in the road 150 yards or so away. They kept looking behind them, so I figured they had to have a buck with them.
A decent 7-point appeared and crossed the road, but he didn’t take the time to stop, and he didn’t pay much attention to the does. Then, a much bigger buck came out and stood off to the side of the does. He looked like a large 6- or 8-point.
I decided he was a shooter buck and took the shot. I missed him with the first shot, but it ended up causing the does to leave the road and head back where they had come from. He started to run and follow the does, but he stopped and stood broadside right in the middle of the road.
I reloaded, took a deep breath, steadied my gun on the shooting stick, and I took another shot. This time I didn’t whiff, and he ended up dropping right in the road.
I went back to get my truck, and I drove around to that side of the road, so I wouldn’t have to drag him as far.
I called my wife when I got up to him, and all I could do was laugh at how nice that he was. He ended up being a 9-point, and I guessed him around 180 to 190 pounds.
I knew he was a good buck, but I didn’t know just how nice of a buck that he was until my wife and daughter showed up to take some photos. My wife kept fussing about me hunting at her favorite spot and shooting a really nice buck that was only 75 to 100 yards away from where she was hunting a few days earlier. Needless to say, I have plenty of chores to do until next deer season, and she said that I am no longer allowed to hunt at the Honey Hole.
Ladies WC: Lisa Thompson
Date: Feb. 5
Net Score: 116 3/8
It was the last weekend of hunting season, and I decided to go camping and hunting with my husband and son. This was only the second time I had been with them this hunting season.
I was in a shooting house overlooking a sage field on Sunday afternoon. There was a large area that was bush-hogged in front of me, and there was a lane bush-hogged to my left.
I had a doe come from my right into the open area in front of me. She stopped and looked back, so I waited to see what was with her. A small deer came out, so I just watched them feed across the cut area.
It was near sunset when I had several more does and small deer come out from my right into the cut area in front of me. As I was watching them, I looked to my left and saw a large deer standing in the lane. I raised my rifle to look at it closer. I thought it was a large doe at first, but when it brought up its head, I could see it was a really nice buck. I could not tell how many points it had, but I knew it was one I wanted to shoot. I did not have a good shot because it was facing straight away from me. I was so excited and was thinking to myself, “You are going to miss this deer if you don’t calm down.”
The deer finally turned enough so that I could see part of its left side. I put the gun sight just behind the front shoulder, took a deep breath to calm myself and squeezed the trigger. I did not see the deer go down because of the muzzle blast.
When I was able to see through the scope again, I could not see the deer. I started questioning whether I had hit it or not, but I did not hear it run off.
My husband texted me to ask what I had shot, and I texted back: “Don’t know if I hit it—Big Buck.” He texted that he was headed my way, so I got all my stuff together and got down.
I waited for my husband to get there before I started to look for the deer. We started up the lane, and it was getting hard to see by that time, so we got out our flashlights. My husband asked me where the deer was when I shot, and I could not remember exactly how far up the lane it was.
My son got there with the ATV and parked it where the lights were shining up the lane. We were in the area where I thought it was, but we had not found anything. My husband started back the other way to make sure we had not missed any blood. My son and I kept going up the lane.
We had not gone far when I saw the deer laying at the edge of the lane. I hollered for my husband, and my son grabbed the deer by the antler and pulled it out of the bushes. When he got it where we could see it, we were both overwhelmed by the size of the rack. I was very emotional because it was my first racked buck.
We got it loaded on the ATV and took it to where we could see it even better. I was so happy that I was able to take such an amazing animal. It is a wonderful feeling to spend time in the woods with my family and enjoy God’s wonderful creation.
Youth WC: Dakari Kirkland
Date: Dec. 19
Net Score: 110 2/8
The day was Dec. 19. It was a cold day, and a little breeze was blowing. We loaded up the truck and went across the highway to the hunting club. We signed in, sprayed down with scent killer, and I climbed in the stand by the green patch with my poppa.
I loaded my gun and took my binoculars out. I was looking around with my binoculars, and I saw a white tail go up in the woods. I said, “Poppa, there goes a doe.”
He said, “That isn’t a doe, that’s a buck. Get your gun ready!”
So, I got my gun ready, and the buck walked out there and looked dead at the stand, and I shot him. He fell in his tracks.
We were going to wait a little while, so I unloaded my gun and packed up my hunting stuff. I was really excited and had a hard time waiting to go look at my deer.
Public Land Wildcard: Jamie McCay
WMA: Black Warrior WMA
Date: Nov. 19
Net Score: 127 5/8
My hunt started three years ago. I put out a camera on a trail, and I got pictures of a young 10-point. I went bow and gun hunting in there that season with no luck of even seeing the buck.
The next season was coming around, and I put my camera on the same trail. I got a lot of pictures of the 10-point. His rack had put on a few more inches. I went in there again bow and gun hunting with no luck of seeing him.
That February and March, I went on a few scouting trips around and through the area. I found a shed off the 10-point. I came home and rememberd a thicket on a point just up from where I had found the shed, so I decided to take another scouting trip up there. I was hoping to find maybe the other side of his rack.
I didn’t find any sheds, but I found a big bed in between a gravel road and a bluff. I thought the buck was smart because he could lay there in those chest-high honeysuckles on the gun hunts and never have to move.
The following season came around, and I put a camera on top of the bluff where I found the shed. This was about a mile from where I got his pictures in the past. I left the camera up until the first week of November, hoping the 10-point would be in the pictures.
I removed the camera and went to the truck to check the SD card. The only thing on it was an 8-point.
I went across the road and found some fresh rubs about the size of my calf. I looked there for another couple of hours for sign of how this buck was traveling. Then I found a bluff gap, and I decided that I would be right there on the early hunt at Black Warrior.
I called my brother Dwight McCay, and I asked him if he already had a spot picked out to hunt. I had him meet me the week before the hunt to show him where to hunt the 8-point.
As I was showing Dwight where the camera was, another big bed showed up on the ridge. I turned to walk, and there lay last year’s shed off the 10-point. I thought I would like to hunt there, but I told him to go ahead and hunt there, and I would go to the gap.
The morning of the early hunt I had two hunters to walk up to the bluff, and there I was in my stand. By 10 a.m., I climbed down because of all that walking around with no deer movement.
I went to the truck to wait on Dwight. He could only hunt until 12 p.m. because he had to work. I jumped right up the same tree he was in about 12:30 p.m. and had no luck that day.
The next morning I moved up the ridge just off the bluff line that I thought the deer would travel across. Instead of running the bluff line at daybreak, I had a deer come up about 50 yards right at daybreak. My arm hit the bark on the pine tree that I was in, and the deer ran off blowing the woods down. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was a hunter who came up the bluff, and it was light enough that you didn’t need a flashlight to see, and the hunter left at 9:30 a.m. I sat there all day with no luck.
The following weekend was opening day of the statewide gun season. The A side was having a hunt, and this year on the B side you could hunt with permit. I started out on the A side, but the whole time all I could think about was that I needed to be hunting that 10-point on the B side.
About 9 a.m., I climbed down, packed my stand out and got a permit for the B side. I went to the B side about 1 p.m. and climbed up the tree.
The wind was blowing hard. I was swinging in the tree all evening. About 4:30 p.m., I saw movement in the draw. I first thought it was an old doe. I got my rifle to get a better look. I could see it was a nice buck. I picked out the next opening and squeezed off. I could hear him running off. I thought I heard him crash, but I wasn’t sure, so I got down.
By the time I put my stand and all the gear together, I had to use a flashlight, and the batteries were low and not strong enough to track, only to travel.
I started looking, and I didn’t see any blood. So I looked around the bluff trails. Then, I went back to the bottom of the draw, and there was a stream of water that ran off. I thought that if he crossed this draw, I would find blood. I was having one of those all-time low feelings. I started up the draw and saw what I thought was a bright eye on a tree. The closer I got to it, the buck came into view. It wasn’t just any buck, it was the 10-point that I had been hunting for the past three seasons. It is a great feeling to take a buck that you have sheds from, pictures of and have invested a lot of stand time and scouting trips in. I tell my buddy that I am just lucky. He tells me you create your own luck.
Watch The Shoot-Out
This year’s AON Truck-Buck Shoot-Out will take place Saturday, July 22 at 2 p.m. at Bob Coker’s 34th annual World Deer Expo at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.
In addition to a pile of hunting and fishing vendors at the show, there’s a big-buck competition, the BHA 3-D Archery Tournament, Lawton’s trout pond for the kids, a Fun Zone and door prizes and giveaways.
Come to the show on Saturday, and watch the AON Truck-Buck Shoot-Out. If you’ve never seen the emotion involved with someone winning a pickup truck, make plans to attend this year!