May 08, 2023
When Sumner Powell was 8 years old, he shot a 156-inch 10-point in Southwest Georgia. The following season, he took a big 12-point. His hunting career took off fast, so he decided the next buck he’d take would be a fully mature southern giant. Prior to the 2022 season, at 17 years old, Sumner hadn’t killed another buck since the 12-point he shot eight years earlier.
“I just passed bucks, trying to get a big mature one,” says Sumner. “It’s just how I was raised. It was hard, but it was worth it.”
Sumner helps his family manage about 400 total acres in Southwest Georgia, and they put a lot of time into habitat work. They plant cool and warm season food plots, manage the hunting pressure and do their best to let bucks reach full maturity before shooting one. Four years ago, Sumner saw a young buck on their property that made him feel like the work was paying off.
“I had this deer on camera for about five years,” says Sumner. “I passed on him four years ago when he was around 110 inches. I figured he’d become a really good buck.”
Sumner paid closer attention to the buck the next season, when the deer was a 150-class animal. He hunted hard, but never got an opportunity at the buck. Prior to the 2020 hunting season, the buck grew even more and added a drop tine. That year Sumner knew the buck was a shooter. “I put in a lot of hours and hunted him hard,” Sumner says. “I put in a lot of work on food plots and tried to get the habitat perfect for him.”
One morning that season, Sumner got down out of his stand after a morning hunt for the buck. It was about 10:30 a.m. when Sumner climbed down, and he had a heartbreaking surprise waiting for him as soon as his feet touched the ground. “As soon as I stepped out of my stand, there he was,” Sumner recalls. “He had just come out and he was running away. That broke my heart.”
Unfortunately, that was Sumner’s only opportunity at the buck in 2020. The big deer returned once again in 2021, adding a ton of mass and growing even more. Sumner focused mostly on a different deer in 2021, but he still didn’t get an opportunity at the giant he’d spent several seasons chasing up to that point. However, when the 2022 hunting season arrived and the giant once again returned, Sumner knew this was the deer he had to hunt.
“When he showed up before the 2022 season, the mass he put on was unbelievable for this area,” says Sumner.
Up to this point, Sumner had an abundance of history with the buck that was now beyond full maturity. Sumner studied the buck hard, and he found a spot the deer frequented only on days with a certain wind. When that wind arrived during Georgia’s archery season, Sumner made his move on the non-typical. “I hunted there, but for whatever reason he showed up in a different spot,” says Sumner.
To not overpressure the buck, Sumner decided to back off until Georgia’s gun season began. Unfortunately, the southern giant disappeared for two weeks in November, and Sumner began hunting a different deer.
On Nov. 20, Sumner and a friend went duck hunting. While in the duck blind, the pair talked about how good the cold and damp weather would be for chasing whitetails. So, they parted ways to go deer hunting, but when Sumner checked his cell cameras, he was shocked. “The buck showed up on my camera that morning while I was duck hunting,” Sumner recalls. “He’d been gone for two weeks, and I felt like that was going to be the only opportunity I’d get.”
Sumner went to church, and then headed straight for the woods, setting up in a box blind on a long, narrow food plot planted in oats, clover and radishes. And it didn’t take long for deer to begin moving. “I heard crashing through the woods, and two does came busting out of the woods,” says Sumner. “So, I got my gun up because I figured there’d be a buck come out. He came out at 180 yards, and I couldn’t believe how big he was. Both body and rack.”
The buck cruised across the food plot, and despite Sumner’s whistling and yelling, the buck wouldn’t stop. Finally, the buck stopped on the plot’s edge 180 yards from Sumner while quartering away hard. Sumner squeezed off the shot, and the buck dropped and never moved.
“I flipped out,” says Sumner. “I was in tears. He’s the biggest buck I’ve ever seen in my life, and I was able to harvest him after all the time and work I put in. It was amazing.”
The Southwest Georgia giant officially nets 170 inches, and based on trail camera photos, Sumner believes the deer is 7 1/2 years old. For Sumner, all the sacrifice and years of passing deer paid off.
“I waited and passed a lot of deer to be able to harvest this buck,” Sumner says. “I let deer walk when I was younger that I never thought I’d pass, but it was worth it.”