After seeing this Arkansas giant in a field while hunting doves in early September, Jeremy McMahan could not get the big deer out of his mind. Their paths would cross again -- on the same dove field in mid-November.
After being forced to leave his stand of choice because cotton was being harvested close by, Jeremy moved to another stand on the edge of the same dove field where he had seen his "Big Boy" in early September. Just before dark, the big buck appeared with several does, and the rest is history!
Years ago, the sight of horns alone would make my heart catch in my throat and cause my stomach to be tied up in knots. I grew up hunting on 60 acres in Grenada, Mississippi. We hunted diligently, took some 100- to 115-inch bucks, and only dreamed of hunting big bucks in the Mississippi Delta country or places like Texas and Illinois. During high school and college, I continued to hunt on my grandfather's property in Grenada and I eventually shot a 120-inch buck. That was huge for our area.
My deer hunting career really took off after I got married. My father-in-law bought a ranch in South Texas, and since my wife and I were living in Texas at the time, I was invited to hunt on his ranch. I learned a lot about aging and scoring deer on the hoof during my first season in Texas. Mostly, I watched a lot of deer and passed up numerous smaller bucks. At the end of the season, I shot a 130-inch 8-pointer and was excited beyond words.
Over the next three seasons, I continued to learn and I matured greatly as a deer hunter. I shot a couple of nice 8-pointers and a 145-inch 10-pointer. Then, in 2003, my wife and I moved back to Mississippi where I took a job as youth pastor at a local church. Even though we were glad to be serving a church and the community, I secretly wondered where I was going to hunt. As if by a miracle, a call came in one day that would ultimately change my deer hunting "habit" forever.
LIKE A KID IN A CANDY STORE
My father-in-law also happened to be a member of the Concordia Rod & Gun Club, located in Bolivar County, Mississippi, and Desha County, Arkansas. Started back in 1983, the club consists of 4,000 acres on the Mississippi River and it is strictly managed for quality deer. The property has plenty of water and several 100-plus-acre food plots. It also has several large cotton fields leased out to local farmers. The club is restricted to a limited number of hunters with no more than about 24 members per year.
When my father-in-law called me and invited me to hunt with him, it was a hunter's dream come true. During the first two seasons, I had to earn the club's trust (as well as my father-in-law's trust) and more or less prove myself to the other members. I was only allowed to shoot does. Those two years were truly a time of personal growth as I watched 150-inch-plus bucks that I could not shoot while I harvested does. Finally, I was allowed to buck hunt in 2006. Over the next few seasons, I took some nice 8-pointers, a drop-tine 9-pointer and an 11-pointer with a 13-inch drop tine. He ended up being my biggest buck as of that time, with a score of 164 inches.
I have since become a member of the club.
When the 2008 season rolled around, I was excited. For me, that memorable deer season actually started the second weekend of dove season. I spotted a huge buck while dove hunting. As soon as I saw him, I knew that he was the biggest buck I had ever seen on the hoof. I immediately put out several trail cameras in the area and did a lot of scouting. I put up a couple of bow stands, and one of them proved to be a very good spot.
One evening while bowhunting during the early season, I saw movement in the thick brush. Hoping it was my "Big Boy," I was disappointed to see only a small 4-pointer emerge, but I continued to search the woods. Then, a few steps behind the 4-pointer, came Big Boy! He walked by at 90 yards and went out into a grown-up cotton field.
Disappointed that I did not get a shot opportunity with my bow but elated that I got to see him, I left the stand with the intention of giving it a rest for a few weeks. On opening weekend of rifle season, the timing was perfect, so I went back to that same stand. The date was Nov. 9, 2008. I actually took my bow along with my rifle just in case I got an up-close opportunity. However, my hopes of hunting that stand were spoiled due to the proximity of the cotton farmers cutting their cotton stalks.
RETURN OF THE DOVE FIELD MONSTER
With that stand spoiled, I moved over to the field where I had seen Big Boy during dove season. I didn't really expect to see such an awesome buck out in an open field, but at 4:50 p.m. he came out following eight does and a small 8-pointer. I knew in an instant it was him! He was feeding on some wheat with the other deer and I knew he wasn't going anywhere. Nonetheless, I was pretty excited. After giving myself a good talking to and making sure that I took my time in aiming, I lowered the boom on him.
At 275 yards, my Browning .30-06 hit him hard. I knew it was a good shot, and I knew he was going down. But as he ran straightaway from me, I was so excited that I instinctively fired a second shot. I have a rule: If a deer is hit hard, don't shoot again. But during the heat of the moment, I broke my rule and fired anyway. That second bullet hit his left G-3 and darn near shot it off. It just goes to show: If you have rules that you try to live by, don't break them! In my case I was out of control. That deer really had me in a state. After he ran out of the field, I decided to give him an hour or so. I wanted to make sure that I did not push him too soon.
Joined by the club manager and another hunter, I later headed out to look for my buck. We found him about 80 yards from where he had gone into the woods. I let out a big yahoo when we found him and we immediately started taking pictures. We then loaded him up and took him to the clubhouse to get him weighed and scored. Big Boy weighed 232 pounds live weight. From his jawbone, we estimated that he was 4 1/2 years old.
The Dove Field Monster was a clean, very symmetrical 5x5 10-pointer with no abnormal points and only 3 4/8 inches in side-to-side deductions. After the 60-day drying period, he was officially scored at 180 6/8 inches gross and 177 2/8 inches net. He had a 21 4/8-inch inside spread and he sported two tines over 11 inches long. Needless to say, my Dove Field Monster was a true trophy of a lifetime for me!