September 22, 2010
Almost 10 years ago, three avid whitetail hunters bought some prime land in Arkansas on the Mississippi River and started an intensive management program. Now their hard work is beginning to pay off.
By Tommy Garner
I knew that anything we saw from our stand that day would be at a long distance," Bert Robinson III said. "I wanted to be in a stand where my grandson Mac could be the shooter instead of me. I just hoped that a big buck would show up at 100 yards or less. Mac is a good shot, but he's only 8 years old."
(Left) Bert Robinson IV was hunting with his 8-year-old son, Mac, in December 2007 when this non-typical monster stepped out at just over 200 yards away. The shot was too far for Mac to attempt, so Bert dropped the huge buck with a well-placed shot. Bert's buck grossed 206 inches and netted in the mid-180s. (Right) Bert Robinson III shot this awesome 10-pointer in the same field where his son Bert IV shot his big non-typical. The buck netted in the high 160s.
Young Mac Robinson is a constant hunting companion of his grandfather Bert Robinson III and his dad Bert Robinson IV. In addition to sharing the same name and hunting together as often as possible, the Robinsons are third- and fourth-generation family members of the G.A. Robinson Land Company in Memphis, Tennessee.
"We were hunting the Alonzo field and we knew that there were some big bucks around," Bert III continued. "It was cold, the wind was blowing and I knew it was going to be a tough evening."
A LITTLE TOO FAR
The two hunters had reached their box blind prepared to endure the wind and cold until last light. Before the evening was over, a group of six does and a huge typical buck entered the field.
"I put my rangefinder on the buck, and it read 255 yards, much too far for Mac to shoot," Bert III said. "The deer were headed behind us, where they were certain to get our scent. They were not going to get any closer, so I asked Mac if it was all right for me to shoot the buck. The deer was simply much too big to pass up."
"It's okay, Grandae," Mac replied.
Seconds after the .300 WSM echoed across the Mississippi River delta, the big 10-pointer collapsed, never to rise again. Bert and Mac got to the fallen buck as quickly as possible, but not before the elder hunter apologized to his grandson for shooting the oversized buck.
"That's okay, Grandae," the young hunter said excitedly. "It was awesome to see the six does and that big buck! And you got him!"
The clean, long-tined 10-pointer had all of the appearances of a book deer -- nice spread, good mass and, of course, very long tines. Later on, an accurate measuring of the rack showed that the buck would indeed qualify for B&C's Three-Year Awards, but the net score fell just shy of the all-time record book.
The Lee County, Arkansas, buck was not the only big buck that had been killed on Two Rivers Hunting Club. David Jordening's giant typical-looking non-typical, killed the year before, was officially the biggest deer killed in the state of Arkansas during the 2006-2007 deer season. The beautiful buck scored 205€‚6/8 B&C points (for David's story, see Awesome Whitetails 7, published by North American Whitetail in November 2007).
Chris Canale, another Two Rivers Hunting Club co-owner, killed a wide, massive 4x4 with split G-2s and several other abnormal points. This awesome deer grossed in the 180s as a non-typical.
Thirty-six-year-old Bert Robinson IV has also killed several huge bucks on this property.
"A buck that I'd named 'Bullwinkle' was the first old mature buck that any of us killed on our property after we bought it," Bert said. "I didn't score him after I killed him, but he had to gross in the 150s. We called him Bullwinkle because he had a gnarled, freaky-looking non-typical rack (as do many of the bucks taken on Two Rivers property).
"We knew the property had the genetics, but we had to put a management program in place after we bought the property," Bert explained. "We culled lots of bucks and removed lots of does while protecting our older-age-class bucks. The next big buck I killed was a non-typical with split G-2s that scores 173. I killed him in the Hog Pocket in '04 or '05. I killed another monster in '06 behind the Hog Pocket. This deer also had split G-2s, an apparent genetic trait common to the area. He was an impressive, heavy-beamed buck that grossed in the 180s."
A SPECIAL PIECE OF PROPERTY
The Hog Pocket buck made the owners of Two Rivers Hunting Club realize that they had something special going on. Of course, they had been implementing their management plan for seven or eight years. In addition to culling certain deer while protecting the better bucks, they had established some serious mineral licks that contained everything that a whitetail could want or need for body and antler growth. The trail cameras kept track of dozens of trophy-class bucks, with a good percentage of them showing the split G-2 characteristics.
As part of their management strategy, the landowners stopped the commercial farming on the property that had been going on for years. They planted soybeans, oats, corn, clover and other high quality food sources without taking a single grain or bean out of the fields. Instead, it was all left for the animals.
Controlling the access to the property and keeping a watchful eye on it were also major keys to the success of the management plan. Only two access roads reach the 6,300-acre property, which is bordered by the Mississippi River on the east side and by the St. Francis River on the west. Caretaker Deanie Green has been totally committed to watching over the project each and every day, and he and his partner Gary Odle do their job well. Without them, this project would never have worked, because of local poachers and trespassers who insist on killing deer illegally. Controlling the loose cannon known as poaching is paramount to good deer management.
Numerous trail camera photos taken in recent years indicate that these committed hunters have achieved a hard-to-reach goal, a buck-to-doe ratio of 1-to-1. And some of these bucks are true monsters. Many of them have main-frame 8-point racks that are simply enormous. Then there are the big non-typicals. It seems that the combination of genetics and the great food sources and supplemental minerals have caused the gnarled, freaky racks on the bucks like Bullwinkle to unfold like the wings of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.
THE REWARDS OF GOOD MANAGEMENT
Over the past four or five years, the main beams on Two Rivers' bucks ha
ve gotten longer and the inside spreads have gotten wider. Tines are also noticeably longer and antler mass has gotten heavier. Racks that used to be twisted and ugly are now beautiful and huge. The pre-rut body weight on mature bucks is often greater than 250 pounds. Some of the racks on the non-typical bucks will gross considerably more than 200 B&C points.
There was one particular non-typical buck that appeared to be exceptional from trail camera photos. It was identifiable because the right side of his rack had many more inches of antler length than the left side.
"I think I saw this buck during the '06 season, but I couldn't be 100 percent positive that he was the same deer," Bert said. "If he wasn't, he was very similar in appearance. I could never get a shot at him, though."
ANOTHER GIANT GOES DOWN
On a warm, windy, cloudy day in early December 2007, Bert IV and Mac headed to a stand in the Alonzo field.
"I wanted to hunt out of a ladder stand on the edge of the field, but I decided to go to a bigger stand because Mac was with me," Bert said. "I was hoping that Mac would get an opportunity to kill a really big buck. I knew there were some very big bucks around the Alonzo field, including the big non-typical."
Just after 4 p. m., Mac said, "There's a big buck!"
Bert turned to see a monster buck step out of the woods and start working a scrape. "I ranged the buck, and he was 201 yards away," Bert said. "He started walking away. There was no time to get excited. The buck was getting farther away with every step. I asked Mac if it was okay to shoot him. He was simply too big to let walk. Mac said to go ahead and take him."
Bert quickly found the buck in his scope and gently applied pressure to the trigger of his .300 WSM. In seconds, the buck was on the ground.
The father-and-son duo walked up to the 240-pound buck and were shocked to realize it was indeed the big non-typical that they had seen many times on the trail camera pictures. The buck was totally awesome! The massive right side had so many points that it was hard to count them all. It was harder still to tell which were the typical and which were the non-typical points.
Due to several points that never developed properly and several others that were broken off, the left side of the rack had at least 30 inches less in antler inches than the right side. Still, Bert was sure the giant rack would gross over 200 B&C points.
During the Arkansas Big Buck Classic in early 2008, Bert had his antlers scored. The rack grossed over 206 B&C points, but due to the lack of side-to-side symmetry, the massive antlers netted in the mid-180s. Although the huge rack missed making the B&C records by mere inches, two thing were quite clear: 1) had the rack been balanced on both sides, it could have scored as high as 240 B&C points; and 2) Two Rivers Hunting Club property had produced two non-typical bucks that grossed over 200 inches for two years in a row (along with producing several other huge trophy bucks).
A PROMISING FUTURE?
Good evidence exists that there are other bucks on the property that will stretch the tape to over 200 inches. Breaking the 200-inch barrier is quite an accomplishment for a small group of hunters in Arkansas (or anywhere else for that matter). After all, these are totally wild, free-ranging deer that have been managed to help them reach their full potential by strictly adhering to a well-orchestrated management plan. That plan includes making good food sources available year 'round and controlling the access in to the property. The one thing you can't do much about is genetics, and these deer are blessed with having the right genetics for big antlers.
The members of the Two Rivers Hunting Club have invested 10 years of their time and a lot of money to make the property a true big-buck haven. They've planted more than 600,000 trees on what used to be open farming ground. They've also established numerous supplemental mineral licks and more than 60 food plots to achieve their success. All of this has been monitored with numerous trail cameras placed throughout the property that have recorded pictures of some real Arkansas wallhangers. Truly, these avid hunter/landowners have effectively created a place where the trophy of a lifetime could step out at any moment.
Along the way, they've had to exercise rigid control whenever a young but impressive buck made an appearance. More recently, they've reaped the fruits of their intensive labor by taking a number of very impressive record-class bucks. What does the future hold? According to Bert Robinson IV, more record-book bucks will no doubt be taken on the property in the very near future.
Eight-year-old Mac Robinson was hunting with his dad and his granddad when they both shot the biggest bucks of their lives. In each instance, Mac was the intended shooter, but the distance caused him to pass on taking a shot. But Mac's day will certainly come. In fact, I predict that the next mega-trophy taken from the Mississippi River delta property known as the Two Rivers Hunting Club will be wearing Mac's tag!