Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi is an area that floods each winter. However, its 36,000 acres also contain one of the few remaining large tracts of mature hardwoods in the Mississippi Delta.

Perhaps it’s because of the lay of the land that 23-year-old Jordan Watts chose to do his deer hunting in that prime area. 

Watts lives in Livingston with his wife and young son, and he works at a chemical plant in Convent. He makes the three-hour drive several times during deer season to hunt the hardwood. 

On Oct. 7 while sitting 18 feet above ground in his Millennium lock-on stand overlooking a CRP on the refuge, he was able to put the crosshairs of his Horton crossbow behind the shoulder of a magnificent 12-point.

“My friend Cody Cohoon and I have a camp just north of the refuge near the little town of Louise. We bought a half-acre lot and a metal building we made into our hunting camp,” Watts said. “I got into my stand around 6:30 that Saturday morning and I began to hear noises I thought at first were someone hanging a climbing stand. I was a little upset that somebody was hunting so close to me when a doe stepped out into my shooting lane.

“She was followed by a small buck and I ranged the distance from me to the buck at 43 yards.”

The next thing Watts saw was a big buck he had no prior knowledge of — a buck that stepped out into the trail the doe and smaller buck had taken.

“I thought I was looking at a good 8-point I wanted to shoot but by then, the three deer had moved to my right into a thicket,” he said. “Suddenly, the doe spooked and ran back across the lane. The smaller buck came running out behind her and then here came the big buck. I bleated at him, he stopped right in the middle of my lane and I touched the trigger on my crossbow. The deer took off and I felt I had made a good hit on him.”

Watts said he waited a while to calm his nerves and then called his friend and his two cousins, Hunter and Adam Averett, to come help him find the buck.

“We got on a good blood trail and found my buck piled up less than 200 yards from where I shot him,” Watts said. “When I got my hands on him, I was shocked to see just how big he was and how fortunate I was to be able to get a chance at such a fine buck.”

The big deer was a public lands trophy for sure, sporting 12 points with main beams measuring more than  21 inches each, long brow tines and bases measuring a whopping 6 inches. The deer green-scored 151 inches of antler bone.

“I entered the buck in a big buck contest at work,” Watts said, “and hopefully I’ll have a good chance to win.”