Alton McLeod is no stranger to Tensas National Wildlife Refuge, having spent time hunting there every for 25 years. But it was the choice to hunt a new part of the 80,000-acre public property that paid the biggest dividends of his hunting career Saturday (Jan. 7).

That's when he arrowed a monster 28-point that has been green scored at 222 inches Pope & Young, which could make it the largest non-typical deer ever killed by a bow hunter in the state.

"It seemed like a dream," the Starks hunter said. "I never dreamed something like this was in there."

McLeod said that he, his son Derek, and buddies John Berry of Starks and Jude Morrow of Texas had hunted the area near Hunter's Bend Campground the weekend before. It was the first time they had spent time in the area, but there was plenty of buck sign so they felt confident.

But they didn't get even head into the woods until mid morning.

"With the full moon, we got on stand at 10 am., and hunted all day," McLeod said.

The hunters set up a few hundred yards apart, and they settled in to wait. McLeod ratcheted up a tree near an area where he had seen deer the previous weekend.

"I see two deer travel through there, and I moved maybe 100 yards," he said. "I just went over there and climbed up a tree."

It wasn't until about 3 p.m. that McLeod saw any action, when a doe slipped by him. The palmettos for which Tensas NWR known were simply too thick.

"I couldn't get a shot," McLeod said. "I'm not going to take shot I'm not confident in."

So he just watched as the deer disappeared.

An hour later, the quiet was interrupted as a flock of buzzards settled into a tree about 150 yards away and began arguing loudly with each other.

"I figured my hunt was over," McLeod said. "I stayed just because I didn't want to mess up my buddies."

He listened to the cacophony for about an hour, becoming more and more frustrated.

About 5 p.m., however, the noise of a deer walking through the palmettos caught McLeod's attention.

He watched closely, but again the palmettos interfered with any shot.

"About 15 minutes later, I saw something to my left," McLeod said.

McLeod finally caught a glimpse of antlers when the buck walked behind a bush.

"He turned and started toward me," McLeod said. "In my mind, I knew he wasn't real wide but I knew he was tall. I thought it was an 8- to 10-pointer."

That's the last time he paid any attention to the headgear.

"I started concentrating on the body (of the deer)," McLeod said.

As the the buck circled McLeod's stand site, and the hunter pulled to full draw. He had to contort around the tree to keep site of the animal.

"I watched him make a scrap," he said. "I was holding back (the bow) the whole time."

But there still wasn't a high-percentage shot available.

The buck then lifted its head a bit, and moved it side to side.

"I said, 'This deer is getting ready to get out of here; it's going to be now or never,'" McLeod said.

So he put his pin between the shoulder blade and the backbone of the deer, and let the arrow fly at the buck that was only 25 yards away.

"I spined him," McLeod said.

The buck was down, but not dead. And still, the hunter had no clue about the huge rack atop the buck's head.

"I stuck my hands up and said, 'Thank the Lord' for letting me kill another buck with my bow," McLeod said. "I always do that."

The deer was still trying moving, but couldn't get up. So McLeod hurried down the tree.

And was shocked when he pushed through the tall palmettos to the downed deer..

"I said, 'Oh my God! What have I done killed?'" McLeod said.

The hunter didn't approach the buck because it was still moving its head, but he started counting the points that seemed to sprout from all over the thick main beams.

"I tried to count them, and I could count 20," McLeod said.

Stunned, McLeod headed to get his deer cart, certain the buck would't be moving. On the way, he called one of his buddies.

"He asked me if I shot one, and I said, 'It's 20 plus points is all I can tell you,'" McLeod said.

When he returned, the deer still hadn't expired and McLeod put another arrow in it.

And then the celebration could begin in earnest.

It turned out that 28 scoreable points adorned the main beams. The inside spread was  a relatively narrow 14 1/2 inches, but the sheer number of points and incredible mass made up the difference.

The bases measured 5 1/2 inches, and that mass held all the way out to the ends of the main beams.

"I've killed some good deer," McLeod said. "I killed a 138(-inch deer) and a 12-point last year, but nothing like this."

He said the experience proves that hunters should stick it out even when other wildlife seems to have ruined the day.

"He come from where those buzzards were at," McLeod said. "That goes to show you that animals don't pay attention to noise like that."

The antlers cannot be officially scored until after a 60-day drying period, but if the tentative score by Simmons Sporting Goods holds McLeod's buck will best the current state-record non-typical buck killed by a bow.

Billy Husted arrowed the current 219 1/8-inch state record in 2007 while hunting in Tensas Parish. However, Husted's deer was measured in velvet.

Lousiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Scott Durham, keeper of the state Big Game Records, said velvet deer are really considered in a separate category from hardened antlers.

"You can't compare velvet antlers with hardened antlers," Durham said.

The highest-ranking hardened-racked buck currently listed in the records is a 203 5/8-inch buck killed in 1983 by Rodney Lee.

That means McLeod's deer stands a good chance at being listed as the No. 1 non-typical archery buck not in velvet.

"I would probably list (McLeod's and Husted's deer) together, and have an asterisk next to the velvet deer," Durham said.

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