A big, strange looking buck started showing up on game cameras around Canfield, Ark. the past four years. 

Clay Toms, who lives in Benton, finally got his first look at the big brute Tuesday morning, Nov. 11. One shot later from his Thompson Center .270, and his second look was at the huge deer laying at his feet. 

The 21-point buck with heavily palmated antlers had justifiably earned the nickname “Moose” and tipped the scales at more than 250 pounds. In fact, it took Toms and two other hunting buddies to get the heavy buck loaded.

Toms, 42, has been a member of the hunting club in Arkansas just 20 miles north of his boyhood home in Springhill since he was 6 years old.

“My dad joined the club with a group of friends probably 40 years ago and I started tagging along with him up to Canfield just about as far back as I can remember,” Toms said.

Deer season for that portion of Arkansas opened Friday, Nov. 8, and Toms joined his buddies to hunt for the next several days.

“I got up there Friday and hunted through the weekend without seeing anything I wanted to shoot. We have club rules about letting smaller bucks walk, and I saw several of these the first few days I hunted,” Toms said.  

That all changed in a dramatic way on Tuesday morning as Toms sat in his box stand overlooking several shooting lanes in a pine thicket.

“I’d sat in the stand awhile when I heard what I knew was a buck chasing a doe in the thicket behind me. They would run back and forth and I could hear the buck grunting. I got a couple of glimpses of him and could tell he was a good buck but could never get a chance for a shot,” he said. “The doe finally popped out on my shooting lane about 80 yards away, paused for a couple of seconds and then took off again. 

“Moments later, the buck stepped out and looked directly at me. He was only there for a second or two but it gave me time to put the cross hairs on his shoulder and squeeze off a shot.”

At the shot, the buck hit the ground but then immediately took off in the direction he had come from. Toms waited about 20 minutes before climbing down and heading to the spot where the buck was standing when he shot.

“I didn’t find a single drop of blood or anything to indicate I’d hit the deer. I knew I did because he had hit the ground, but there was no blood or hair or anything,” he said.

The ground under the pines was blanketed with pine straw, and Toms noticed some of the straw disturbed almost like an armadillo had rooted it.

“I still didn’t find any blood, and since the day was warm and the mosquitoes were eating me up, I went back to the stand for some water and my Thermocell and went back to look some more. I finally found one little drop of blood and just ahead was more blood,” he said.

As he followed the torn up pine straw, the pines ended at a dense thicket and  Toms eventually found hte buck at his feet, only 40 yards from where he had been hit.  

The antlers on this big buck were indeed impressive. The inside spread was 17 ½ inches, but the main feature of the rack was the heavy palmation, giving the spread a moose-like appearance. The buck has not been officially scored, but a rough estimate is somewhere in the 180-inch range.

“The first thing I did when I stood over my buck was to look skyward and say “Thank you, daddy”. 

Toms’ dad, who was his hunting mentor, passed away in June.

“I could feel my daddy’s presence,” Toms said.  “And I know he was nodding his approval of what I’d accomplished.”  

Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the random drawing for Nikon Monarch binoculars at the end of the contest.

Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.