The 2004-05 deer season started slowly, but it didn’t end before hunters took some beautiful bucks.
The hunting season that just closed wasn’t typical.
Weather was horrible for the first half, with either rain or heat and mosquitoes keeping hunters indoors.
But, as always, there were some big bucks killed.
Here are the details on a few of those kills.
Like most fathers, James “Jam” Downs wants his son to kill a big buck.
“He’s killed some nice deer,” Downs said. “He’s killed some 20-inch 8-points, but he’s never killed a really big deer.”
So last season, the 35th Judicial District Attorney watched a 150- to 160-class 10-point slink past his stand on opening morning of rifle season.
“That deer was headed straight toward my son’s stand,” Downs said.
Of course, the buck decided to go somewhere else, and Crawford Downs never got a shot.
The young hunter ended the season without killing a massive buck, but the father/son team returned Nov. 6 to try again.
They even sat the same stands.
Jam Downs was watching a cutover that surrounded a widened logging road when he caught movement about 9:30 a.m.
“The deer was just by himself, easing through the woods,” Downs said.
There wasn’t much visible through the tangle of the cutover, but the hunter thought the deer might be a shooter.
“I saw the flash of horns, and all that,” he explained. “I could see there were four or five points on side, but I couldn’t see the other side of the rack.
“I couldn’t even see the body.”
The buck eased toward the food plot planted along the road, but even when it stepped out, Downs wasn’t sure it was a shooter.
“It crossed about 90 yards from me,” he said. “I could see the side (of the rack) nearest to me.
“It looked like a 10- to 12-point.”
Most hunters would probably have shot based on that, but Downs’ club is managed strictly for older bucks.
“We don’t want to kill anything 3 years old. We’re trying to shoot mature deer,” he said.
So Downs picked up his grunt and called to the deer.
The buck looked down the road toward Downs, and he got the view he needed.
“I saw he had a 19- to 20-inch spread,” he said.
The rifle’s cross hairs dropped to the shoulder, and the deer was put out of its misery.
Downs then began worrying.
“You always worry about ground shrinkage,” he chuckled.
That made the 20-foot climb out of the stand a little anxious, but as Downs walked up to the buck, those fears melted away.
“As I got closer, the mass of the horns and the spread and the number of points became apparent,” he said. “It quickly became apparent that I had a special deer.”
That’s an understatement: The rack was a mainframe 12 with two stickers.
It was scored 180 6/8 for the Simmons’ Sporting Good Big Buck Contest. However, Downs’ taxidermist pegged the deer at 198 6/8 gross and 174 6/8 net.
Ironically, Crawford Downs was sitting on the same stand as the previous year, only a few hundred yards away.
“Once again, he was on the next stand, and this time the deer was coming from his direction,” Jam Downs chuckled.
The belly crawl hunt
Waverly’s Toby Waters was sitting in a deer stand on the cold, drizzly afternoon of Nov. 24, casually watching a field.
“Ironically enough, I was on the phone with an outfitter in Kansas setting up a rifle hunt,” Waters said.
While he was talking, two bucks stepped out a 1/2 mile away, and started making their way toward his food plot.
The far-away look revealed what he believed was a really big buck.
Waters quickly ended the call, and did something that many hunters might think strange — he climbed out of the stand.
“The deer was coming to me, but a deer like that, I wasn’t going to wait on him,” Waters said.
So he eased into the field, which was overgrown with Johnson grass, and began stalking toward the bucks.
The rain covered any noise he made, and the 20 mph wind was blowing in the hunter’s face. The conditions were perfect for a quick stalk.
Soon, Waters had closed the distance, but then the bucks stepped into a swag in the field and disappeared.
“It was like the ground swallowed them up,” he said.
Waters anxiously scanned the field, now knowing he was stalking a huge buck.
When the buck reappeared, however, it was a lot more nervous.
“He knew something wasn’t right, but he didn’t know what was going on,” Waters said. “He was looking right at me, but didn’t know what I was.”
Waters thought he had muffed it.
“My heart sank,” he said.
The deer headed for a nearby tree line, and Waters tried frantically to line up for a shot with a rifle that suddenly was hard to keep still.
“I gave a new meaning to the Figure-8 method,” Waters laughed. “I was breathing hard, and my heart was pounding.”
And then the bucks stepped into the woods and vanished again.
Waters didn’t second-guess his decision not to shoot.
“I didn’t want to take the chance of spooking a deer like that,” he said. “I thought I could come back the next morning and kill him.”
But he lay there waiting, hoping the buck would step out.
“I had just about given up,” Water said. “I had laid my rifle down next to me.”
Then he saw the smaller buck step to the edge of the trees, and Waters began searching.
“When I saw (the bigger buck), he was working a line of scrapes,” Waters said.
He snatched up his rifle, and just as the deer was about to step back into the woods, he squeezed the trigger.
“I shot him right behind the rib cage,” Waters said, surmising that the trajectory should send the bullet through the vitals.
But the buck didn’t respond as Waters expected.
“He didn’t act like he was hit at all. He threw a flag as long as my arm and took off running like nobody’s business,” Waters said.
He thought the shot had missed.
“I about vomited right then,” he said.
However, the shot proved true, and the buck ran only about 75 yards before “piling up.”
When Waters found the deer, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“There was absolutely no ground shrinkage,” he said.
The deer was massive, in body and rack size.
It later weighed in at about 300 pounds, and the antlers were fantastic.
The inside spread was only 15 inches, but the main beams stretched 26 1/2 inches and contained G2s that topped 15 inches in length.
The G3s were just longer than 14 inches.
It measured out as a main-frame 9-pointer, with three kickers.
Simmons’ has scored the beast at 176 3/8 Boone & Crockett.
No help from his friends
Gary Prudhomme had kept his promise to his wife, and now it was time for him to finally hit the woods.
“My wife and I just had a new baby, and I told her I wasn’t going to hunt much this year early in the season,” the Lawtell hunter said. “But I told her I was going to go to (Kisatchie’s) Red Dirt for Thanksgiving like I always do.”
So after finishing up with Thanksgiving celebrations, Prudhomme kissed his wife and child, and headed north.
He had no clue where he was going to hunt.
“I had hunted there before, but I hadn’t done any scouting,” Prudhomme said.
To make matters worse, he was going by himself.
“My buddies had been hunting up there, and they had done some scouting,” Prudhomme said.
But they all backed out of the annual Thanksgiving hunt.
“I got some pointers on where to go,” he said.
But when he stepped out of his truck early in the morning on Nov. 26, Prudhomme decided he’d start where he had seen deer in the past.
“I had some waypoints on my GPS from a couple of years ago,” he explained. “I decided to go to one of those waypoints first, and then go where my friends had been hunting.”
That was the first good decision of the day.
Watching his GPS screen carefully, Prudhomme slipped into the woods.
“I went to one of my previous stand sites,” he said. “I didn’t get in the same tree.
“I was looking for where a little drain came off the ridge.”
He climbed the first tree he found near such a drain, and waited quickly for day to break.
As sunlight filtered into the woods, Prudhomme was less than satisfied with his setup.
“I was thinking, ‘This isn’t worth anything.’ It was too open,” he said.
Instead of moving, he stuck it out.
That was good decision No. 2.
“I wasn’t in my stand 20 minutes when a doe came running through,” Prudhomme said.
He could have shot the deer, but he knew it was the rut, so Prudhomme glanced behind the doe.
“There he was,” he said.
All Prudhomme knew at that point was that the deer was a buck.
“I didn’t think he was that big,” he said. “His horns were dark, so I couldn’t see them very well.”
He quickly drew a bead on the animal, and squeezed the trigger.
The deer fell, and Prudhomme took a few minutes to compose himself.
Then he looked through the scope at the buck, which was clearly visible in the wide-open woods.
“I could see he had some mass,” Prudhomme said.
He still couldn’t count points, so he climbed down to claim his trophy.
Prudhomme couldn’t believe what he found.
“It had 15 points,” he said. “It’s a basic five by five with one split brow tine. The other brow tine has four points, and there’s another sticker off the back.”
The buck only weighed 163 pounds, but the rack encompassed 18 3/8 inches of air.
It greenscored at 158 4/8 inches gross, with 8 inches of deductions for a net score of about 150 4/8 Boone & Crockett.
Prudhomme said he was proud to have killed the buck, but admitted there wasn’t much skill involved.
“I just lucked into that deer,” he said. “It was a situation where if my friends had gone on the hunt, I wouldn’t have killed it because I would have been following them.”
Luck’s a good friend to have.
Red Dirt nail-biter
Moss Bluff’s Lanny Roberts hit the woods Oct. 23 a little less than confident in his rifle.
“I had been having problems with my muzzleloader because I changed to a new bullet,” Roberts said. “It wouldn’t hold a consistent pattern.”
The sheriff’s deputy said he didn’t have time to resight with another bullet, so he figured he’d just take his chances.
So on this morning, Roberts was sitting in a tree at the foot of a hill on Red Dirt Wildlife Management Preserve hoping his rifle would perform.
About 7:30 a.m., a doe eased to about 30 yards from Roberts’ stand and stopped broadside.
Roberts lifted his rifle, lined up the bead.
“I shot at her, and missed her completely,” he said. “I was upset.”
He reloaded, and sat stewing.
His hunting buddy, Rod McComb, was set up nearby, and radioed Roberts.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you get down and check,’ but I told him I knew I had missed,” Roberts said. “She ran off, and there wasn’t anything wrong with her.
“I told him I wasn’t going to mess up his hunt.”
Fifteen minutes later, Roberts heard a shot, and McComb was soon on the radio again.
“He said he had shot a 3-point. He said it was on the ground, and he was looking at it,” Roberts said.
The two decided to wait a few more minutes to ensure the buck was dead.
Ten minutes passed, and Roberts finally lowered his backpack.
“I had just stood up in my stand when a doe came over the hill,” he said.
The deer stopped about 15 yards away, so Roberts figured he’d try another shot.
“I was going to shoot her, but something in the corner of my eye caught my attention,” he said.
A buck trailing the doe was working its way down the hill.
“He wasn’t 20 feet from the bottom of my tree,” Roberts said. “I could see he was a good buck.”
It wouldn’t be an easy shot, since the hunter was basically shooting at the back of the deer because it was facing down the hill.
Swiveling the muzzleloader from the doe to the buck, Roberts settled the bead on the animal’s neck and let lead fly.
“For 3 seconds, it was just panic: Would he be there when the smoke cleared?” Roberts said.
As the cloud dissipated, the hunter was ecstatic.
“He was right there,” he said. “The only time the bullet worked, and it was on that buck.”
When Roberts finally reached the buck, he was shocked with what he found.
“It had 16 points, but five were less than 1 inch long,” he said.
That still left a scorable 11 points.
The greenscore taped out at 150 2/8 B&C.
“I’m a hunter; I’m not a killer. I do a lot more hunting than I do killing,” Roberts laughed. “I never had a wall-hanger in my life, and I’m 53 years old. I’ve finally got one.”
Lake Mary Monster
Keith Boykin first viewed the buck in December 2002 after seeing signs of its presence in the woods.
“I ran up on this area where two big bucks had fought,” the Mississippi hunter said.
So Boykin waited for the right conditions, and on Christmas morning he slipped into the area on Lake Mary Farms west of Woodville, Miss.
“I saw an 18-inch 10-point running does through my binoculars,” said Boykin, who works on the farm. “I shot and missed him.”
He continued hunting the area, but that buck had been educated.
“I didn’t see him again that season,” Boykin said.
The following October, Boykin stumbled into the buck again.
“I drove up on him on one of our roads,” he said. “He was feeding away from me. He was a good buck.”
Boykin drove away, convinced it was the same buck he had missed the year before. The rack was simply too similar.
“I hunted him again, but I never saw him that season,” Boykin said.
Amazingly, the situation played out almost exactly the same just before the beginning of the 2004 hunting season.
“I drove up on him again; he was about 60 yards away, and he was feeding away from me,” Boykin said.
But this time, the buck, which was still in velvet, didn’t spook.
Boykin eased away, but returned later and placed three stands in the area.
“I tried to kill him with a bow, but it was so hot,” he said. “I didn’t see him.”
On Nov. 20, the hunter was ready to give it another try.
The breaking day was miserable, with heavy rains that kept Boykin in.
As soon as the rain let up, however, he headed to a stand.
About 5 p.m., he spied a big-bodied buck at about 400 yards, but he couldn’t see it well because of the hazy conditions.
Not long thereafter, a buck stepped out at about 250 yards.
“He stopped and looked at me, and I recognized the shape of his antlers,” Boykin said.
It was the same buck, but Boykin thought he had lost his opportunity.
“He started loping,” Boykin said.
He snapped his rifle up, and frantically tried to get lined up before the buck melted into the weeds on the edge of the field.
And then the buck made a mistake.
“About 10 feet before he went into the weeds, he stopped,” Boykin aid.
This time, Boykin didn’t miss.
The buck ran about 40 yards, and was down for the count.
Boykin rushed to the deer, and found an absolutely astounding set of antlers.
The crown was set with 15 points and encompassed 21 1/8 inches of air.
The G2s measured 10 6/8 and 9 4/8 inches in length, with the G3s surpassing those measurements by an inch on each side.
The greenscore taped out to a gross score of 175 2/8 Boone & Crockett and a net score of 162 4/8 inches.
The deer showed just what the 9,000-acre farm is capable of producing.
“I’ve got some 130s,” Boykin said. “I knew the potential was here, but this is the first time it showed up.”
You shoulda been there
Des Allemands’ Micah St. Amant knew there was a big deer around his Uncle Ted’s place in Union Parish, but he was never in the right place at the right time.
“There were a few people who knew about the deer,” St. Amant said. “It was right behind the Pine Grove Baptist Church graveyard.”
The afternoon of Nov. 24 found St. Amant putting his wife Rhonda and nephew Dylan Crochet out on stands before jumping in his stand.
“I had just gotten settled in the stand about 3:30, when I heard pow,” St. Amant said.
So he climbed back down and headed to see who had shot.
His wife met him walking down the pipeline.
“I asked her what she shot at, and she said, ‘I don’t know, but it was a monster buck,’” St. Amant said.
The couple looked around, but saw no evidence of a hit. Rhonda St. Amant had missed.
“It was her first real hunt,” Micah St. Amant laughed. “She kept saying, ‘Why couldn’t it have been a doe or a spike?’”
The St. Amants climbed back into their stands to finish out the hunt, and about 5:30, Crochet popped a cap.
“He gut shot a deer,” St. Amant said. “We couldn’t find it.”
The plan for the following afternoon was for the threesome to sit the same stands, but Crochet didn’t want to hunt his stand because of the guts and hair he had blasted off the deer the night before.
So St. Amant switched with him.
Crochet should have stayed where he was.
About 5:20 p.m., St. Amant saw a buck walking up a creek between his stand and the food plot.
“When I put the scope on him I could see that one side of the rack, and I said, ‘Lord, that’s a big buck,’” he laughed.
The deer was walking directly away from the stand, so St. Amant waited for a higher-percentage shot.
“I kept thinking, ‘Come on, turn. Come on, turn,’” he said.
The buck finally turned a bit, and when it showed some of its rib cage, St. Amant squeezed the trigger.
The deer fell in its tracks.
The hunter couldn’t believe what he found when he climbed out of the stand.
The buck had 11 points (“He has several brow tines on one side”) and massive bases.
“One base is about 7 inches and the other is 5,” he said.
The buck greenscored 146 B&C.
“That just goes to show that those guts and hair don’t make a difference,” St. Amant said.
Brian Gerald knew a good buck had been seen a few times near his 60 acres of family land, so he hunted the field as much as possible.
But this year, he made a change.
“I had been bush-hogging the field, but I talked to someone who told me I might want to let it grow up this year,” the Pine resident said.
So on Dec. 23, Gerald sat looking out over the grown-up field. Surrounding the property were pine thickets planted by adjacent landowners.
“Those bucks lay up in those pines,” Gerald said.
About 5:15 p.m., movement from the back of the stand caught his eye.
“He was sneaking out of those pines,” he said. “He was just slipping through.”
Gerald couldn’t believe the rack on the deer, but he couldn’t do anything.
“When I first saw it, it was probably 50 yards from the stand, but I had to let it walk around in front of me,” he said. “It was making a big half loop around me.”
So he sat, watched and sweated. Excitement grew by the second.
“I was shaking,” Gerald said. “It would take a few steps and stop. I figure it thought it was hid.”
Finally, after about 3 long minutes, the buck was in position.
Gerald put the cross hairs on the deer and squeezed the trigger.
The buck bolted.
“He tried to make a little hook and get back where he came from, but he didn’t make it,” Gerald said. “He died on the edge of the field.”
The hunter waited a few minutes, and then hurried to his kill.
Even the minutes of watching hadn’t prepared him for what he saw.
“I knew he was a nice deer, but I didn’t know he was that nice,” Gerald said. “That’s when the party started.”
The rack held 13 points and stretched across 17 inches of air.
“The bases were almost 8 inches wide,” Gerald said.
It greenscored 148 7/8 B&C.
But Gerald said he’s not through hunting the stand yet.
“There’s another in there bigger than that one,” he said.
Leesville’s black beauty
Vickie Fuller has never liked guns despite the fact that she has lived in a house with a husband and seven sons who spend numerous hours hunting deer.
“I was always scared of guns, and I never thought I would hunt,” the Leesville woman said.
But about three years ago, Fuller decided she’d better try it out.
“It’s something (husband Lloyd) does, so I started doing it so we could do something together,” she said.
So Lloyd Fuller set her up with a .44 Magnum rifle that didn’t have much kick, and a box stand that was decked out with camo curtains, plexiglass windows and a heater.
The very first day she stepped into the woods of Rusty Nail Hunting Club outside of Leesville, Vickie Fuller shot at a massive buck.
“He went down,” she said. “He gut up a minute later, and I didn’t know what to do.
“I never did find that deer.”
OK, so she missed her shot at beginner’s luck, but over the next couple of years, she shot a few deer.
But on the morning of Nov. 28, Fuller balked at going to the lease.
“I didn’t want to go; it was cold,” she laughed.
But her husband harangued her into making a trip, telling her it might be her only chance to see a big buck he had watched crossing a logging road near her stand.
“My husband kept telling me, ‘There is another big deer in there,’” Fuller said.
Once tucked into the box in the woods, Fuller fired up her heater and poured a cup of coffee.
“I was drinking my coffee, and looking out my windows,” she said.
She glanced out the back of the stand, and something tweaked her interest.
“I thought, ‘Hmm, something doesn’t look right down there,’” Fuller said. “You get to know the trees (around your stand), and it looked like a tree might have grown some extra branches overnight.”
The hunter opened her window, and slid her gun out.
She still couldn’t see much.
“All of a sudden, the tree just kind of turned,” Fuller said. “This deer was so black, he blended right into the trees.”
Fuller is still new to judging rack size, but she recognized this buck as being a big boy.
“I didn’t take careful aim like I have with other deer,” she said. “I was afraid I wouldn’t get a shot.”
The .44 belched, and the buck crouched and bolted.
Fuller was left shaking and breathing heavily, but she stayed in her stand.
“I waited for about 45 minutes,” she said. “I was always told not to get down and go looking right away.”
Finally, she climbed from the stand and hustled over to where the deer had been standing.
“I looked around and I didn’t find any blood,” Fuller said. “I found the footprints where it turned, and I thought, ‘My God, did I miss it?’”
Soon, Lloyd Fuller joined her, and the two began scouring the woods.
Lloyd Fuller quickly found a speck of blood, and then Vickie Fuller found some fat mixed with blood.
“I thought, ‘I might get this one,’” Vickie Fuller said.
The drops of blood, which were stretched pretty thin, indicated a direct route, but Vickie Fuller soon began looping around.
“When I got back to that trail, there he was,” she said.
The buck was massive, with 10 points crowning its head.
Vickie Fuller, at only about 105 pounds and standing just shy of 5 feet, could barely get her hands around the bases.
Lloyd Fuller got some help from a buddy at the camp, and they loaded it onto the truck.
“We had to put it on the seat of the 4-wheeler,” Vickie Fuller said.
Lloyd Fuller stuffed a doe he killed that same morning behind the ATV.
“He didn’t want anyone to know he had killed a doe and I had killed this big buck,” Vickie Fuller laughed.
Although she knew the buck was big, Vickie Fuller still had not realized just how big it was.
“We were driving down the road, and people were passing us and craning their necks,” she said. “They were giving us the thumbs-up and the O.K. sign, so I thought, ‘This must be a really big deer.’”
Simmons’ Sporting Goods scored the rack at 150 2/8, and Vickie Fuller said she’s enjoyed entering it into such contests.
“When I tell them I want to enter my deer in the contest, I think they look at my size and think I’ve killed Bambi,” she said. “They say, ‘You killed a deer?’
“But when they see it to score it, they can’t believe it.”