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Hunt club president fulfills lifelong dream with #8 buck

by Billy Todd

Haines City, Florida

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you hunting is not just my passion or my hobby – it is my way of life. I eat, breathe and sleep hunting and have since I took my first hog in a little place called Holopaw near St. Cloud, Fla. 35 years ago.

I have many fond memories of my years hunting the Florida woods, but those made during the 2008 hunting season will stay with me forever.

My monster buck was taken just a few short hours after I found a scrape earlier that day and went back to sit near it and wait. The big buck was soon spotted chasing a doe. He never slowed down until the .270 Core-Lokt bullet reached out and bit him behind the shoulder.

The buck made it about 50 yards and expired. I could not believe my eyes when I walked up to him and put my hands on those beautiful horns. It was an awesome experience!

My season at Buck and Boar Hunting Club in Madison County started out slow. I had seven game cameras with plenty of small bucks, hogs, turkey, bobcats, coons and doe on film, but no big bucks.

I only got to hunt a few weekends of archery season and managed to take a nice doe, but still had no big bucks on camera. I continued to scout and move cameras around because I knew the “big boys” would start showing up in late October and early November.

This is the third buck I have put in the Florida Buck Registry during 20 years of hunting at Buck and Boar. My wife, Judy, has also entered a nice 8-point she took in our Madison club. I estimate our club has produced 18 bucks that would qualify for the Florida Buck Registry (100 inches minimum), but few, if any, of our members opt to have them scored and officially entered.

I took a big 8-point (scoring 104-3/8 net) in October 2005 during muzzleloading season. A few weeks later my wife, Judy, killed an even nicer 8-point (107-6/8), and during general gun season in December 2006 I finally harvested a buck I had named “Heartbeat” after scouting him through all of black powder and half of gun season.

I had over 100 pictures of him and had sat a total of 120 hours trying to take him (missing once with a muzzleloader and twice with a rifle while he was chasing does). When he finally made a mistake, I entered him in the Registry at 100-2/8 inches net (104 gross).

In 2007, I was lucky enough to take a wide-racked 8-point that grossed 104-7/8, but deductions knocked him down to 99-4/8 net – just missing the Registry.

My son Billy Todd II harvested a pair of 8-points (2007 and 2008) that both fell just shy of making the registry. So, we knew big bucks were on the property, and have seen a few even bigger ones over the years, but in the spring of 2008 we found a set of shed antlers from a big 9-point that we estimated to score in the high 130’s.

We all joked about being the one to take this buck, knowing it would be the biggest ever taken in Buck and Boar Hunting Club. When archery season came to a close last year I had a few more bucks on camera and found my first rubs and scrapes of the season. I quickly set up on them and got out of the area to await black powder season.

The first day of muzzleloader season I shot a nice 8-point, and took a big 5-point on the second day. I continued to scout and move cameras around, and by the end of black powder season, rubs and scrapes were showing up everywhere!

The rut was exploding all around me during opening week of gun season, as I took another 5-point and saw a big buck with a huge rack and drop tine, giving me a reason to stay in the woods.

I saw this “big boy” chasing two does that morning and then saw him cross a road by himself later that day on my way back to my truck. I hunted hard, but never saw him again. I took a nice doe during doe week, as the rut was now open full throttle. I was off to a great start. I had a couple more 6-points and 8-points on camera and even saw a pair of twin 10-points chasing a doe (but no shot opportunity). These two bucks were never taken last year and should be big boys this season!

One area I hunted quite often now had fresh scrapes on the ground. The rut had kicked into overdrive, and I saw a buck of some sort every time I hit the woods. The bad part was

I had to take a week break from the hottest action of the season due to another hunt with some friends in Missouri. Two days before we left for Missouri I let my friend Wayne Baxter hunt the stand with all the scrapes. He saw a young 6-point and some turkeys, but could not get a clean shot at the buck.

Another friend, Kenny Barbaree, arrived later that day, and I let him hunt the same stand while Wayne and I hunted elsewhere, but nothing presented itself. We left for Missouri the next morning, and the first day of the trip I killed a nice 8-point weighing 250 pounds. At this point, my season had already exceeded my expectations (two does, two 5-points and two 8-points, along with several hogs). I had been truly blessed.

After we and our wives celebrated Thanksgiving together, everyone said their goodbyes, and I headed for the woods. While checking cameras, I noticed a new scrape and rub, so I sat on my stand that day (saw two does) and early the next morning (saw turkeys).

That afternoon brought rain and high winds, but it began to clear up after an hour. I was thinking the buck that made that scrape would be back to freshen it up. Event though activity had slowed, the rut was still going on.

I figured most of the bucks were laid up with does in the thickets, so I decided to put out some deer lure to see what would happen. Being one of those guys who thinks “if a little works...than a lot must work even better,” I emptied three bottles in the surrounding brush and into the new scrape. The wind had calmed, but there was still a slight breeze blowing into the swamp I believed contained the buck.

I climbed into my stand at 4:30 p.m. and an hour later I caught movement and saw a young doe running for her life. My gun instinctively went to my shoulder just as I saw the big buck hot on her heels. I put the crosshairs of the .270 behind his shoulders and squeezed off a shot, noticing a small tuft of hair blow off just before the buck disapeared into a thick patch of myrtle bushes.

At one point he stopped long enough for a second shot, but then was off and out of sight. My nerves got the better of me, and I managed to wait all of two seconds before I was on the ground looking for some sign of a solid hit.

I found nothing – no blood, no hair...I couldn’t even find his tracks. I was walking in and out of the myrtle bushes so fast I was out of breath. My heart was about to explode.

My mind was processing a thousand thoughts: “Did I miss? Did I wound him? Will I ever find him?” I had to calm down, so I walked back toward my stand, turned around and studied the area thoroughly, realizing I was not even looking in the right place. I went back to the area, but still found no sign. I began slowly moving through the myrtle bushes, looking over each one, until about 30 yards into the thicket, I found him!

I knew I had shot a big buck, but I didn’t know until then I had killed a giant Madison 10-point. His chocolate brown rack was huge and towered above his head! He was by far the biggest buck I had ever seen in the Florida woods.

To say he was majestic was an understatement. As I started dragging the big buck out, I discovered I was shaking all over. I had taken the buck of a lifetime after already having the perfect season! I kept telling myself it was real, and all the hard work and time spent scouting had finally paid off.

I have managed our club served as club president for 20 years. This was my pay-off. I was humbled. That night at camp, surrounded by family and friends, was a special and emotional time for me. It will never be forgotten.

After all the congratulations and picture-taking, I field judged the buck at 140 inches. Later, my Madison monster grossed 147-6/8 when officially scored by the FWC’s Will

Lafever before being entered in the Florida Buck Registry with a net score of 144-2/8 inches after deductions.

This buck not only topped off a great season, but fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine. To take a buck of this caliber from Florida is an honor and privilege. It says a lot about the genetics and type of bucks we could have if they could only get some age on them to truly show off their stuff.

I mentioned that I took a pair of 5-points last season, but I would be more than happy to let those small bucks walk if the state would impose the 3-points-to-one-side rule statewide. It would only restrict harvest for a couple of years, and in just three or four years we could all be killing these “big boys!”

I would like to thank my wife, Judy, for 23 years of great marriage while putting up with me eating, breathing and sleeping hunting. I love you, baby.

I also would like to thank Will Lafever for taking the time to officially score my buck for me; Bill Kinner of Kinner’s Country Sausage, who processed and caped the buck and

Larry Johns Taxidermy of Winter Haven, Fla. (bar none, the best in the business) for mounting the buck. Thanks to all of my family and friends at Buck & Boar Hunting Club who were there to make the whole scenario awesome.

This hunt and the 2008 season will be forever etched in my memory. But, I’ve got to go now...I just found another scrape!

Our members killed an average of nine animals each last season. That 900% success rate is rarely heard of in a hunt club in Florida. A membership in the 20-year-old club, which has been operating for 20 years, is $1,150 and we have a few openings at this time due to the economy. Normally, we stay full, and most of our members are longtime members. For more information, call me at (863) 421-7224.

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