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Bruce Layne’s Walton Co. Buck is #7

by Bruce Layne Navarre, Florida

Last year was a great season for me. I’ve hunted in Natural Bridge Hunt Club outside of Florala, Alabama for the last several years. Our hunting property is located in Florida and Alabama, but due to the price of out- of-state licenses, I only hunt the Florida side.

In late April last year I started working on a summer food plot to hold deer on this awesome secluded little patch of earth I found located just off some well-used trails leading into a swampy area.

First, I used Round Up to kill a 25x35 foot oval plot. My son and I raked out the spot a couple of weeks later and worked in an early-season mix of lablab, iron clay peas, soy- beans and red clover. With the help of Stew, I put up a 22-foot ladder stand about 20 yards off the plot, threw up a trail camera and left it to grow. I went back at the end of May to find trail camera photos of a few bucks just starting to grow antlers.

This is when I first saw “The Man.” He had good thick bases I thought would grow into a nice rack. I tried to stay out of the area as much as possible, continuing to check the camera once a month, but never saw him again until mid-August.

That is when I saw he had indeed grown into “The Man”.

My hunting buddy Ray and I used a little gas tiller to mow down the summer plot before planting rye, oats, winter peas and a few varieties of clover for fall/winter.

As archery season began, I hunted the spot on odd weekends when I could get to camp, but the buck had disappeared. I had several does show up on nearly every hunt, but I would never take one in hopes they would draw in the bucks.

“The Man” never showed up on cam- era again, but on the few occasions I hunted that spot, I could hear deer crossing a creek beyond my plot leading into the swamp. I did a little scouting one afternoon and found a game trail, but only a small part of it was visible from my stand – about 75 yards to the right of me through a good stand of trees.

My son played travel and high school soccer, so it was rare we could hunt together. The Christmas holidays provided us with a chance, but my wife’s birthday was four days after Christmas, and one of our good friends had planned a surprise party. We took her out for a meal as a diversion before surprising her by turning onto our friend’s street.

My son and I had all our bags packed for the hunting camp, but we knew better than to ask to leave on her birthday. After the nice afternoon party, we headed home around 6 p.m. After milling around for about half an hour, she finally looked at us and said, “Why don’t y’all just go to the camp now? Then you can get in a morning hunt tomorrow too.”

We protested for about half a second before we were on the road. We got to the camp about 9 p.m. to find it filled with folks, but quiet, as everyone had hit the sack.

At 4 a.m. Eddy and I were among the first to sign out our hunting spots on the map. Eddy was going to be about 3 miles from me across an adjacent farming property, and I headed back to my secluded hole.

The morning was quiet – no different from any other morning I had sat there. The usual does came by about 7 a.m., but then absolutely nothing moved or made a noise. I started getting bored and hungry around 9 a.m., so I stood up in my stand to stretch and texted Eddy to see how he was doing.

He texted back that all was quiet in his area also. While I was standing reading his text, I heard a little rustle to my right. Something was headed down that trail that I had only a few seconds to see before it entered in that stand of trees.

“Holy crap! What was that?” I thought as I glimpsed an antler flash that quickly disappeared behind the trees and growth. Quickly and quietly I eased back into my seat, picked up my gun and zoomed my scope all the way out to scan the area.

I caught a nose, then an eye and final- ly an awesome rack. He stopped right there and started feeding. I think the 10 or 15 sec- onds from when he stopped for a mouthful of food to when he made his final steps seemed like an eternity.

I got the safety off, controlled my breathing, and waited for a shot. I saw his neck, then the front of his shoulder, but kept waiting until I saw the sweet spot and squeezed the trigger – BANG, THWACK! I’d made the perfect shot on “The Man,” drop- ping him right where he stood. I chambered another round and kept the scope on him, but he never bucked or moved again.

A text from another hunter asked, “Did you shoot?” and I replied “I got him!”

I got out of my stand and went to claim my trophy, finding he had the biggest rack of any deer I had ever seen on any trail cam- era or bragging wall picture from this camp. I knew he was special. I pulled him up to the access road, then got my truck to load him.

After struggling for 10 minutes to get him in my lifted truck, I called my son and told him he had to come help – adding he had to walk to me because there was no way I was leaving this buck in the woods alone.

Begrudgingly, he came over, and we loaded him up after a small photo session and headed to camp. There were already people hanging around the skinning rack, as the texting network had been hard at work telling everyone a big deer was coming in.

I took the long victory lap to the skin- ning rack with all eyes upon me. It was awesome to hear all the comments as I dropped the tailgate and brought out “The Man.”

Although there were several more deer to come for me this season, he was definitely the highlight. All the time and hard work had paid off! I now have the #3 typical ever recorded in Walton County. He wasn’t the heaviest deer taken (168 lbs.), but he does have the biggest rack ever taken off the property (145 inches gross, 140-4/8 inches net).

Rifle: Remington 700 CDL 7mm Rem. MAG, Scope: Leupold VX-III 4.5-14x50mm Bullet: Hornady Custom 154-grain SST.