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Scott Tolbert’s Holmes County buck takes #2 spot

Scott Tolbert of Panama City, Florida first saw the buck that would end up finishing #2 in the 2013-14 “Buck of the Year” contest two years ago on a trail camera video recorded in October 2012 when the buck had a unique heart-shaped 8-point rack.

Two seasons later, on Feb. 20, 2015, Scott killed the 6-1/2-year-old buck with an impressive 12-point rack near Westville in Holmes County. Tolbert’s buck, which gross scored 153-7/8 inches and netted 148-7/8, is the second-highest scoring whitetail ever taken in Holmes County, behind Jeremy Free’s muzzleloader buck taken in 2010 that scored 151-3/8 inches. Tolbert took over the #2 spot previously held by Michael Conner’s 2010 buck that scored 147-4/8.

“We did not see him at all during the 2013-14 season. But, this past year we moved our stands several times during the season,” Scott said.

“As a kid growing up, I hunted on wildlife management areas along the Chattahoochee River, right where the Florida, Georgia and Alabama line comes together. On public land you can’t put any type of feed or cameras out there, so that was what I was used to.

“In recent years, now that I am hunting private land, I put out cameras and corn during the fall just to see what we had coming through the property, but once the season starts, I usually take the cameras down and stop putting out corn. I know everyone has an opinion on it, but for myself, I just like hunting the land as naturally as possible,” Scott said.

“But this season I left the cameras out until early January and caught him on camera. Comparing photos with other hunters, we found he had been roaming 5-6 miles within several days.

“After I got a photo of him, I pulled all the cameras out of the woods and put up a new stand in that area. Every single time somebody sat in that stand they would see deer.

“Early this particular morning (Feb. 20) I stopped at the country store to get my biscuit. It was very cold – like 20 degrees – so I told the woman there I was going to shoot one at about 7 o’clock and I would be back at 7:30 for another biscuit,” Scott remembered.

“It was a Friday, so I was the only one up there. I’m fortunate to own land in Westville, which is close enough to where I live in Panama City that I can hunt in the morning and just come to work a little late. I own my own small business, so it is hard for me to travel to hunt,” Scott said.

“I was on the stand early and about 6:55 a.m. I stood up to stretch and look around. When I sat back down, it was just after 7 a.m. when I looked over my left shoulder, and there he was! He had come in behind me in the one area I could not see him until he stepped out.

“He was probably 60 to 70 yards away when I saw him, and he was walking in at what I would call a fast pace. He stopped at a small pine and tore it up, shaking his horns back-and-forth over it. Afterwards, he took about five steps, giving me a clear shot from about 30 yards with my Browning .308 loaded with 150-grain Hornaday ballistic tips.

“From the time I first saw him until the time I took the shot was less than one minute,” Scott said. “He actually ran back out of sight before he dropped. When I took the shot I did not know it was this particular buck.

“Between the cold, the excitement and taking the shot, I did not notice him flinch at all. He just took off,” Scott said. “But, I told myself there was no way I missed him.”

“I called a local guy I have become very good friends with, Dale Powell, to let him know I had shot a monster, but Dale had left town that morning, so he sent his employee Dale to help me load him in the truck. I never made it back to the country store that day for a biscuit!”

“We actually went to Dale’s house to process the deer. When I took the horns to the FWC biologist to be scored, the guy asked where I shot the deer. When I told him Holmes County, he asked if it was Holmes County, Illinois?,” Scott laughed.

“Even then I still had not realized how massive this rack was. He is definitely a buck of a lifetime,” Scott said.

The buck’s long 25-inch main beams almost touch at the tips, forming a heart-shape when looking down on the rack. Scott said the buck had a 12- or 13-point rack the year before and was starting to decline.

“I shot a total of eight deer this past year, and despite giving away a lot of the meat, I have just about burned up my grill! I love it!” Scott said.

After taking five deer in a 30-day period during the late rut in the Panhandle last season, Scott is now setting his sights on another big buck this year.

“I have three cameras that have been out for a couple of months, adn we had a 9-point walk right under my stand the last day of the season last year at about 10:30 at night. I can’t wait to see him this season!” Scott said.