Florida Buck-of-the-Year Contest

2009 Buck of the Year Winners

#1 - Amazing Alachua Bow Buck!


David McQueen of Cross City, Fla. had never killed a buck that would qualify for the Florida Buck Registry (100-inch minimum for typicals).

His first bow kill was an 8-point, and his best buck heading into the 2008-09 season was another 8-point that would likely score in the low 90s.

His wife, Morgan, has owned family bragging rights during their entire marriage for a Georgia 9-point taken 10 years ago while hunting with her dad.

That all changed on Oct. 12, 2008 when McQueen arrowed an amazing Alachua County 8-point that scored an incredible 157 inches net Boone & Crockett and 154-3/8 inches Pope & Young!

McQueen’s buck is arguably the biggest news to hit Florida’s hunting community in the past 10 years. The awesome beast is not only the 2008-09 “Florida Buck of the Year,” but is also:

• The #1 (tie) highest-scoring typical buck ever taken in Florida with a bow (upon being entered and accepted by the Pope & Young Club);

• The new #6 buck on Florida’s list of “All-Time Top 10 Typical;”

• The highest-scoring 8-point ever entered into the Florida Buck Registry and the only 8-point among the Top 10;

• The first 8-point to ever win the Florida “Buck of the Year” contest.

Ironically, David’s buck settles in on the all-time Top 10 Florida Typicals list behind Felton Sheffield’s Alachua County 12-pointer (2003) that scored 159, and Bobby Ray Davis, Jr.’s legendary Dixie County 11-point that scored 159-4/8 inches in 1994.

Alachua County also produced the #6 buck on Florida’s All-Time Top 10 Non-Typicals list (Lee Crews’ 16-point scored 179 in 2000). After talking to the 32-year-old electrical contractor for several hours, I got the distinct feeling he has not yet fully realized the magnitude or significance of taking this once-in-a-lifetime trophy.

“This was all luck. Skill had nothing to do with it,” David told me right off the bat during our three-hour interview. After hearing the entire story, one can begin to understand why he has remained remarkably humble and why many die-hard hunters have yet to hear news of the record-breaking buck.

He didn’t invest years, months or even weeks scouting and patterning the movements of the monster buck. He didn’t spend tons of money on food plots, feeders or a lease. He had never seen the buck (or even a game camera photo) before and had no idea how big it really was when he released his arrow.

In fact, David admits that when he first drew back his bow, he thought the buck would score in the 120-inch class, which still would have made it the biggest of the 12 he has ever killed since he began hunting 10 years ago.

“I just got serious about it six years or so ago. Archery hunting is my favorite. I am not the best at it, but I love it more than anything,” he said.

Not only does he admit luck played a major part in taking the biggest buck he has ever seen – it happened on his first (and likely last) hunt on a small piece of private property in Alachua County.

David’s longtime buddy Jason Beach had been calling and stopping by his office in Trenton (where they attended high school together and David now works as co-owner of Tri-County Electric) for weeks to brag about a “honey hole with all of these big bucks he had on camera.”

“He called me Saturday and asked where I was hunting Sunday. He had been talking and talking about this place and all these big bucks, so I finally, just jokingly, told him to take me there.

“He said he was planning to hunt Mallory Swamp WMA. But, I told him I didn’t have a WMA stamp, so he needed to take me to this honey hole instead. He paused for a second and then said OK,” recalled David, who normally hunts on a local lease as a member of Ray’s Sawmill Hunt Club in Dixie County.

What David didn’t know at the times was that Jason was hunting as a guest of his brother-in-law – one of two people actually leasing the small (under 20 acres) tract located between Alachua and Gainesville. This meant David was a “guest of a guest” when he killed the biggest buck taken in Florida in the past five years – something understandably frowned upon by lease members.

The friends, who had only hunted together twice before, met up about 1-1/2 hours before daylight that Sunday morning at the property. “When we got there that morning, he (Jason) sort of pointed me in the general direction he wanted me to hunt and described this specific tree where he had a perfect spot set-up. It was still dark, so I am walking in – with my climber on my back and a light on my head – trying to find this place he described in woods I’ve never hunted before.

“I headed in that direction until I saw what I thought was the perfect tree and climbed up. I never did find the spot he was telling me about, but I think I was close,” David said.

He was 16 feet up in his API climber about an hour before daylight, and bashfully admits he may have dozed off. “It was about daylight when I heard him blow and turned to my left and saw him. To be honest, I think he woke me up,” David said with a smile.

The big buck was crouched down about 60-65 yards away at David’s 10-o’clock position.

“I slowly stood up and drew back. Two seconds later he was running right toward me. He kept coming, walking kind of fast, until he was almost right up underneath my stand. I whistled, bleated a couple times and even grunted trying to get him to stop, but he just kept walking from my left to my right until he was just 10 yards in front of me and blew again.

“I knew when he blew he’d probably winded me and was about to be out of there. I had to take my shot then or it was all over,” he remembered.

When asked about the shot, David grinned sheepishly and glanced away, stating, “I hit him a little further back than I wanted.” His father-in-law (who had sauntered up to listen to the interview being conducted in his front yard) shook his head and laughed quietly from behind. His presence helped his son-in-law reveal it may not have been the first time his aim was slightly off.

“I knew he was big, but not that big,” he said, sharing the secret that he has never killed anything larger than an 8-point and his previous career-best “trophy” would probably come up short of making the Florida Buck Registry.

In what has been an ongoing sore subject (jokingly, of course) around the house, David says his wife, Morgan, has reminded him on several occasions that her Georgia 9-point still has the most points of any buck taken between them.

Due to several similar phone calls from the woods in the past (all of which turned out to be pranks or a severe case of horn shrinkage on the ride home), Morgan didn’t believe David when he called to report he had finally topped her buck while bow hunting last October.

After letting the arrow fly, David stayed in his stand and waited until about 9:30 a.m., so he wouldn’t ruin the morning hunt for Jason – who was hunting about 100 yards away, clueless to the fact his buddy had arrowed a monster.

“I never heard him fall when he ran off after the shot. There was blood sprayed everywhere, and we trailed him good for a while, but lost it when he backtracked across the same trail about 100 yards and veered off. If Jason hadn’t been there I don’t know if I would’ve ever found him,” he said.

After more than a three-hour search – during which the pair were fighting off huge “swamp mosquitoes” they began to believe may have carried off or sucked the buck dry – Jason finally called his friend over.

“When I got to him, I realized it was the biggest buck I had ever seen. We had to drag him 700 or more yards to where we could get the truck in. He was unbelievably heavy. I had no idea deer could get that big,” David said, adding the buck weighed over 200 pounds.

Even after a buddy green-scored the buck and said it would total around 140 inches, David did not realize the significance of his trophy.

After being prodded by his friends, he called the FWC later that day and was told he had to wait 60 days for the antlers to dry before it could be scored.

While that is a requirement for bucks to be entered into the official Boone & Crockett record book, the mandatory 60-day drying period is not necessary before a rack can be scored by the FWC (which simply uses the Boone & Crockett scoring system, but not the stringent drying requirement).

The buck was hung in a relative’s cooler, where “everyone and their uncle” came by to take a look.

He finally had the rack scored on Jan. 31 by FWC Officer Dwain Mobley at an antler scoring day at the Farmer’s Market in Live Oak. Mobley, who also scored this year’s #2 and #3 entries in the Florida “Buck of the Year” contest, was amazed when he saw the skull and antlers David was holding while waited his turn in the line.

“It is just an amazing, unbelievable 8-point,” Mobley said, “And it is even more impressive when you consider it was taken with a bow.” Veteran Alachua County bow hunter and Pope & Young scorer Ronnie Everett scored the deer for entry into the P&Y record book (153-4/8 inches) and aged it at 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 years.

When David submits his official score sheet, affidavit and photos, the buck is expected to tie for the #1 spot as the highest-scoring archery buck in the Pope & Young record book from Florida. The top spot is currently held by Robert Ballard’s 153-4/8-inch buck taken in 1980 in Columbia County.

The next highest Florida entry is a 138-7/8-inch Alachua County buck taken in 1994 by Craig Carpenter. James Stovall’s 206-inch 25-point Green Swamp monster (1999) was a non-typical and taken in velvet, but was never officially entered.

This is only David’s third deer mount (courtesy of Chesley Lord of Lord Taxidermy), and will hang with two of his “other eight-points.”

While those few who have seen the rack’s awesome mass and tine length have been in awe of the Alachua County giant, David will likely continue to be reminded it still ranks #2 (in number of points) at the McQueen house.

He shakes his head over the fact he still has not harvested a buck carrying a rack with more than eight points.

We wish him the best and hope he can finally shake off his personal “8-point antler restriction” curse and take a decent 10-point or better this season.


#2 - Billy Whittington of Live Oak killed the buck of his lifetime

Billy Whittington of Live Oak killed the buck of his lifetime – and what turned out to be the #2 entry in the Woods ‘n Water “Florida Buck of the Year” contest – on opening day of the 2008-09 general gun season in Hamilton County south of Jasper.

Billy says he has been hunting the same 250-acre tract of private property in Hamilton County since 1989 and first spotted this huge 12-point buck during black powder season.

“I saw him twice during muzzleloading season, but both times he was too far away, and I couldn’t get a good shot at him with my black powder gun,” Billy said. Billy decided to move his stand closer to what appeared to be the buck’s normal travel route. There was no sign of him during the next hunt, but the move paid off on his second hunt from the new stand location.

A light mist was falling on opening day of general gun season (Nov. 8, 2008) when he got in his stand at 6 a.m. At around 7:55 a.m. Billy said he heard a deer blow just west of him and heard it moving toward him. Billy got into position in time to spot a buck walking up the fence line.

“I expected him to come up in front of me, but instead he slipped up from behind. I was already up and ready, and I could see that he had horns, but I couldn’t tell if he was the same buck or not,” Billy said.

“He walked up the fence line, stood there a second and then jumped the fence. I could tell he was going to cross a little tram road and realized I would have to hit him on the run a little bit.

“I knew I would not have much time to shoot because he was walking along pretty good, and he had done the same thing the two other times I saw him,” Billy recalled.

When the buck closed to within just 20 yards of his stand, Billy fired a single shot from his .270 Ruger M77 for a perfect “right-behind-the-shoulder” shot. The buck went just 30 yards and collapsed.

Billy said he has taken several bucks that would qualify for the Florida Buck Registry over the years. “I’ve got four on the wall that probably score over 100, but I’ve only had one scored. That one grossed 125 and netted 116-3/4 inches. There is one that is probably a little bigger hanging up there, but nothing like this,” Billy added.

The main frame 10-point weighed 185 pounds and had one abnormal point – as well as slightly split brow tines – for a total of 11 scorable points that racked up a gross score of 161 inches!

A difference of 4-3/8 inches between the right and left antlers, coupled with a deduction for 2-6/8 inches of abnormal points, gave Billy’s buck a total net score of 153-7/8 inches B&C.

The massive rack is supported by main beams that measure 26-6/8 and 26-2/8 inches in length with a nice inside spread of 18-1/8 inches (greatest spread 20-1/8 inches).

The near-perfect symmetrical rack features 3-1/2-inch brow tines, almost 11-inch G2s and 10-inch G3s, as well as 3 and 4-6/8-inch G4s. Circumference measurements taken from between the points were all above 4 inches!

The Suwannee County hunter expressed his sincere appreciation to the landowner who has allowed him to hunt the property for the past 20 years. Recently, especially the last two or three years, Billy says he has started practicing his own form of quality deer management by letting spikes and 4-points walk.

“I try to let the little ones walk, and I have to admit that after taking this one, my standards might be even a little higher. It will be a little bit different hunting from now on, to be sure!” he added.

Luckily for him, Billy is basically the only one hunting the property, although occasionally he does take friends after the first nine days of the season.

We suspect that list of friends is already growing a little longer.


#3 - Eric Law took the 2008-09 season's #3 highest-scoring typical buck

Eric Law took the #3 highest-scoring typical buck taken during the 2008-09 season with this impressive 10-point harvested on Nov. 11, 2008 while hunting near his home in Jennings in Hamilton County.

The North Florida giant weighed approximately 185 pounds and carried an awesome set of antlers that gross scored 159-1/8 inches and netted 150-1/8 inches. Eric was sitting in his favorite tree stand, located on private land (the Law family farm) near his home in Jennings, when the early-morning silence was broken by what he thought was a bear crashing through the bushes.

Not yet sure what was making its way toward his food plot, something caught his attention – as he spotted the big buck run out into the plot as if he were chasing a doe. When the gigantic buck stepped out and presented a view of its magnificent head gear, the 32-year-old hunter said that his heart almost stopped beating.

Not wasting any time, he quickly ranged the deer at about 200 yards, took aim with his 7mm WSM Browning Short Track and pulled the trigger. One shot was all it took. The buck fell, and the trophy buck was his!

After taking some hasty pictures, Eric spent the rest of the day riding around and showing off his buck to everyone he knew (and some he didn’t). After several hundred photos (and about that many miles on the truck), Eric had the buck scored by FWC officer Dwain Mobley, who entered the 185-pound monster into the Florida Buck

Registry with an official gross score of 159-5/8 inches and a net of 150-1/8 inches! Later, Eric invited friends and family over for some venison to celebrate his accomplishment.

Eric’s 3-1/2-year-old buck had main beams measuring 25 and 23-5/8 inches, with 4-2/8-inch brow tines. The buck’s towering G3’s stretched 10-5/8 and 11-2/8 inches high and were surrounded by G2’s measuring 12-2/8 and 9-4/8 inches in length and G4’s that were 6-6/8 and 3 inches long, accounting for much of the buck’s 9-4/8 inches in deductions for differences between the two sides.

The state’s #3 buck had a rack with an 11-7/8 inch tip-to-tip spread, measuring 20-6/8 inches at its widest point and a 19-1/8-inch inside spread.

Eric extended a special thanks to Randall Gay Taxidermy in Morven, Ga. for the great mount and credited David “City Boy” Kiselick for all his photos.


One year after scoring Florida’s #1 Non-Typical Mike Lopez-Reyes's takes the #4 buck

by Mike Lopez-Reyes

Let me start by saying this last hunting season was one to remember! I was in an accident in September and thought my hunting season was over before it got started. I tore the ACL ligament in my left knee and had to have surgery.

Needless to say, I didn’t hunt during bow or black powder season, but as gun season opened I was finally able to hunt. Still on crutches and barely able to walk, I had to rely on someone else to drag out and load anything that I shot.

I remember the morning of the hunt. It felt great to not be bedridden and stuck at the house. It felt so good to get out and feel that warm sun on my face and hear the turkeys fly down from the roost.

It was one of those mornings that you hope never ends. Before I knew it was 8 a.m. I began to gather my things, and as I looked up there was a doe standing there.

I thought, “Oh, great,” because I had taken my face mask off, and she had seen me. She didn’t quite know what she was looking at, so she hesitated a little and then fed out of sight.

After seeing her I thought I would stay a little longer. Soon it was 8:30 a.m., then 9 and then 9:30. I thought, “OK, I’m hungry and need some pain medication because my leg is throbbing,” so I got down and went back home a little disappointed about not shooting anything.

In the afternoons I usually get into the tree about 4:30 p.m., but this day I decided to try a little earlier and made it to the stand around 1 p.m. By 3 p.m. the Florida heat was taking its toll on me and all the water and Gatorade I had brought was almost gone.

At about 5:30 I saw something out of the corner of my eye. All of the sudden a big cow-horn spike stepped out. My heart was pounding, but I decided not to shoot and let him walk until another day. He played in the field for a little bit and eventually left.

Soon, a couple of does came out. They were really spooky and kept looking behind them and stomping their feet.. I thought maybe that spike was coming back, and this time decided I was going to let him have it just for teasing me.

A moment later he came of the woods at what seemed like 90 miles per hour, running right by the does and eventually stopping on the other side of the five-acre field.

From my double 15-foot ladder stand in the tree line, I could view the entire field. The spike started to snort, but none of the deer ran off. There was no wind, so I felt confident they had not winded me.

Then, about 25 yards into the woods on the far side of the field, I could see antlers. My heart was pounding, as I knew he was on the fire break where I shot last year’s #1 non-typical buck in Florida.

The deer in my area of Central Florida use that trail just like we use I-4. I remember praying that he would just step out enough that I could make the shot. But, my heart was broken as he disappeared back into the brush.

It was now 6 p.m. and getting dark, so I was getting ready to get down when I looked down the road...and there he was! My heart still pounds hard even now as I recall that moment. I put my gun on the rail and prayed, “Please, God, let my bullet fly and hit my mark.”

I was very nervous, as I had missed several deer with this gun I was now hunting with. As I concentrated on making the shot, the deer disappeared again. Just as I began to think I had missed my only opportunity, he stepped back out!

He was walking broadside to me, but a little farther away. I knew if I aimed at the top of the shoulder like my father taught me, I would hit dead center of the lungs. I made a slight noise to stop him, but he just kept walking.

So I yelled, “HEY!” My second yell (quite a bit louder) finally stopped him long enough for me to quickly find my mark and squeeze the trigger.

I was shaking. I couldn’t see him and did not know if I had hit him. By now it was almost dark, and the shadows had begun to move in. Caught up in a mix of emotions, I began to worry over whether or not I had hit the deer.

Every time I had seen my dad shoot this gun, the deer or hog had fallen, but my deer was not lying there. I lowered the gun and climbed down. I was in some pain, but slowly worked my way down the road to where the deer had stood when shot.

My flashlight was going dead, so I limped back to the truck and drove back down with a better light. Before I could even stop the truck and get out, I saw blood everyway! Those bullets make one big exit hole!

I looked around and found pieces of what I thought was guts, making me think I may have hit him a little further back than I intended. I called a buddy for help to give the deer a little time.

When he got there I showed him the pieces and he laughed. He said, “That’s not guts...that’s lung!” We knew then the deer would not be far away. As we followed the trail into the woods it looked like a 5-gallon bucket of blood had been poured out.

We followed the trail into some thick palmettos and brush where we lost the trail. We went back to our last blood, before the palmettos, and discovered he had not went through them, but had made a hard right turn.

Back on the blood trail, I found my knee was starting to hurt. We quickly lost the trail again, and my leg began to hurt even worse. During this entire ordeal my buddy is laughing at me!

While limping around and wincing from the physical and emotional pain, I tripped right over my buck and didn’t even realize it! I was so embarrassed.

I was so busy looking ahead (instead of down) that I didn’t notice him until I fell over him. After I recovered from the shame I began to laugh uncontrollably as we admired what I was sure would be a Top 10 buck.

As we continued to just sit there and stare at him I started to cry. Yes, I said it...I cried. I could blame it on my leg hurting so bad, but I believe it was because of how happy I was. As I studied his rack I realized I had seen this buck once during the 2006 hunting season – and even had one game camera photo of him. I had never seen him since and figured he had been shot by poachers.

My buddy kindly said he would drag it out for me, and as I watched from the edge of the field I couldn’t help admiring this deer again. He was huge! When I wrapped my hands around him I thought to myself, “Thank you, God!”

Afterward I laughed over the fear I had about my rifle being off. This time the gun (.30-06 firing custom, hand-loaded, 150-grain ballistic tips) had found its mark, and the deer (weighing 183 lbs.) was on the ground to prove it.

This is one of the best hunting seasons I’ve ever had, and this is one hunt I will never forget. I want to thank my mom and dad for helping me in my time of need. They were both instrumental in my recovery – even though I ignored orders from both to stay out of the woods until I was in better shape!

They both knew I wasn’t ready (they are both RNs), but I’m sure thankful I didn’t listen to them this time!


#5 - Sanders's Calhoun County beast bags the #5 spot for 2008-09

The Calhoun County beast killed by Matt Sanders of Tallahassee – featured on the June, 2009 cover of Woods ‘n Water – finished #5 in the 2008-09 “Florida Buck of the Year” contest with a net typical score of 148-3/8 inches.

Matt took the amazing Panhandle 11-pointer on Dec. 21, 2008 in Florida’s Northwest Zone hunting on private property near his home in Altha.

The evening hunt of Dec. 21 started out as many hunts in the past for Matt. He was hunting with his buddies “Kicker” Brown and Charles Harden on a lease they shared in Altha.

Matt had no idea that he would have the opportunity to kill the fifth-highest-scoring typical buck of the year in Florida that day.

Matt headed for his stand a little before 3 p.m. with hopes of catching sight of a buck that he had seen on camera the previous bow season. He had moved this particular stand several times only to discover that the only deer that seemed to visit it were a doe and two yearlings.

After watching the same doe and yearlings that he always saw for about an hour, Matt noticed the doe started to act a little spooky. He quickly scouted the area for any other movement, figuring the doe had spotted him – just as she has in the past.

However, after seeing no other movement, Matt settled back into his stand. Seconds later he realized (actually heard) what had spooked the doe. A neighboring landowner was driving down the road with his radio blasting while apparently popping off shots at squirrels (or simply aggravating any hunters in the area).

Well, as it turns out all of this commotion pushed this big buck down Lindsey Hill right towards Matt’s stand. The buck stopped at the edge of the road, allowing Matt to make out part of his antlers, neck and shoulders through the trees and brush.

He could tell that the deer was big – probably a nice 8-point – with a swollen neck and looked almost black in color. Matt knew he would only have a second to get off a shot, so he planted the crosshairs of his Remington Model 700 .30-06 behind the buck’s shoulders and pulled the trigger.

With the pull of the trigger the deer wheeled out of the road so fast Matt could not tell if he had hit the deer or not. He waited in his stand for another hour or so, getting down right before dark to see if he had connected.

Matt located the buck lying about 15 yards away. He immediately knew he had killed a “Calhoun County Monster” and called his wife, Jennifer, the share the news. The excitement in his voice and the fact he was out of breath made it hard for her to understand him.

Finally, she managed to make out that she needed to “get the camera read” because he had just “killed the biggest buck he had ever laid his eyes on.” Thanks to all of the adrenaline running through him, Matt was able to load the massive buck – weighing close to 230 pounds – into the truck by himself!

He met his buddies back at the camp to show off the deer before heading home. On the drive home, he probably called everyone in his contact list on his cell phone to tell them about it his hunt. After taking some pictures, he took the deer to hang in the pole barn owned by his father-in-law, Wayne Cordell.

Hanging from a beam 15 feet above the barn floor, the deer’s massive antlers were just two feet from the ground.

The next day Matt’s good buddies Trey Brittle, Danny Ray Smith and “Squirrel” Scott from Seminole Archery came to check out the buck and get him caped out to take to Jimmy Beaver’s Taxidermy.

Matt never considered his trophy to be eligible for the Woods ‘n Water “Buck of the Year” contest, but his friends finally convinced him he had killed a definite contender. Matt’s “Calhoun County Monster” is a main frame 10-point with a single kicker off the right brow tine. The big buck with monster mass (circumference measurements ranging from 3-7/8 to 5-2/8 inches) featured 23-inch main beams, perfectly-matching 3-3/8-inch brow tines, G2’s measuring 7-2/8 and 8-4/8 inches in length, huge G3’s (9-3/8 and 9-6/8 inches) and 6-inch G4’s.

With only 2-1/8 inches in deductions for differences between the two sides (and a single 1-7/8-inch abnormal point) Matt’s buck had only 4 inches in deductions that reduced his 152-3/8-inch gross score down to 148-3/8 inches net under the Boone & Crockett typical scoring system.

The buck’s high-tined rack had an 11-inch tip-to-tip spread, measured 18-3/8 inches at its widest point and picked up 16-4/8 inches of spread credit for the inside spread measurement.

According to FWC Media Relations Coordinator Tony Young, who scored the rack, the Calhoun County bruiser was five years old.


#6 - After archery season heartbreak, dedicated hunter refuses to give up on bagging #6 buck

Mike Marshall of Orlando, Fla. took last season’s #6 biggest buck on Nov. 9, 2008 while hunting in eastern Orange County – killing an incredible 13-point that gross scored a whopping 163-1/8 inches before deductions!

Mike’s big Orange County buck had 11 main points and a pair of abnormal points (one on each side) measuring 2-1/8 and 1-4/8 inches. The buck’s long main beams measured 24-2/8 inches and featured wicked 7-inch brow tines complimented by long G2’s (7-2/8 and 9-2/8), G3s (10-2/8 and 11-3/8) and G4’s (10-3/8 and 6-3/8).

The rack featured a sixth point on the right antler (2-4/8 inches) and abnormal points on both sides that added up to almost 15 inches in deductions for differences between the two sides – knocking the 163-1/8-inch gross score down to a net of 148-2/8 inches. The buck’s main beams (complete with crab claw tines) almost touch at the tips for a rare “0-inch” tip-to-tip spread, yet the rack scored a 14-5/8-inch inside spread and the greatest spread of 16-3/8 inches.


by Mike Marshall

I first started hunting this buck five years ago when he was about three years old.

I watched him over the next two seasons from a long way off before I lost track of him for two years and figured he must have been killed. The first time I saw him this past season was the second weekend of archery season, when I shot him midway back while aiming for the spine. Of course, I missed the spine and the arrow ran up the backstrap and stopped in the base of his neck (I guess I need to talk to Muzzy!).

Needless to say I was sick! For four weeks I looked for this buck every day. The day I shot him with my bow I took a great trail dog (“Chase,” a black Labrador owned by my friend John) in that night and searched for hours until I heard him fighting off a bunch of coyotes.

I knew he was still alive, so I backed out of the area to avoid busting him out. I figured either he would survive or I would find him in the morning with the help of the dog.

I went back early the following morning, and the dog went straight to the same spot. I found the area all torn up from the fight the night before, but no sign of the buck. Every day I would return and look for signs or for buzzards. I was sick to my stomach each and every day for four weeks – except for one brief moment during muzzleloader weekend, when I saw him again! He was alive!

My heart jumped in my throat. But, I couldn’t get close enough for the shot. Once again, I was sick.

But, I finally recovered my broadhead on opening weekend of general gun season this past year.

I had a permit to hunt opening weekend at Three Lakes WMA, but I just couldn’t concentrate while there. All I wanted was to go back and hunt this big buck I had missed.

So, I left early Sunday and was in my stand (located on a small piece of private property in eastern Orange County) by early Sunday afternoon. He came out in the early afternoon with some does. I was shaking so bad that I had a hard time making the shot with my Remington Model 722 (chambered in .223) despite the fact he was only 80 yards away.

I must tell you that once he was on the ground this 56-year-old hunter had to call a good young friend of mine Jeff to come and carry him out for me. He put the deer on his back and packed him all the way out of the swamp in the dark. If not for Jeff, I would have had to cut him up.

Thankfully, Jeff wouldn’t allow it. We gutted and hung the deer at his house, and the next morning we weighed him at 150 lbs. (gutted weight).

The FWC biologist that scored him, Daniel McDonald, estimated that he could have weighed about 210 lbs. before I wounded him with my bow. A big “thank-you” also goes out to my friend Chad, who helped me track my buck, which ended up gross scoring 163-1/8 inches and netting 148-2/8 inches after deductions.


#7 - Houston Brock's Jefferson County buck earns a spot in the 2008-09 BOTY Contest

Houston Brock scored a coveted spot in the “Florida Buck of the Year” Top 10 with a great 11-point buck that placed #7 among typicals taken during the 2008-09 season. Houston was hunting in Jefferson County on Dec. 17 when he shot the massive buck that gross-scored 152-2/8 inches.

With almost no differences between the two antlers (2-2/8 inches) and just a single abnormal point (1-6/8 inch), Houston’s big buck had only 4 inches in deductions to drop his official net score down to 148-2/8 for the Florida Buck Registry.

Houston was hunting with his friend, Jake Walker, in Jefferson County on December 17 when he made the harvest.

Houston wanted to thank Larry at Lost Creek Taxidermy in Crawforvdille, Fla. for the fine job he did on the mount.


#8 - 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... then 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 disappeared 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.


#9 - McCall’s 12-point ranks #9

by Frank Richardson

WnW Contributing Writer

The morning of Dec. 18, 2008 began as many hunts in the past had for Edward McCall of Mims, Fla. He was hunting with his friend Jim Hardman in an orange grove located in Osceola County.

They had quietly slipped into the grove before daylight, with Jim setting up in the south end of the grove and Edward heading to the north end. Edward, 74 years old at the time, had no idea this would be the morning that he would shoot the #9 highest scoring typical buck of the year in Florida.

At about 8:30 a.m. Edward caught a glimpse of a massive buck walking briskly through the orange grove before it quickly disappeared behind some lower-hanging trees and bushes.

Knowing he would probably only have one opportunity to make the shot, Edward found an opening in the direction the deer was heading.

As the buck entered the opening, Edward quickly settled the crosshairs behind the buck’s shoulder and gently pulled the trigger on his 7mm-08 Browning. At the shot, the deer took off running, and Edward quickly lost sight of him as the buck ran into a 15 to 20-acre overgrown section of the grove.

The weeds in this section were head-high, which would make trailing the deer difficult for both Edward and Jim, who soon came to help locate the buck. After nearly an hour-and-a-half of unsuccessful searching to locate a blood trail in the thick undergrowth, Edward decided to try the other side of the thicket to see if he could locate where the buck may have entered a more open area.

They soon located some blood, and a few minutes later Jim yelled out, “Go get the truck, I’ve found him!”

After nearly two stressful hours of searching, Edward was finally able to wrap his hands around the antlers of Florida’s #9 typical buck taken in 2008-09. Edward’s massive buck is a main frame 10-point, with matching kickers branching off of its nearly 8-inch long G2’s, for a total of 12 scorable points.

The main beams are 21 inches long and sport 3-2/8 and 4-inch brow tines, as well as huge G3’s (10-2/8 and 9-2/8 inches in length). The huge Central Florida buck’s G4’s measured 7-5/8 inches long, and its 17-6/8 inside spread helped it earn a total gross score of 149-3/8 inches.

After deductions for differences in the two side (2-5/8 inches) and taking away the length of the abnormal points (3-1/8 inches), Edward’s buck earned a net Boone & Crockett score of 143-5/8 inches.


“Mayhann’s Monster” finished in the #10 spot with a net typical score of 143-5/8 inches! 

Jason Mayhann of Tallahassee took the 10-point beast featured on the February, 2009 cover of Woods ‘n Water with a muzzleloader on Nov. 25, 2008 while hunting on 80 acres of private property located in Leon County.

“Mayhann’s Monster” finished in the #10 spot of the 2008-09 “Florida Buck of the Year” contest with a net typical score of 143-5/8 inches.

“I thought I was going to finish third or fourth, based on the scores I saw last year,” Jason admitted after being told his buck of a lifetime had just barely scored in the Top 10 this year.

“I was anxious to hunt that afternoon (Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008), because I had previously taken a big 8-point with my bow in this area on Sept. 29 that qualified for the Florida Buck Registry with a score of 111-7/8 inches.

“Shortly after getting settled in my tree stand, I spotted a small buck passing through a thicket. A few minutes later two does walked out in front of me feeding on acorns. As the does continued to feed, they were joined by two more does. I relaxed and continued to watch the four does, when I unexpectedly heard something crashing through the woods,” Mayhann said.

“The noise was coming from the same area that the does had come from. The thrashing grew louder and louder, and I could tell something big was heading my way. My heart began beating faster and faster as I watched a huge doe run into view. Now that I could see the doe running, I realized she was not the only one contributing to all the crashing and thrashing noises,” he added.

“Seconds after spotting the huge doe I saw a monster-bodied buck chasing close behind her. He ran straight towards the doe, grunting loudly like nothing I have ever heard before,” the 34-year-old hunter recalled.

“The four does quickly scattered in every direction. As the buck continued his chase, one doe led him straight to an opening – where he abruptly stopped – giving me the split second I needed to take the buck of a lifetime.

“Everything happened so fast, and my adrenaline was working overtime, but when the smoke cleared I was able to see that my muzzleloader had done its job. With my knees still weak, I climbed down from my stand and finally put my hands on the monster buck I had been watching on my game camera for the past four months,” Mayhann said.

“It is my most memorable hunt and my best buck to date!” he added.

Jason’s bruiser buck grossed 147 inches thanks to main beams measuring 23-7/8 and 22-7/8 inches in length and an inside spread of 18-5/8 inches. The buck carried brow tines measuring 5 and 5-6/8 inches tall, as well as G2’s stretching 6-1/8 and 7-1/8 inches off of each antler. The rack includes impressive G3’s (7-3/8 and 7-4/8 inches) and huge G4’s (6 and 6-2/8 inches) for a very symmetrical rack that had only 3-3/8 inches in deductions for differences between the two sides.

A super-wide 13-inch tip-to-tip spread, 20-3/8-inch greatest spread and circumference measurements ranging from 3-4/8 to 4-2/8 inches capped off the trophy rack’s awesome scoring for mass and symmetry.


Wesley Padgett’s Jefferson County 8-point scores 142-4/8 inches


by Wesley Padgett

Crawfordville, Florida

I was settled on stand approximately 30 minutes before daylight on the cool, crisp morning of Nov. 27, 2008 while hunting on a Jefferson County wildlife management area.

Shortly after 7 a.m. I spotted a doe feeding through a hammock in front of me. As I watched, I thought to myself, “This may be a good morning.” Soon after she wandered out of sight I caught movement through the trees. I raised my Model 70 Winchester .270 WSM and used my Leupold VX III 4x12x50 scope to see it was a buck following the doe.

As he entered the hammock, I could see that he was toting a decent set of antlers. The buck was following the doe’s trail, and just as I was about to grunt to stop him for a shot, he paused in an opening on his own.

When I took the 75-yard shot, with what appeared to be a perfect hit to his vitals, he disappeared so fast that I thought I must have missed. I did not see a flag, nor did I see him run after I shot. I continued to look through my scope to try to locate him in the hammock and was growing more worried by the minute that I may have missed.

While I sat there pondering, I had a strange feeling that I should look down under my tree stand. When I did I observed a beautiful 10-point standing directly under my stand – just 10 minutes after I had taken my shot.

He was just standing there, looking left and right, as if searching for something. While I was debating if I should let him walk or attempt a difficult shot straight down under my tree stand, I estimated that his rack measurements would put the young 10-point between 120 and 130 inches.

As I watched him walk towards the same path the doe had used, I said to myself, “Young fella, I will let you walk in hopes that our paths will cross again in the future.”

The 10-point continued walking and crossed the path taken by the doe before disappearing out of sight. From my elevated perch, I was thinking to myself, “Wow, what a morning!” After waiting approximately 35 more minutes, the anticipation got the best of me. I could not take it any longer. It was time to climb down from in my API lock-on tree stand and begin my search.

During my walk to the location of the buck’s last stand, I worried because I could not immediately see him lying on the ground anywhere in the hammock’s clearing. I was approximately 15 yards from where I last saw him standing when I first spotted the white belly of my buck lying on the leaf-strewn ground.

When I walked up to him and looked down at his antlers, I almost lost my breath, saying out loud, “Wesley, what did you kill?”

I knelt down by his 160-pound body and lifted up his head. As I held his antlers in disbelief, I looked straight up in the sky and thanked the only one who could make this possible – the good Lord himself!

I guess this goes to show that we should all be thankful for the bounty provided to us – not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day.

My awesome public land 8-point gross scored 143-7/8 inches and had amazing 23-4/8-inch main beams. His brow tines were 5-6/8 inches long and his G2’s measured 10 and 10-4/8 inches, while his G3’s were 7-5/8 inches.

The antlers were four inches in circumference and he had a 16-6/8-inch inside spread. With only 1-3/8 inches in total deductions for differences between the two antlers, the net score was 142-4/8 inches as a typical 8-point!

I had never seen this deer before from my stand while hunting this location prior to that day. I was using Wildlife Research’s Golden Estrus scent wafers as an attractant, Primos Silver XP scent eliminator and wearing Realtree camo.

I must thank Shawn Logan (850-510-6081) and Whitetailhigh Taxidermy Studio (www.fltaxidermist.com) in Tallahassee for the excellent taxidermy work on my mount.


Marcus Middleton took the state’s #1 non-typical buck during the 2008-09 season


by Marcus Middleton

Panama City, Florida

On the next to last day of the 2008 archery season I went to my stand at 3 p.m. to sit for the rest of the afternoon. What happened next took me totally by surprise.

Like most hunters, I sat there thinking about the monster buck that I would love to see just walk in. I was imagining how when he did walk in, I would make that perfect shot, of course, after which he would only run a few yards, stop and stand for a few seconds before falling over in a heap within sight of my stand.

But, as each of you already know, most of the time things just don’t happen like you want (or dream they will).

After an hour-and-a-half of watching and listening to squirrels and birds I heard something coming my way straight in front of me. It was a doe, so I said to myself, “Well, let’s just see what she does.”

Then I heard more leaves crunching, and in walked two spotted fawns. One tried to nurse on its mom, while the other just stood there with her ears sticking straight up and looking around.

Finally, after about 10 minutes, they walked back out the same way they had come. About 15 minutes later the same doe and fawns came back in, but this time they didn’t stop. They came just past my stand to the left and got behind me about 10 yards to the left (my 7 o’clock) and stopped.

The doe started holding her nose up, making me pretty sure she was winding me, before she looked back in the direction they had came. I followed her cue and looked in that direction also – and there he stood!

Only 10 yards in front of me and facing to my left, posing for a perfect broadside shot! 

The only problem was that I was sitting down, and my bow was hanging on a tree limb.

I immediately started thinking, “Awwww, man! If I move he’s gonna pick up on me and bolt!” I ever-so-slowly reached up with my left hand and gently lifted my bow off of the limb. Then – moving in ultra-slow motion – I somehow managed to stand up without him hearing or seeing me. I couldn’t believe it!

Now, here came that long drawback every bowhunter has to go through at least once in his hunting career. Then the awful wait for the two steps the buck needed to make to give me a clear shot.

He finally made those two steps, and I triggered my release! My arrow made a clean pass through on his left shoulder, and the run was on!

The woods were so thick that I lost sight of him immediately, and all I could do was lean out over my stand and carefully listen. I eventually heard him crash way off in the distance, and I sat there for 25-30 minutes before climbing down and retrieving my arrow. Then I started looking for blood down on my hands and knees, finding a few small specks to the left and right of his tracks. I followed the trail for about 80 yards before coming to an area where deer tracks veered off in several different directions and could find no blood.

I began sweeping back and forth from left to right and finally found blood again about 40 yards away, where the trail picked up again. Here it was thick – almost like someone was dumping it out by the bucket. My search lasted 150 yards and three hours, but I finally recovered the biggest buck I have ever taken.

I was so happy I just sat there in the dark woods for about 15 minutes with his head in my lap. I finally got him out of the woods, arrived home and had him dressed down in the cooler by 1 a.m.

It was the best hunt I’ve ever had, and the only one I’ve actually ever completed from start to finish all by myself!

The buck had 6 points on the right antler (including 2 abnormal) and a total of 11 on the left (including 7 abnormal points). The total length of the abnormal points added up to 26-5/8 inches! The rack had a 15-1/8-inch spread credit (inside measurement) and only 2-6/8 inches in deductions as a non-typical.

The buck gross scored 143-6/8 inches and netted 141 as a non-typical.

Marcus Middleton of Panama City, Fla. took the state’s #1 non-typical buck (17-point) during the 2008-09 hunting season, using a bow while hunting on private land in Bay County in the Northwest Zone during archery season.


Teen kills ‘The Ghost’ to win Youth Division

Brett Justin Smith, 14, of Castleberry, Alabama killed a monster Florida buck this past season while visiting his grandfather David Shepard, Sr. of Marianna, Fla. in Jackson County.

Brett’s amazing buck had been nicknamed “The Ghost” by his grandfather after he suffered through several seasons of frustration and bad luck – seeing and shooting at the monster several times.

Brett and his twin brother, Cody, had been looking forward to getting a chance to just see if “The Ghost” they had heard about even existed. On Jan. 19, while walking to his tree stand, Brett saw “The Ghost” standing in a food plot and hurriedly took a shot. After a brief search and seeing what appeared to be tracks leaving the area on a nearby road, Brett grew more and more certain he had missed.

He and his family had to return to Alabama that morning, where Brett relayed the agonizing story to his dad, including how disappointed he was – and how happy his twin, Cody, was that he still had a chance at the buck.

After hearing the details, Brett’s dad insisted they call his granddad and ask him to search for the buck again. Later that afternoon, Grandpa Shepard called to report, “The Ghost is dead!”

He had found the big buck lying 200 feet into the woods from where Brett had last seen him when he fired. Brett had made a perfect shot!

The family met Brett’s grandfather halfway that night to get his deer and returned April 18 to have it scored in Holt, Fla. The 8-point grossed 134-4/8 inches and netted 130-4/8 to rank as the highest-scoring typical taken by a hunter under the age of 16 last season.

Brett’s kill earned him the title of “Top Youth Buck” in the 2008-09 Florida “Buck of the Year” contest, which added four new categories this year.