Florida Buck-of-the-Year Contest

2010 Buck of the Year Winners

#1 - Buck of the Year Winner: ‘I got lucky hunting the rut!’

Ralph Holstein, 49, of Frostproof credits “getting lucky” and “hunting the rut” for being able to bag Florida’s “Buck of the Year” and the best public land buck taken in the 2009-10 season.

Ralph took the monster 11-point scoring 153-3/8 inches gross and 148 inches net (after deductions) on Nov. 24 while hunting on the Kissimmee River Public Use Area (PUA) in Polk County.

The main-frame 10-point had one abnormal point (1-7/8 inches) and an impressive 20-3/8-inch inside spread. The rack measured 4 inches in circumference at the bases and had main beams measuring 22-1/8 and 23-1/8 inches in length.

With 4-1/2-inch-long brow tines, identical 8-inch G2s, long G3s (9-5/8 and 8-7/8 inches) and G4s (5-5/8 and 6-5/8 inches), the rack had only 3-4/8 inches in differences between the two antlers and 5-5/8 inches in total deductions.

Ralph admits that he “lucked out,” because he had never seen the buck before the day he shot him, and “never saw a deer that big before,” despite hunting the same area for years and nearly every day during archery season, “almost to the point I thought my old lady was going to leave me.”

Holstein said that he likes to hunt hogs more than deer, adding, “I am not a big-time deer hunter. I am a meat hunter – not really a horn hunter.”

“I definitely believe in the rut now! That stuff is what got him killed!” he said, adding “I also know I will probably never see a deer like that again.”

by Ralph Holstein

My 2009 hunting season started in early September with me setting up stands for myself, my daughter and some of my buddies.

While working with Randy at HT Construction, all we talk about is bow hunting, and it had been a few years since I last used a bow, so I started practicing to get ready for opening day.

My buddy Randy and I hunted throughout the bow season almost every day after work, and finally, during the third weekend of the season, Randy harvested a small buck.

I had seen plenty of deer, but hadn’t even pulled my bow back. During the last weekend of archery season, I was on an afternoon hunt when a doe presented me with a great shot.

I was very happy with my pass-through shot, and I sat for another 20 minutes or so before getting out of the stand and heading to pick up Randy.

We found the Gold Tip 5575 arrow plus a heavy blood trail, but we searched late into the evening without ever recovering the doe. Muzzleloader season wasn’t much better, despite the fact I did log a little time in the stand.

Finally, general gun season rolled around. After donating gallons of blood to the mosquito factory, the weather finally cooled off a little during the second week of the season.

It seemed like all the deer started to move around that week, which happened to be “doe week” and my daughter Jaimie’s favorite part of the season.

She always hunts with me during doe days, but my brother-in-law Donald was visiting and wanted to join our hunt, so she had to share “her week” with him, which didn’t make her a very happy camper.

While sitting in the stand that Saturday morning, I noticed the bucks were moving around looking for does. About 9 a.m. a doe went by with a real nice buck following close on her trail, but they never slowed the chase long enough for me to get a shot.

We went home for lunch, and my brother-in-law sighted-in his gun – after bumping his scope during the morning hunt – while I went inside to eat.

After lunch I dropped my daughter and brother-in-law off at their stands and returned to mine. I was getting kind of discouraged because I had not killed a deer all season and found myself beginning to think about hunting backstrap instead of horns. It wasn’t 30 minutes after getting set up in my stand that a small buck presented himself about 20 yards away.

Just happy to see horns, I shot and dropped him where he stood!

Less than five minutes after I shot him, my daughter was calling my cell phone asking if we were going to leave since I had shot a deer. I told her to hold her horses and sit tight because the deer were still moving.

After a few more hours of sitting in the stand, I saw the same doe that had been chased by the buck earlier that morning. I was pretty sure where she was going to come out of the brush, and got prepared to take my shot.

Just when the doe got to the opening, I realized there was a buck on her trail again. This time the buck stopped, giving me a perfect shot at 75 yards. I pulled the trigger and...there was nothing but a “click.”

No bullet! I didn’t realize my brother-in-law had shot all but one of my bullets while sighting in our rifles when we went home for lunch!

The big SOB looked right in my direction when I pulled the trigger, and I just knew he was gone, but luckily I was in my Mossy Oak leaf camo and the wind was perfect. That, plus the fact that he had that hot doe on his mind, somehow prevented him from seeing me.

I was sick to my stomach and almost cried. I have never felt so nauseated in my life. I knew I had just missed a chance at a nice buck! I sat in my stand for another 15-20 minutes, thinking about how I would never see him again and trying not to get sick.

My airboat was parked right by the river not very far from my stand, so I got down as quietly as I could to put my rifle away and grab my 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun from the boat.

I crept to the airboat, grabbed my shotgun, loaded it and took four steps back toward my stand when I noticed a buck standing there – not paying me any attention! He was completely focused on the little buck I had killed at the beginning of my afternoon hunt!

I threw up my shotgun and shot him in the back at just 15 yards. It wasn’t until he came around a scrub oak and I finished him off at close range that I finally noticed how big he really was!

Before I could even get my hands on him, Jaimie was calling to ask what I had killed this time. All I could say was, “I got SONCHO, I got to go!”

After all of that hunting, rattling and grunting, hunting in the heat, sitting in the stand for hours day after day during archery and muzzleloading, feeding the mosquitoes and doing everything right, I killed him just standing there 15 yards from my boat while he was looking at the 3-point I killed!

While I was loading my 3-point “baby” buck and SONCHO on the boat, my brother-in-law called to ask the same question. I told him I killed a nice buck, and would have to call him back!

Once I finally managed to get both deer on board and fired up my airboat, I drove to my daughter’s stand, where she was waiting anxiously to see what all I had killed – but she was a little mad because she hadn’t seen anything herself.

When I came around the trees she said I had a smile on my face that she will never forget. She said my grin stretched from ear to ear!

I jumped off the boat and started hollering, and Jaimie couldn’t get out of her stand fast enough. She said she has NEVER seen a deer that big in her life! She took out her camera and started snapping away. As we drove to Donald’s stand we apparently didn’t hear him shoot because of the airboat noise, but when we turned the boat off he was yelling that he had shot a deer and couldn’t find it!

My daughter and I went walking through the brush looking for the deer and walked right up on it about 50 yards from his stand!

After loading his “baby” buck on the boat with my two bucks I was afraid to slow to an idle on the way back to the ramp because the water was almost even with the front of the hull!

When I pulled up to the house my wife came outside and couldn’t believe her eyes! The monster buck was bigger then she had even pictured after I called.

Once we unloaded the three deer, I called my buddy Woodsy, who knows how to score bucks. He came over and green-scored the rack at 150 inches. Woodsy is actually the one who told me about Woods ‘n Water’s “Buck of the Year” contest and said I better enter.

We had three deer to clean that night, which took a lot longer than it should have because my brother-in-law celebrated with one too many beers while telling everyone the story about how he killed his little “bottom buck” over and over and over again, leaving all the cleaning to me and Jaimie!

My once-in-a-lifetime buck weighed 173 pounds, had 11 points, gross-scored 153 inches and netted 148 inches.

Never again will I be so lucky!

But, the season wasn’t over yet. The very next morning my daughter decided to be greedy and just had to sit in my stand where I had killed SONCHO.

Just as dawn broke, a nice 4-point walked out in front of her, and she shot her very first buck at about 20 yards!

She called me within minutes, saying, “Dad come get me out of this stand!”

She had so much adrenaline pumping through her that her legs wouldn’t stop shaking. She told me, “There is no better feeling than this! Killing those does is just no comparison.”

The next day (Thanksgiving morning), I tried to wake my hunting partner up, but she said it was cold and raining, and she wanted to sleep.

So I went to the lucky stand alone, and within minutes two does walked out with a nice 8-point trailing them.

I shot him too!

He was within 40 yards of where I shot SONCHO!

After years of hunting deer with my dad and now my own children, I still get the same feeling I did when I was 5 years old, hunting in the Everglades with a BB gun with my dad!

I can’t explain how much I appreciate all those hours my dad spent with me in the woods. Those are life lessons and bonding moments I won’t ever forget.

Now I enjoy sharing the same experiences with my daughter and son (even though he is too busy chasing his own kind of does much of the time).

I hope they pass down these same hunting traditions to their children one day! The 2009-10 hunting season is one I will NEVER forget!


#2 - Mercer’s monster Madison 9-point is #2

Shane Mercer of Lee, Fla. was hunting on private property in Madison County on Dec. 3, 2009 when he harvested a monster 9-point gross scoring 153-5/8 Boone & Crockett inches.

The amazing main-frame 8-point buck amassed the second-highest gross score of any typical killed in the state last season (153-5/8 inches), but had one abnormal point (4-5/8 inches) and another 3-3/8 inches in deductions (difference between the two antlers) to net-score 145-5/8 inches and nail down the title of the #2 typical taken during the 2009-10 hunting season.

The buck had extra-long 25-2/8- and 24-5/8-inch main beams and 4-1/2-inch brow tines.

What really beefed up the buck’s Boone & Crockett score was the towering G2s measuring 10 and 12-4/8 inches in length and the tremendous G3s measuring 9-5/8 and 10 inches tall! The beast had a 19-2/8-inch inside spread and the main beams were 8-1/2 inches apart at the tips.

Mercer used his .30-06 rifle to down the big buck from 270 yards away at 7:20 a.m. while hunting from a tower blind overlooking a pasture on his family farm in Madison. Here is his story:

by Shane Mercer

I haven’t hunted from the stand that I killed this buck from in a while, but as luck would have it, I had a severe migraine the night before and was up most of the night. So, I decided to go sit in this tower blind because it has a very peaceful view of our farm, overlooking a pasture on a hill that is surrounded by pines and clear-cut fields.

I built this stand with a good friend of mine, Michael, about 13 years back for my wife and me to sit in together and just watch the deer. I got to the stand about 30 minutes before sunrise and was thinking about what my wife told me on the way out the door: “I think you’ll get a big one today.”

I admit I wasn’t believing it at that time, because my head was still pounding from the migraine I’d had all night.

It was a beautiful sunrise and a perfect morning. Not long after daylight a big group of quail came in under my stand. I watched them for quite some time, and they apparently had my full attention, because when I did finally look up, there was this buck standing off in the distance – about 270 yards.

I grabbed my rifle, took aim and shot without even thinking about the distance. I missed him! Luckily, he didn’t move and gave me time for another shot. This time I compensated for the extra-long distance and pulled the trigger again. This time it was a perfect hit!

However, due to the distance, the bullet never exited. I saw him run about 75 yards and lay down, so I decided to give him about 30 minutes.

I walked back, got my truck and called my friend Clint to let him know I had killed a big one. But, to my surprise, when I got to where he fell, he jumped up and ran! That was when I realized he was a lot bigger than I first thought.

I was only a few feet away from him in a clear-cut when he jumped up. I knew he was big when I shot, but from a distance of 270 yards, I didn’t realize he was that big! I called Clint back for some help tracking, and we spent several hours searching the 50-acre clear cut before we finally found him.

I couldn’t believe my eyes! This buck was old and seemed to have had some kind of trauma to his front left leg several years back. My friend Gary showed up and rough-scored the rack at 150 inches gross! He was almost on the money, as the FWC score was 153-5/8 inches gross and 145-5/8 inches net.

I had to call my wife and tell her she was right. I did in fact get a big one! Of course, she replied, “I told you so!”

The only way it could have been any better was if my daughter was the one that got to shoot this deer, because she wanted to go hunting with me all year, but I wanted her to wait until she got a little older. But, she gets to start hunting with me this year, and I hope she gets one even bigger.

I must give special thanks to Clint for always being there when I need help. If he wasn’t there, I don’t know if I would have found my buck. And, a huge thanks goes out to my beautiful, loving wife for wishing me good luck on this hunt!


#3- Bass’ 144-inch Madison buck is #3

Madison County accounted for two of the top three bucks taken in Florida last season, as Doug Bass of Pinetta harvested a Madison monster scoring 153-3/8 inches gross and 144 inches net on Nov. 19, 2009.

Doug’s big 13-point buck (main-frame 10-point with two abnormal points on the left antler) was taken on private land and featured heavy mass (5-5/8 inches around at the base), as well as an extra fifth point on the right antler.

With 3-1/8 inches in abnormal points and 6-1/8 inches in deductions for differences between the two antlers, the beast’s heavy rack had nearly 10 inches in total deductions that knocked the final score down considerably. However, huge 11-inch G2s and 8-4/8-inch G3s, along with a 16-inch inside spread, helped Doug secure a top 3 spot in the Florida “Buck of the Year” contest.

Here is how he described his hunt:

by Doug Bass

November 19, 2009 started out just like every other morning during hunting season – alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m., camo goes on, head to the deer stand, get still and wait for dawn.

At daybreak, I noticed a dark form in my food plot, so I grabbed my binoculars to get a better look. It was a doe eating peas, and I watched her to see if anything else would come eat.

Every few minutes I would turn to check the food plot to the south of my stand and then turn back to the doe. At around 6:55 a.m. I noticed movement in the pines behind her and figured it was another of the 10 does I regularly saw.

As the first doe started walking over to the north edge of the plot, I got a good look at the deer behind her – still thinking it was a doe. But, by this time it was standing broadside in the middle of my plot.

“Doe, my butt!” was the first thought that went through my head as I took a closer look through the binoculars. It definitely had horns! Before I could put down the binoculars and grab my rifle – a Remington 700 BDL .308 with a 3x9x50 ZEISS scope – the doe ran out of the plot into the pines. And, right behind her went the biggest buck I had ever seen!

Thinking I had just watched the buck of my lifetime run off behind that doe, I was upset with myself for looking at her too long. I settled back in the stand and tried to relax while telling myself I’d never see that buck again.

At around 7:10 a.m. I was watching a small buck chase a doe up and down my plot when I heard a twig snap out in front of my stand in the pines. I turned toward the sound, and, to my surprise, there were two more deer about 10 yards out acting skittish.

I was not about to miss another shot at a buck because I didn’t have my rifle shouldered and ready, so I slowly eased my gun out the shooting window of my stand and looked through the scope.

Through it I spotted a third deer standing behind a pine tree at 31 yards. “Big-bodied deer,” I thought.

Then it lowered its head.

My heart began to race, and my hands started to shake. I couldn’t believe my luck! It was the same buck I thought had walked out of my life forever!

“Calm down,” I told myself. “Look away for a minute...now look to make sure the dead pine top isn’t in my scope’s sight picture.”

After making sure I had a clear shooting lane, I noticed the does starting to walk back into the pines. That big ol’ buck spun around to leave with the does, but he messed up. He took one step and stopped to look back toward the food plot. I knew it was killing time!

I placed the crosshairs on his neck, which was the only thing I could see because of the pine tree between us, and as soon as I fired I saw him hit the ground!

I glanced at my watch, which showed 7:15 a.m., and flew down the ladder, knowing my wife hadn’t yet left the house to take my twin boys to school. I called home and told her and the twins I had a MONSTER buck down.

“No way!” they all exclaimed.

“Yes way! It’s at least a 9-point,” I responded as I walked toward my buck.

Once again I was wrong. Nine-point, my butt! It was a 13-point!

The boys and my wife said they’d wait until I got back to the house, so they could all get a good look. I walked back to my truck while talking to them because, with twins, you have to tell the story and answer the same questions twice.

When I got home, Dylan – younger by one whole minute – came running out. Once he caught sight of the buck he was just as excited as I was. Then, Mom came out with the camera and asked for the story of the hunt again as she took a lot of pictures.

I asked her where Dustin was, and she said he was inside and was upset.

It seemed after Dustin had talked to me on the phone, he had told her, “See! If I go with Daddy we don’t see anything, but if just Daddy goes or if Daddy and Dylan go, they kill big bucks!”

After hearing that I flashed back to the day when one of the 7-year-old boys (Dustin) had wanted to stay in bed to sleep, while the other (Dylan) had been more than willing to take his brother’s spot for a hunt. As Dustin slept the morning away, Dylan killed a 186-pound 11-point buck that missed the Florida Buck Registry by only 5/8 of an inch.

After we had taken all the pictures we could, the boys said, “Daddy, we’re late for school anyway, so we should just play hooky and go with you to town.”

We were headed to our cousin Alan Sowell’s store, Madison Sporting Goods, to show off the buck to all our hunting buddies and tell the story all over again.

Then, it was out to see the processor (Kenner’s Kountry Sausage and Deer Processing), where we weighed the deer at 200 pounds. They caped him out for the shoulder mount, and we went back to the house to put the head in the freezer with another big 200-pound 8-point taken during the last weekend of the 2009 black powder season.

Several weeks later we took the head to my taxidermist, Randall Gay, in Morven, Ga., who has done all the mounts I have in my house – 16 total, counting the boys’ fish and deer.


#4 - The #1 Bow buck ranks #4 overall with a score of 167-5/8!

In addition to bagging the #1 non-typical buck taken last season, 23-year-old Austin Copeland’s St. Johns County monster took the title of #1 Archery Buck and placed #4 overall in the Florida “Buck of the Year” Contest.

Copeland, of Tallahassee, took the amazing 15-point while archery hunting with his Parker Wildfire XP bow in St. Johns County on Sept. 28, 2009.

The 215-pound beast gross scored a whopping 170-6/8 inches as a non-typical and netted 167-5/8 inches Boone & Crockett in the non-typical category (where length of abnormal points are included in the buck’s gross score instead of being deducted). That score earns Copeland the #10 spot in Florida’s All-Time Top 10 Non-Typicals (previous page) knocking off a 16-point Gadsden County buck taken by Angus Hinson in 1992 by just 1/8 of an inch.

That net score was high enough to place Copeland’s buck as the #4 highest-scoring buck (overall) taken last year – even after reducing the score 25 inches to be considered equal with typical bucks.

In order to qualify for entry into the Florida Buck Registry, a typical rack must score a minimum of 100 B&C inches, and a non-typical must score a minimum of 125 inches. Based on this difference, Woods ‘n Water requires non-typical rack scores to exceed typical scores by 25 inches to be considered equal. After the 25-inch deduction, Copeland’s buck still scored 142-5/8 inches.

The 23-year-old also had the rack officially scored for the Pope and Young Club and will be entered into the archery record book at 170-3/8 inches. The minimum P&Y score for a non-typical whitetail is 155 (125 for typicals).

The Sunshine State archery trophy didn’t come easy. Copeland admits that his initial shot “was not a great one,” adding, “I had to stalk him over 300 yards in order to get the kill shot on him.”

Copeland’s buck had impressive headgear, including 8-4/8-inch brow tines, 9-7/8-inch G2s and 8-4/8-inch G3s. The main frame 10-point also had 5 abnormal points (3 on the right antler) measuring a total of 12 inches and only 3-1/8 inches in deductions.


#5 - Ian's Osceola 10-point is #5

Ian Whitehurst placed fifth in the 2009-10 Florida “Buck of the Year” contest by taking Florida’s highest-scoring typical buck with a bow (#2 archery buck overall) and the fourth-highest-scoring typical on Oct. 3, 2009 on a private lease in Osceola County.

The 10-point had 24-inch main beams and towering G2s (10-3/8 and 10-7/8 inches) as well as 1-1/8 and 1-2/8-inch abnormal points branching off each G2.

When asked to describe his hunt, Ian said: “I had set up a stand and hunted the evening before, when I saw a few deer, so I thought it would be a good spot to start hunting in the morning.

“I got settled in my stand before daylight, and about 15 or 20 minutes after 7 a.m. I heard something walking through the water right down the same trail I had walked in on. I eased up to a standing position to be ready, just in case, and the next thing I saw was – by far – the biggest deer I’ve ever seen! I could hardly believe my eyes” he said.

“I was waiting for him to smell me and spook at any second, because he was still following the exact same trail I had used,” Whitehurst said. “I clipped on my release, drew back my Mathews Switchback at 25 yards and released.

“He ran about 20-25 yards and stopped! I was positive I had made a good shot on him and was freaking out, because I could see him just standing there through the myrtles and cypress!

“He continued to just stand there, so I quickly nocked another arrow and shot him again. He took off, and I lost sight of him, but could hear him running through the water,” Whitehurst said.

“I was so excited that I didn’t think I would be able to climb down the tree. I called my dad about 15 times – finally getting in touch with him about 8 a.m. – telling him what I had just shot and asking him to grab the dogs (a beagle and a Lab). I told him to hurry up and meet me at the camp, which is about 35 minutes from his house,” he added.

“I was a wreck, pacing around our camp, running through what had just happened and all the possible scenarios of what could have happened after the shot, wondering if the deer was dead or still alive and if we would find him.

“Finally, about 1-1/2 hours later my dad showed up. We got loaded up and got back out to the spot about 2-1/2 hours after I had stuck him.

“I definitely didn’t want to push him and wanted to make sure he had plenty of time to bleed out. But, at the same time, I wanted to go look for him as soon as I could! When we did start looking, the dogs took us right to him!

The big buck had made it about 60-70 yards and was laying out in the water,” Ian said. “When I came around the corner all I saw were his huge horns sticking out off the water! I grabbed his horns and couldn’t believe the size of him. He weighed 205 lbs.

It was definitely the most exciting hunt I have ever been on., “I was very fortunate. Just being able to have an opportunity to harvest a deer that big with a bow in Florida made it a hunt of a lifetime and one that I will never forget,” he concluded.


#6 - Marianna Monster is highest-grossing typical

Stan Sims of Marianna, Florida finished #6 in the “Buck of the Year” contest with the #5 highest-scoring typical killed during the 2009-10 season, taken on Jan. 9, 2010 on his family farm in Jackson County.

Stan’s 11-point Panhandle monster amassed the highest gross score (total antler length and mass) out of all typical bucks taken last season (154-1/8 inches). That gross score (before deductions for differences between the two antlers and abnormal points) beat out the gross scores of the #1 (153-3/8), #2 (153-5/8) and #3 (153-3/8) typical bucks.

A missing G3 on the right antler accounted for a 7-5/8-inch deduction and cost Sims a much higher net score than his final 138-5/8, which was lowered 10-7/8 inches for differences between the two antlers and another 4-5/8 inches for two abnormal points.

Sims described his hunt this way: “It all started at daylight on Saturday morning. I helped my wife into her stand and walked back to mine. When I started up the tree with my climber everything began to go wrong.

“When I finally got up the tree and got ready to sit down, the top part of my climber slid about two feet down the tree. By the time I got my gun pulled up it was good daylight and the wind started to blow right in my face. By this time I am thinking I should have stayed home.

“It was about 7 a.m. when I heard something behind me. As I turned to look, there he stood about 10 or 15 yards to my right. When I looked down, there was a doe right under me, so I tried watching her to keep my heart from racing.

“They stayed there for about 10 minutes and he started grunting at her and stomping his foot. Then they started to move. He got about 25 yards from me, when I started to bring my gun up and the ghillie suit I was wearing got hung on my climber, stopping me from raising my right arm up.

“I made one quick snatch to free my arm and drew down on him. My scope was on 9 power, so all I saw was a brown blur. I knew I didn’t have time to try to turn it down to 3, so I pulled my head back away from the scope, pulled the trigger, and away he ran.

Thinking I had missed, I climbed down the tree, mad as I could be at myself for not checking my scope first. As I made my way to where he had been standing, all I found was a pile of white hair. My heart sank! But, I never leave without looking really good, so I kept on walking. There was a blood trail! And from the look of the blood, I knew he wasn’t far, so I squatted down to look under some limbs, and there he was!

The biggest buck of my life! I was as happy as a kid on Christmas Day!

Sims’ buck had 23-6/8 and 24-5/8-inch main beams and near 5-inch circumferences at the base. The tip-to-tip spread was 10-5/8 inches and the inside spread measured 19-2/8 inches.


#7 - A (nearly) perfect 10!

"The #7 buck was near-perfect 10-point" - Taylor County’s Jennifer Hunter, 20, took the highest-scoring buck killed by a female last year in Florida – and her buck’s nearly-perfect rack earned her the #7 spot in the 2009-10 “Buck of the Year” contest.

Jennifer’s 10-point buck’s rack had the least amount of deductions (1-4/8 inches) of all the top 20 bucks killed in the state last year. With just 1-1/2 inches in deductions for differences in tine length and circumference measurements and no abnormal points, Hunter’s almost perfectly-symmetrical rack earned a net score of 137-6/8 inches (139-2/8 inches gross).

The Central Florida Community College student killed the awesome 10-point buck out of a “guest” stand on her family’s lease located near Perry, Florida on Dec. 14. She was home for Christmas break from college and said the record-breaking buck was “the best Christmas present ever.”

The 150-pound buck ranks as Taylor County’s all-time fifth-highest-scoring typical, according to the Florida Buck Registry. Jennifer, who has taken many bucks over the years, used her .270 Savage to bag the 5-1/2-year-old buck.

“Every time we go hunting, my dad asks me where I want to sit. The morning of Dec. 14 was overcast, and we had been seeing a buck that my dad said would be killed on a rainy day, so, of course, I told him I was going to sit in the stand closest to where we had been seeing him.

“A couple of hogs were under my stand when the ‘Rainy Day Buck’ stepped out. He almost spooked when he saw the hogs, but he wasn’t getting away from me,” Jennifer said.

“I shot him with my .270 Savage with a 130-grain Remington. He left no blood trail, but we were able to find him almost immediately, thanks to our dog, Ruger,” she added.

“This buck has been a never-ending dream for me. A week hasn’t gone by without me and my family re-living the story of the ‘Rainy Day Buck.’ It’s like a dream that hasn’t ended yet, and it is all thanks to God,” Jennifer said.

“I would like to thank Randy at Wildlife Creations in Quitman, Ga. for the marvelous job he did on my mount, and my dad, Mike Hunter, for helping make me successful – both in and out of the stand,” she said.


#8 - Gulf County buck is #8

Ken Strickland admitted, “it scared me a little” when he saw the #8 highest-scoring typical taken in Florida last season bounding across a clear-cut while Ken was dog hunting in Gulf County.

The 57-year-old lifetime Wewahitchka, Fla. resident was running dogs on leased land in Gulf County on January 20 when he killed the 165-pound trophy.

Ken dropped the big buck using his Remington 700 7mm Mag. at about 150 yards as it was running across a clear-cut.

The tall-tined 10-point was gross-scored at 141-2/8 inches and netted 136 inches when it was entered into the Florida Buck Registry by an FWC biologist.


#9 - Franklin Co. 9-point is #9

Andy Sanders of Sopchoppy, Fla. is the #9 entry in the 2009-10 “Buck of the Year” contest with a long-tined 9-point taken in Franklin County on Feb. 3. Sanders’ buck grossed 145-7/8 inches and netted 135-3/8 inches after 10-4/8 inches in deductions – most coming from a missing a G4 (6-3/8 inches) on the left antler. The unique rack has 20-5/8 and 21-6/8-inch main beams that almost touch (1-1/8-inch tip-to-tip spread) and a 13-5/8-inch inside spread.

Andy shot his buck from 50 yards away and described his hunt as follows:

“I was sitting at work the night before I took the big buck, thinking about the deer tracks I’d been seeing for the last two weeks at the intersection of the road I was hunting on.

“When I got off of work I went back to another place where I had seen some big buck tracks, but I couldn’t quit thinking about the (smaller) deer tracks that were crossing over and on top of my tire tracks each time in the woods.

“I looked at my clock and saw it was 8:30 a.m., so I got up and went over to the place where I’d been seeing the smaller deer tracks,” Sanders said.

“I got my machete out and cut some limbs back so I would have an open shot if I got the chance. It started to warm up, so I looked down at my clock and decided to sit just for an hour or so.

“I was sitting there looking down the road when I caught movement on the edge of the road. Out stepped a doe, making me think that was the smaller tracks I had been seeing on top of my tire tracks several times previously.

“I started to leave, but looked at my clock and saw it was only 10 a.m., so I decided to give it one more hour. I leaned back, and after I had been sitting there for a while, I looked down again to see it was already 10:52 a.m.

“I know a lot of people would have left, just like I started to, but I told myself that I was going to give it one more hour. Just as I went to sit back, all of a sudden I saw the body of a deer just before he hit the road.

“I brought up my .270 Remington rifle just as he got to the last few trees before hitting the road. I caught a glimpse of the side of his rack, but when I looked through my scope as he stepped into the roadway, I saw nothing but his body.

“When I shot, I immediately let the gun down because I realized what a great buck I had just taken. This will be a hunt I will never forget!” Andy said.


#10 - Mobility-impaired hunter bags #10 buck

Jim Chapman of Greenville, Florida proved that mobility-impaired hunters are not handicapped when it comes to being able to bag a top 10 buck.

The 65-year-old hunted Suwannee Ridge WEA in Hamilton County on Oct. 18, 2009 to take the #10 typical in the “Buck of the Year” contest – an impressive 187-pound “perfect 8-point” scoring 133-7/8 inches net (gross 136-4/8), thanks to long main beams (23-7/8 and 22-1/8 inches), 5-inch brow tines, identical 8-7/8-inch G2s, and G3s measuring 8-4/8 and 8-6/8 inches. The tip-to-tip spread was only 4 inches.

Chapman became permanently and totally disabled in 1995 after a chainsaw accident at the age of 51. After two spinal surgeries and having both hips replaced, he didn’t hunt for nine years until he found out about the “Mobility Impaired” (MI) program offered by the FWC.

“The great thing about the MI program is that it allows hunters with mobility impairment the opportunity to get in the woods and meet other people with disabilities and similar interests,” Chapman said. “I felt like I’d found a whole new family.

Then, Chapman had quadruple bypass heart surgery in January 2007. “I have teamed up with Ron Ryals from Live Oak, who is considerably younger than I am, but when I met him it was evident that our hunting techniques were very similar and that he was a fine, young gentleman that knew no boundaries, despite his disabilities (paraplegic). He’s the kind of young man anyone would be proud to call their son. Ron was chosen for the first hunt in Suwannee Ridge WEA and invited me to go as his guest. He is one of the most knowledgeable hunters I’ve ever met and one of the best at ‘reading the woods.’

“We had scouted the area on Thursday morning and drew our positions at the afternoon meeting,” Chapman said. “Ron had shown me a spot he found the year before where the recent sign was very good, but when our name was drawn, it had been taken, so we had to settle for our second choice.

“On the first day of the hunt I set up overlooking a field and spent the day watching birds. The next morning was much of the same. Around noon, I saw the folks that had picked our first choice spot move to another location.

“After confirming their move with the check station, I moved to that spot and set up on a cross trail with a view of about 65 yards down one trail and about twice that on another trail.

“I hunt from my four-wheeler and have a blind that surrounds it. That afternoon I let a fork horn and a spike walk, along with several does and a yearling. “It was Oct. 18, 2009 – the last day of the first hunt. It was a pretty cool Sunday, and I saw quite a few does and yearlings moving through this area, but I was still holding out for the big one.

“I remember my prayer before our hunt started: ‘Lord, if I could just bag a buck bigger than my first buck, I can die a happy man. Please, let that big buck find me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.’

“My first buck, which came 33 years earlier in 1976, was a 9-point that scored 99-7/8 Boone & Crockett inches. All my life I have looked for a bigger deer, but never have seen one,” he said.

“It was about 15 minutes before sundown, and I was watching the trail to the west, when I turned back to the north and saw a doe standing in the middle of the trail. She was moving toward me, and I just watched her turn and go in the bushes. I was very tempted to take her to have the meat, but decided against it. I kept watching that trail and eventually saw some movement behind the brush.

“I was stunned at first by the size of the animal. It was three times the size of the doe! I raised my Browning BAR .270 and waited for him to step out in the trail. He was the most magnificent buck I’d ever seen in the wild. His neck was swollen, and to be frank, I only remember his body size and the definition of his muscles,” Chapman admitted.

“I put the crosshairs just behind his shoulder and fired. He scooted across the trail and disappeared in the brush. I went down to where he had stood and saw his tracks in the dirt. They were large and deep, so I knew I wasn’t just dreaming.

“I looked for blood sign and saw none. I went to where he headed into the brush and saw a drop of blood the size of a quarter on a leaf and knew I had made a good shot! I knew I couldn’t have missed because he was only about 50 yards from me,” Chapman said.

“I went back to where he stood when I shot, took out a paper towel and laid it on the grass. It soon had red spots all over it. I tried to make it through the brambles and grass, but couldn’t, so I called for help from our check station.

“It was so hard just sitting and waiting. I didn’t want to try trailing him on my four-wheeler for fear of jumping him. As soon as shooting time was exhausted, two of the helpers from the check station came to help. They blood-trailed my deer for about 45 yards until I heard the first one say, ‘My God, what a buck!’ and the second agreed.

“First, I want to thank God for showing my buck the trail to my stand. Also, Joey Watson and Critter Moffett for helping locate and load my deer; the FWC for providing Mobility Impaired hunts and a big thank-you is owed to Ron Ryals for his friendship and showing me this spot. I thank Yamaha for building an ATV that rides smooth enough that someone with spinal trouble can still get in the woods and Ryals Taxidermy in Live Oak for the mount,” he added.