Florida Buck-of-the-Year Contest

2011 Buck of the Year Winners

#1 - Roland Walsingham, 56, has been hunting since he was 6 years old...

Much of his time in the field was spent in woods of his family-owned farm located “in the sand hills” near the tiny town of Wausau in Florida’s Panhandle.

Roland bagged his first turkey when he was 8 and took his first buck (a 6-point) in 1975. That first buck was killed in the same general area that produced the 2010-11 Florida “Buck of the Year” nearly 50 years later.

“When I first started hunting, there were no deer over here. It was in the 1970s before we started seeing some. When I first went hunting, in the 1960s, everyone would go to Eglin to hunt,” Roland said.

He has been hunting the same family land all of his life and knew it had the potential to produce big bucks after he killed a massive 9-point on New Year’s Eve 2007.

That buck’s typical rack featured a 15-6/8-inch inside spread and 22-inch main beams that helped it gross-score 148-4/8 inches and net only 138 inches – mainly due to a missing G4 on one side.

Roland’s 9-point finished #5 in the 2007-08 “Buck of the Year” contest, but Roland declined to submit photos or a story to Woods ‘n Water when he discovered that a 147-inch (net) typical would take the #1 spot.

Roland admits he was disappointed that the buck of his lifetime was not the biggest buck taken that season.

Just three years later, Roland’s lifetime of knowledge of the local woods paid off, as he got a rare second chance to take the “Buck of the Year” just a few days after Thanksgiving in 2010.

It was just the fourth day of the 2010-11 hunting season, and Roland had never spotted this massive buck before, although he had found some sign and had seen his tracks twice. “I saw this buck’s track where he crossed the creek and went through a hammock about a quarter-mile from where I killed him. It was the biggest track I have ever seen.

“My son Warren claimed it was made by a hog, but then I found an 8- to 10-inch pine he had hooked as I was on the way to check my stand two weeks before the season started. He tore it up pretty good. I hunted on Thanksgiving and Friday without seeing anything.

“On Saturday, right after daylight, two does came in. Then, about 9:30 a.m., I heard the woods behind me come alive. I could hear deer running through the brush, so I got up and turned around in my stand to see a doe running wide open with something following her.

“I raised up and had just enough time to get my Browning .30-06 ready. I saw an opening in the direction he was headed and made the shot with him on a dead run. I heard him crash in the woods about 30 yards later,” Roland said.

“It happened so fast, it was almost like it didn’t really happen. I never had a chance to get nervous.

“I pulled the trigger as soon as I saw him in the scope and hit him right in the shoulder. There was no time to get scared or shook up. When I finally did make it to him, I just had to sit down for a while and catch my breath...and admire him,” Roland said with a smile.

The buck weighed 200 pounds, and unlike Roland’s 2008 buck, this near-perfect 10-point rack (23-2/8-inch main beams, 5-inch brow tines, 7-6/8-inch G2s, towering 11-inch G3s and G4s that averaged 8 inches) was not missing a tine and had only 4 inches of deductions.

The typical rack measured 4-1/2 inches around at the bases and featured a 16-2/8 inside spread to help it gross 158 inches and net 154-0/8 inches, as scored by FWC’s Stan Kirkland.

It was quite an accomplishment for someone who describes himself as “a turkey hunter first, then a wingshooter and then a deer hunter.”

In fact, Roland had to schedule a cover photo shoot around his first-ever dove-hunting trip to Argentina. He smiled as he talked about the upcoming trip with his sons, Warren and John Michael.

“I‘ve been saving up for the last 4 or 5 years. I’ve always heard about how many birds they have, and I’m taking my two sons with me. I finally decided to do it, because you never know if you will have the chance if you wait too long.

“We are not promised tomorrow,” he added, sadly remembering the funeral of a neighbor killed in an ATV accident the previous Saturday.


#2 - David Sanders “Hogfoot” takes the #2 spot

David Sanders of Sopchoppy, Florida harvested a massive 12-point typical buck on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), 2011 that would gross nearly 160 inches and finish as the #2 highest-scoring typical taken in Florida last season.

David used his Remington 12-gauge shotgun to take the Franklin County monster that he calls “HOGFOOT” while hunting on a private lease in the St. James Island area of the Gulf Coast county.

“I was going to take my wife her Valentine’s Day gifts to school that morning, but she said I should go hunting instead. So, I went and sat in my stand for several hours without seeing anything.

“I had actually left my stand, gotten in the truck and was leaving to go take her the stuff when I saw him. I stopped the truck, stepped out, grabbed my gun and shot him!” David admitted, somewhat sheepishly.

David called a friend, and together they tracked what turned out to be another buck a long way to a pond on the property.

On the way back to the truck, they saw where David’s buck had crossed the road dragging his leg, and David spotted some blood. He called his brother, Donnie, who brought his dog, and they found the beast just 75 yards away.

“It is the biggest buck I have ever killed,” said David, who has been hunting the 11,000-acre private lease located near St. James Island for the past four years with his brother and cousin Andy Sanders, who took the #9 typical in the “Buck of the Year” contest last season on Feb. 3, 2010.

“Andy was the one I called to help track it, and when we found it, he said that my buck must have been his buck’s daddy!” David said. Andy’s 9-point grossed 145-7/8 inches and netted 135-3/8.

David had his 205-pound “Hogfoot” buck mounted by Larry Pearson of Lost Creek Taxidermy in Crawfordville, Florida.


#3 - Jeremy Free's Bonifay buck is #3

Jeremy Free from Ponce de Leon, Florida traveled to Illinois last year with five other buddies for a whitetail hunting trip and was the only one to come home without a buck.

However, Jeremy, 29, got a whole bunch of redemption just five weeks later when he killed a 151-3/8-inch brute – in Florida!

“After spending the last week of October in Illinois and being the only one with no luck, I was pretty bummed,” Jeremy said.

Jeremy said his wife, Terra, told him, “You never know...you may kill a big one around here.”

“Yeah, I doubt I’ll ever kill one around here that’s as big as what’s up there,” Jeremy replied.

Luckily, Jeremy was dead wrong! On Dec. 7, 2010, Jeremy was hunting with his muzzleloader on private land in Holmes County when he shot a 170-pound monster toting a 150-inch rack!

The huge buck had 23-4/8-inch main beams, 7-4/8-inch G2s, 9-7/8-inch G3s, 7-inch G4s and a single G5 on the right antler.

The total for both antlers added up to exactly 68-5/8 inches, and the 18-1/8-inch inside spread helped the rack score 155-3/8 inches gross. With only 4 inches in deductions, Jeremy’s Florida trophy netted 151-3/8.

“I finally got a big buck...but it came while I was hunting at home, and he was bigger than any of the ones they killed in Illinois!” Jeremy said.


#4 - John Bradley's #1 Bow buck scores 149!

John Bradley of Vero Beach, Florida used his Onieda Eagle compound recurve bow and an Easton aluminum arrow to take the #1 archery buck killed during the 2010-11 season.

The 53-year-old hunter arrowed the #4 highest-scoring buck taken in Florida last season while hunting on private land in Indian River County.

The buck weighed over 200 lbs. and was taken with a bow that John says is at least 20 years old. He used a 100-grain NAP Spitfire expandable broadhead.

“I’ve been hunting deer for about 40 years. My family leases the property in Indian River County, and we’ve had it for over 30 years with a cow/calf operation of 200 head of cattle.

The land is made up of about 800 acres of old grove beds, 600 acres of old tomato fields and 1,200 acres of old pine flatwoods, scrub and palmettos, John said. “I hunted the evening of Sept. 19, 2010, and everything worked in my favor, especially the wind.

“Sitting in a 15-foot ladder stand overlooking a mix of small myrtles and pines, I could see about 400 yards to my left and about 50 yards to my right. I got in my stand about 4 p.m., and it wasn’t long before a doe was running around about 300 yards out to my left with a small 8-point chasing her around.

“I watched this for over 30 minutes before a small 6-point came out of nowhere at 10 yards and disappeared. Things were looking pretty good! A few minutes later, the 8-point and doe ran out of view, and I didn’t see anything for an hour. Finally, to my left, I saw what I thought was the same doe and 8-point. The buck wasn’t chasing her or even showing any interest, but both deer kept looking back as if another deer was there.

“All of a sudden the 8-point decided to move on, just as I saw a much bigger deer. I raised my binoculars and about fell out of my stand! I started shaking the second I laid eyes on the huge buck. All I saw was horns!” John remembered.

“He was 350-400 yards out, so I grabbed my trusty Primos hardwood grunt call, stood up in my stand and hit the call as loud as I could without sacrificing sound quality. It worked!

“To my amazement, the buck dropped his head and started slowly walking in my direction. He was coming through some dog fennel about 4 feet high, and all you could see was his rack! Despite 40 years of experience, I couldn’t quit shaking.

“It took 20 minutes for him to travel about 100 yards before he stopped to look back where he had come from. I grunted softly, and it seemed he looked right at me before coming again. By then I was up and ready to draw.

“All I could look at were his legs, because looking at his rack was out of the question. He stopped at 23 yards, quartering to me. When he decided to look back – maybe for that doe – I drew back and let him have it. THWACK!

“You could hear the sound of those NAP Spitfires really good! Hail to the grunt call! He ran to my right into a maple hammock and disappeared. What an adrenalin rush! I kept yelling, ‘I just killed Bullwinkle!’ over and over. I wasn’t sure where the arrow hit, so I called my son Austin and good friend Carl to help find my buck, as the light was fading fast.

“After several minutes of looking, anxiety set in. What if I didn’t hit him in the kill zone? The blood trail faded away, and it was getting dark fast when I saw what looked like a wad of palm fronds 50 yards away in some dog fennel.”

“It was my deer! Holy Moly Bullwinkle! I started dragging him by myself, but that 200 lb. body didn’t let me get far. About that time Carl and Austin came to the rescue!” John said.

“I want to thank my wife, Diane, for putting up with my deer hunting obsession. I hunt every day that I possibly can until around the middle of December. I wouldn’t trade being in the outdoors for anything. I’ve loved it for 40 years and counting. Hopefully there will be many more,” John added.

“I can’t stress enough about using a grunt call. I feel lost without it when I’m hunting. If I forget it, I will either not hunt or go back home and get it. It doesn’t work all the time, but I see a lot more curious bucks and does.

“Dominant bucks either sneak in or come charging in for a fight. I’ve called bucks in from September right up to December. You never really know. A buck is like a cat – really curious – and, as the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat!”

FWC Biologist Eddie Harmon scored the buck the next day as a 10-point typical with a gross score of 154-3/8 inches and a net score of 149-0/8.

The amazing main-frame 10-point rack features split G2s (making it a 12-point) and 11-inch G3s.

“I think the FWC did the right thing by moving our hunting seasons back a week. For years, I’ve noticed the increased deer activity earlier in the season than in years past. I see fawns born in March, so that means the does were bred in September,” John said.

“The heat and the mosquitoes are fierce, but the deer are moving in the early mornings and late evenings, and the bucks haven’t gone nocturnal yet! I also want to mention that we’ve been practicing a “4 points on one side rule” or “8 points or better” restriction for over 15 years. What a difference that makes for more quality, bigger bucks!

“Good luck to everyone chasing the dream of getting ‘the big one’ this year!”


#5 - Holmes County 11-point is #5

Michael Conner of Bonifay, Florida killed the 5th-highest-scoring typical of the 2010-11 season on Christmas Day in Holmes County. The 26-year-old hunter used his .30-06 rifle to take down the heavy, 220-pound buck.

“On the morning of Dec. 25, 2010, I got up and put my camo on, grabbed my gun and started out on what I thought would be just another regular hunting trip. I was headed to my tree stand when I heard something moving.

“About 50 yards from my stand, I stopped and started looking in that direction when I saw horns moving up above the brush. He was just walking around eating and not paying me a bit of mind,” Michael recalled.

“I was frozen, but he still heard or saw something and looked straight at me. I tried to keep still enough for him not to see me, waited until he turned and then I picked my gun up, aimed and shot him in the neck.

“He fell right where he was standing! I ran over to him, and to my surprise, he was the biggest buck I have ever killed!” Michael said.

Unfortunately, there are not many good photos of the buck because he was caped soon after he was killed in order to have a full body mount done.

However, the 11-point rack stats are impressive, with 21-inch main beams that measured 4-1/2 inches around at the bases.

The rack featured an 18-2/8-inch inside spread, 8-inch G2s, 10-4/8-inch G3s and 8-inch G4s.

The rack grossed 152-7/8 inches and netted 147-4/8 inches after 5-3/8 inches in deductions for differences between the two sides.


#6 - Alachua freak is #1 non-typical!

by Chuck Partin

I really must start out by being completely honest and saying that I would have never killed this buck of a lifetime if it weren’t for my brother Doug.

I owe it all to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I never would have killed this deer. Doug was looking for property to build a house on when he came across this little “For Sale” sign.

He called and spoke to an older couple. When the owner asked what he wanted to do with the property and learned he wanted to build a house, he told Doug he would not sell it to him.

He said he wanted to save him from the same mistake he had made, adding, “It can’t be done” due to water management district rules, permits and land use restrictions. So, Doug asked if he would consider letting anyone hunt on it. It turned out that he had let a few people hunt it before, but had never leased it out. Thanks to my brother, we were the first.

Lo and behold, we both killed the biggest deer we have ever killed on our first year hunting that property.

It was Thanksgiving morning. I got up in the tree, and 10 minutes after daylight, I had an 8-point walk directly underneath my stand. His rack was about 15-16 inches wide, and I almost killed him, just to say I killed one on Thanksgiving Day. Most people would have.

But, I let him go, and he wandered on down toward my brother, and I figured I would let him take it.

It was very cold and foggy that morning. I was thinking about how I was going to freeze to death when I saw an outline of an deer through the fog.

As soon as I looked through my scope, I knew he was a shooter! He came to within 100 yards, walking stiff-legged with his head down, right down the trail the deer always come down.

Then he took a right, and I figured it was all over with. But, 10 yards ahead of him I saw a hole in the brush and put my crosshairs on it. As soon as I saw the crease behind his front leg I fired.

Then...all hell broke loose!

I hollered out loud as soon as I pulled the trigger, and Doug called me immediately – all shook up – thinking I had fallen out of my treestand.

I didn’t calm him down any, because I discovered I simply couldn’t talk. All I could say was “Come down here.”

He was hunting from a tree stand about 150-200 yards away, where exactly one week before he had killed a huge 10-point that scored 125 inches!

Despite the fact that it took him several minutes to get there, he beat me...because I was shaking so bad that I couldn’t operate my climber. He actually got over to the buck before I got down.

At that point I figured it was a big 8- or 10-point. I still didn’t realize how big he was. When I finally got over to him, I finally started looking at his horns. Doug said, “Look at this freak!” I didn’t say a word.

I was just standing there in awe as my brother took his foot and turned the buck’s head to the side and said, “That is a big buck.” I still couldn’t say anything.

He punched me in the shoulder and gave me a hug, just about knocking me down, saying, “You’ve done something no one else around here has ever done.”

When I started counting points and got to 11 on the one side, I had to stop. Doug was taking photos with his phone and calling Dad, who thought we were lying to him.

Dad knew Doug had killed his big buck out of the same stand exactly one week before, but when Doug told him I had killed one even bigger – an 18-point – he kept telling Doug to quit kidding around. When Doug insisted he was not lying, Dad got excited and told us simply to “bring it here and let me see it.”

It was 7:35 a.m. when I killed this buck – exactly the same time one week after Doug had killed his biggest buck in almost the same place.

We had game camera photos of Doug’s buck the same morning it was killed, but, we never found a photo of my buck on any of our cameras.

When it comes to killing this buck, I owe everything to my brother. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been hunting on the property and would have never had a chance at this buck. I want to thank Doug (a lot), and we owe the property owner a big “thank-you.”

To kill an 18-point in your lifetime, especially in Florida, just doesn’t happen very often to very many people.


#7 buck was also the #1 Youth Buck

Timmy “Mac” Butler was hunting with his dad, Tim, in Suwannee County on Nov. 7. 2010 when he harvested this monster 10-point.

Timmy spotted the bruiser during the 2009 archery season, but was never able to get a shot opportunity.

On this Sunday afternoon, Timmy and his dad went to check out an active scrape in the area where they had spotted the buck the previous year.

After a careful inspection of the area, the duo wrapped the stand in a camo blind and placed Tink’s-saturated cotton strips approximately 40 yards apart around the area. By 4 p.m. they were settled in the blind.

Shortly after Timmy started using a doe bleat call, he heard the buck respond with consecutive grunts at 15-minute intervals. After an agonizing wait, the big buck finally stepped out into the firebreak, where Timmy dropped the approximately 200-pounder with a perfectly-placed shot to the vitals.

The trophy rack grossed 150 inches and netted 144-1/8.


#8 - ‘City Buck’ takes #8 spot

Brandon D. Wilkes, 26, of Cottondale, Florida was one of two Panhandle hunters that took advantage of love-struck bucks on Valentine’s Day to capture a spot in the “Buck of the Year” contest’s Top 10 last season.

Brandon was in a ground blind during a Feb. 14 afternoon hunt on private land in Jackson County, Florida when he got a chance at a buck he had been patterning on trail cameras.

This 11-point buck, which had been nicknamed “Big-Un,” had been spotted on Brandon’s trail camera many times since Dec. 11, 2010, but he had just started to chase does that week.

This afternoon “Big-Un” crossed a highway and entered a field 600 yards away, following three does. The group stopped 250 yards from Brandon to feed in an old peanut field.

“When I shot the first time, they didn’t even move. The second shot made them start running for the woods, and it was the third shot, right before he entered the woods, that connected right behind his right shoulder,” Brandon recalled.

Brandon used his .30-06 Winchester rifle to make the shot. The buck ran 75 yards into the woods before crashing down.

After making the kill, Brandon re-named the beast “The City Buck,” because the road he and the does came across also marked the end of the city limits.

“The City Buck” had an impressive 23-inch-wide rack (21-6/8 inches inside spread) that scored 150-4/8 inches gross.

Brandon’s buck had the third-longest main beams (25 inches) of any buck taken last season. Only the #9 buck overall (#2 non-typical) killed by Brandon Alday (26-2/8-inch main beam) and #7 typical taken by Timmy Butler (25-3/8) had longer main beams.

Brandon’s buck had 10 main points and grossed 150-4/8 inches, but 8 inches of deductions for differences between the left and right antlers resulted in a net score of 142-4/8 inches.


#9 - Alday’s ‘Sunday Buck’ is #9 overall

Brandon Alday first saw what became known as the “Sunday Buck” more than two years ago (during the 2008-09 season) when his dad sent him an email after checking their trail camera photos taken on Brandon’s grandparent’s property in Jackson County, Florida.

From the moment his dad’s email announced, “We got a good 10-point,” Brandon said, “The chase was on!”

However, while attempting to pattern the big buck, it apparently patterned them. The first photo was taken late in the season – on a Sunday – and for the next year and a half nearly every photo of the beast was snapped on a Sunday.

According to Brandon, that was the one day his grandfather never hunted. “Papa never hunted on Sunday...so we didn’t either,” Brandon explained. “So we gave him the name ‘Sunday’.”

Fittingly, it was a Saturday (Oct. 23) – opening day of the 2010 archery season in Zone D – when Brandon got a shot at the #2 non-typical and #9 buck overall taken last season.

Here is Brandon’s story, in his own words: “First off, I would have never been able to kill my ‘buck of a lifetime’ if it wasn’t for my wife. When I got a trail cam picture of him, I set my heart on it and went after him full bore. She never once lit into me about the time and effort I put into trying to get him.

“My first live encounter with ‘Sunday’ came around 11 a.m. on opening day of archery season when he came walking in with a bachelor group. He got to within 60-70 yards, turned up his nose and bounced off. I have no idea how he busted me. I had a favorable wind and everything. I got more pictures of him that season, but never saw him again.

“The next summer I was bush-hogging around the property in an area where Sunday had been photographed. I wasn’t looking for sheds, just riding the tractor thinking about nothing when I looked down and saw an antler. At first sight I knew who it belonged to.

“I didn’t have much hope, but couldn’t help but search in the area for his other side. Thirty yards away, in plain sight, there it was! To be honest, finding those sheds was a trophy for me.

“That summer my wife tested positive for the BRCAII gene, giving her an 80% chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer. Both of her sisters had breast cancer in their 30s, and we had a couple scares with irregular mammograms. Instead of waiting on the cancer, we decided to be proactive and have double mastectomies, a hysterectomy and breast reconstruction.

“All of this put my quest for Sunday on the back burner. But, Julie had other plans. She scheduled her surgeries so she would be recovered enough for me to hunt him in the fall. She did it on her own – not because I asked her to. What a wife!” Brandon said.

“In the weeks leading up to opening weekend of bow season, I had Sunday somewhat pin-pointed in the same location he busted me the previous season. It was a dry pond bottom with dog fennels about chest high. I wanted to sit that stand opening morning, but the wind was blowing in the direction I thought he’d be coming from. It took all I had in me not to go to that stand that morning.

“But, that afternoon, the wind shifted in my favor. Trail cameras had showed a 4-point coming through before Sunday each time. With about 15 minutes of light left, here came the 4-point! Buck pneumonia hit me! Buck fever couldn’t compare to what I was feeling!

“I knew Sunday was close. Sure enough, he came walking through the dog fennels, and I could feel my heart in my eyeballs,” Brandon recalled.

“He walked to within 20 yards of me and looked back into the pond bottom at some other deer working the area. That’s when I drew. I don’t remember aiming or releasing. Just hearing a “thwack” and watching him mule kick.

“After the shot I was shaking like crazy. It took me several minutes to calm down enough to call someone and tell them what I had happened. I couldn’t find any blood when I got down, so I backed out and went to my grandparent’s house to call everyone I knew.

“I had friends driving in for over an hour to come help with the recovery. Between my dad, uncle, cousins and some friends, we had about 8-9 people with flashlights. No blood was found at the location where I shot him. I felt nauseous, to put it mildly.

“It was a quartering shot, and there wasn’t much blood until the arrow came out about 20 yards before he fell. My uncle (the family tracker) told me to go where I thought the deer had run. With my 4-year-old son on my shoulders, we took off in that direction. We got about 60 yards, and there he was!

“I started screaming like a little girl – scaring my son half to death. He about strangled me with his legs around my neck. I can’t describe the feeling of putting my hands on his horns.

His was a true buck of a lifetime!


#10 - Shea’s ‘River Run Ghost’ places #10

Steve Shea killed the “River Run Ghost” on Saturday morning, Jan. 22, 2011 to claim the top spot in Gulf County’s list of highest-scoring bucks.

The mainframe 10-point had three kickers (two scorable), helping it gross 150-7/8 inches and net 141-7/8 Boone & Crockett inches, nailing down the #10 spot in the “Buck of the Year” contest (8th highest-scoring typical).

Steve killed the monster on his River Run lease in Gulf County.

“Needless to say, I was pretty excited. This is like killing a 180-inch typical in the Midwest. I can’t say enough about using cameras to pattern big bucks. They really enabled me to pattern this one.

“I almost fell out of bed when I saw the first photo. It was difficult for me to hunt, other than on weekends, due to my work schedule at the time, but I was getting more and more obsessed with him with each photo,” Steve said.

“The mean breeding date for this location was early February, based on collections we did with the FWC last year. I figured I would hunt him hard the last two weeks of January, before he really went mobile chasing does and wandered in front of other guns.

“I knew he was in his core area based on the location and frequency of photos I was getting. I started to get photos of him in shooting light (early morning/late afternoon), so I cancelled a duck hunt that morning, because the conditions and wind were perfect for the ground blind I’d set up to intercept him on his way back to his bedding area from a food plot he only entered at night.

“That morning was the first time I’d seen him with my own eyes. I had to watch him come from 1/4 mile down a logging road. It was five minutes of hell! I was already shivering in the 25-degree temperatures, but really started shaking when I saw him,” Steve remembered.

“I had to keep telling myself to calm down and actually backed off the trigger pull twice. I finally took the shot at 75 yards at 7:47 a.m.

“I’ve killed some nice bucks in the Midwest, but this one means even more to me. It’s the first time I set out to hunt a specific buck in Florida.

“I’ve QDM managed this area for 12 years and consider this a great management accomplishment, especially for these coastal pine flatwoods,” Steve said.

The mainframe 10-point had two small kicker points on the left antler to make it a 12-pointer with a 14-inch spread. A total of 3-2/8 inches in deductions for differences between the two sides and 2-7/8 inches deducted for the two abnormal points reduced the 148 gross score to 141-7/8 inches net.