Florida Buck-of-the-Year Contest

(2013 Buck of the Year Winners)

#1 - Madison County produces Buck of the Year!

Bruce Holley of Spring Hill, Florida killed the 2012-13 “Florida Buck of the Year” Nov. 3, 2012 on private property in Madison County, Florida.

It was the first time Bruce had ever hunted the property, owned by his friend Ted who lives in South Florida, who had never before spotted the huge buck.

“I have been hunting a long time, and I know I will never get this lucky again. God was definitely with me this particular day,” Bruce said.

“It was only the second day I had ever been on this property. The first day was spent scouting the area out,” Bruce said.

On opening morning of general gun season, Bruce and Ted were in separate stands about 400-500 yards apart.

“It was just 20-30 minutes after safe shooting light when I spotted him. Ted has an 8-point-or-better rule, and I had to look several times to be sure if I could shoot him or not.

“I am glad I couldn’t really see his rack that well or I probably would have missed!” Bruce laughed. Bruce made an 80-yard shot with his .270 Remington rifle at around 8 a.m. and said the 218 lb. buck dropped immediately where he was standing.

“I was very fortunate to harvest this buck,” Bruce added. “I am very proud of this deer. It is way bigger than any other buck I have ever harvested, and I have been hunting my whole life.”

The buck’s massive, non-typical rack had a total of 22 points (17 scorable) on its mainframe-9-point rack, with 4 abnormal points on each side. The main beams measured 22-7/8 inches long, while the G2s measured 11 and 12-6/8 inches and the G3s measured 9 and 11-1/8 inches.

The antlers measured 5-2/8 inches around at the bases and almost maintained that same circumference in between each tine. The rack had an 18-inch inside spread and a 22-inch outside spread, in addition to 27-1/8 inches in abnormal points.

The massive, palmated rack grossed 188 inches and was entered into the Florida Buck Registry with a net score of 176-3/8 inches, making it the new 7th highest scoring non-typical ever taken in Florida and the #1 non-typical on record in Madison County.


#2 - Alachua 9-point is #1 Archery and #1 Typical

Last October, with one perfectly-placed arrow, David Locascio took the new all-time Pope & Young record bow buck for Alachua County – and what is believed to be the new #2 Pope & Young buck for the state of Florida.

The 9-point beast gross-scored 148-4/8 inches and netted 143-6/8 to rank as the #2 entry in the 2012-13 “Florida Buck of the Year” contest. David nicknamed the buck “Tangi” after Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana where his parents were born and raised. He also calls the 16-acre parcel of land he hunts on the edge of Gainesville the “Tangipahoa Timber Company.”

The morning he took the record buck was his dad’s 79th birthday. “I had been hunting and trying to pattern deer on my little piece of heaven for two years and never took a shot. There were plenty of deer and monster bucks on camera, but they’d only come out at night,” David said.

“My brother Paul and I were leaving the last Friday in October for our annual Stony Bottom Bow Hunting Club week of bow hunting in West Virginia. As luck would have it, there was a full moon brewing in Gainesville, so I made it a point to get in a tree before the 15-hour drive north to smooth out any kinks in my equipment and to see what the full moon would bring.

“At 11:30 a.m. Monday morning, a medium-sized 8-point was trailing does and walked right into my arrow at an easy 20 yards. If I had known what was to come, I never would have shot that up-and-coming trophy,” David admitted. “Two days later I was patiently sitting in my stand, nocked and ready, when I caught a glimpse of movement out of my left eye. I slowly turned, using the large sweet gum I was sitting in as my shield, to see a huge buck about 50 yards out and moving quickly in the ‘wrong direction’,” he said.

“In my younger days, I’d have taken that shot, but experience has taught me it was way too risky for a good, clean kill shot. So, I just stood there and watched the biggest bow hunting buck I had ever seen trot through the trees and disappear out of sight. My heart was pounding so hard I couldn’t sit down. I stayed on my feet with my bow ready, just in case.

“Fifteen minutes later I caught another glimpse of movement in the distance. There he was! He had circled back and was about 150 yards away – barely visible through the trees and brush.

“I hit my doe bleat, and his head popped up as he looked in my direction. After he started slowly moving toward me, I hit the bleat again, and he turned and walked straight at me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Then suddenly, at about 50 yards out, he veered off the trail and headed into the brush and trees.

“I quickly scanned the direction he was headed, looking for any clear shot, but there was nothing but a 4-foot hole between two trees just feet from his current position. He was on the move, and his head was already passing behind the first pine tree when I threw up my bow, drew and placed my 40-yard pin at what I calculated was his shoulder height. It seemed like a fraction of a second later when his head passed the tree.

“I quickly realigned my pin and released my arrow as his shoulder emerged from behind the tree. In 15 years of bow hunting it was the quickest draw and release I have ever done,” David said.

“I knew I had a hit him when his front legs left the ground as he reared back and took off like a thunderbolt. He sprinted about 200 feet, threw on the brakes, spun almost 180 degrees and disappeared into dense cover.

“Having taken a shot that quickly, between the branches in my tree stand, through a 4-foot opening at 39 yards, at a moving target and watching the buck run like the blazes, my heart sank. I thought for sure I had missed the kill shot,” David admitted.

But, just in case, David sat in the tree for two hours to give his arrow time to do its job. As it turned out, the monster made it 300 yards before going down. And now, “Tangi” is hanging over the fireplace and will be inscribed in the Pope and Young record books forever.

“I’ve been bow hunting for about 15 years, and 2012 was my best year. I hunted Florida, West Virginia and Georgia to take eight deer in eight shots! “After a few surgeries and a long hunting drought, I took the 2012 hunting season pretty seriously. I bought my first new bow in 15 years and put in hours and hours of practice and preparation. My new bow from Alachua Farm and Lumber just couldn’t miss! I shot the biggest doe I’ve ever seen in West Virginia, three does at The Smoken Arrow Bow Hunting Club in Macon, Ga. and two does and two bucks in Gainesville. Not bad for an old man!” David joked.

“When I delivered ‘Tangi’ to Tony’s Taxidermy in Hawthorne, Fla., my taxidermist, Jay, said he’d never seen a Florida bow kill this big,” David added. “The biggest I have ever shot came from my own hometown!”

After being scored by the FWC, “Tangi” was also scored by official Pope and Young scorer Ronnie Everett. To top off his amazing year, David took his 14-year-old son to Macon, Ga. for his first hunting trip and he took a doe at 30 yards from a ground blind. “I actually felt a little bad, because I had promised Logan (a sports addict) we’d go into town and watch the Gator football game, but we spent the evening butchering instead,” David said.

“Later that weekend we had a group of five does and spikes within 30 yards of our second blind and enjoyed watching the spikes butt heads. Then, a large spike walked up and stood broadside within 15 feet of us. We nodded at each other, smiled real big and just enjoyed the sight. You never now...he might be our next record trophy in a few years!

“Three weeks later I took my 13-year-old daughter, Leah, to Macon for her first hunt. I set her up in my ladder stand and put my climber in a tree about 20 feet next to her.

“This time when I caught a glimpse of motion it was her head falling forward as she struggled to stay awake. Times like those is when a dad is really happy that he and his kids ALWAYS use a safety harness. I took the first doe to show up, as she was too tired and there was no waiting until dark for a big buck.

“Fifteen years ago my younger brother, Paul, put a bow in my hands, and I never picked up another rifle. I was instantly hooked on the unique challenges and physicality of bow hunting. Plus, it’s always nice to be able to practice in your own backyard.

“I know I’ll never have another season like this one – 8 shots, 8 deer, a kill for each of my kids on their first hunt and a record Pope and Young buck. But, I’m not giving up. I’m already tuning my bow, organizing my gear, and visualizing next year’s trophy shot.

“On a side note to any young bucks out there addicted to hunting – don’t get married during the rut! Choosing between hunting the rut and your anniversary can be hazardous to your marriage (and your health),” David added.


#3 - Top Youth Buck is #3 overall!

Robert M. Frier III was 16 when he killed the #3 overall buck (#2 typical) taken in the state of Florida last season. Robert harvested the chocolate-horned, 180 lb. 8-point on private land in Columbia County on Nov. 4, 2012 using a Thompson/Center Venture .270 Winchester. The highest-scoring buck taken by a youth hunter last season is also the 2nd-highest scoring buck on record in Columbia County.

The hard-hunting teen helps turn over and plant fields for hunting, and put out supplemental feed before finally capturing the buck on his game camera as it visited a mineral block.

“This is the one I am going to kill this year,” he told his mother while showing her the game camera photo. Robert took his bow and sat throughout archery season, then carried his muzzleloader and hunted numerous times during black powder season without ever seeing the big buck.

Ironically, Robert killed the big buck on his way back from picking up the Sunday morning paper on his family’s 450-acre farm. Instead, it was a routine trip to the mailbox that gave Robert the chance to take his biggest buck ever. Luckily, he had the .270 rifle he bought himself with him when he spotted the buck in a field near a barn as he returned to the house.

The buck was standing between two trees when Robert grabbed his rifle out of the Jeep and made a perfect double lung shot to drop the beast after it made it just 30 yards.

Robert, who just recently graduated from his National Youth Leadership Training Course with the Boy Scouts, placed second in the state in muzzleloader shooting accuracy the year before – thanks in large part to the practice he puts in at a range on his property.

Robert’s uncle, who usually helps him clean his deer, was in Arkansas when he killed this trophy buck. Robert drove the buck just down the street to a taxidermist who spent the next three hours carefully teaching Robert how to properly skin and cape the buck for a shoulder mount.

Robert’s buck had 22 and 23-2/8-inch main beams, 6-4/8-inch brow tines, 10-5/8-inch G2s and 9-5/8-inch G3s. The near-perfect symmetrical rack had a 17-2/8-inch inside spread, 20-inch outside spread, 4-4/8-inch bases and just 2-6/8 inches in deductions – scoring 145-4/8 inches gross and 143-6/8 inches net.


#4 - Jackson County buck took the #4 overall buck in Florida

Chad Burnsed of Okeechobee, Florida took the #4 overall buck in Florida last season while hunting a private lease in Jackson County on Nov. 23, 2012.

“I put my wife and sister-in-law in their tree stands and just picked a spot to sit in my truck looking down a long road in the pines,” Chad said. “I wasn’t there but about 20 minutes before this big buck stepped out into the road. It was about a 200-yard shot, but I sure wasn’t going to let him walk.”

The 34-year-old hunter used a .270 Winchester Short Mag to take down the 200 lb. buck. The 10-point buck had 22-inch main beams and 5-inch brow tines to help it gross-score 143-1/8 inches and net 139-4/8 inches after 3-5/8 inches in deductions.

The impressive rack sports 7-2/8 and 7-6/8-inch G2s, 7-6/8 and 8-6/8-inch G3s and 4-inch G4s, as well as a 16-2/8-inch inside spread and 18-2/8-inch outside spread.


#5 - 14-year-old harvests #1 Public Land Buck

Fourteen-year-old Hunter Mathew Combs of Sanderson, Florida was running dogs when he killed the 5th-place “Buck of the Year” and the top-scoring buck taken on public land in 2012-13.

On December 11, 2012, Hunter was dog hunting with his family on Osceola WMA in Baker County when he killed the buck of a lifetime.

“The family and I had already run a couple of does when we came up on a monstrous track in the middle of four smaller tracks going into the head of the river,” Hunter said.

“We only had about six beagles in the box, but we were determined to run this big one instead of the little ones. I was riding with my big brother, Travis, at the time, and the dogs trailed the buck for about 30 minutes before they finally jumped him.

“About 30 minutes later we heard them coming to the Hatchet Road, and I realized I only had two bullets left in my .243 rifle. I shot once while he was in the bushes and again once he hit the dirt road,” Hunter said. “After I shot, he fell right there, and we came off the back of the truck screaming.

“All I could think was my last bullet had laid him down! I never dreamed I’d kill a big buck like that coming out of the forest!” Hunter stated.

Hunter’s great 8-point public land buck scored a whopping 141-5/8 inches gross and netted 139-2/8 inches after just 2-3/8 inches in deductions.


#6 - Kissimmee Chain of Lakes WMA produced the #6 “Buck of the Year”

During an afternoon hunt on Jan. 29, 2013 at around 4 p.m., Matt Montana of Kissimmee, Florida saw two does walk out and begin feeding on Kissimmee Chain of Lakes WMA in Osceola County.

After watching the does feed for about 15 minutes, Matt spotted a big buck walking through the oak hammock and rubbing against trees directly behind the two does. “He stepped out at about 85 yards away and began following the does,” Matt said. “I shot him when he turned broadside, and that one shot dropped him. It was my luckiest day ever in the woods!

“I wish I could tell you I had been hunting him for years, but the truth is, it was just some pure luck! I was in the right place at the right time,” Matt added.

The amazing public land buck was taken with a .30-06 and weighed 185 lbs. The 10-point rack had long 24-5/8-inch main beams, 6-inch brow tines and 9-inch G2s, as well as G3s measuring nearly 7 inches long.

The heavy rack measured 145-5/8 but lost 6-1/2 inches in deductions for differences between the two sides, including a 2-3/8-inch abnormal point on the right antler, resulting in a net score of 139-1/8.


#7 - Third season’s the charm for South Florida bowhunter

The third year was the charm for Dale Grubb of Sebring, Florida, who hunted the same big buck for three straight seasons before finally sealing the deal during the 2012 archery season.

Dale’s biggest-ever bow kill – an impressive 11-point that gross-scored 144-6/8 inches – was taken on Aug. 17, 2012 on his hunting lease located south of Hwy. 70 below Lake Placid.

“We only bow hunt on our lease, which is located in the South Zone (Zone A). Back in 2007 and 2008 I was hunting for this massive 8-point we kept seeing on trail cameras, but it wasn’t until September 2009 that I finally got him,” Dale said.

That impressive South Florida 8-point sported a rack that scored 135-1/8 inches. Then, in 2010 and 2011, Dale said he began seeing a huge 10-point on game camera photos.

“Just like the previous one I managed to get three years earlier, we kept seeing this 10-point on trail cameras and knew when he was showing up in a certain area. After not getting a shot at him over the last two seasons, I finally decided to battle the mosquitoes and hunt during the early season in August,” Dale said.

“I unsuccessfully hunted for him on opening weekend (July 28) and two weeks later on Aug. 11. “Finally, on the morning of Aug. 18 at 7:30 a.m., I saw three small bucks near my protein feeder who all got stiff-legged and started looking in the same direction.

That is when I knew something big was coming.

“Two minutes later he came in, and I put an arrow perfectly two inches behind his left shoulder at 26 yards,” Dale added. Dale was using his Hoyt Alpha Maxx 32 bow with 70 lbs. of pull and new Montec expandable broadheads he had just bought for his Flatliner arrows. After waiting about 30 minutes, Dale and a buddy started searching and found his arrow covered in blood from the tip to the fletching.

“But, despite a double lung shot, we trailed tiny pinpoints of blood and never found any bigger than a thumbnail until we were right on top of him about 55 yards away – where we found him dead as a doornail,” Dale said.

The monster buck weighed 178 lbs. “on the hoof” and had a 17-2/8-inch inside spread.


#8 - Jackson Co. produces #8 buck

Jeremy Land of Cottondale, Florida killed the #8 entry in the 2012-13 Florida “Buck of the Year” contest on Nov. 23, 2012 while hunting on his father’s farm in Jackson County, Florida.

The 37-year-old hunter used his .308 Winchester BAR to drop the 180 lb. buck whose rack boasted an extra-wide, 19-1/8-inch inside spread.

“On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I traveled to my in-laws’ house to eat lunch, so I got in the woods late and decided just to sit on the ground in the bushes on the edge of the field,” Jeremy remembered. “Right before dark, three bucks came out at approximately 75 yards.

“He was the biggest of the three, and I was able to bring him down with one shot,” Jeremy said.


#9 - Hurst’s 8-point is #9

James Hurst’s monster Polk County 8-point scored 141-1/8 inches gross and netted 137-1/8 inches to finish as the #9 buck killed in Florida last season.

The 202 lb. buck had 23-inch main beams, 5-1/2-inch brow tines and long 9-7/8-inch G2s and G3s measuring 7-5/8 and 102/8 inches.


#10 - Bartow buck is #10

Phil Hoover of Bartow, Florida harvested this awesome 160 lb. 8-point buck at 9:15 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2012 in Polk County, Florida using a .308 rifle.

Phil had seen the same buck during the past several hunting season before he finally got lucky one morning when the big boy got careless while chasing a young doe in estrus.

Scored by the FWC at 138-3/8 inches gross and entered into the Florida Buck Registry with a net score of 136-6/8 inches, Phil’s buck came in at the #10 spot in Woods ‘n Water’s “Florida Buck of the Year” Contest.

The rack was almost perfectly symmetrical, with long 23-6/8-inch main beams, 6-inch brow tines,10-2/8-inch G2s, and G3s measuring 6-5/8 and 8-1/8 inches long. The rack measured 18-4/8 at its widest point and had a 16-4/8-inch inside spread with a 8-1/8-inch tip-to-tip spread.