Gas Station Bucks

On The Shoulders Of Giants With Andrew Curtis.

Andrew Curtis | May 9, 2024

Sitting alongside Highway 129 between Macon and Gray is an old Chevron station. I haven’t been there in years, and for all I know, the store might be closed now. Time changes things, but I can close my eyes and picture the inside of that gas station, still recalling the first time I walked in there over 25 years ago. Even back then, that place seemed to take me back in my memory to a simpler time. It made me think of my grandparents and what their generation stood for… their values, their ethics, their morals.

Inside to the right along the back wall was a large assortment of fishing tackle and even a spot for live bait. If you have been to the restroom there, then you have walked right past this corner.

High on the wall, opposite the fishing supplies, hung a lone buck mount. The fur was completely faded, and the deer’s face resembled more of a reptile appearance with squinty eyes and a disproportionately elongated nose. Needless to say, it was old. But the fur was not the focus.

On top of this buck’s head, a dark brown, heavy, tall set of antlers towered to the ceiling in an impressive display of nature’s health. The first time I laid eyes on this rack, I was mesmerized. The bases were the diameter of Coke cans, with character points adorning. The antlers jutted skyward off the skull plate, only to veer out wide past the thick brow tines before reaching upward again, completing the massive, 10-point main frame.

What this buck scores, I do not know. For all I know, the buck might be smaller than I remember. Heck, the rack might not even look exactly as I describe now. But what I do know is this buck of long ago made a lasting impression on me. A deer of that size will always be a trophy. And this buck did not have the benefit of modern conservation techniques and high protein mineral supplements.

There is an inside joke between my brother and me about gas station bucks. We look for these prized antlers all across the state, eager to report to each other a new find. Almost always, the gas stations are old with a run-down appearance. And they usually don’t last.

Untold numbers of trophy deer mounts are scattered in stores like this throughout Georgia. Unfortunately, most of these mounts have no identification. I crave to know the stories, but I am forced to swallow the regret that I never will know. Who killed these deer? Where did they hunt? What were their hunting tactics? What were their beliefs?

It makes me think about how we hunt today, with our sophisticated scouting equipment and battery-powered feeders. I realize that I don’t have to be very knowledgeable about the game I hunt in order to make a kill. Instead of learning the habitat, I can create it. I can successfully lure deer to a corn pile, prop a rifle with the wide-angle scope on a padded gun rest of a comfortable box stand, and squeeze the trigger on the deer standing broadside in an open shooting lane a mere 75 yards away.

I compare my hunting stories with those I remember my grandfather telling me. Most of those guys back then did not have scopes on their rifles. In fact, most did not have rifles; a slug from a shotgun barrel worked fine. And a tree stand? No, many sat on old stumps or climbed up in trees and perched on uncomfortable branches. And bait? Forget about it. Those guys had to find where the acorns fell heaviest or where the browse grew the greenest. They had to know the woods and know their game.

Whenever I see an old gas station close down for good, I think about the deer mounts inside. What becomes of them? Do they disappear like the hunters who harvested them? Are they gone like the way hunting used to be?

Next time you see one of these giant whitetails in an old gas station, think about how it got there. Think about the legacy we as hunters are passing on. Times change and technology is enhanced. The hunter’s world becomes easier in a sense, and I reckon that’s ok. But let’s be sure to respect the land and the game we hunt. Remember where we came from. Maybe we can all learn a thing or two from an old gas station buck.

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