GON Blogger Takes Super Georgia 8-Point Buck
"Out There Outdoors" With Clae Mathis
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
If you have ever spent a lot of time hunting whitetail deer in Georgia, then you have definitely faced trials. If you have spent time chasing one particular mature Georgia buck, you have faced more trials. Trials come in many different forms. The trials that I experienced while chasing this incredible Georgia 8-point buck are way too many to count. Each hunt for him seemed to produce some new problem or something new going wrong. It is hard to explain, but every single hunt something was off. It seemed like it would never actually happen for me… Until it did.
In January 2020, I was coming off one of my best hunting season at the time. I had killed my top two bucks on my list that year. I had decided that after all the years of filming my hunts just for me that I would now begin to make YouTube videos. I was excited about this, but I knew how hard it would be. I was on Facebook one day when I saw that a buddy of mine, Gabe, had posted something about some land for sale in my county. He had a drone shot of the land, and I recognized it as a place I used to lease. I quickly asked him about it, and I was sold after one conversation. We worked out all of the details and closed in May of that year. The world had basically shut down for COVID at that time, and we began getting ready to hunt this new property the following year. This particular piece of property is only around 19 acres, but I have always said it was the right 19 acres. That season came and went. The following season my wife, Taylor, took her biggest buck yet out of the food plot that is carved out in the middle of the woods on that property. It wasn’t until after she shot him in December 2021 that I got pictures of this wide 8-pointer. He was an incredible looking buck, and he looked a lot like the buck that my wife had just shot named “Ghost.” And so this buck was going to be named “Ghost Junior.” I wound up just shortening his name to “Junior,” and the legend was born.
In the summer of 2022, I set up a new spot in the hardwoods that lead down to a swamp on the backside of this property. I have always used spin feeders because I worked about an hour away, coaching baseball and football, so these feeders helped me keep the deer fed even though I couldn’t get in to feed them all the time. I set up that feeder near the swamp and left it alone. It took a few days, but Junior showed up in the swamp.
I couldn’t believe how much he had grown from the year before. He had already grown bigger than the buck he had gotten his original name from. He was there every single night. He was probably bigger than my No. 1 buck that year, but I had to go after that buck first. “Hook” was a buck on my family’s property where I have killed most of my bucks, and his story was a multi-year incredible story in itself. Anyway, I was able to take Hook with a bow, and then focus all my energy on Junior.
I began to hunt Junior, and with each hunt he became the most mysterious and hard to figure out buck I have ever hunted. He would always show up right after I left. He would spend hours at my spot eating but would never come in while I was hunting. The year continued on, and I never once even got a daylight picture of him. Then, the craziness started. One morning while I was in Forsyth where I worked at the time, we were throwing bullpens at 6 a.m. for the upcoming baseball season. One of my buddies, Zac, who was one of my assistant coaches, lived in Taylor County where I live. We got to talking hunting, as I always do, and he was like, “Man I got this awesome 8-point on camera this week, I’ll send you a picture when we leave today.” He sent me the picture, and it was Junior. I couldn’t believe how crazy this was. We figured out where each other hunted and realized we were about a mile and a half away. Junior wound up showing up less and less for me; and then in November, I didn’t get pictures of him for almost three weeks. I figured someone had shot him. Nobody ever did, and we got to the end of deer season with him back regularly feeding on my property. He had survived deer season.
On July 1 of this year, it was time to get food and cameras back out and rolling. The first picture I got of Junior was on July 13 this year, and I couldn’t believe how much he had grown. He had jumped a ton in both years since I had first seen him in 2021. He was wider, taller and much heavier, as well. I knew that I was going to do everything in my power to get him this year. He was on camera almost every night while in velvet. He always liked to bump the spinner on the feeder and then eat off the ground. One night, he was obviously doing this, and his rack was so wide it got caught up underneath. He wound up throwing the box and motor off the feeder and running off scared that night. His rack had just gotten too big for him to keep eating that way. This was the third calendar year that I had pictures of him, but I had never seen him in person or even had a single daylight picture.
Opening day of bow season arrived, and I was fired up to chase Junior. There was also another good buck that came to the same spot as him. This buck’s name was “Buster,” and he actually showed up in daylight sometimes. He showed up opening evening of bow season, and I shot right over his back. Not a great start to the season, for sure. I hunted Junior hard all through September and October. I hunted him with a bow, a muzzleloader and now a rifle. I just couldn’t catch up to him in daylight. I moved some stands around hoping to get him to come in closer to daylight, but it never happened. I still didn’t even have a color picture of him, only black and white nighttime shots.
On the evening of Oct. 26, I decided to switch it up and go to a lease I have. This lease has a couple of really good bucks on it, as well. I had hunted those bucks almost as much as I had hunted Junior. Anyway, that night I had my buddy Connor running the camera for me. We didn’t see a single deer, but it wasn’t until I got home that I checked my Moultrie Mobile app and saw that Junior had come in at last light. I would’ve been able to shoot him. I was crushed. This whole season has had stuff go wrong over and over already, and now I have missed what could be my only chance at Junior. I went back to hunting Junior every chance I get, and still don’t see him ever in daylight. Again, just like last year, it seems like it’s not going to happen for me. In addition to this, Zac begins to send me pictures of Junior on their place again. Junior wasn’t on camera as much, and now he’s on another property. Every shot I heard while hunting Junior made my heart drop. One day, one of my baseball players here in Taylor County showed me a buck that he had on camera. I knew his property wasn’t far from mine. When I saw that the picture was Junior, I almost threw up. I know that anyone hunting legally around me has just as much right to Junior that I do, but it still wouldn’t soften the blow if someone else killed him. My doubt that I was ever going to get a chance at him was rampant. Every other day when I got off work from September to present, I would go out and pour out a bag of 4S Roasted Raxx. This seemed to keep Junior coming more than just corn had done the year before. He was always at my feeder eating, just never in the daylight.
I had gotten to the point where I was willing to take a different buck that I could kill much easier. At our main property there was a nice 9-point. He is technically a shooter, but I would love to let him get to next year. Anyway, on the morning of Nov. 11, I went to my lease. While I was hunting there, this 9-point was on camera at my other property. I thought it might make a really cool video if I could leave the deer stand I was in and go stalk that 9-point. By the time I got there, thankfully he was gone. I had decided that I would go back that evening to shoot him with my bow. When I let my wife Taylor know my plans, she told me that I was crazy. She said with all of the cold weather we had that day that I should definitely go give Junior a try. So that’s what I did.
I got to the stand just before 4 o clock. It was the perfect day for hunting in Georgia. It had rained during the morning and the night before. After it stopped raining, the cold weather stayed. I settled in with no idea of what was coming. It was now 5:30, and I still had not seen a deer. I was beginning to think this is the same kind of night I had gotten used to the last two years chasing Junior. At 5:40 a yearling appeared, and then the same small buck I had seen on almost every hunt had come in to eat. When he walked off around 5:50, I was hopeful that maybe a buck was coming. At 5:52, I saw a big buck come trotting out. He wound up getting right behind the yearling with his head down eating, so I wasn’t sure who it was. To be honest, my first thought was that its Buster, the buck I missed opening day of bow season. After about 20 seconds the buck’s head got out from behind the yearling, and I almost yelled out “That’s Junior!” I got my scope on him settled it behind the shoulder with him quartering to me slightly, and I shot. Junior reacted like he had been hit, so initially I felt good about the shot. It didn’t take long for the post-shot doubt to creep in. This was my first shot at an animal with my brand new rifle I had just got the week before, so all of those possibilities ran wild in my head as well. I zoomed in a lot with my camera, so I couldn’t see too much of his reaction from the shot. I remember looking up out of my scope and seeing him jump like he’d been hit, but I still had so many doubts. I got down and went to look to see if there was any blood at all around the shot site. I pretty much knew there wouldn’t be much, if any, since he was quartered to me pretty good. I didn’t find anything, so I went back to the truck to try to watch the shot. My computer went dead before I could watch it, so my mind continued to swirl with doubt. I called my wife Taylor, and they loaded up to come help me look for him. It was Taylor, my two sons Charlie and Cal, my friend Caleb and his wife Brette and our friend Connor. We had the whole crew. We didn’t find any blood, so Caleb, Connor and I were just going to walk in the woods a little ways to see if we could see him. At this point, I don’t even know for sure that I hit him. I’m pretty sure, but there hasn’t been any evidence yet. Anyway, Connor and I went off in a direction that looked like it’d be the right way. We were wrong. At some point Caleb veered away from us and he called out to me a few seconds later that he had found Junior. He hadn’t gone 40 yards. I ran to him as fast as I could with Connor in tow, and the celebration began. We sat around talking about the chase and how incredible this Georgia whitetail was. We loaded him into the back of my Ford Excursion, and he rode around with us to several places of people that wanted to lay eyes on him. My neighbor Zac and his daddy came to look at him and said they couldn’t believe how much bigger he was than the trail-camera pictures showed. I definitely agree with them.
The verses I started with in James tell us to consider our trials as joy. This has always been one of my favorite passages in the Bible, but it’s an extremely hard concept to master. It is really difficult to sit and be joyful when you’re going through a trial. Although this trial of chasing Junior was extremely important to me, it’s pretty trivial when compared to some trials that people face every day. We all are guaranteed to have trials. I heard once that you’re either in a trial, coming out of one, or about to be in one. I totally agree. Trials are guaranteed, but we can not only overcome these trials one way or another, we come out stronger on the other side. This chase for Junior took a whole lot of patience; but because I persevered, I was able to receive my reward. Life is just like this. We face trials, we persevere, and we receive the reward. The reward may not always look like we think it will; but when we get on the other side of these trials, we are always stronger. I’m so thankful for every minute of this chase for Junior. He is the biggest buck I’ve ever taken, and I learned so much chasing him. The chase was tough at times, and I lost a lot of sleep, but I cannot describe the joy that has come from finishing the chase. I hope every one of you has a chance to persevere through a trial you never thought you would, and I pray that on the other side of it you experience growth and strength that you never thought possible. Love Jesus, love others and go hunting. God bless.
Clae Mathis is a blogger for GON.com. Clae is a full-time teacher and high school baseball coach with an absolute obsession with whitetail deer hunting. His outings often include his wife Taylor and two sons, Charlie and Cal. Clae loves the Lord and his family first, but deer hunting falls in right after those. Clae’s YouTube Channel is mostly devoted to deer hunting in Taylor County, but it also contains other types of hunting. Every single hunt he and his family go on is well documented on the channel, Out There Outdoors.
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