The Hunt For Zeus: Talbot County 19-Pointer
By Shawn Lumsden
Georgia’s 2019 deer season was finally upon us in Talbot County, a day that half the state’s population would rank just as significant as Thanksgiving or even Christmas.
As my family prepares for deer season, we tell stories at the dinner table and thumb through photo albums of seasons past. Looking forward to opening weekend is half the fun.
After the opening morning bowhunt, we always perform our weekly audit of trail cameras. The first stop is at our duck pond bottom, a 5-acre collection of fields with a veining network of ditches nestled perfectly at the intersection of four hardwood drains. Dozens of persimmon trees and a small grove of sawtooth oaks line these ditches, attracting mature bucks that are relatively easy to pattern this time of year.
The camera facing the sawtooth oak grove revealed several respectable 3- and 4-year-olds—definite shooters with a bow, psyching us up even more.
We recently have been getting pictures of hogs after zero sightings in more than 20 years, so half the pictures are of three new sounders in the area, dampening our spirits some. Then came the photo we had all been hoping for: a 160-class, main-frame 12-pointer in broad daylight! Throughout the next couple of weeks, we accumulated hundreds of photos of this buck, many taken in the daylight.
On the Sunday after this discovery, my wife Chelsea hunted the ladder stand overlooking the sawtooth oaks in hopes of catching a glimpse of this guy out in broad daylight. Chelsea harvested her first doe back in 2017, and she has been itching to get an opportunity at a mature buck ever since.
As the evening progressed, Chelsea had an up-close encounter with him at dusk. At 20 yards, she was able to draw her bow back, but he never offered a broadside shot. She was forced to pass.
As we picked her up after dark in our Polaris Ranger, she ecstatically stated, “I just saw the biggest buck of my life! He has at least 12 points! We have to name him Zeus!”
Several weeks passed by with no more encounters or photos of this giant whitetail. As far as we were concerned, he had moved on. However, on opening weekend of Georgia’s rifle season, he finally appeared again in front of my mom, but it was too late in the evening, yet again not offering an ethical shot.
After this second daylight encounter, I knew we had an above-average chance of harvesting Zeus, so I began to formulate a serious game plan with my whole family. We all decided that when we went hunting, we each needed to hunt either the duck pond bottom or the four hardwood draws surrounding the area. However, more so than anything, we couldn’t afford to run this deer out of the country; scent control and attention to wind would be of utmost importance.
The afternoon of Oct. 27 turned out to be an unusually hot one with temps in the high 70s. I typically dedicate my Sunday afternoons to rehearsing with my band Sound Culture up in Atlanta. As fate would have it, my brother, our lead guitarist, let us know that he had a scheduling conflict that day and was unable to make it to rehearsal, making my decision to stay in the woods very easy.
Even though it was unseasonably warm and the chances of deer movement were slim, I had to seize my opportunity because the wind was perfect, coming out of the northwest.
I snuck into a ladder stand adjacent to a food plot we call Indian Trail due to the battered remains of an old trail used by Native Americans hundreds of years ago. As I got settled in, a respectable 8-pointer immediately showed up, grunting and chasing a doe back into the hardwood bottom. I sat there watching the leaves begin to fall all around.
The sun was beginning to set as the golden hour quickly approached. Several does began filtering into the food plot, sticking to the shade as best they could.
Around 5:55 p.m., I looked up and saw white antlers glistening through the trees, tines illuminated by the sun. Wondering if it was the same 8-point that chased a doe into those hardwoods, I positioned my binoculars to take a closer look. As the image came into focus, I absolutely couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was Zeus!
I immediately recognized the unmistakable 8-inch unicorn tine sticking straight out from his left base. And then he disappeared as quickly as he appeared. I positioned my Browning 6.5 Creedmoor and waited. I tried to stay calm, cool and collected telling myself there was plenty of daylight left, and it would only be a matter of time before he came out into the open.
Five minutes passed by and a doe emerged from the river cane directly across from my stand, in the direction Zeus was heading. Meanwhile, another two does were in the food plot grazing on our standard mixture of winter wheat, Austrian winter peas and clover. Just as my hopes were beginning to fade, I spotted movement through the dog fennel in a small draw directly west of the hardwood bottom. Sure enough, here came Zeus walking out into the open, head held high in all his glory, checking the wind. As the doe continued forward, Zeus puts his nose to the ground, letting out a couple of small grunts.
Instead of chasing her, he majestically walked straight toward me. As he approached a water oak in the middle of the food plot, he started rubbing the top of his head on the limbs and pawed viciously at the ground, freshening up a scrape. At that point, he was 28 yards broadside. As he stuck his antlers up into the branches, I clicked my safety off, took a deep breath, settled the crosshairs on his vitals and slowly squeezed the trigger.
As the rifle roared, he stumbled up a trail into the thick river cane. Seconds later I heard a crash, and then the woods went silent. I continued straining my ears, praying I didn’t hear him get up.
My emotions were at a peak as I thanked God for allowing me the chance to harvest such a magnificent animal. I let 30 long minutes go by.
As I took up his blood trail, I found him lying dead in the cane thicket right where I heard him crash. I immediately called my wife, telling her the exciting news.
Zeus was officially down, and he was bigger than I had ever dreamed. As the sun set, I admired the character of his antlers with their light brown hue, counting 19 points. His neck had begun to bulge, signaling the rut was near. Weighing in at more than 200 pounds and grossing 166 3/8 inches, he truly is a buck of a lifetime.
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