Six Degrees Of Truck-Buck

Editorial-Opinion September 2022

Daryl Kirby | August 29, 2022

Wendell Duncan and Larry Nickelson with the racks of their 1994 Flint River WMA bucks. They are standing in front of the GON booth at the February 1995 Perry Fisharama. Larry won the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out that year, and Wendell just won this year’s event.

Deer season is here. For GON, that means another year of the Truck-Buck contest. We love Truck-Buck entries because we get to see so many great Georgia bucks and so many familiar faces. Week 17 last season was extra special. As the entries rolled in, there were some familiar names. 

There was Ritchie Sharian, who I spent a great morning with about 10 years ago photographing him with his buck that he had taken to Ricky Smith at Newborn Taxidermy. Ricky was good about calling GON when he got a good buck, and lots of our dead deer covers were the result.  

And then there was a Turner County buck entered in Week 17 by Johnny Wise. Johnny was 77 years old on New Year’s Day last season when he shot his 10-pointer. On the Truck-Buck entry form there’s a spot for the hunt story. Johnny’s story ended with, “I told my God I would like to take one more good buck before I retired and He provided. Thank You Lord!”

Now let me tell you a little more about Johnny Wise. In 1995, Johnny killed a remarkable buck, a Turner County 10-pointer that netted 162 1/8. It was the second-highest scoring buck entered in the contest that season. Unfortunately for Johnny, it was killed in Week 10—the week when the highest-scoring buck of the entire season was killed. So no Shoot-Out for Johnny. That didn’t sit right with GON. Because of Johnny and his 162-inch second-place buck, we created the Runner-Up Wildcard, a Shoot-Out spot for the highest-scoring buck that doesn’t win a week. And why not have wildcards for a kid and female. And heck, let’s throw in a public-land wildcard. 

Would you believe that four years after killing that giant second-place buck, Johnny let some friends talk him into hunting Cedar Creek WMA for the first time ever. He killed a 10-pointer. It placed ninth in his week. But Johnny won the Public-Land Wildcard. 

You can’t make this stuff up. 

And  of course there was the Week 17 buck entered by Wendell Duncan. Maybe you already saw the story on page 30 about Wendell winning a new truck in the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out. 

Let me tell you a little more about Wendell—and his hunting buddies.  

In September of 1994, I was in Dooly County at the brand new Flint River WMA on opening morning of bow season. I can’t remember how many deer were killed that morning, but I very clearly remember two bucks. The first was brought in by Wendell Duncan, a super 8-pointer that scored 116 6/8 and still ranks as the WMA’s No. 5 bow-buck. The No. 1 buck rolled into the check station a little later. I was standing there with the big-buck guru himself, Bill Cooper. Bill was a DNR biologist at the time. He’s retired now, but he’s still the go-to when it comes to giant bucks and official scoring. Larry Nickelson’s buck scored 177 2/8 non-typical, and it won Week 1 of Truck-Buck that season. Larry then won the Shoot-Out. And a new truck.

Wendell and Larry were hunting together that morning, along with Wendell’s brother Richard Duncan and their good friend Jay Reed. While photographing the bucks, I got to know these guys. It’s always fun to run into them, usually at a hunting show or a Truck-Buck scoring event. They were all in Emerson at the Outdoor Blast watching Wendell win his truck. 

Truck-Buck is full of stories. Each hunter and buck is a mini chapter in the big book of Georgia outdoors. Each is told through this minor miracle called GON. Miracle is a strong word. But I was here when GON almost folded in the early ’90s. We’ve weathered all the storms—bad economies, wars, the internet’s effect on magazines. 

When you kill a buck this season, enter it. Tell your story.

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