Hard-Hunting Teen Kills Great Public-Land Mountain Buck 

Reader Contributed | March 3, 2023

Dylan Hollifield, 16, of Dahlonega, with a Lumpkin County 9-pointer that he took with a smokepole on the Chattahoochee National Forest on Oct. 16. Dylan’s buck was entered in Week 6 of the Truck-Buck contest, and it scored 128 5/8.

By Dylan Hollifield

My dad had sent me into this spot on the Chattahoochee National Forest during the rut two years ago. I saw a good mature buck that evening, but he took a different trail than I thought he would, so I could never get a good ethical shot on him. 

Fast forward two years later. I walk up into the same spot the weekend before squirrel season opened up to scout. As I was walking to the flat where I had seen the buck a few years before, right before I got into the flat, I noticed about four trails that were wore slick around the steep side of the mountain. Along with the trails there were plenty of acorns that had been blown from the trees because of the rain that moved through. So from that mixture of bear and deer sign I had found, I knew I wanted to come and jack up over the trails and sign and give it a few sits.

The second weekend of bow season rolls around and I go and sit where I had scouted, and I see a doe that morning and had a buck come to the edge of the thicket above me and blew when he was running off. I could tell he had some kind of a rack. 

That same evening I saw two bears, but neither came within range of a bow shot. I decided that for the rest of bow season I was going back up there and setting up. 

The weekend of Oct. 1-2 I had two mature bucks come in behind me right at last light, and the bigger one locked up with the slightly smaller one and pushed him a good ways down the mountain. This encounter had me super excited for my next sit in this spot! 

Fast forward to muzzleloader season. I sat in this spot again Saturday evening and didn’t see anything but had heard some coyotes holler across the valley. 

Sunday morning rolls around. I walk in around 30 minutes before daylight and hang my stand again, get everything situated, and here comes the beautiful sunrise. The wind was blowing pretty good that morning, so the breeze had it pretty chilly. 

Around 8 that morning, I got to hearing something pretty heavy walking down the finger ridge coming down toward me. It’s a pretty steady walk, then I see a deer walking around the trail right to me. He gets around 55 yards and is feeding with his head down, so I slowly start to bring the muzzleloader my brother let me borrow up and got it propped up on the tree. He closes in maybe 10 more yards, so I put it on his chest, got steady and when he stopped walking, I slowly squeezed it off. 


Smoke cloud, and all I could see was him running toward me. Then he turns sharp and runs straight down the mountain slightly the way I walk in on. The wind picked up, but I thought I heard him crash down below me. 

I climbed down and took my time easing down toward where I thought I heard him crash. I squatted down close to where I thought I found where he may have kicked up a little, but as I was texting my dad and brother, they told me to be easy since I wasn’t for certain on hearing him crash. I told myself I was going to make one last look around and ease back to the truck to wait on my brother and get him to help me look for him. 

As I stood up and looked around that one last time, I see something on the hill below me that looked like a deer’s side, so I eased down to him, watched his side for a minute and poked him. That’s when it hit me on how good of a buck he was for a public-land mountain deer.

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