Hunter’s Journal: Cohutta WMA Buck Will Never Be Topped

Reader Contributed | August 1, 2023

Jason Osgatharp with a Cohutta WMA buck from December 2021.

By Jason Osgatharp

A few decades ago, when I was a young man, I set out on a journey into the north Georgia mountains in search of a true monarch buck. Those big boys are out there, but they are certainly not behind every oak tree. Frustrating hikes pile up as do the miles and miles into those beautiful, rugged hills. The adventure is more about the journey than the destination, though.

Growing up in the mountains of Fannin County, I know how brutal those long, cold mountain sits can be, but I also know that there are some giant mountain bucks out there. I grew up idolizing men who had never heard of the internet or social media, but they had plenty of giant antlers hanging on sheds and inside of their man caves with no one bragging on them for their accomplishments. They knew deep down that they had done something special; they had caught up with a wily old mountain buck. It was always so exciting to hear those stories when they were told.  I just knew that I wanted to be a part of it.

I really wanted my best bucks and my best memories to come from my hometown, my home mountains, my home. Most people told me it couldn’t be done, that it is almost impossible to kill a monster buck in Cohutta WMA. Then, if you are blessed enough to get one, you can’t get them out of the mountains. “It’s just too hard,” they said. I knew that it would be rough, but I had concluded that a rough journey was just fine with me.

So, I began scouting locations that were remote, and I began to find big buck sign, even some huge buck sign. I knew one thing, if you find heavy buck sign in the mountains, sit down, because he is usually just about close enough to reach out and touch. So once I found the sign I was looking for, I knew I had found my buck, and I set out to get him. And I did, only I got three big bucks in three seasons. The first buck in 2019 was a 4 1/2-year-old 11-pointer that grossed 150-plus inches and netted 144 (No. 4 on GON’s Triple-Digit WMA Bucks list). The second buck was a 2 1/2-year-old 9-pointer scoring 105 inches, and the third was taken in 2021 and was a 6 1/2-year-old 8-point monarch scoring 131-plus gross and netting 126 inches (No. 21). All three had interesting stories, but the third buck was truly remarkable due to his age, his refusal to give up and the length of time it took to get him into the back of the truck (almost one year after finding him on a scouting mission).

I found his lair—his trail into his bedding area, his gigantic bed and his matching trail out—while scouting almost a year earlier. I knew a buck of this caliber would realize quickly that an intruder was close by, and even one mistake could cost me my only chance at this deer, so I literally ran out of there as soon as I saw the bed. I marked down the exact location, quickly found a sitting tree and tucked this information into a special compartment in my obsessive deer hunter’s mind. I knew in my heart that if I gave it one really good effort in December that it would probably be my only chance of getting this deer on the wall.

Fast forward almost one year and one fateful morning, and I got there an hour early. I was so pumped up, just something special about that day. It was one of those mornings where I was not tired but just ready to pull a giant out of the mountains.

I sat and sat and I sat and sat, until I had to get up and stretch and eat some crackers. I looked at my watch—10:30 a.m. Goodness, it was a long, warm morning, not much of anything going on. Then, all of a sudden, I distinctly remember as I was cramming the plastic wrapper back into my backpack hearing the fast paced/loud crunching of a heavy deer behind me. When I turned around, I could not believe my eyes. Moving with purpose was the buck of my boyhood dreams. He was heading right toward the bed that I had found a year ago! My mind raced but was still sort of bogged down in what was happening. You learn through many of these types of hunts that, very thankfully, a more automatic part of your brain takes over in these situations. My muscles were already doing what they had been trained to do, and in a flash I had already turned around 180 degrees and was aiming straight up the cliff. Crack, POWWWWW!

My trigger finger had made the decision that other parts of my body were struggling with. He was on the ground before I even knew what had happened. I then realized how heavy I was breathing, my hands were limp and shaking violently. I slowly but purposefully began climbing straight up the mountain toward him, not taking my eyes off of him. Something was not quite right. I got down very low to the ground and almost belly crawled so he could not tell where I was coming from. He was behind a large oak tree, still moving, still trying to get up. I got within about 10 yards and he got up and took off running! He was so huge that he looked like an elk getting up with those crazy long legs and towering rack. I was prepared though—another shell was ready. I put another Federal .270 round into his chest, and he tumbled down the mountain, but he still refused to go down for good. He got up again and took off wildly across the steep mountain! Unbelievable! This deer was made of iron. I put the crosshairs on his chest one more time and let him have it. This time he went down for good.

I cautiously crawled over toward him and sat down close to him. He watched with wild eyes, daring me to take another step, staring me down with steam pouring out of his mouth and nose. I watched him breath his last.

I counted the bullet holes in him, all three piled closely together around his neck and chest. He was one tough boss buck. I was amazed at how strong he was to take all of that. I clung to every detail in my mind about what had happened. He was so beautiful. I was inspired and could not stop taking pictures of him.  He was absolutely gorgeous, a Georgia mountain buck of a lifetime, 6 1/2 years old, eight, dagger-like points, over 130 inches of thick, dark antler, the buck of my dreams. I had literally dreamed of this moment my entire life. Somewhere in my soul I knew this might be the only time this would ever happen. I repeatedly gave thanks to our God, and I tried my best to soak in every moment, every memory.

I took my time getting him across the mountains to my truck and then very slowly drove to the check-in station. I enjoyed every painful moment, and I knew something very unique and special had happened that morning. I never did stop shaking that whole day, and my back is still sore, but it was worth it. He will never be topped. That was my favorite hunt among a lifetime of hunting stories. Thank you to our God for such a beautiful creature and those memories of a lifetime.

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