145-Inch Meriwether Muzzleloader Buck For Phillip Harper

Roy Kellett | July 1, 2005

On Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004, Phillip Harper was having the best hunt of his life. In a few hours in the stand, Phillip got to see bucks chasing does, bucks making scrapes, and fighting activity.

As he sat watching the deer in front of him, Phillip had no idea that his hunt was about to get even better.

By the time Phillip went to bed that night, he had killed his largest buck ever, a deer that would gross better than 153 inches, and the muzzleloader week in the GON Truck-Buck Contest.

Normally, Phillip wouldn’t be hunting on a Thursday. But because his son had minor out-patient surgery that morning, Phillip was at home.

“I’m a weekend warrior,” Phillip said. “I work five days, hunt on Saturday, and go to church on Sunday. There was a front coming in, so I told my wife I was going to hunt for a little while,” Phillip said.

Phillip Harper’s smokepole worked flawlessly when he most needed it to, to down this long-tined Meriwether County buck the muzzleloading rifle.

Phillip went to a food plot on a private, 200-acre tract he hunts. The food plot, which is about an acre, was planted in wheat, clover, and rye. Phillip hung his stand at the end of the field and climbed into the tree. He had barely sat down in his stand when three spike bucks came running into the food plot.

“I just had got my muzzleloader up there and I hadn’t even put on my gloves or a headnet,” Phillip said.

The wind was in Phillip’s favor, blowing in his face, and the young deer didn’t know he was around. Before long, a buck with long spikes entered the field and began bullying the little deer. The big spike and one of the small spikes started fighting before the bigger deer won and the three little deer made their exit.

Soon, two does came into the food plot. The bully spike wasted no time in running them ragged, grunting as he gave chase. The does soon eased out of the field, and left the spike to work a scrape on the edge of the field before he disappeared. After that, the does came back into the field.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Phillip said, excited even months later. “For three hours, I sat stone-statue still, because there were deer all over me. I was afraid to blink.”

Phillip remembered thinking that the hunt was the best one he ever had. It was about to get better.

Right before dark, a drizzling rain began to fall, causing the darkening sky to seem even darker. Phillip sat in the rain, waiting, when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye.

“I looked up, and the biggest buck I had ever seen was walking right toward me,” Phillip said. “Then I started thinking about my muzzleloader.”

See, Phillip had actually hunted for a few minutes behind his house the day before. He was looking to take a doe with his .50-caliber muzzleloader, but the gun misfired. The cap worked, but the charge never went off.

“I took the gun home, unloaded it, broke it down, and completely cleaned it,” Phillip said. “But I was sitting there in the drizzle, trying to cover the breach of the gun with my shirt, because I knew if it got wet, it wouldn’t shoot.”

There was no time to worry about the muzzleloader that evening, because the buck of a lifetime was now standing 40 yards away.

A small pine twig in front of Phillip covered part of his sight picture every time he tried to aim at the buck, so Phillip decided he would shoot through the twig if he had to.

“I needed him to make a couple more steps so I could get a shot,” Phillip said. “It felt like a half hour before he finally moved a little, and there he was, broadside, slightly quartering away… the perfect shot.”

Phillip squeezed the trigger and watched as the buck kicked, hunkered down, and ran out of the field.

“I was so excited I just about flew out of the tree,” Phillip laughed.

When he got to where the buck had been, Phillip couldn’t find any blood. He couldn’t find any tracks. He couldn’t find anything. He knew he had made a good shot, and Phillip was confident he heard the buck crash in the woods.

“I knew I needed to get calmed down, so I took my stand off the tree and walked back to my truck, which was about a quarter-mile away,” Phillip said.

Phillip sat at his truck for a few minutes, and as the sky turned dark, what had been a mist was now becoming rain. Phillip knew he needed to get back to the woods to find his buck.

“I got a Q-beam and went back to the food plot,” Phillip said. “I hadn’t found any blood, but I knew the direction the deer went and I was sure I heard him go down.”

Phillip, who had not hunted the property very much, was unfamiliar with the woods behind the food plot. He walked into the thick, planted pines, unsure of what he would find. After a short walk, Phillip came to a deep ditch.

“It was probably 10-feet deep, and it was like God whispered,  Phillip laughed. “I bet I stayed there with the buck, the briars, and the blood for 10 minutes.”

Now, however, Phillip had a problem. How do you get a 225-lb. deer out of a 10-foot deep ditch by yourself? Phillip had to walk back to his truck, drive three miles to town so he could get reception on his cellphone, and call a friend to give him a hand.

“He said,  Phillip said. “When he got there with his 4-wheeler and saw the buck, he started calling everybody to tell them about it.”

Phillip has a couple of bucks hanging on the living room wall. But nothing that compares to his Truck-Buck week winner.

“I’ve got the first buck I killed with a bow, and he might have 75 inches of antler, and another buck that might go 90 inches,” Phillip said. “This buck is the one that is in the center and just a little higher on the wall than the others.”

Phillip’s impressive Meriwether County buck had a 16 1/2-inch spread, and main beams that went 23 2/8 and 22 6/8 inches. The buck’s G2s were 13 2/8 inches and 14 inches, and its G3s were 10 1/2 inches and 11 inches.

“It was the hunt of a lifetime,” Phillip said.


2004-05 Truck-Contest Weekly Winner Hunt Stories
Week 1: Gary King’s Worth County Record-Class Bow Buck
Week 1: Marshall Compton’s Rockdale County Non-typical Earns Shoot-Out Spot
Week 2: Taylor McCann’s DeKalb County Bow-Buck Nets 174 7/8 Inches!
Week 3: Forgotten Lock Key Leads To New Hunting Spot And Coweta Winner For John Lewis
Week 4: DeKalb County Pope & Young Puts Brian Mitchell In Shoot-Out
Ladies Wildcard: 15-year-old Samantha Linhart’s 150-Inch Worth County Buck

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