1946 Buck Scored For Georgia Deer Records

Have grandpa’s old mount hanging in the house? GON can connect you with an official scorer so it’s forever a part of Georgia’s hunting history.

Brad Gill | November 30, 2022

William H. Gudger and his Gilmer County buck from 1946 that was killed on Burnt Mountain. The buck was finally officially scored in 2022 and now sits at No. 33 of all time for the north Georgia county.

“The furthest thing from William H. Gudger’s mind on that winter day in 1946 was that his fresh kill would one day be classified in any kind of publication.” 

The above words were penned by Ron Gudger, of Dunwoody, not too many months ago. I met Ron through an email in November 2020. He’s a GON reader and said he really likes the Days GON By department where we turn back the clock to see what was going on in Georgia’s outdoor history 10, 20 and 30 years ago. 

“Not sure what the chronicles of outdoor adventure may have been just after WWII so I would like to proudly share a 1946 photo of my grandfather, William H. Gudger, with a north Georgia 8-point taken 75 years ago. Granddaddy was 78 years young at the time,” said Ron.

Publishing a photo nearly 80 years old of a man with a Georgia buck isn’t something I had to pray over. However, I asked Ron if he’d be interested in getting an official score on the buck so that we could take things a step further and get his grandfather—and his Gilmer County buck—some well deserved and lasting credit. 

“Before regulations and game laws I think the deer population was almost nonexistent back then, so I think this accomplishment was rare indeed,” said Ron. “I listened repeatedly to his account of that hunt on Burnt Mountain likely as a 10-year old some 15 years after the event. In spite of a family plenteous with hunters and many heirs, I myself now have possession of the actual rack, as well as the Winchester seen in the photo.”

Here’s the Winchester 1892 .38-40 rifle used to take the 8-point buck in 1946.

It took a little time for Ron to line up his schedule, but he finally made the drive to see John Bowers, WRD’s Special Projects Manager in the Director’s Office. John is an official B&C scorer and pulled the tape. He came up with a gross score of 134 inches with a net of 125 7/8. Today, it’s No. 33 in Gilmer County. 

“I’m reasonably certain that it is the oldest rack I have ever scored,” said John. “Score-wise, it would’ve landed about 130 if the right G-3 had not been broken off while in velvet. It really would be great to have more deer taken from the earlier decades of the 1900s scored.”

John did a little digging into Georgia’s hunting history to see what deer season looked like around the time when William pulled the trigger. 

“Most Georgia counties (54%) were closed to deer hunting (closed in 86; open in 73). Of the 73 counties with a deer season, most were in south Georgia, “said John. “South Georgia counties with an open deer season were south of line including Stewart west to Bleckley, south to Jeff Davis, Toombs to Jenkins and Screven. And, only a handful of Georgia mountain counties—Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Habersham, Murray, Pickens, Rabun, Towns, Union and White. The season in the mountain counties was Nov. 10-25, buck-only, bag limit of one. Shotguns with slugs or buckshot and centerfire rifles .25 caliber or larger.”

In classic GON style, we often dig deeper than just the buck that was taken. We enjoy showcasing the hunter behind the buck. So, who was William H. Gudger?

Ron also has his grandfather’s service revolver and handcuffs when he was a federal marshal around the turn of the century.

“My grandfather was born in 1868, and as 82 years his junior, I was fortunate enough to grow up just a couple of miles from his farm in west Gilmer County where I spent another 16 years intermittently under his influence and inspiration,” said Ron. “Bill, as he went by, was a rather diverse person—marrying late in life, he raised 10 children, served as a federal marshal, aka revenuer officer, around the turn of the century, rubbed shoulders with politicians, ran a water-powered gristmill/sawmill and raised corn and cattle. During all this time, however, his affection was for the outdoors. The deer herd was not that prevalent back then, but his passion was turkey hunting. Running fox dogs was also a favored sport of the day. To ‘get away,’ he maintained a cabin on Holly Creek a few miles away in the edge of the Cohuttas.

“Tall tales were a thing of the day 60 years ago, but among them I don’t remember a lot of details about the hunt for the 8-point in the photo. I do know it was a family affair in eastern Gilmer County at his age of 78. He described the incident as watching the buck sneaking ahead of dogs as he was peeling a chestnut. According to him, he calmly folded his knife, put it away and connected with a shot. 

“For all of my young life that rack hung above his chair in the kitchen as a subtle benchmark for us younger hunters. Upon his passing in 1966, I was able to take possession of the trophy, and in spite of being surrounded by many heirs, I was the lucky one he had chosen to inherit the 92 Winchester. A few years later, I managed to hook up with his S&W service revolver and his handcuffs; all of which are prized items in my own collection.

“Survived now in a line of four generations of hunters, and various adventure junkies, I am personally grateful for the deep-rooted heritage that many people across this land have the inspiration and freedom to enjoy. May we all cherish our history and do our part to preserve it and pass on for many generations to come.”

William H. Gudger poses with sister and a pump 12 gauge around 1897.

Editor’s Note: There you have it. Another gold nugget of Georgia’s hunting history captured because a grandson in Dunwoody decided to drop  GON an email at [email protected]. Are you holding onto a part of Georgia’s rich outdoor history that others would enjoy reading about? Let’s showcase those old bucks, and our forefathers—the very ones who laid down that hunting tradition that’s now embedded in our souls—while giving them their rightly spot in GON’s county rankings.   

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