Almost 51 years after it was killed near the Ocmulgee River in Jones County, a 17-point non-typical is measured and makes the Boone & Crockett record book.
On an early September morning in 1962, Earl Williams and Billy Waits slipped Williams’ 12-foot aluminum boat into the Ocmulgee River at Macon and headed upriver to do some squirrel hunting. As the men neared Georgia Power’s Plant Arkwright, located along the western edge of the river, Earl turned the boat sharply to the right and cut the motor, allowing the boat to glide up on the river bank.
After securing the boat, the men gathered their gear and prepared to head into the woods. However, after taking a few steps, Earl abruptly stopped and began staring at the ground; directly in front of him were several large deer tracks. After showing Billy the fresh prints in the mud, the two men spent much of the morning scouting the area; finding a number of additional tracks along the river and within the nearby woods.
“Today, no one would bother to look twice at a few deer tracks along the river bank,” Earl said. “But at that time, it was a really big discovery for us. Squirrel hunting was temporarily put off until another day.”
Although Earl had grown up fishing and hunting small game around the Macon area, deer hunting was never an option simply because there was not a huntable population of whitetails. However, thanks to the Georgia Game & Fish Commission’s deer-restoration efforts, which included stocking deer in the Jones, Jasper, and Putnam county area during the 1940s, a limited deer season was opened in these and a few adjoining middle Georgia counties during the mid-1950s.
“I hunted every deer season,” Earl said. “But admittedly, I knew absolutely nothing about how to hunt. I read many of the deer-hunting articles that appeared in the national outdoor magazines, but most were about hunting in the northern states and didn’t seem applicable to Georgia. In those days, there were no tree stands, blinds, camouflage clothing, or any of the other products available today. Basically, I simply found a location that afforded a good view of the surrounding woods and waited. However, prior to 1962, I had never sighted a single deer while hunting.”
Understandably excited over discovering what appeared to be an ideal deer-hunting location, the men immediately made plans to find a way to reach the area by land. However, with few established roads in that section of the county, the task proved to be anything but easy.
“Most of the land was owned by big timber companies,” Earl said. “Although the woods roads were open and fairly accessible, my only vehicle was a 1959 Ford sedan, so our travel was occasionally limited by rough terrain and weather conditions. Needless to say, there was a lot of trial-and-error driving and walking involved, but we eventually found the right combination of roads and trails to reach the area we wanted to hunt.”
Earl knew by the paint color of the marked boundary lines which timber company owned the block of land. Just before opening day of deer season, he called the company office to tell them exactly where he and Billy planned to hunt.
“In those days, there were no paid hunting leases or required permits,” Earl said. “Most of the timber companies simply asked hunters to notify their office in regard to the location, specific hunt dates, and who would be hunting.”
Unfortunately, Earl’s first two hunting days at the new site turned out to be no different than his deer hunts in previous years. Nevertheless, both men remained optimistic that their luck would change.
“During the third day of the hunt, I was standing next to a small creek, watching a wooded hillside,” Earl said. “I hadn’t heard a sound, but as I glanced off to the side, I was shocked to see a big doe standing 50 yards away in the middle of the creek, staring in my direction. After several seconds, the deer continued on across the creek and out of sight.
“That was really an exciting moment for me, because it was my first hunting encounter with a whitetail. The following morning I was back at the same location shortly before eight o’clock.”
Approximately 30 minutes after getting settled, the hunter detected a flicker of movement on the hillside, and within seconds, he spotted a doe about 60 to 70 yards away, walking parallel to his position in the creek bottom. In no apparent hurry, the doe slowly moved through the timber, eventually crossing an old grass-covered logging road.
“A few yards past the old road, the doe suddenly stopped and looked back,” Earl said. “When I glanced in that direction, I saw antlers moving above the brush, and I immediately picked up my rifle and maneuvered into a comfortable shooting position.”
The hunter was using a .35 caliber, J.C. Higgins, Model 45, lever-action rifle. (NOTE: The Model 45 was made by Marlin for the Sears Roebuck Company and is identical to Marlin’s Model 336.) Although the rifle was not equipped with a scope, Earl had fired the rifle numerous times and knew that it was very accurate within 100 yards.
As the hunter looked on, the buck’s body gradually emerged from the brush as the deer continued to follow the doe’s path along the hillside. Sixty yards away, the big deer paused momentarily at the edge of the old logging road.
“I had the rifle in position, and when the buck stepped into the road opening, I pulled the trigger,” Earl said. “At that distance, I had no doubts about making the shot, but I was completely surprised when the deer instantly dropped in its tracks.”
Unable to see the buck lying on the ground and not knowing for sure if the deer was dead, Earl was hesitant to begin walking in that direction. He finally decided to holler for Billy to come help.
“When I yelled, the buck suddenly reared up, attempting to get to its feet, but quickly fell back out of sight,” Earl said. “That really unnerved me. However, once Billy arrived and could see the deer was down for good, I walked on up the hill.
“It would be an understatement to say that I was excited; it felt like my heart was beating 900 miles an hour. Since it was the first buck I had ever seen in the woods, I really had nothing to compare it to in terms of size. But the deer sure looked like a whopper to me.”
The two men spent several minutes examining the buck, counting a total of 17 antler points. They were then faced with the daunting task of field-dressing the big whitetail.
“Neither one of us had ever field-dressed a deer, or for that matter, seen one field-dressed,” Earl said. “By the time we finished the task, the deer and both of us were a bloody mess. Luckily, the nearby creek provided a means to clean up.”
The next item on the hunter’s agenda was to somehow move the buck approximately a mile to where the car was parked. Certainly not an easy chore, considering they estimated the deer’s weight to be around 200 pounds.
“We tried tying the deer’s feet to a long pole that we could support on our shoulders,” Earl said. “However, we quickly found out that wasn’t going to work because the buck’s head and antlers hung all the way down to the ground, making it impossible to walk. We finally decided that dragging was really the only option.”
Needless to say, the task proved to be somewhat of an ordeal. But by early afternoon they had the deer loaded and were on their way to Macon.
“We spent a couple of hours driving around, showing the buck to our friends and families,” Earl said. “We were then faced with the dilemma of what to do with the deer. In those days there were no coolers or processors that handled wild game. I finally stopped by R.J. Lindsey’s Bait & Tackle shop on the Gray Highway, and he let me put the buck in his outside beer cooler. It took a few more days to find someone to do the butchering. Not surprisingly, the meat ended up being too strong for us to eat.”
From the outset, Earl knew he wanted to have the buck mounted and made sure the cape was kept undamaged. Interestingly, taxidermists were also in short supply at that time.
“I was unable to find any taxidermist in the Macon area,” Earl said. “Finally, after a month of searching, I contacted a man near Atlanta that agreed to do the mount.”
In the early 1960s, few people were aware of antler measuring and scoring. In fact, Boone & Crockett’s (B&C) first record book was not published until the 1950s. Over the years that followed, Earl continued to deer hunt, along with his sons, Ken and Richey. The mount of his great Jones County trophy whitetail always attracted the attention of visitors, particularly other hunters. However, the buck’s impressive antlers were never officially measured.
“In the past, I had a number of people encourage me to have the rack scored,” Earl said. “I did obtain some information on antler measuring, but made the mistake of thinking that all of the abnormal points were scoring deductions. Therefore, I really didn’t believe there was any point of pursuing it any further.”
Fortunately, Earl’s grandson, Josh, did think it was worth pursuing. Having grown up hunting with Earl and being around the huge deer mount his entire life, he always believed the buck was comparable in size to other record-book whitetails. After asking for Earl’s permission, he contacted wildlife biologist Bobby Bond, an official B&C measurer at the DNR’s Fort Valley office, and scheduled an appointment a few months ago.
In late October, nearly 51 years after Earl took the buck, the huge rack was officially measured. The results of that scoring session produced some very interesting antler statistics.
Eight of the rack’s 17 points comprise a giant 4×4 typical frame. The main beams exceed 27 inches, and the amazingly long brow tines tape 11 inches. The inside spread is 18 7/8 inches. After grossing 165 3/8, the 8-point frame nets 159 3/8. After adding in the rack’s remaining nine abnormal points, totaling 38 1/8 inches, the buck’s final non-typical B&C score stands at 197 4/8. This qualifies the deer for both B&C’s Awards and All-Time record books.
Within Jones County, Earl’s buck is the third biggest non-typical ever taken and ranks No. 4 overall in GON’s official County-by-County records.
It is interesting to note that the addition of this deer means that seven of the county’s top-nine bucks were taken prior to 1968, including the four Jones County bucks that qualify for the all-time Boone & Crockett record book.
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