2005 Pope & Young Special: Year Of The Suburban Buck
Half the season's statewide total of 2004 record-class bow-bucks came from metro-Atlanta counties.
When is comes to Pope & Young-class bucks, Georgia’s 2004-05 hunting season was the year of the metro-Atlanta buck. Of 26 officially scored bucks to date, 13, or 50 percent of the statewide total, were killed in nine metro-Atlanta counties. The trend toward suburban bucks is not new, but a continuation of a trend. On Georgia’s all time Pope & Young buck list, nine metro-Atlanta counties account for 126 bucks, or 28 percent of the statewide total of 442 bucks.
Georgia’s No. 1 county for producing record-class bow bucks is one of the state’s most heavily developed: Fulton County, which has recorded 43 record-class bucks. That’s twice the number of the second-place, metro-Atlanta counties of Clayton and DeKalb, both of which have 21 record bucks, and both of which are also heavily developed.
The reason for big suburban bucks is development, or at least what development leaves behind. In many areas of the metro counties there are pockets of woods sandwiched between industrial parks, subdivisions, and shopping centers. These pockets of woods, often along creeks or swamps, are sometimes big enough to provide sanctuary for a few deer that have adapted to suburban life.
The second key factor is that hunting is restricted to bowhunters — often throughout firearms season. Because archers are significantly less efficient than gun hunters, the bucks in the suburban pockets of woods may have the opportunity to grow old, and to grow large antlers — if they can avoid becoming a hood ornament.
Despite the flood of big, bow-killed suburban bucks last year, the No. 1 bow buck of the season was shot in Worth County. Gary King of Oakfield killed a 10-pointer that netted 153 1/8 to top a list of impressive archery bucks. You can read Gary’s hunt story in the July 2004 GON on page 106.
The second- through fifth-highest-scoring archery bucks of the season were all suburban bucks killed in Fulton, Gwinnett, Coweta and Cobb counties, respectively.
Chuck Birchfield’s awesome Fulton County 10-pointer netted 151 3/8 points and ranked No. 2 for the season. It is the No. 1 typical-rack archery buck ever taken in Fulton County. That’s an impressive deer in a county that has produced 43 Pope & Young bucks. You can read Chuck’s complete hunt story on page 45 of this issue of GON.
Both Gary and Chuck entered their bucks in the GON Truck-Buck Contest.
Joe Street of Cumming shot the No. 3 bow buck of the season, and he said he would have entered the buck in the contest, except that his subscription to the magazine had lapsed.
Joe killed his buck in Gwinnett County, and he employed a tactic which has led a number of archers to their record-book bucks. Gwinnett County is open to firearms deer hunting, but Joe decided to carry his bow rather than his gun on October 29. An increasing number of Georgia bowhunters are continuing to hunt with their bows when gun season begins. These season-long bowhunters are in the woods in November during the rut when a mature buck is more likely to be on the move.
On October 29, during the pre-rut in Gwinnett County, Joe expected to see deer. At about 9 a.m. he used a grunt call and a bleat call to pull in a massive 8-pointer.
Joe’s buck ranks as the No. 2 bow buck from Gwinnett, missing a tie for first place by only one-eighth of an inch.
Overall, the number of Georgia bucks officially scored above the Pope & Young minimums dropped last season. During the 2003-04 season there were 37 record-class bucks measured, compared to 26 last season, a decline of 42 percent. For a variety of reasons, deer harvest statewide dropped last season, and archers were impacted too. The season harvest, however, was not far below Georgia’s 10-year annual average for Pope & Young-class bucks of 29.2.
While the total number dropped from last season, the quality of the racks was good, with four bucks making the Top 50 on GON‘s all-time archery buck list (see list on page 22). Gary King’s buck is now installed as the No. 9 typical-rack bow kill, and Taylor McCann’s DeKalb County non-typical that scored 176 7/8 ranks No. 5 on the all-time non-typical list.
As predicted in GON last year, as development continues, the counties producing big bow bucks will gradually move into the counties surrounding the two perennial producers of Fulton and DeKalb. Last year Coweta and Rockdale counties, located on the outer limits of the Atlanta-metro sprawl, tallied five Pope & Young-class bucks between them.
Rockdale County is on the rise as a bowhunting county. The 131-square-mile county is small when compared to DeKalb at 268 square miles, or Gwinnett at 432 square miles, but Rockdale is coming on big lately in terms of record-class bow kills. Last season, Rockdale tied with Fulton for the most record-book bow kills of the season with three apiece.
John Stanley of Lawrenceville and Larry Chestnut of Jonesboro both killed Rockdale County Pope & Young bucks last year on the same tract. The third Rockdale P&Y was killed by Roger Reynolds of Covington.
Although it did not make the Pope & Young minimums, another superlative archery buck from Rockdale last season was Marshall Compton’s non-typical 20-pointer that netted 146 5/8.
Coweta County is also on the rise, with 11 record-class bow kills, ranking the county in a tie for sixth place among Pope & Young-producing counties. Two more were killed last season, three days and about 400 yards apart on the same 600-acre tract — by the same hunter.
“I love that bowhunting,” said Jack Martin of Concord. He ought to. During the 2003 season he killed a buck with his bow that ranks No. 1 in Pike County with a score of 132 6/8.
Last season, on September 18 Jack was hunting in Coweta County over an area torn up by deer feeding on green acorns blown down by one of the September hurricanes that blew across Georgia. At 8:30 a.m. he talked himself into staying on the stand until 9 before going to work, and he killed a 9-pointer at 8:45 that scored 133 3/8.
Jack knew there was another good buck on the property. He had a photo taken by a trail camera of a tall 13-pointer peeling out of velvet (see photo on page 18). Three days after taking his first Pope & Young of the season, he shot the 13-pointer. That buck grossed 162 0/8 points before 18 2/8 inches of deductions dropped it to a net score of 143 6/8.
“I waited 15 years to take a Pope & Young buck,” said Jack. “Then I got three in two years.”
The metro-Atlanta counties aren’t the only place big bow bucks are being taken. For a bowhunter hoping to take a Pope & Young buck, lightning can strike at any time and nearly at any place in the state. But if you can hunt good habitat where hunting pressure is low, or hunt intensively managed land where young bucks are protected, your odds go up.
Bodie Loggins of Murrayville killed a Lincoln County Pope & Young-class buck last season that scored 134 3/8 points. To date, there have been three record-book bow kills from Lincoln County. All of them have come from one 2,545-acre tract: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Bussey Point.
This peninsula of land jutting into Clarks Hill Lake is high-quality habitat, and it receives low hunting pressure that is limited to managed quota hunts. Legal bucks at Bussey Point must have four points on a side. With light hunting pressure and quality-buck regulations, the bucks here also have a good opportunity to grow into older age classes necessary to grow record-class antlers.
The map on page 17 shows the Georgia counties that have produced record-class bow bucks. A total of 111 of the state’s 159 counties have produced at least one Pope & Young.
Georgia’s Top 10 P&Y-producing counties are stacked with metro counties. Those 10 counties, including Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton, account for 166 bucks, or 37 percent of the statewide number of bucks.
No new counties were added to the map after last season, although at presstime we were awaiting the scoring of a Cook County buck that reportedly has the potential to become the county’s first Pope & Young.
There are some surprisingly good deer hunting counties that still await their first record-class bow buck. The string of four counties from Crawford, Taylor, Marion, and Webster are without an official Pope & Young buck. Floyd, Taliaferro, Johnson, and Tift counties are also among the counties with good potential, but no Pope & Young — yet.
This could be another of the exceptional years that Georgia archers have enjoyed over the past 10 years. Many deer biologists and managers expect the 2005-06 season to be a bounce-back year after a 2004-05 season that was slow for many hunters. With more than ample rain during the spring and summer deer should be in good condition. Soft mast production is excellent almost everywhere, a plus to food-source-hunting bowhunters. Too, early reports indicate that acorn production for white oaks in many areas may be spotty. Many trees are bare, but a few have a good crop of acorns. The hunter who can scout out the few white oak trees producing acorns should have a hot spot.
This could be the year for your Pope & Young buck. When you shoot it, call GON!
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