26-Point Piedmont NWR Freak
When David Studdard of Lafayette stumbled out of the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge woods Oct.29 and excitedly stammered to his hunting buddy that he had killed a deer with 13 points on each side, and to top it off, the non-typical rack was still in velvet, his friend looked at him and said ” Oh yeah, you know any more Halloween stories??” Turns out though, that it wasn’t a story.
David had never hunted Piedmont before this year. But when his name was drawn for the quota, bucks-only hunt, some friends who are usually drawn for the quota hunt, but didn’t make the cut this year, told him about a good area to hunt in compartment 18. Little did they know they were putting David on a one-in-a-million buck that had been eluding Piedmont hunters for 6 1/2 years.
David scouted the area prior to the hunt and had jumped seven deer but he had seen no rubs and no scrapes — no sign to indicate a big buck was in the area.
Opening morning, David was in a stand eight feet up a pine tree watching an area of mixed pines and hardwoods. The dry woods had been quiet until long about 9:40 a.m. when he glanced to one side and a buck seemingly materialized out of the surrounding forest 40 yards away. The big buck apparently spotted David at about the same time and started to slip away, then stopped for a moment to look back.
At that moment David touched off a shot with his Marlin 30/30. Hit in the neck the deer went down in his tracks.
“I didn’t realize how big he was until I walked up to him,” said David
“He looked as big as a cow. After I calmed down I started counting points but I kept losing count,” said David
Amazingly, the 26-point non-typical rack which seemed to sprout in every direction from the top of the buck’s head, was still in velvet.
After field-dressing the deer, a still-excited David set out to drag the buck out, but the adrenaline gave out in a hurry.
“I dragged him until I thought I’d have a heart attack,” said David
Much as he hated to leave the deer in the woods, he decided to go for help and it took three men to drag the deer out.
Meanwhile, back at the check station work had spread about a huge buck that had been killed and hunters began to gather to wait to see if the rumors where true. Talk centered mainly on disbelief, but around 12:15 p.m. disbelief turned to awe as the big buck came in.
David’s buck with the bizarre rack dressed-out at 148 pounds. The bases of the antlers measured an incredible eight inches, and nine and one half inches in circumference and from the points spread in every direction, easily making it the biggest–and clearly the weirdest rack of the hunt.
Overall, the harvest on Piedmont was down from recent years and most hunters blamed the dry spell on the dry weather. The bucks had not begun to rut and hunters reported finding little or no sign in the bone-dry woods and limited deer activity.
This year, 128 bucks were checked in, compared to an average harvest of 150-160 and down sharply from an exceptional harvest of 220 bucks last year.
Approximately 1,000 hunters of the 1,700 drawn for the three-day, modern firearms hunt (Oct. 29-31) showed up for the hunt. Piedmont, long known for its excellent habitat and quality deer, lived up to its reputation by producing some nice racks.
Deer of note included a 12-point, 127 pounds taken by Tim Hulsey of Cornelia; a 12-point, 113 pounder killed by Bruce Schafer of Lilburn; an 11-point, 152 pounds buck taken by Mike Borja of Dalton; and an 11-point, 148 pounder killed by Richard Lamar Jones Sr. of Canton. In all, two 12 pointers, two 11 pointers and 10 10 point bucks were checked in.
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