The Bone-Crusher Buck From Coweta
A look back at the greatest whitetail stories of Georgia's past.
It had been a slow morning for Douglas Freeman. After several hours in his portable stand, he decided to climb down and do a little walking.
“I reached the edge of a large corn field that had been cut several weeks earlier. A lot of scattered corn was still on the ground, and some deer had been feeding in this field on a regular basis. Suddenly I heard some loud clacking noises across the field. It sounded like someone was banging two large sticks together. I knew it had to be two bucks fighting…”
If you’ve ever heard the hair-raising sound of two bucks brutally clashing their antlers together, you won’t soon forget it. It’s riveting. It’ll send cold chills down your back. With his adrenalin pumping and his rifle ready, Douglas started easing forward across the field toward a little rise where he’d have a better view of the area beyond.
“I had some Bushnell binoculars with me, and I stopped every few seconds to look ahead, but I still couldn’t see anything. I kept easing forward. All of a sudden, the noise stopped.”
It was Nov. 6, 1978, opening day of the 1978 rifle season, and 28-year-old Douglas Freeman, an avid deer hunter from Decatur, was hunting in northern Coweta County on a 120-acre tract belonging to a family friend named Leslie Arnold. Located only a few miles south of the Fulton County line, “Cousin Leslie’s” property was split by Highway 29.
In those days, most of the land along this stretch of Highway 29 was still rural and undeveloped. Today, the area has changed drastically.
Although there are still plenty of deer in the area, northern Coweta County has seen considerable commercial and residential growth since Douglas hunted here 40 years ago.
“In the late ’70s, everything around there was either being farmed or in woods,” Douglas remembers. “I knew there were some big deer in the area. I’d seen a pretty big buck run across a soybean field in 1977, but I couldn’t get a shot at him. I really can’t say that it was the big buck I killed the following year, but it could have been the same deer.”
Douglas was hunting with a good friend named Willie Thompson.
“We got up early on Saturday morning and headed south,” Douglas said. “When we got to the woods, we split up. I was hunting out of a portable tree stand, but Willie was hunting on the ground. I stayed in my stand until about 10 a.m. All I saw was one doe. Willie and I could see each other from a distance after I climbed down, and we both sort of went off in opposite directions. Several minutes later, I jumped a small buck but couldn’t get a shot.”
As Douglas reached the crest of the small rise in the corn field, he looked over and saw a doe and a small buck through his binoculars. Then he looked back into the bushes behind them and saw a much larger buck.
“Just as I spotted him, he walked right out in the open. I got so nervous my binoculars started shaking. His rack was so big I thought the bushes behind him were moving. I never thought he would come out into the open, but he did. I said to myself, ‘My Gosh, look at that!’
“My heart started pounding as he came on out. I was hunting with a Remington 742 .30/06. I got a bead on him and fired. After recovering from the recoil of the shot, I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was on the ground kicking, and he was down for good!”
Amazingly, the smaller buck that had been standing with the doe—a sleek 6-pointer—ran right toward Willie. Moments later, after the two happy hunters had regrouped, both men had an opening day buck on the ground. Willie was able to carry his buck out of the woods. Things were a little more difficult for Douglas.
“We tried to drag my buck, but he was too heavy,” Douglas recalled. “We finally went and got a tractor and hauled him out. After that, we drove into Newnan and showed him off to everybody we saw. We also weighed him at a junkyard. He weighed 252 pounds live, and 202 field-dressed.
“We iced him down good and took some pictures at Cousin Leslie’s house,” Douglas said. “Then we headed for Decatur. We spent the rest of the day showing him off!
“Later on a good friend of mine named Clifford Plummer took one look at my buck and said, ‘Man, I believe you have some sort of record. You need to get this buck scored!’ We took some more pictures, and a picture of me and my buck ran in the Atlanta Constitution several days later. A few weeks after that I took the rack to Game and Fish Commission headquarters in downtown Atlanta and had it scored. I couldn’t believe it. The biologist who scored it told me I had killed the biggest buck in the state for the ’78 season!”
With an unofficial score of 170 2/8 typical B&C points, the huge trophy went on to win the statewide Big Deer Contest for 1978. As first place winner, Douglas was awarded a .45 caliber muzzleloader at the Georgia Wildlife Federation banquet held in early 1979. Surprisingly, no one ever said anything to Douglas about having his trophy officially scored or entered in the B&C record book.
A few years later, while I was gathering information on B&C bucks in Georgia for my then upcoming book, Georgia’s Greatest Whitetails, published in 1986, I tried to locate Douglas Freeman. He no longer lived in the Decatur area, and all of my efforts to find him were fruitless. Since the unofficial score exceeded the record book minimum of 170 points for a typical buck, I knew there was a good chance this great Georgia trophy might qualify for the all-time record book. What’s more, if it did score over 170 points, it would also be the largest buck ever taken in Coweta County.
Unfortunately, the Freeman trophy was one of several I was unable to locate for my book. Although the big deer had received quite a bit of publicity the year it was killed, I couldn’t even find a picture of this “phantom buck.” When Georgia’s Greatest Whitetails was finally published, I mentioned Douglas Freeman’s name in the Forward, hoping that someone who knew him would see his name and put him in touch with me.
Amazingly, that very thing happened! Several years after my book was published, I got a phone call from Douglas Freeman’s mother. A friend of Douglas’s had seen his name in the book, and this person had contacted the family.
Douglas’s mother told me Douglas had been living in south Georgia. However, he was planning to move back to Atlanta within a few months. Douglas and I talked on the phone several times. As it turned out, the trophy deer head was still at the home of his parents in Atlanta, and he told me I was welcome to go by and see it.
The moment I walked into the Freeman home and saw that huge trophy hanging on the wall, I knew that all of my efforts to find this great whitetail had been worthwhile. All of the old accounts I had read about this trophy stated that it was a 10-pointer. In reality, it had 13 points. The big deer carried a main-framed 6×6 rack with one additional abnormal sticker point coming off the left main beam.
I immediately re-measured the impressive antlers. Sure enough, the vintage rack scored just over 170 points, despite heavy deductions. Since I’m not an official B&C scorer, I called my friend Bill Cooper in Tifton and made arrangements to have the antlers officially measured.
A short time later, it was official. After subtracting nearly 10 points in deductions, Bill arrived at a net typical score of 170 3/8 points. An elated Douglas Freeman promptly entered Coweta County’s largest typical buck ever in the all-time Boone and Crockett Record Book.
Douglas grew up hunting and fishing. At a spry 69 today, he still does some hunting and a lot of fishing. By far, deer hunting has always been his favorite outdoor pursuit. Prior to the ’78 season, he had done a lot of deer hunting in Heard, Troup and Morgan counties. Douglas killed his first buck, a 10-pointer, near Madison in 1974. After that, he killed several nice 8-pointers in Heard and Troup counties. Although Douglas never considered himself to be a trophy hunter, he usually killed at least one antlered buck each season.
Douglas is very proud of the fact that he is the only black man in Georgia to have a buck listed in the Boone and Crockett Record Book. He’s also very unassuming about the fact that his buck is still the largest typical whitetail ever taken in Coweta County.
“I just love to hunt,” Douglas said with a big grin. “If I shoot a nice buck, that’s fine. But even if I shoot a doe for the freezer, that’s fine, too. As long as I can get out in the woods and hunt, I’ll be a happy man.”
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