Butts County Buck Aged At 10 1/2

Even with four shooters in the plot at one time, this old boy stood out.

Brad Gill | April 29, 2020

Johanna Stapleton, of Griffin, was thrilled to recently learn that a Butts County buck she shot on Jan. 1 was aged at 10 1/2 years old.

“I’m so proud of her,” said her husband, Brandon. “With her buck in the center of our collection, we get to spend some time every day appreciating him.”

The buck was aged by a company in Montana called Wildlife Analytical Laboratories ( The deer aging process is done by counting cementum annuli in the front incisors of the lower jaw. It’s similar to counting growth rings on a tree.

“In 2017, my uncle picked up this buck’s set of sheds,” said Brandon. “In 2018, he picked up one side, nothing in 2019.”

The sheds all had split brow tines, good mass and were from a deer with a narrow inside spread. They were also picked up in the same plot where Johanna ended up killing him on Jan. 1, 2020.

“I have picked up those sheds so many times over the last three years before heading out to hunt, wondering where he was and if he was still alive,” said Brandon.

Sheds collected in 2017 and 2018 that were from Johanna’s buck. The buck kept its split brow tines on both sides.

Luckily, Brandon got to watch the entire hunt for this monarch unfold.

“This was the most amazing hunt I’ve ever been a part of in 20 years of hunting, and I’m so glad we shared it together,” said Brandon.

The pair were hunting in a tower stand overlooking a plot of winter wheat and clover.

“By 3:30, we had deer on the field,” said Brandon. “It started out with a 3-year-old 8 with a 2-year-old 6. Around 4 p.m., another large-bodied 8 came behind the stand and skirted the woods around the plot. He was one that we had previously decided to shoot, but when we tried to get on him, the buck in the plot came and ran him off.”

It was shaping up to be an evening they’d never forget.

“Later a group of five yearlings and a doe came out,” said Brandon. “The bucks began pushing the yearlings around. I looked up, and off to our left a large-bodied 8 stepped into an opening in the woods just off the field. We were moving around so she could get a shot when he ran in the woods to intercept one of the bucks in the plot that was pushing a yearling. That was her second opportunity with no shot. But, it was obvious that at least one of the yearlings was in estrous.

“Within minutes, he was back on the plot with the original two bucks. We looked him over and judged him to be a 4-year-old. As much as we wanted to shoot, there was just so much going on that we wanted to see what else would happen.”

Johanna’s patience was fixing to be greatly rewarded.

“At sunset, with deer feeding in the field, Jo looked up and said a deer was coming into the plot directly in front of us,” said Brandon. “It was a large-bodied buck with a tight, heavy rack. His frame really showed his age. He had a swayed back, heavy belly and a Roman nose. As we quickly got her rifle up and ready, he put his head up, sniffed the air and walked toward the stand.

“We had to wait for a clean shot with all the deer on the plot. As the shot began to come together, another buck appeared on the edge of the plot. This one was a beautiful, clean, wide 8 that we estimated to be at least 4. He was around 18 inches inside.”

Brandon said there were four bucks in the plot that met their harvest goals.

“It was eye opening to see those deer all in the same frame,” said Brandon. “It’s so hard to sit studying trail-camera pictures or charts, but it was obvious which one of these bucks was the old timer.

“Through heavy breathing, I told Jo it was her pick. She asked what I thought. I told her it was the best hunt I ever had, but the older deer was something special, a deer of a lifetime. She agreed.”

At 10 1/2 years of age and 173 pounds, the old boy began to push a yearling around.

“The yearling ran, and he followed, clearing from the others,” said Brandon. “A quick breath, and she made a great shot. Deer went running everywhere, but he was running off the plot with his tail tucked. As he made it into the woods, the flash of a white belly pulled a sigh of relief from both of us. We were all hugs and disbelief at what had happened. I get pretty excited seeing any deer, but I had to sit and breathe for a while to get my heart out of my throat.”

At this point in the hunt, Brandon said they had no idea it was the buck they had sheds from in 2017 and 2018. He just knew it was an old looking buck with a heavy rack.

“We got to the deer just as light faded,” said Brandon. “As she picked up his head, the double brow tines came into view, and I was shocked to see what buck it was. After hugging her and taking a moment to get my words in gear with my thoughts, all I could say was, ‘Do you know what you did? You just took a buck of a lifetime!’”

Brandon had to call his uncle, who had already left the hunting property and was headed home.

“He turned around to come see the deer,” said Brandon. “It wasn’t until Jo saw how excited he and I were that she began to see what a special deer it was.”

Brandon said of Johanna’s buck, “With her buck in the center of our collection, we get to spend some time every day appreciating him.”

Brandon wasn’t sure just what the buck would age, but they were obviously excited to learn it was 10 1/2 years old, according to Wildlife Analytical Laboratories.

“We sent off another sample from his buck, and it was aged at 6.5. His buck was taken from the same plot on Nov. 24,” said Brandon.

For more information on the deer aging process, go to

Johanna Stapleton, of Griffin, was thrilled to recently learn that a Butts County buck she shot on Jan. 1 was aged at 10 1/2 years old.

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