Four Record-Class Bucks, One Sweet Bow Stand

A 20-acre tract, where “deer shouldn’t be,” turned out to be the ultimate honey hole for a pair of dedicated bowhunters last season.

Jordan Ligon | October 19, 2015

When you think of the perfect hunt, things like car stereos, construction work and the sounds of traffic passing in the distance don’t really cross your mind. Many of us drive by small patches of woods in highly populated areas every day on our way to and from work, and we never think twice about a deer even being in the area.

I’m sure you’ve seen a couple of does on the side of the road in an odd place and wondered, “Where did they come from?”

Truth be told, these are some of the best places to hunt to put the biggest deer you’ve ever seen on your wall. The key to your success could be as easy as knocking on a door and asking permission.

My hunting partner Joey Stalvey and I are no strangers to putting in hard work to get that one shot at a mature whitetail. Our obsession has grown into a friendly competition over the years. Some would say we take it to the extreme when it comes to our love of only taking our bows into the deer woods.

We have a saying, “When it’s just right.” That means we hunt when the wind, the weather, and the time is perfect, we hunt. We’ve learned the hard way time and time again about putting unnecessary pressure on deer.

In 2013, Joey was coming off of a great 2012 season during which he bagged two great Pope & Young class bucks. In 2013, we hunted hard, five days a week at times, but we never got the first shot at a mature buck. We had several close calls and saw a couple of great bucks only to have them stay just out of range and walk out of sight. The closing day of the season, we hunted from sunrise to sunset, and then we took that long walk of shame back to the truck empty-handed. I don’t think we spoke a word until we were halfway home.

Over the spring and summer leading up to the 2014 season, we had plenty of time to dwell on what went wrong the past season. We knew we couldn’t get skunked in the season to come, but we knew we needed to make some changes.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse than the prior season, we got a call saying the track of land we had been hunting had been sold. We were devastated to say the least. It was coming up on July, and we had just lost our go-to spot. We were up the creek without a paddle, so to speak. We came to the realization that 2014 might not be our year either.

Not giving up entirely, we continued doing a lot of camera work in other areas. Unfortunately, we were just not getting the pictures we were looking for. Then one day out of the blue, I received a text from Joey saying, “I found the spot.” Without even asking, I knew what he meant. He had gotten permission from a family friend on a 20-acre plot. I was hesitant at first when he mentioned it was only 20 acres, even more so when he told me where it was.

“It was better than nothing,” I thought.

It couldn’t hurt to check it out.

The following weekend we got our rubber boots on and loaded up the truck with a couple of cameras to hit the road. Pulling up to the new spot, I thought to myself, “I guess there could be a deer or two here.”

I had no idea what we were about to discover. Walking into the area there were deer trails everywhere. I mean everywhere! We didn’t have to walk too far until we noticed a rub line from the previous year like you wouldn’t believe. It looked like something you would see on a Monster Bucks video.

Growing up hunting in Dahlonega, I had never seen such deer sign. We knew this was the spot. We discovered two small pinch points on each end of the property, so we did what any hunter would do and put a camera on each one. We couldn’t wait to see the pictures.

We let the cameras do their jobs for about two weeks before we anxiously drove back to see what we had captured. We both walked to opposite ends of the property to retrieve the cards. It was a race back to the truck to pop the cards into the laptop. After a couple of Booner squirrel pics, we had our first deer on camera. It was a sad daddy! The camera had more than 700 pictures on it in two weeks. After looking through both cards, we determined that we had more than seven shooter bucks on the property.

So we compiled a hit list.

One buck was a main-frame 10-point pushing 150 inches. We named him “The Governor.”

Another buck which was a not-so-typical 8-point that was a solid 140, and that buck was named “Rick.”

Last but not least was “Mr. Dixon,” which was a long-tined 8-point that was breaking 130.

In case you haven’t noticed by the names, we might watch “The Walking Dead” every now and then.

We knew these bucks were using this area as a funnel to and from bedding areas and food sources. So we went and got our lock-on stands and set them on both of the funnels. One worked for a north wind and one for a south wind. We agreed to only hunt the stands when it was just right.

Opening weekend finally came, and we couldn’t wait to get in the tree. Almost all of our trail-cam pictures of our hit-list bucks were taken in the late evening. With that being said, we didn’t want to go in and put pressure on the deer in the morning, so we waited until that evening. We are huge on scent prevention and always wash our clothes, take Scent-A-Way showers and hose down before we walk into the woods. Unfortunately, on this opening day the wind wasn’t right. We weren’t about to go in and stink up the place. We just didn’t want to take the chance.

The evening of Sept. 28, it was finally just right, so we packed up our gear and hit the woods. I was sitting on the north end, and Joey was set up on the south. The weather was perfect, and so was the wind. I could hear music playing from nearby houses, and I could even smell the BBQ from backyard grilling.

I thought to myself, “Hopefully the deer are used to it.”

I had been in the stand about two and half hours, and I was now into the prime time hour just before dark.

Suddenly I heard a deer moving through the thicket headed straight toward my stand. I grabbed my Mathews and got ready, just in case it was one of our hit listers. The deer seemed to just come out of the ground right underneath my stand. It was just a yearling 4-pointer.

Not knowing the history we were about to establish with this deer, I watched him walk off into the distance. It wasn’t five minutes later when I heard a group of deer headed my way. The first deer popped out. It was a basket-rack 8-point. Then came another smaller buck, followed up by a deer walking on another trail about 40 yards from my stand.

“He’s a shooter,” I thought to myself as I saw the last deer.

I didn’t recognize him from any pictures we had, but I knew I couldn’t let this buck walk. I drew my bow back, put the pin behind his shoulder, and slowly squeezed my release. He dropped in his tracks. Thinking I had made a bad shot on him, I knocked another arrow, and let it fly. I knew this shot had done the trick. I had sealed the deal, and I texted Joey to tell him what had just happened.

Still shaking from the events that seemed to happen in a blink of an eye, I gave the deer more than an hour before I tried to recover him. I could hear Joey approaching my stand, so I lowered my bow and began to climb down. By the time I reached the bottom of my tree, Joey was there to meet me. He was just as excited as I was.

He said, “Let’s get to tracking.”

I replied, “There is no tracking. He hit the dirt.”

We proceeded to walk up on my buck. The light was shinning off of his marvelous rack. I was still in awe over what had just happened. He was a main-frame, long-tined 10-pointer with a 2-inch kicker off of his left side. My first shot was just as good as my second, but it’s always better to play it safe. We didn’t waste any time and started snapping pictures and sending them to every hunter in our phone books.

When we got back home, we checked our trail-camera cards in search of a picture of the buck I had just harvested. We didn’t have one picture of this deer. Still, I couldn’t be happier. The fact that I hadn’t harvested a buck the prior season made this experience all the more rewarding. We cleaned the buck up and immediately headed to the taxidermist to share our story.

We decided that we would wait for the rut before going back into the area. Again, we did not want to put too much pressure on these deer. We hunted some other areas to pass the time but did not have any success. We couldn’t wait to get back into the honey hole.

The first week of November rolled around, but the wind was just not cooperating with us. We opted to stay out until it was just right. We hunted a different location on the property and saw a couple of smaller bucks but nothing worth putting a tag on. It had been very warm, and the deer just weren’t chasing.

Nov. 17 rolled around, and the wind and the weather seemed to be on our side. Joey chose to sit in the stand I had harvested my buck out of earlier in the year.

I received a text from him around 4:15 saying, “Got a little 4-pointer under me”.

I replied with, “He’s good luck.”

I had no idea what was about to unfold. Ten minutes later I checked my phone to see a message from Joey saying, “I just smoked a giant.”

I wrote him back but got no response for more than 30 minutes. I assumed that his phone was probably dead. I waited until dark and made my way to his stand. He had already drug the deer to the stand, and I began to admire the deer. I immediately recognized him as a hit-list buck, “Mr. Dixon.”

He then said calmly, “You ready to go get the big one.”

I said, “You’re joking right?”

He chuckled, and we walked down the hill toward the creek to another buck that we had never seen before. It was a 9-point that had a nasty left side with a 6-inch brow tine. Needless to say we were gonna have to drag two deer to the truck.

We took some time off of hunting to spend time with our families for the holidays. Most of my weekends are spent bouncing around from city to city touring with my band (Coal Mountain Band), which leaves little time for weekend hunting trips. Luckily we have an extended season that runs to the end of January in Forsyth County. We had heard stories from our other buddies that they had been seeing bucks chasing does after the first of the year. We figured we’d give it one more shot and see if we could fill my last buck tag or maybe put some more meat in the freezer.

It was Jan. 9, and it was “just right.” This by far was the coldest day we had tried to hunt this season. It was my turn to hunt the honey hole, and I had that feeling that I’m sure every hunter has had before. I just knew something was going to happen. Hours passed without seeing a deer. There was loud construction work going on in the distance, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hear a deer coming. I tried not to get discouraged, thinking to myself, “I know the deer are used to it.”

All of a sudden, again seeming to come out of the ground, the lucky 4-pointer appeared. Shortly after, he was followed up by six does. Other than on the trail camera, this was the first time I had seen does in the area. They seemed to be spooked by something and quickly trotted by my stand. Then I saw a huge-bodied deer trailing close behind them. It was the biggest deer I’d ever seen in the hunting woods. I grabbed my Mathews and got ready. He was walking on a trail that would give me a 10-yard shot. I drew back my bow, but he saw me and quickly made a U turn. I whistled at least five times and finally stopped him at 35 yards. He was slightly quartering away (in a good way), so I squeezed the trigger on my release. I knew I hit him, but I wasn’t sure of how well.

I texted Joey and told him what had happened. I watched the deer run at least 100 yards clear out of sight. I got down out of my stand to go look for my arrow. It had broken off in him, but there seemed to be good bright bubbly blood on it. I made the decision to back out and start the recovery process in the morning. This was the hardest decision I had ever had to make as far as hunting goes.

After a long sleepless night, we loaded up the truck and brought our good friend Erik along to help with the tracking job. Upon arrival, we agreed that Erik and Joey would get on the blood trail, while I did a grid search. The search was going on the two-hour mark, and I had joined Erik and Joey on the blood trail. There seemed to be great blood for the most part.

The deer had run right in front of where we had parked the truck the evening before. I wondered if I had spooked the deer on the walk back to the truck the prior night. We finally lost blood completely near the main road that we pulled into the spot from. We all looked at each other knowing what was in each other’s minds. We had looked everywhere, not skipping over one possible location that the deer could have been laying. Joey said, “The only other spot he could be is in the creek that runs right along side of the main road.”

I walked down to the creek, and there he was submerged in the rapids with just his glorious rack sticking above the water. A weight like no other had been lifted off of my shoulders. We had recovered the buck we all thought was long gone.

Looking back at that past season, I am still in disbelief of how fortunate we were to land such a great location. It just goes to show that if you put in the hard work and time, you can make the best out of your year. We had harvested four Pope & Young bucks from the same tree on the same 20-acre track of land, only one of which was a hit-list buck. We did not have even one picture of the other three deer that were taken on the property, which has made us wonder the true potential of this small tract of land. It’s safe to say that we will be doing the same thing in the season to come.

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