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Frank Pritchard’s Jasper County Monarch

Duncan Dobie | November 12, 2018

Frank Pritchard chased big bucks across Georgia for most of his adult life. He began practicing trophy management long ago before it was the “in” thing to do. 

Fifty years ago, Frank shot a massive non-typical buck in Jasper County that sported a rack with 22 points. By every standard, it should have qualified for the all-time record book. However, the rack on Frank’s buck turned out to be one of those multi-tined, lopsided racks that proved to be very difficult to score. In truth, it was a measurer’s nightmare. As a result, Frank’s trophy was never given a final score after it initially was measured.

For Frank, “making the book” was never a big deal anyway. In the late 1960s, very little fuss was made over record-book whitetails. Frank knew that he had bagged the trophy of a lifetime, and that was good enough for him. He seldom gave the matter any further thought. During the decades of the 70s, 80s and 90s, Frank crossed paths with several more outstanding Georgia bucks. Most of them came home in the back of his truck. But in all his years of hunting trophy whitetails, he would never again set eyes on anything that would rival the incredible buck he shot on that memorable day in November of 1968. 

A year or two prior to the ’68 season, Frank joined a hunting club known as the Decatur Sportsman’s Club. 

The 1,800-acre lease was located in northern Jasper County. 

Typical of that era, it was a large club with about 50 members. 

After opening weekend of rifle season, Frank would often camp on the property all week long. By Thursday, Nov. 7, he had managed to locate some excellent buck sign made by what he believed to be a “buck worth hunting.” Although most hunters still opted to hunt on the ground during that time period, elevated tree stands were just beginning to gain popularity in the South in the late ’60s. Always a little ahead of the curve, earlier in the week Frank had built a platform in a tree near several large rubs and scrapes. At that time, there were very few “store-bought” portable tree stands on the market. Most were homemade models fashioned out of plywood.

Just before opening weekend, several club members had seen a giant deer with a “rocking chair rack” in the area. Frank had no way of knowing it at the time, but the fresh sign he had located probably belonged to that deer. Thursday morning broke clear and cool. Even though it had not yet turned really cold, the rolling hills of central Georgia were alive with rutting bucks. Frank knew it was an ideal morning to be in the woods. He was in his stand well before daylight. 

About 9:30 a.m., a doe suddenly appeared. She jumped a nearby fence and walked directly under his stand. Moments later, a huge buck appeared, following in the doe’s footsteps. As the big buck approached, it stopped to check one of the nearby scrapes. Then it started nibbling on some browse. 

Frank had little time to get excited. Wielding a Model 742 Remington .30/06 topped with a Redfield 4X scope, he quickly lined up the crosshairs on the buck’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The buck ran. Frank fired several more shots at the bounding whitetail, emptying his automatic rifle in the process. 

The buck disappeared, and the woods once again became quiet.

Frank climbed down and went to the spot where he thought the deer had been standing. To his great disappointment, he found not a single drop of blood.

“I thought I had missed him,” Frank said. “I was sick. I knew I would never see another buck like that again as long as I lived. I kept telling myself that if I had truly missed him, I was going to give up deer hunting.” 

Frank then did the only thing he could do. He started searching the woods in the direction the deer had run. Several long minutes went by as he painstakingly looked for some sign of a hit. He had ventured about 100 yards from his stand when he looked ahead and saw his buck—piled up on the ground, stone dead. Frank was elated. He went and got his hunting partner, Harold West. Harold was also elated. Together the two men dragged the huge carcass out to Frank’s truck.

Ironically, Frank found that his first shot had hit the buck right behind the shoulder where he had been aiming. He had also connected two more times as the buck had run off. The buck had, in fact, left a distinct blood trail. Frank simply had misjudged the spot where the buck had been standing. He had looked for blood in the wrong place—a classic mistake that more than one excited deer hunter has been known to make.

Frank’s large-bodied deer field-dressed at 180 pounds. The buck apparently had been rutting heavily and by the look of its frame had dropped considerable weight. But it was not the weight of the big whitetail that made all the other hunters in camp turn their heads in awe. Instead, it was the huge mass of twisted bone that Frank’s buck carried on top of its head. 

In all, Frank’s one-of-a-kind-trophy sported 11 points on each side. Realizing that the big whitetail probably was some sort of record, a number of Frank’s friends urged him to have it scored for the record book.

Prior to the 1968 season, only a handful of record-book bucks had been killed in Georgia during the previous decade. Nearly all of them were “typical” in configuration. Virtually every one of these racks had been measured by Jack Crockford, Georgia’s first official B&C measurer. As a biologist with the state, Jack had been heavily involved with Georgia’s statewide deer restoration program that started in the early ’50s. 

By the late 1960s, Jack had worked his way up through the ranks to the position of assistant director of the Game and Fish Commission. One of the many jobs that fell into his lap was that of scoring trophy antlers. By this time, Jack also had earned world-wide fame by successfully developing and using the first “Cap-Chur Gun,” which fired a gas-propelled tranquilizer dart used to subdue deer and other wild animals. Today, more modern versions of the Cap-Chur Gun are still widely used around the globe.  

Two years earlier, Jack had scored Georgia’s first official typical state record—a huge 11-pointer measuring 184 typical B&C points killed by a hunter named Gene Almand in nearby Newton County. 

However, Jack had encountered very few “non-typical” racks. To be sure, he had never seen or measured a set of antlers like the set Frank Pritchard’s wife brought him on a cold January day in early 1969. As mentioned, the rack was a measurer’s nightmare. Jack had considerable difficulty trying to determine which points were normal and which were abnormal. Scoring the typical portion of the rack as a main-framed 7×7, he arrived at a score of 172 3/8 points. But he was not sure how to handle the six abnormal points. To add to the confusion, the G-5 on the right beam of the 7×7 rack had been broken off at the base, penalizing the rack at least 6 or 7 inches. 

At one point on Jack’s score sheet, he had added in the non-typical points and tallied up a final non-typical score of 196 4/8 points. But he was not sure that he had scored the rack correctly, so he wrote a letter to the Boone and Crockett Club requesting advice on several of the questionable points. 

Frank Pritchard’s Jasper County 22-point buck perplexed official scorers back in the day, who weren’t sure how to tally such a unique non-typical rack. It didn’t receive an official score until 1994, when it tallied 196 inches even.

For whatever reason, Jack never received a definitive answer from the B&C Club as to how the final score should be tallied. As a result, Frank’s trophy was never assigned an official score. 

Had Frank’s buck been given its appropriate non-typical score, it no doubt would have been recognized as a state record at the time.  

Jack Crockford retired from the state in 1978. A few years later, I was researching several vintage trophies that had been killed in Georgia in the late 1960s and early ’70s. As I looked through some of Jack’s old score sheets, I came across Frank Pritchard’s 1968 trophy. It was obvious that Frank’s buck was huge. Judging by the figures on the score sheet, the buck appeared to have enough antler mass to easily qualify for the Boone and Crockett Record Book. But the score sheet was incomplete. After having scoring literally hundreds of trophies during that era, Jack only vaguely remembered scoring the rack.  

Two days later, I was sitting in Frank Pritchard’s living room admiring one of the most impressive non-typical trophies that had ever walked the creek bottoms in central Georgia. The old shoulder mount needed a face lift for sure, but there was no doubt in my mind that the multi-tined rack sitting on top of that vintage mount possessed enough bone to qualify for the record book. 

Being very excited about my “discovery,” I borrowed Frank’s trophy and took it down to DNR headquarters in Atlanta to be re-measured. At that time, a number of state biologists had been certified as official B&C measurers. 

However, we immediately ran into the same problem Jack had encountered years earlier with the same questionable tines. The rack could be scored several different ways, but no one was certain which way was best. Once again, the status of the trophy was in a state of limbo.  

Frank shot the massive buck on an 1,800-acre hunting club in northern Jasper County. After being field-dressed, the buck weighed 180 pounds, but it obviously had lost quite a bit of weight during the rut in November 1968.

I was very disappointed. I knew Frank’s buck belonged in the all-time record book. The antlers possessed well over 200 inches of antler mass. I felt certain there had to be a way to score those antlers accurately and that they would surpass the 195-point minimum. The question was, “How?”

Another decade would pass before my question would find an answer. In August 1994, Frank let me borrow the rack to use in a big buck display I was doing at a local deer show in Georgia. The antlers had been removed from the original shoulder mount because Frank finally had decided to have the old trophy remounted. While at that deer show, I showed the huge rack to my good friend Bill Cooper. Bill has long been one of B&C’s most highly regarded measurers, and we’re lucky he lives in Georgia. He’s long managed the scoring of GON’s Truck-Buck contest, and he has scored the vast majority of Georgia’s B&C bucks. He’s also one of the most determined measurers. 

I told Bill about the buck’s scoring history. If anyone could interpret the points on Frank’s trophy correctly and give the rack the credit it deserved, I knew it had to be Bill Cooper! 

“Why don’t you let me take the rack and see what I can do with it?” he asked, after hearing my story.

“Be my guest!” I said.

A few hours later, Bill came back to my booth wearing a big grin.

“Good news,” he said, grinning broadly. “It was a real booger-bear to score, but it measures 196 even.” 

I was elated. After all those years, a very deserving trophy from Jasper County—the fourth known B&C buck to ever come out of that county as of that time—had finally qualified for the all-time record book. At long last, the trophy and the hunter who killed it could finally get the credit they both deserved. Amazingly, Bill Cooper’s final score was only 4/8s less than the non-typical score Jack Crockford had originally tallied up way back in 1969. Jack had been right on the money all along.

Over the years, Frank was a great supporter of sportsmen and conservation in Georgia. He stopped by the GON office often, once dropping off a check to support youth hunting through the SEEDS program.

Sadly, Frank Pritchard passed away on Nov. 15, 2006 at the age of 74. He had suffered serious health problems for several years and had not been able to do much deer hunting. Whenever he got a little melancholy, I like to think that he would walk into the family room and look up on the wall. 

One glance at that giant whitetail taken so long ago had to be the best medicine money could buy!  

Rank Score Name Year County Method Photo
1 179 Hubert Moody 1957 Jasper Gun
2 199 5/8 (NT) Hugh Barber 1959 Jasper Gun View 
3 196 (NT) Frank Pritchard 1968 Jasper Gun View 
4 170 5/8 Wade Cown 1961 Jasper Gun View 
5 170 1/8 Glenn Owens 1967 Jasper Gun View 
6 164 2/8 Tom Dean 1972 Jasper Gun
7 188 (NT) David Coppenger 1985 Jasper Gun View 
8 163 3/8 James Bevil 1960 Jasper Gun
9 159 7/8 Sammy Larman 1963 Jasper Gun
10 158 7/8 Kim Reed 2008 Jasper Gun View 

     

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