Georgia Booner With A Bow

The story of David Cambell's new state-record bow buck from Lee County.

Steve Ruckel | August 1, 2013

David Campbell walked briskly across the harvested peanut field in northern Lee County, his Lone Wolf climber slung over his shoulder and Hoyt bow in hand. On this cold December morning he could see his breath as he made his way to a tract of large pines and continued into them about 80 yards to a tree he had preselected. By the time he settled in the stand, a glow in the eastern sky was bathing the woods in soft light.

Campbell, a 46-year-old from Marshallville, has bowhunted since he was big enough to pick up a bow. He has been fortunate to take several Pope and Young bucks, including a 160 7/8 non-typical whopper in Macon County in 2003 and an outstanding Lee County typical that taped 167 4/8 in 2009. Not content to rest on his laurels, this day David had his sights set on a buck that he believed might top his 2009 trophy, which was the largest bow buck ever taken in Lee County.

Well before daylight on Dec. 14, he had met up with his old college buddy, David Byrd, to hunt an area where an enormous buck was known to live and with whom Byrd had an unsuccessful encounter only days earlier. Apparently, no one had ever seen the deer until his image was captured the previous year on trail cameras on four adjacent farms in a 24-hour period beginning on Dec. 7, 2011 (a fact that was, not surprisingly, kept secret until after the buck was killed a year later.)

“One neighbor got him at 10 a.m., we got him at 3 p.m., and another neighbor two farms over got him at 9 p.m.,” Campbell recalled. “Then the farm between us got him at 8 a.m. the next morning. In our picture, he was standing in the open with the sun shining on him. But nobody actually saw him, as far as I know.”

David Campbell (right), shown with his friend and hunting partner David Byrd, downed this monster whitetail in Lee County on Dec. 14, 2012. Scoring 173 5/8 B&C points, it is the new Georgia state-record typical bow buck.

Campbell was unable to hunt the property any more that year, but Byrd hunted the buck the rest of the 2011 season and never saw him. As the 2012 season approached, the excitement and anticipation was mounting. Even though the big whitetail was never spotted feeding in the peanut fields during the summer, in August they put out trail cameras to try to determine if he was still around.

“It took until mid October before we finally got one blurry night picture of him,” Campbell said. “Then a month went by, and no one saw him until I got a good night picture of him on Nov. 25.”

The middle of the next week a neighbor shot at and missed the buck with a rifle. Three days later, David Byrd had him approach from behind and was so startled to see the monster at 10 yards that he believes he flinched, alerting the buck and sending him bolting out of sight before Byrd could get a shot. With the onset of the rut, all of a sudden, the “invisible buck” was starting to show himself.

Campbell had been hunting in a ladder stand about a quarter of a mile from his hunting pal the day the big buck surprised Byrd. Not only was one of the trail-camera photos of the buck taken in the vicinity of Campbell’s stand, this tract of mature pines with a brushy undergrowth was perfect cover for an elusive old deer. A few rubs scattered about provided additional evidence that bucks were using the area. Convinced they were hunting the two most likely places to ambush the giant whitetail, the following Friday morning found them in the same stands. The only difference was that Campbell made a fateful decision to slightly change his stand location.

“The ladder stand was in a good place,” Campbell noted, “but I thought that I needed to be over about 50 yards. So I carried a climber in that morning and got in a tree that I had spotted the week before. It was a large pine with a sweetgum, covered in vines, bent over right beside it, and it gave me some cover. It all worked perfect because the deer would not have been in bow range from the ladder.”

Settling into the stand, Campbell readied his equipment and waited for shooting light to arrive. Periodically, the trail-camera image of the massive buck standing in the sun flashed through his mind, and he wondered if this might be the day he would get a chance at him. Even though he had memorized every point arising from the wide-spread antlers, he had refused to attempt to estimate the score of the rack for fear of jinxing himself. However, most of the select group of friends who had seen the photo, pronounced it a “Booner” for sure.

Finally, the gray light that precedes sunrise began to seep into the open pines, allowing David to see about 60 yards into the oak brush and honeysuckle understory. Though faint trails transected the pine stand, past experience showed that deer typically just filtered through the area in a random fashion. It wasn’t long before the action began.

“As soon as it got light enough to see,” he recalled, “four small bucks came from three different directions through the area. A couple of them were sparring and messing around, but they finally got tired of that and all of them went off through the woods. I remember thinking that I couldn’t remember a time that I’ve ever killed a big buck where I had seen small bucks right before. I thought ‘this might not be the day.’”

About an hour went by, with Campbell’s hopes diminishing by the minute. Nevertheless, as serious hunters will do, he continued his vigilance.  Scanning the woods to his right, he suddenly spotted one side of a deer’s rack moving about 50 yards away. Raising his binoculars, he could see that it was a nice rack but could still see only one side. Seconds later, the buck stepped out from behind the brush, and David knew instantly it was him.

“He stood there and looked and checked the wind for 30 or 40 seconds,” Campbell said. “It seemed like five minutes! When he finally dropped his head, he started walking straight to me.”

David picked a pine tree he thought the buck would go by and determined with his range finder that it was 24 yards. Grabbing his bow, he knocked an arrow and watched the deer walk toward him. When the massive whitetail got to the tree, instead of coming straight on, he veered to the right, heading toward a small opening. As he passed behind a bush, the excited archer drew his bow.

“He comes walking out from behind that bush just as calm as he can be, not nervous, not spooky,” Campbell recalled. “I got to full draw and was just fixin’ to grunt at him to get him to stop, and that rascal stopped by himself, broadside, in the wide open, at 22 yards. It was perfect!

“When he stopped, I had the pin on him,” David continued. “He stood there just long enough I could pull the trigger on the release. I watched the arrow disappear exactly where I was aiming, right behind the shoulder. That deer tore out the way he was pointing just as fast as he could go. I could see about 75 yards in that direction, and as soon as he went out of sight, I could see the tops of some little pines shaking.  It sounded like a little car wreck over there!”

Heart pounding, and breathing as if he had just run a 100-yard dash, Campbell’s first thought was to contact Byrd.

“Normally, I never talk on my cell phone in the stand,” he said. “I was fixin’ to send Byrd a text, but my hands were shaking so bad, I couldn’t text right. So I just called him.”

Byrd’s phone was on vibrate mode, and when he pulled it out of his pocket and saw Campbell’s name on the screen, he thought to himself, ‘There ain’t but two reasons this joker is calling me. Either he fell out of the tree and is about to die, or he’s killed a deer.’ 

“What?” Byrd answered.

“You’re not going to believe it,” Campbell exclaimed. “I just shot that deer!”

Before Campbell could get down the tree and walk out to the edge of the field to meet him, Byrd arrived, only slightly less keyed up than Campbell.

“When he got there,” Campbell said, “we went over there, and I showed him where the deer was standing and found the arrow, covered in blood, sticking in the ground. I was trying to cherish the moment and follow the blood trail, but Byrd was wanting to walk straight to the point where the bushes were shaking.”

Ben Campbell holds a temporary mount of the new No. 1 Georgia archery buck taken by his father, David.

They ended up following the trail some 80 yards until they were almost out of sight of the stand and found the monster buck piled up right where Campbell expected him to be. The Swhacker broadhead had done its job!

“Usually you’re talking and all excited when you find a buck,” Campbell noted. “But this deer was so big that I just kneeled down beside him and stared. I was speechless, almost in shock. He was so much bigger than what we were used to looking at. It was a weird feeling.”

Byrd, however, was anything but silent as he picked up the buck’s head and surveyed the massive 10-pointer. Rotating it in every direction, he was already calculating what the score of the rack might be as he bombarded Campbell with questions about the details of this momentous event.

If there was ever a deer that could leave one simply gawking at its magnificence, this one was it. Though not small, the 185-lb. body of the 5 1/2-year-old buck appeared somewhat diminished compared to the rack. When the big whitetail was officially measured after the mandatory 60-day drying period, the Booner estimates were accurate. The tape showed an inside spread of 21 5/8 inches and beams of 25 5/8 and 25 6/8 inches. Tine length was exceptional as well. Brow tines were 6 1/8 and 7 4/8 inches, G-2s were 10 1/8 and 11 1/8 inches, G-3s were 10 6/8 and 10 7/8 inches and G-4s were 6 5/8 and 7 5/8 inches. The mass of the rack was excellent, with the four circumferences on each beam ranging from 3 6/8 to 5 0/8 inches. When the calculations were complete, a gross Boone & Crockett score of 178 3/8 was confirmed. After 4 6/8 inches of non-symmetry penalties were subtracted, the net B&C score was 173 5/8.

Not only did the buck far exceed the minimum 125 score required to be entered into the typical category of the Pope & Young record book for bow-killed deer, it also surpassed the minimum 170 score for inclusion in the Boone & Crockett record book. In addition, Campbell’s big whitetail was the largest typical taken in Georgia by any means during the 2012 season. Not surprisingly, it becomes the new top-scoring buck in Lee County in the County-By-County Bow Rankings compiled by GON. But most importantly, the monster buck becomes the new Georgia record typical bow buck, beating Michael Long’s 1991 Morgan County buck, which scored 173 1/8, by half an inch.

Months after the buck was downed, Campbell still looks at the rack almost in disbelief. Once Leesburg taxidermist Grayson Roberts completes his magic, David will have a full-body mount of the deer to remind him of arguably the greatest hunting experience of his life.

Will he ever top this buck? Who knows? But that possibility is one of many reasons that we all hunt, and you can bet that David Campbell will be back in the woods this fall, trying to make that happen.

Current Georgia State Bow-Buck Rankings

1236 1/8 (NT)Benny Overholt2021MaconBowView 
2223 6/8 (NT)Mikell Fries2013EvansBowView 
3213 4/8 (NT)Jay Maxwell2007FultonBowView 
4177 1/8 Manny Kaloyannides2018DeKalbBowView 
5200 5/8 (NT)Lee Ellis2019CobbBowView 
6174 3/8 Grant Bailey2023GwinnettBowView 
7173 5/8 David Campbell2012LeeBowView 
8173 1/8 Michael Long1991MorganBowView 
9170 2/8 Dylan Wylie2018FultonBowView 
10170 2/8 Jeff Foxworthy2018HarrisBowView 

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