Giant Upson County Buck New County Bow Record

Everett Park | October 24, 2022

Bryce Spillers and his Upson County bow-buck. The buck green scores 198 non-typical inches and should net in the low 190s.

Do you remember your first buck? If you’re like many hunters, it was a cool November morning when an immature basket rack or spike stumbled out in front of you looking for a doe to chase.

But for a very special group of hunters, like 21-year-old Bryce Spillers, of Thomaston, their first buck will likely be the biggest of their lifetime.

Bryce and his brother Ben have been deer hunting since they were old enough to climb in a stand with their father, and according to him “if it’s brown it’s down” was usually the plan.

At the age of 14, he began taking his hunting more seriously, letting some deer walk that many would have taken just to check the box on their harvest report.

By the time he graduated from high school, Bryce jumped down the rabbit hole of hunting styles many of us have found ourselves in over the years, bowhunting. 

As a family, they hunt about 600 acres of farmland with plenty of hardwood and lowland features that support the growth of big deer, with several being killed and mounted by his brother and other relatives.

But on one fateful day in 2019, Bryce’s whole direction took a hard turn when he had an encounter that would shake him to the core and create a laser focus on one animal.

Bryce was sitting in a ground blind facing a hardwood swamp, with his brother hunting a nearby cutover. As the first light of day began to spill into the bottom, Bryce saw what he was assuming was a tree stump 100 yards away suddenly move.

“No way…” he thought. “That can’t be real..” After all, how many times have your eyes played that trick on you at first light, leaving you frustrated as the sun betrays your vivid imagination.

But this time, it revealed something different in the minutes to follow as the “stump” moved again, scratched its head and stood up. Calmly walking within 80 yards, but avoiding bow range, the buck entered Bryce’s life and changed everything.

After this chance encounter, the Spillers boys started getting trail-cam pictures of “Smiley” as they named him due to his tendency to stare right at the camera. They estimated him to be about 3 to 4 years old, with incredible mass and structure to his rack.

Bryce’s buck was named Smiley because he was always looking at the camera.

Neighboring hunters up to 5 miles away were also hunting this deer over the next three seasons with many stories of him crossing roads and daylighting in fields. None of them knew that Bryce had a secret though, one that would give the brothers an advantage.

During the 2020 season, the then 10-point buck got less pressure from them as life had other plans, but they did begin feeding protein pellets to supplement corn and natural food sources.

By the next year, he had blown up to a 150-inch giant with 16 visible points, and the same distinct cut in his floppy left ear, validating their belief that this was the one they had been waiting for. The chase was on! 

But with everyone in the area trying to pattern him, Smiley still had an affinity for this one particular swamp, remaining strictly nocturnal while visiting two to three nights at a time. 

He survived another season of bows, guns, coyotes and cars, and returned for the 2022 archery season with a legendary set of antlers, destined for the record books.

This year Bryce had two encounters with him prior to the season starting, both times as he was walking into a nearby cutover area to set trail cameras, both times in broad daylight.

“I felt like this year would be my year,” Bryce said, as these encounters and his trail pictures revealed a new pattern, 1 to 4 p.m. in the afternoons, and usually for two to three days at the beginning of the week.

He hadn’t gotten a picture of his target in a week and a half, so making a wise choice that many of us wouldn’t, Saturday afternoon Bryce went back to the swamp he had first seen the buck in three years ago. He got ahead of the kill…

Setting his small portable lock on 30 yards from a beaten-down trail, he picked a spot that he knew would present the shot he wanted, made a mock scrape, then left.

On Monday, Oct. 10, Bryce slipped into his stand at around 6:30 a.m. with his Matthews VXR in hand. 

As he settled in, he realized he was later than he had planned, having made last-minute adjustments and even ratcheting another strap to his stand, he questioned if this mistake would cost him. 

Right on cue as the sun was breaking, Bryce could hear the crunching of leaves as a deer was moving around him. Thermals were pulling and the wind was dead calm, so anything was possible.

This is the moment where the questions usually plague our minds, sometimes maddening us with doubts that we had messed up the perfect opportunity. But not Bryce, He had a plan and believed it would work.

At 7:30 a.m., the buck of 10,000 lifetimes stepped onto the trail and made his way to the mock scrape. Pausing long enough to give up his left shoulder, Bryce calmly came to full draw, steadied his pin and shot.

He kept his cool as he watched the three-blade mechanical pass cleanly through the sweet spot and sent the giant crashing back toward his bedding area. And then, 60 yards from the arrow, the beast fell, and Bryce nearly did, too!

“I went for a ride in that tree!” he told me, as all the emotions hit him at once. It was a hard week for the Spillers as Ben’s newborn baby fought for his life in the NICU and the whole family including Bryce had more important things on their mind.

Calling Mom first, he admits he shed a tear realizing how this would impact his family at a time when they all needed a win. 

“How did you not get nervous?” Ben asked when he arrived to help him make the short walk to the very spot he had seen him bedded three years before. “I didn’t have time to get nervous,” Bryce replied as the rack came into view and the gravity set in for them both.

His head laid across one of the same logs that had Bryce believing he was a tree stump in 2019, the sun beamed in across all 18 points of his non-typical rack.

After a few days of phone calls and some new friendships, Bryce’s buck was green scored unofficially at 198 2/8 non-typical inches. After the 60-day drying period, Bryce had his buck officially scored at 184 6/8 inches non-typical. It’s the new county record for bow bucks. 

The first grandson of the family, Bauer Spillers, is healthier now, and the whole family is ready to welcome him home. Uncle Bryce will have a set of antlers for him to hold for the first time and another generation of hunters is born…

Upson County Best Bow Bucks Of All-Time

1184 6/8 (NT)Bryce Spillers2022UpsonBowView 
2149 6/8 Tony Chapman1992UpsonBow
3147 Darrell Hudson2019UpsonBowView 
4141 1/8 Peter Walker2021UpsonBowView 
5140 5/8 Britt Owens2004UpsonBow
6157 1/8 (NT)Alex Kite2021UpsonBowView 
7156 4/8 (NT)Robert Kleinschmidt1998UpsonBowView 
8135 1/8 Tony Chapman1991UpsonBow
9133 Britt Owens1999UpsonBow
10133 Richard Fleming2017UpsonBow

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  1. Cbuck on November 9, 2022 at 10:45 am

    Dream buck!!!!

  2. fleming01 on October 26, 2022 at 4:55 pm

    Wow! Congratulations! 🎉

  3. 7pt62THOR on October 25, 2022 at 8:04 pm

    Congrats Bryce!

  4. Mike 65 on October 25, 2022 at 12:19 pm

    Awesome buck!

  5. ShawnLumsden on October 25, 2022 at 11:31 am

    Killer buck man! Congratulations!

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