How The 2002 Truck-Buck Weeks Were Won

Hunt stories for Weeks 6 through 10 and wildcards.

Lindsay Thomas Jr. | August 1, 2003

Coming this month is the most thrilling, most anticipated event in Georgia deer hunting except for opening day of gun season — the Truck- Buck Shoot-Out. If we awarded our new Z71 pickup to the highest-scoring buck of the year, all we’d have is a deer contest. Truck-Buck is about hunters as much as it is about deer, so we find out who is the best shot with a pellet rifle before we award the truck. We also find out who can shoot well under pressure by inviting everyone at the Buckarama in Perry to witness the contest, and an audience of 1,000 or more can really put on some pressure.

Be a part of it by showing up at 3 p.m. on August 17 at the Perry Buckarama to watch the Shoot-Out. Better yet, enter Truck-Buck this year and maybe in 2004 you’ll be a Shoot- Out participant instead of a spectator. Just remember that Truck-Buck is for GON subscribers only (see page 98 of this issue for more details on Truck- Buck 2003). In the meantime, meet a few more of the subscribers who were winners last season and will be shooting for the truck and the ATV this month in Perry.

Week 6, Richard Yancey: When it’s archery season, Richard Yancey of Covington doesn’t have to go far from home to hunt — in fact right out his back door into his backyard. But when gun season comes in he needs a little more room than his 5-acre yard affords, and last season he was a new member of a 1,400-acre Newton County hunting club.

“The part I was hunting had just been select cut,” said Richard, “and there were a lot of fallen-down trees on it where they’d been in there logging, and it was rough to walk in. There was one hilltop where the loggers left some good white oak trees. I had scouted that area last summer and found some good deer sign, some good-size droppings, and I decided I was going to hunt there. When hunting season came around, there were plenty of acorns falling in there.”

Richard Yancey, of Covington, and his Newton County 13-pointer graced the cover of the January 2003 issue of GON. In February, his buck scored high enough to win Week 6 of the Truck- Buck contest.

As an employee of AT&T, Richard works irregular hours, and he had to work through opening weekend of gun season. That gave him Wednesday off.

“That being the first week of gun season, I was ready to go. I made up my mind I was going to hunt all day,” said Richard. “I went over that morning and hunted over a food plot but didn’t see anything, so I decided I would move after lunch. It was cloudy, drizzly, the wind was out of the east. After I ate lunch, I moved my stand to that white- oak hilltop I had seen earlier. I was using a strap-on stand with a Walking Stick climbing ladder, and I finally got situated in that stand about 4 p.m. By then, the wind was beginning to change, and it started to come out of the north.”

Walking in over and limbs left by the loggers, Richard could not help but make a good bit of noise, and he did not have a lot of confidence that he was going to see any deer. “I had just put on my jacket, and I heard something stirring in the brush behind me. So I turned around and looked over my right shoulder, and I saw the hindquarter of a deer moving through the brush. Then I caught a glimpse of some tines. When I saw those, I knew it was a good buck and that I was going to take a shot. Here I was with all kinds of open land in front of me, and of course the buck comes up behind me. I stood up to turn around to get a shot, and my safety strap was a little bit too tight, so I couldn’t stand. No time to loosen it, so I had to crouch and steady my gun against the tree.”

Richard had his Remington Model 700 in .30/06 caliber, and as he lined it up for a shot, the buck stepped into a clear area, and he got his first good look at the rack.

“I had to stop looking at it, and I started focusing on my target,” he said. “I took the shot and I knew that I hit him, because he kicked up his back legs. When he swung his head around then I could really see how big he was.”

Straining to listen, Richard believed he heard the sound of the buck falling.

“I tried to stay calm, and I slowly came down out of my stand. I went over to the spot where I shot him, and I found some blood. I started following the blood trail around the top of the hill, and it kind of disappeared, so I started walking in circles to pick up the blood again.”

The blood trail had ended near the top of a large, fallen tree, and Richard finally found the blood trail continuing on the far side of it, as if the buck had crashed through or leaped completely over the deadfall. The trail improved then, and not far ahead Richard found himself standing over a monster 13-pointer.

“He was laying there just as pretty, with that rack sticking up,” said Richard. “I’ll never forget that sight.”

Then the work started. Because it was a weekday, Richard was alone on the club. He managed to maneuver his ATV back through the fallen logs to the buck, and after field-dressing it he struggled to get the buck onto the vehicle.

“It literally took me 20 minutes to get him up off the ground and get him onto that 4-wheeler,” said Richard. “He was 200 pounds of dead weight.”

One of Richard’s fellow club members, Daryl Tweedell, called GON to tell us about the buck. GON editor Brad Gill met Richard to take photos, and the result was that Richard and his buck were featured on the cover of the January 2003 issue. After the season was over, Richard’s huge buck would score the best of any deer entered in the first week of gun season at 148 3/8.

“Being on the cover, being in the contest, it’s all been so much fun,” said Richard. “The Truck-Buck contest has made it so much more than just killing a big deer.”

Week 7, Ronnie Bates: Growing up in Rentz in Laurens County, near the Oconee River, Ronnie Bates just naturally took to hunting and fishing as a kid. As a grownup, Ronnie’s business, B&S Industrial Contractors, doesn’t allow him as much hunting and fishing time as he would like, but when deer season comes around, he makes exceptions and takes time out from work. He and his good friend, Phillip Sellers of Dublin, hunt together often. One of Ronnie’s hunting clubs sits right across a road from some of Phillip’s private land, and Ronnie takes Phillip hunting as a guest on the club, while Phillip lets Ronnie hunt his property.

On the August 2003 GON cover you’ll find Ronnie Bates, of Rentz, our Week 7 winner. His Laurens County 12-pointer was the highest-scoring typical in Truck-Buck at 157 6/8.

Though the two hunters like to hunt together rather than go alone to the woods, they are complete opposites in style. Phillip is a year-round bowhunter. Ronnie is a rifleman who enjoys big guns and long ranges, practicing at 600 yards or more and pushing the bounds of the laws of nature with scorching hand-loads. Ronnie currently shoots a 7mm Shooting Times Western (STW), which is a 7mm magnum with an extra half-inch of cartridge — room to pack more powder. “With all that powder, it is some kind of moving,” said Ronnie. On a rainy Sunday, October 27 of last year, Ronnie took his rifle and his Tree Lounge climber into a 20-acre clearcut on Phillip’s land. Along with fast bullets, Ronnie likes high stands. On this day, he stopped at 50 feet up a tall pine. “If I got really high I could see into another clearcut,” he said. “The higher I get the more I like it.” Ronnie strapped himself in and, still standing, turned around in the stand to face the clearcut and get a look at his view. Immediately, his eyes caught movement 225 yards out in the clearcut as he glimpsed a deer moving out of the woods and behind a brushpile.

“I thought it was a doe,” said Ronnie. “The deer stayed behind that brushpile a good 10 minutes. When I finally saw it again, I still thought it was a doe. Finally I picked up my rifle and looked through the scope, and when I saw those horns I ’bout had a stroke.

“I was trying to catch my breath. I had the scope on him, and I could have got a shot right then, but he was walking toward me, so I just let him come to me while he would.”

But getting another clear shot might not be easy. The buck quickly dis- appeared behind thick brush in the clearcut. “In a few minutes he started walking again, but I never could see more than his neck or his head. Sometimes I couldn’t see anything when he stopped.”

At 120 yards out, the buck turned and began to parallel Ronnie, and the cover was getting thicker.

“Finally I stood up in that Tree Lounge trying to see him over in those gallberries,” said Ronnie. “Then I saw him behind some bushes. I could see his whole neck and head and parts of his body, and there were two or three little gallberries over his chest. It was the only shot I had before he got slam away. But I knew what I was shooting, and I knew my rifle would kill him through there, so I pulled the trigger.”

The buck swung back on his tracks and vanished from sight. Ronnie felt sure from the buck’s reaction that he had missed. His muscles were exhausted from holding the rifle up, trying to get the one shot, and he sat down and propped the rifle on the stand, sighting on the brush where the buck had disappeared, waiting for him to step out.

“All of a sudden I saw him standing there, so I put the scope on his leg and raised it up and was about to pull the trigger, and I looked before I did, and it was another buck. A young 8-pointer.”

Ronnie lowered the rifle and watched as the small 8-pointer circled the brush where Ronnie thought his buck was waiting. The 8-pointer was nervously eyeing the brush and pawing the ground.

By now it was beginning to get dark, and Ronnie wanted to see if he could find any sign of a hit. He climbed down and went to the last place he had seen his buck. It had not doubled back at all, as Ronnie had thought — it had dropped in its tracks. The deer was a once-in-a-lifetime buck, an almost flaw-less, typical 12-pointer that ended up scoring 157 6/8 inches. That was the best typical score in Truck-Buck last year, second overall behind Jacky Stanfill’s Boone & Crockett. Lucky for Ronnie, Jacky was in Week 8, and

Ronnie claimed Week 7 for himself. His score now holds fifth place all time in Laurens County.

Ronnie had Artistik Taxidermy in Centerville give the buck a full-body mount, and it’s on display now in his office. Looking back on last year, Ronnie said that he had no idea he was going to kill a buck like that. “We had our trail cameras out and everything, and we never saw him. We got some pictures of some nice bucks, but not this one. And nobody else has said that they saw it. He was just like a ghost.”

Week 8, Jacky Stanfill: Jacky Stanfill of Moultrie has killed some nice bucks in Colquitt County, but he has seen bigger bucks than the ones on his wall. In 2001, he missed what was, at the time, the biggest buck he had ever seen. He was hunting with his brother across the line in Early County, less than a mile from his uncle’s land where Jacky also hunts.

“I had bought me an over-and-under shotgun/rifle combination because our lease in Early County is so thick, most of the time you need a shotgun,” said Jacky.

Through heavy fog, Jacky saw an enormous buck raking a tree 150 yards away. He put the crosshairs of the scope on the buck’s vitals and squeezed the trigger, knowing the result would be a dead buck. But instead of pulling the trigger of the .308 barrel, Jacky’s finger went to the lower barrel, the 12-gauge buckshot. The deer bounced away without a scratch.

Spread, mass, tine length, character — this buck’s got it all. Moultrie’s Jacky Stanfill killed this 16-pointer in Colquitt County, winning Week 8 of Truck-Buck. His deer was the best in the contest last year, with a non- typical score of 200 1/8, and was one of two Boone & Crockett qualifiers killed in Georgia in 2002.

“I no longer own that gun,” said Jacky.

The next year, 2002, Jacky went back to hunting the 55-acre tract his uncle owns in Colquitt County, not quite a mile away from where he had missed the monster buck. There were no special signs of any outsized deer on this land, except for one hopeful clue: in the spring of 2002, the farmer next door had flattened a tractor tire on a shed antler, a high-tined shed with five points. Jacky started out gun season hunting in a comfortable “condo” stand built over a small food plot. The plot had been cleared in the middle of a scrub-oak thicket, and the iron clay peas and rye were doing well. Every time Jacky hunted it in early gun season, he saw the same spike buck, and several times he saw a recognizable 5-pointer. Always they entered the food plot in the same back corner. Strangely, Jacky had not seen a single doe by the time the peak of the rut was due to arrive, usually on November 14.

“Every time I would sit there, the deer would always come in at the far end, from the west, through a narrow opening, then they’d pass out of sight for a while. You never knew whether they were going to come on out in the field or go on down in the woods. Whenever that 5-pointer would come in, most of the time the first thing I saw was the top of his horns. He’d walk right out in the center of the plot, take two steps and then he was gone.

“That morning, on November 7, I saw the top of the horns coming, but I didn’t think it looked like the 5-pointer. It looked much bigger. I propped the gun up and got ready and waited, think- ing he would either come on around or he’d turn back in the woods and I’d never see him again. Finally five minutes later he stepped out in a narrow place, looking dead at me. One step in either direction and he’d be out of sight again.”

Jacky was looking through a 3×9 Tasco scope on his Remington 742 Woodmaster .243. “I love that little gun. I wouldn’t take anything else for it.” At 75 yards, the crosshairs fell into place on a huge buck. “I didn’t look at the horns,” said Jacky. “I’ve missed some good deer doing that, by looking at the horns instead of looking where that little crosshair is. When he stepped out, I put the crosshairs on his neck, squeezed the trigger, and he hit the ground.”

Jacky realized he had a pretty nice deer as he walked up and started counting the number of points — a total of 16 over an inch. But somehow the reality did not quite sink in. Somehow he didn’t truly realize what he had. It was- n’t until Bill Cooper, a senior biologist with WRD in Albany and an official Boone & Crockett measurer, green- scored the buck that Jacky realized his buck was likely going to make the record book. Later, Bill measured the buck for its official score, which soared to an incredible 200 1/8 non-typical, far and away the best Truck-Buck entry of the year, giving Jacky Week 8 of the contest.

Bill Cooper estimated Jacky’s Boone & Crockett to be only 4 1/2 years old.

Week 9, David Brannen: For Birds Eye Foods in Macon County, on the banks of the Flint River, November is an extremely busy month. That’s tough on one of their employees, David Brannen of Montezuma, who has access to some of the finest hunting land in Macon County, the Flint River Wildlife Club. David and his father, Major Brannen, manage the 4,000-acre farm, which in 1971 produced one of Macon County’s Boone & Crocketts, Major Beard’s “Major Buck.”

The property’s potential can be seen in the buck rule for members — to be legal, an 8-pointer must net 130 and a 10-pointer must net 140. David has some nice bucks on his wall, and his self-imposed, personal rule was even higher going into last season: 150 or better to pull the trigger.

“Usually I take my vacation between Christmas and New Years,” said David, “which isn’t really much good for hunting. But the past three years I have talked my boss into letting me take a week off in November.”

David’s week-long vacation last year fell in Week 9 of the Truck-Buck contest. Unfortunately, sloppy weather moved in for the first few days of that week and David was unable to hunt. Tuesday was the first good morning he had, but he had little luck. For Thursday morning, he had his eye on a large, 2-year-old, replanted cutover — the season before another member had been watching two bucks in this cutover, a big shooter and a substandard buck, and he had accidentally pulled the trigger on the wrong buck, and the big buck got away clean. But when he arrived at the check-in board at the club’s deer cooler, David found that this cutover stand was claimed for Thursday morning by another member. Thursday night he checked back and found it open for Friday morning, so he hung his tag on the cutover stand.

David Brannen, of Montezuma, killed this dark-racked 12- pointer in Macon County on Nov. 15, 2002. The buck scored 150 1/8, taking the top spot in Week 9.

“I’ve been hunting real thick areas lately because I just believe an older buck is not going to come across a cutover during deer season, especially under moderate pressure,” said David. “But my week was getting gone and I had to do something. I went to the cutover on dad’s insistence. I should listen to him more often as a matter of fact.”

David went in early Friday morning and climbed a tall sweetgum on the edge of the cutover, midway down the length of the narrow rectangular opening. From there, with his .260 Remington, he could cover most of the cutover. “I shoot a 125-grain Nosler Partition,” said David. “I call them deer stoppers, and they like a hog, too.”

As he watched day break over the cutover, David saw a small buck appear on the edge of the trees, sniff the wind, and turn back into the woods. That did it. He was convinced more than ever that if a peon wouldn’t even step out in the open, a mature buck certainly was not going to. He climbed down, intent on heading to his permanent area on the club, a good, dense thicket.

“By 8:45 I was on the ground walking back to the truck,” said David. “I was still in sight of the stand when I looked up and saw a doe out in the cutover. And as soon as I saw her, I spotted a buck standing not far from her in the open, and he was already looking

dead at me. I squatted down right there, and he kept looking at me, and then he looked back at her. I hate it when they catch me with my britches down, but that doe saved me. The only thing that kept him from running when he saw me was his interest in her. But he saw me before I saw him. I’m just glad I’m the one that had the gun, because he’d have got me.”

With the buck staring at him, David could not make any kind of judgment about the rack, but he could tell it was a very good buck. The buck continued to swap his gaze from David to the doe, trying to decide whether to run or keep pursuing the doe. “Finally, I got a glance at the right side, and I said, ‘He’s a 10. That’ll give me that 140.’ But I still waited, because I wanted to be sure. Then he turned and I saw that the other side was a perfect match, and I put it on him and pulled the trigger. He dropped right there.”

David moved carefully up to his buck. As he got closer, he saw that the buck was definitely more than a 10. He was a beautiful 6×6 12-pointer.

“Instead of ground shrink, he actually grew on me,” said David. “I was jumping up and down when I saw him. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.

“Dad is really involved with my hunting, and I am with his, and I wanted to go find him immediately. Halfway to town I met him in the road, and I said, ‘I got a pretty good deer I need you to look at. I think he’s going to be good enough to make 140.’

“When we got back to the buck, we were celebrating and I was wanting to give dad a hug, but he was too busy looking at the rack.”

While he waited for February and the official Truck-Buck scoring event, David taped and re-taped the rack. “I came up with 149 and then 151. I was really wanting that 150 bad. Daddy said, ‘You’re going to wear the rack out scoring it.’”

When an official score was finally put on David’s rack, his hopes came true: 150 2/8 net after a gross score of 155 3/8. “He’s the highest net-scoring buck that’s been killed on our club since the Major Buck,” said David. There’s been some that might be close. We’ve had some gross in the 160s but net in the mid-140s.

“I’ve got six bucks mounted now, and I’m running out of wall. My next one is going to have be very, very distinctive, or he’s going to have to score 160 plus. So, I’m going to have to wait. It may be 12 years, but maybe I’ll get him.”

One thing that David is also still hunting for is a mature buck — his 12- pointer was aged by WRD senior biologist Scott McDonald as either an early-born 2 1/2 or a 3 1/2-year-old.

“Just looking at this deer’s body you could tell he was not a mature buck,” said David. “So, I still stand by that theory of older bucks not using the cutover.”

Week 10, Joel Lewis: Joel Lewis, of Fort Valley, is fortunate to be able to lease and hunt 150 acres of land only 10 minutes from his front door in Peach County. The land has produced some good bucks, including a bow-killed 10-pointer that Joel entered in Truck-Buck in 2000.

Last year, the property was showing signs of the presence of a pretty good deer — large rubs appeared first, followed by a super-sized scrape in a chain of smaller scrapes. Though some of the best hunting on the tract is in a peach orchard, the scrapes were located on the edge of a 3-year-old clearcut. Joel hunted the area thoroughly but by mid-November, the peak of the rut, no luck had come his way. In the first week of November, Joel’s father-in-law saw a huge buck too far away for a shot, but the days that followed did not produce more sightings of any big deer.

On November 19, Joel was hunting a ladder stand on the clearcut, positioned so that he could see the area around the big scrape. No bucks showed, but a group of does came out into the edge of the clearcut and began to act strangely.

Peach County has a new buck in the top-10, this 152 3/8 10-pointer killed by Joel Lewis, of Fort Valley. Joel will represent Week 10 at the Shoot-Out in Perry.

“These does just stuck around and stuck around in this one area acting funny, just bouncing all around and acting crazy,” said Joel. “I had really never seen does act like that.”

Joel got a gut feeling that he need- ed to relocate his ladder stand to give him a more clear view of the area where the does had behaved so strangely, even if it meant less of a view of the scrape line. When he climbed down, he moved the ladder stand. On November 22, he was back again, bringing along his lever-action Marlin .450 magnum. “I got that thing to hunt on a club that had hogs, but I couldn’t leave it at home after that,” said Joel. “I could not lay that thing down. It’s so short and handy, so compact. It shoots a 300-grain chunk of lead.”

That morning, Joel settled into his ladder stand before daylight. Not long after he could see well enough to shoot, a single doe appeared in the clearcut near where Joel had seen the does earlier in the week.

“It stopped and looked around, then another doe hopped in there with that one. They both stood there looking around, then they turned and looked back in the woods. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a third doe coming down the hill into the clearcut with her head stretched out and her ears laid back, and just a second or two behind her a buck comes out, and I knew immediately when I saw him that he was a big deer. The other two does looked back at the buck, who was coming along at a good, steady trot, and they broke and ran.”

The buck had by now trotted to within 25 yards of Joel, but events were happening too quickly for a shot.

“One of those does broke and ran dead away from me, and that’s the one that he followed. Had he not followed that one deer, I wouldn’t have gotten a shot,” said Joel. “All I had time to do was grunt, and he was so intent on following that doe I had to grunt really loud with my mouth, but it stopped him. Just as pretty as you please, he took two steps to the left and stretched his old head out and grunted, and that’s when I got him.

“He fell right there, but I didn’t know that. I just knew he had disappeared in that clearcut,” said Joel. “I gathered my wits for a second, and I said a little silent prayer, ‘Lord, don’t let me have missed that deer.’”

But when Joel investigated, he saw the buck lying right where it had been standing when he shot. Joel said that his lease is known for producing bucks with a beautiful antler on one side and a deformed antler on the other, and as he approached this buck he could not see the left side, which was buried in leaves.

“I said, ‘Lord, don’t let his other side be ugly.’ I pulled his old head up and I could not believe it, I like to died.”

Far from ugly, the other antler was almost a mirror of its mate. The 10- pointer wound up scoring an incredible 152 3/8, a score that is tied for sixth place overall in Peach County.

“If I had not moved that stand, I don’t believe I would have killed this deer,” said Joel. “If that one doe had not broken away from the other two and turned him, I wouldn’t have killed him. There’s no doubt there was a lot of luck involved.”

Runner-Up Wilcard, Jimmy Thompson: Jimmy Thompson of Kennesaw had high hopes for his hunting season last year. Over the previous two seasons on the Silver Bullet Hunt Club in Morgan County, Jimmy had been seeing and keeping up with a buck that promised to be a very good deer. It was just a matter of connecting with him for a third season.

“In 2000, I saw a lot of 8-pointers around my area of the club, and I’m sure he was one of them, I just didn’t realize it until later,” said Jimmy. “Then, in 2001 he was a 9-pointer and I saw him on four different occasions. I got to look at him carefully and I thought he was probably going to gross about 140 at that time, and I just could- n’t bring myself to pull the trigger. I’ve already got a couple of bucks on the wall that gross in the 140s.”

Jimmy was watching the buck from his 22-foot shooting tower on a half-acre food plot, what he calls his “Port-O-John in the Sky.” It was in the edge of that food plot in the 2002 turkey season that Jimmy picked up a shed that he knew belonged to the 9-pointer. Now that he had it, he saw that it matched a shed picked up the spring before at the opposite end of the same plot. “I knew it was the one from the year before when he was four on a side,” said Jimmy.

Jimmy Thompson, of Kennesaw, had his eye on this Morgan County buck for three years (note the sheds). At 150 even, the buck did not win Week 7, but it earned the Runner-Up Wildcard for best second-place buck of the 2002 contest.

By the second week of gun season last year, Jimmy had not met the buck again. On the morning of October 31, he was walking into one of his morning stands down in the woods along a logging road when he had a change of plans. “I decided it was such a pretty morning I would just keep walking a quarter mile and circle back up the creek bottom and see what I could see,” said Jimmy. “It was a Thursday and no one else was at the club but one other guy, and I had plenty of room to scout and hunt at the same time.”

Jimmy was now on a logging road through a stand of pines that had just been thinned, slipping along quietly, when he glimpsed movement off to his left. He was surprised by the sight of a buck off in the pines walking toward the road, and the buck had not seen him.

“When I saw that rack, I knew it was him. The closest tree to try to lean against was 25 feet away, so I just sat down right in the middle of the logging road and got ready to shoot. A couple of minutes passed, and I started to wonder if he had seen me move, and then I saw his nose and the tips of his horns where he stopped at the road. When he stepped out I hit him in the shoulder, and he fell dead right in the road, 52 yards away. I’d rather be lucky than good, I assure you.”

Back when Jimmy had brought the buck’s latest shed into the hunting camp, he had taken a lot of kidding from his partners. “We’ve got such a great club, and we are all great friends, but we kid each other a lot, and when they saw that shed, they said, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t shoot that deer.’ So, it was like poetic justice when I finally killed him.”

Jimmy’s 9-pointer had grown into a 10-pointer with three sticker points, a total of 13 points, with a 17 4/8-inch spread. With 10- and 11-inch tines going every which way, the buck quickly accumulated inches for a gross score of 156 6/8. The final net was an even 150.

Though that score was one of the best of the season in the Truck-Buck contest, Jimmy shared Week 7 with Ronnie Bates’ Laurens County buck, which pushed him to second place. But in the end, Jimmy had the best second-place buck all season, a distinction that earned him the Runner-Up Wild Card. He’ll join Ronnie and the other contestants in the Shoot-Out on August 17.

Youth Wild Card, Tifton Pace: Last season, the fourth season that we have offered Wild Cards in the Shoot-Out, the score that won the Ladies Wild Card was the highest score to win that honor so far. In a hotly-contested race among our lady entrants, the winning lady was 8-year-old Tifton Pace of Leslie.

“Last year was the first year that I actually hunted,” said Tifton. “The year before that I went with my dad and just watched, but I couldn’t wait until I could hunt. After I started second-grade last year, I would come home every day after school and practice shooting in my backyard.”

Tifton was shooting a .22-250 loaned to her by her cousin Clark Bass, and early in gun season, while hunting with her dad, Tift, she made a perfect shot on her first deer ever, a Sumter County doe. “I really wanted a buck next,” said Tifton.

Eight-year-old Tifton Pace, of Leslie, won the Ladies Wildcard last year with her first buck — a monster 10-pointer from Sumter County that scored 148 5/8.

On November 16, Tifton and her dad planned another hunting trip to their family land, and Tifton got a few surprises: new camouflage pants and coat, and a camo backpack. In her pants pocket she put the knife that her cousin Ray Bass had given her on the occasion of her first deer. Then she packed her new backpack with all the essentials: cornflakes, two Snickers, two Mountain Dews, two king-size Baby Ruths, and a book to read.

Arriving at their stand on a food plot and settling in, Tift and Tifton went through their deer-hunting ritual designed to lure the bucks into the open.

“Once we got in the stand I took out the two Baby Ruths, and we opened the candy bar from the opposite end of the side where the words “King Size” are written. Then we took a small bite, shook the candy bar twice to the left, twice to the middle, twice to the right, and waved it around twice. That’s our trick that Dad and I use to get the deer to come out!”

Tifton got out her book and started to read, but she looked up regularly to make sure her Dad wasn’t missing anything.

“Once I saw a cat squirrel, then a fox squirrel, and later a baby raccoon, but no deer,” said Tifton. “About 15 minutes later Dad nudged me, and I looked up and saw a doe come out of the woods, then another doe, and then a buck!”

At first the buck was too far for Tifton to see well, but it began to move down the food plot toward their stand.

When Tifton found it in the scope, she saw a huge set of antlers moving over the tops of the standing corn in the food plot.

“Dad told me to be patient, and then the deer moved from the corn patch and into an opening trying to get to the does. I told Dad that I could shoot him now, and he said he was ready when I was. When I squeezed the trigger, the deer fell straight to the ground!”

Not only had Tifton shot her first buck, it was a bigger buck than most grown hunters will ever see in the woods. She and her Dad high-fived and jumped and yelled as they looked down at a 220-lb. 10-pointer lying in the corn patch.

Tifton’s buck had an 18 5/8-inch spread, and the 10-pointer racked up a gross score of 153 2/8. Her final score for Truck-Buck after deductions was 148 5/8, and her buck now ranks 10th in Sumter County. That score also earned her the Ladies Wild Card, and she’ll be shooting for the new truck and ATV at the Shoot-Out in Perry this month — and you can bet she’ll bring along a Baby Ruth or two. We’ll let you know whether the candy-bar charm holds out when we report the Shoot-Out results next month!

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