How The 2022-2023 Truck-Buck Weeks Were Won
Stories behind the hunters and the Georgia bucks that put them in the upcoming Truck-Buck Shoot-Out.
We’re down to counting the days…
For the 34th straight year GON will give away a new truck as Georgia deer hunters take the stage at the Ag-Pro Outdoor Blast on July 30 to compete in the 34th annual Truck-Buck Shoot-Out. The second-best shot will win a Firminator G-3, and the man, woman or kid who makes that last shot will win a new truck from John Megel Chevy.
This amazing big-buck contest—no other state has anything like this—wouldn’t be possible without two vital elements—subscribers to GON magazine, and the sponsors who provide the prizes year after year. In addition to the grand prizes made possible by John Megel Chevy and Firminator, the weekly winners have already earned great prize packages. The five weekly winners during bow season won Mathews V6 bows, the Week 6 winner gets a new CVA .45 caliber Paramount rifle, and the 11 winners during gun season each get a Savage 110 Storm deer rifle. All weekly winners also earned a prize package from Hunter Safety Systems, 4S Wildlife Solutions and Realtree. Wildcard winners get a prize package from AgriSupply, 4S and HSS.
Let’s meet the second half of this year’s Shoot-Out field.
Week 10: Sy Crumley, County: Tift, Date: Sept. 10, Net Score: 155 4/8 Typical
Our Week 10 winner says he has always been an avid outdoorsman. “I have enjoyed deer hunting from an early age and will never forget the many memories made in the woods and around camp,” said Sy Crumley, of Ty Ty. “This is the first Truck-Buck Shoot-Out I will have participated in. I have been a GON member several years and have always enjoyed what GON has to offer throughout the year.
“I have had my eyes on this deer since 2020. He was a nice main-frame 10 in 2020 but unfortunately had a broken G3. When 2021 rolled around and he showed himself in the same locations, I put many hours in the stand throughout the 2021 season trying to arrow this deer. I had the encounters that year, but the stars never aligned to make happen.
“August to September of this year the deer again showed up at the same general location and immediately got my attention. I hunted him as hard as possible during bow season without over-pressuring him but never crossed paths. The afternoon of Nov. 17, I decided to slip into Slick Willy’s favorite plot even though he had been missing on camera for about a week. Just before 5 o’clock, a doe crossed the plot being bumped by a spike. Maybe 10 minutes later Slick Willy made his appearance, and the rest is history.”
Sy’s Tift County 12-pointer netted 152 5/8 in a super-tough Week 10 that saw seven entries net above 145 and produced three wildcard winners.
“I enjoy creating history with deer and watching them develop. Sometimes, it ends with a picture sitting behind them,” Sy said.
Week 11: John Donalson, County: Mitchell, Date: Nov. 25, Net Score: 158 1/8 Typical
John Donalson, of Camilla, will be making his third trip to the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out stage. John last competed in the 2021 Shoot-Out after earning the Runner-Up Wildcard with a Mitchell County buck killed during the 2020 season that netted 155 5/8.
“Every year I look forward to hunting in Mitchell County,” John said. “I have hunted here since 1993 and been a GON member since 1997.
“On the morning of Nov. 25, I had not planned to go hunting. I went to check my trail camera and put out some feed around 8:45 a.m. At 9:05, I saw two does standing in the road in front of my camera, so I stopped and watched them through the binoculars. I was parked about 250 yards away. After watching them for 10 minutes or so, this big buck charged out of the clearcut and ran them down the road away from me. I recognized him as my target buck. He was just over the hill far enough that I could see his rack every time he followed the does across the road, but I could not get a shot at him.
“I watched him for 45 minutes. He finally gave me a shot, and I took it. I could not believe what had happened. I gave him an hour before attempting to track him. My daughter and I found spotty blood for about 50 yards through thick brush. I decided to back out and call in some help. Mr. Randy Vick came and took up the trail with his dog, Sadie. In just a few short minutes, she had bayed him in the Flint River.”
When the buck was dispatched, he sank, “and so did my heart,” said John. “I immediately jumped in and found him laying in about 3 feet of water.
“I knew he was big from all the trail-cam pics I had of him, but I did not realize he was this caliber of deer. He weighed 244 pounds. Thanks to Sadie and Mr. Randy for all their help getting the buck of a lifetime. This buck will be my third time in the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out, and I look forward to the opportunity to keep hunting, and, hopefully, be here again.”
Week 12: Josh Jones, County: Tift, Date: Nov. 27, Net Score: 167 7/8 Typical
Josh Jones, of Tifton, got on a new hunting lease last year, and he began to get some pictures of what he thought was a very nice buck. The pictures were all side views, and he had idea how special this Tift County buck actually was.
“I’ve deer hunted all my life, my dad got me into it,” Josh said. “I’ve never been in Truck-Buck or anything like that. This was the first year on leased property, so there was no history with the deer. I had a few trail-camera pictures off and on of this buck. He would randomly show up and then vanish for a few days before I would see him again. He has done this since the start of the hunting season.
“Thanksgiving afternoon I decided I wouldn’t hunt after getting my wife to her deer stand, so I went and talked to some buddies. Prime time hunting hit, and he showed up on my trail camera. One of my buddies kept pushing me to hunt this deer saying he was bigger than you think.
“Sunday morning rolls around I got up to go hunt, and it was pouring rain. I went and got me some breakfast thinking if the rain passes, I will go sit and give it a try. About 7:30 a.m. the rain eased off, and I walked to the stand. I sat for about 45 minutes to an hour, and a doe came out feeding around. After she was there about 10 minutes, I saw him easing out of the woods into a clearing!”
Josh’s typical 5×5 10-point buck almost made the all-time Boone & Crockett record book, netting 167 7/8.
“Glad my buddy kept pushing me to hunt this deer ’cause he was way more than I ever gave him credit for!”
Week 13: Chad Marcengill, County: Hart, Date: Dec. 3, Net Score: 134 6/8 Typical
Chad Marcengill lives in Franklin County and does most of his hunting in neighboring Hart County.
“I have worked in Lavonia for over 30 years, and I’m a Volunteer Firefighter for the city of Lavonia. I also help on a farm in my spare time,” Chad said. “I’ve been married to my wife Amy for 27 years, and I have three wonderful kids. I grew up fishing and playing sports. I started hunting whitetail about 20 years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. This year was my first-ever entry in the magazine, and I hope I will get other opportunities to do so. I’m extremely excited about being a part of the Truck-Buck competition this year.
Chad shot his winning buck during a morning hunt on Dec. 3.
“It was an amazing hunt,” he said. “It was raining off and on. I had watched several younger bucks chasing a doe. After they ran into the woods, I started grunt calling and doe bleating aggressively. As soon as I laid my calls down, I heard something land on the wet ground. It was this amazing heavy-horned 10-point. He had heard the calls and came in to check it out. I called him to 20 feet, yes feet, not yards.
“I was on the ground up against a hardwood tree covered with privet hedges. I sat up on my knees, and he stopped and was looking for me when I then harvested him. The coolest thing is that I have a trail-camera picture of him looking for me in the hedges. The camera was between him and me. This was a hunt of a lifetime.”
Week 14: Andy Solomon, County: Twiggs, Date: Oct. 9, Net Score: 129 4/8 Typical
With weekly winners, you don’t have to kill the biggest buck of the season to win a truck, and you might just make it in with a public-land buck, taken with a bow, while hunting on the ground… Just ask Andy Solomon.
“I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad in south Georgia,” said Andy, who now lives in Lizella. “Over the years I grew to love deer hunting more and more. Growing up we primarily hunted private land, but we occasionally hunted public land, primarily on quota hunts. After college I moved to middle Georgia and began hunting public land more and more, focusing primarily on archery-only WMAs. Currently, I hunt public land almost exclusively, with just an occasional hunt with my dad when I visit my family back home.
“This year, once archery season ended, I began hunting Ocmulgee’s West Lake archery tract a lot. It was my first year hunting this area, and I had trouble consistently seeing deer from my stand. In late November, I decided to change my tactics and move into the thicker areas on the tract. I found a good spot in some planted pines that had really good trails, along with several rubs and beds. The trees weren’t big enough to climb, so I picked a spot that allowed me to cover a couple of the better trails from the ground.
“The next opportunity I had (Dec. 10), I hunted the spot I picked out. I carried a step stool to stand on to help me get a little better visibility and hopefully a clearer shot if I had the opportunity, and I wore a leafy suit to give me better concealment. About 30 minutes after daylight, I glimpsed a deer to my left. It was within 20 yards, but due to the thickness of the area, I couldn’t get a clear view of it. At one point, I could tell it had a rack, and I guessed it was a 6-point or a maybe small 8. He browsed around a few minutes but wouldn’t come into a clearing for me to get a shot.
“A few minutes after losing sight of the smaller buck, I heard what sounded like two bucks in front of me lightly sparring. I wasn’t 100% certain of the source of the sound, but I decided to lightly grunt a few times, hoping if it was bucks fighting one would come my way. Less than five minutes after grunting, I spotted a deer in the same location as the smaller buck earlier. I initially thought it was the same deer and hoped it would give me a shot this time. As the deer got closer to a clearing, I could clearly see the left side of his rack and realized it was significantly bigger than the 6-point. He appeared to be following one of the trails I could cover, so I drew back, hoping he would make his way to the clearing I could shoot into. Within a few seconds he stepped into the pine row I was stationed in at around 20 yards. I quickly aimed and released my arrow.
“From my viewpoint the arrow appeared to hit far back as well as lower than I hoped. Unsure of the quality of the shot, I didn’t want to risk tracking him too early. I found the arrow, which was covered in blood and marked the spot. I then backed out and found Outer Banks Tracking service on the GON Dial-A-Dog List. After speaking to Jimmy at Outer Banks and describing the shot, we decide to give the deer at least five hours to bed down and hopefully expire. We met up around 3 p.m. and started tracking from the point of impact. Within 10 minutes, his dog Bella led us straight to the deer. He traveled less than 150 yards and didn’t make it past his first bed.”
Andy’s buck netted 129 4/8 and it’s the No. 8 buck of all-time from Ocmulgee WMA.
Week 15: Briggs Daniel, County: Thomas, Date: Dec. 19, Net Score: 152 2/8 Typical
Briggs Daniel is 16 and old enough to drive a new truck home to Thomasville if he’s the last shooter standing during the July 30 Shoot-Out at the Ag-Pro Outdoor Blast. But he was only 15 years old last season when he killed his Week 15 winning buck.
It was Dec. 19, which in southwest Georgia means it was getting about right for big bucks to be on the rutting prowl. Briggs and his brother Woodson hunted together that evening and caught this buck cruising through the food plot.
“Briggs made a great shot, and we trailed him for about 75 yards,” said their father John.
The big 12-pointer netted 152 2/8, topping a super Franklin County bow-buck entered by Kyle Bona that netted 144 even.
Week 16: Franklin Ford, County: Early Date: Dec. 25, Net Score: 146 0/8 Typical
“My father and grandfather are the people who helped shaped my love for hunting and the outdoors,” said our Week 16 winner, Franklin Ford, of Blakely. “Growing up in Atlanta, I spent many summers and holiday breaks as a kid at my grandfather’s taxidermy shop, Frank Ford’s Taxidermy, in Cuthbert. I spent hours holding big antlers and dreaming of shooting big bucks.
“In 2003, I formed a hunting club on my family’s farm in Blakely. We have worked tirelessly to grow big deer and be good overall stewards of the land. We have submitted several Truck-Buck entries throughout the years, with this being our first weekly winner. Harvesting this buck would not be possible without the collective work and dedication from all my hunting club members past and present. I will forever be grateful to them for helping develop our management program into what it is today. I owe a special thanks to my mom and my uncle for affording me a dream come true.”
Franklin’s winning buck was a Christmas Day blessing.
“On a cold Christmas afternoon 2022, the Lord blessed me with the harvest of a buck we call Knight Rider. I have hunted him for three years, seen him numerous times, and actually missed him with my bow in the 2020 season. This old buck had put the slip on me many times and always was wise enough to stay out of archery range. Finally, I was fortunate to close the book on my largest whitetail on Christmas. I am so thankful for my wife and mom for helping me track and drag this buck out of a deep bottom in 20-degree temperatures. This experience will provide a memory of a lifetime.”
Week 17: Taylor Childers, County: Crisp, Date: Jan. 6, Net Score: 136 4/8 Typical
“I grew up hunting in Taylor County along the Flint River with my dad and brothers,” said Week 17 winner Taylor Childers. “This is where my dad instilled in me a passion for the outdoors and taught me everything I know about deer hunting. I moved to Crisp County in 2017 to pursue a career in pecan farming, so I do most of my hunting in Crisp County now. I still hold tight to the values I was taught as a young boy. One thing my dad always told me was, ‘If you want to kill big deer, don’t shoot little deer.’
“The story with this buck began back in 2020. I had multiple encounters with him and passed him several times. He was about a 105-inch 8-point then, and I figured he was 3.5 years old. During the summer of 2021, I started getting pictures of him immediately when I put my cameras out in late May. He grew into about a 130-inch 8-point by the end of the 2021 summer, and I named him ‘Dirty.’ His running buddy that summer was another 8-point,‘Clean 8,’ that only had a couple inches of deductions, whereas ‘Dirty 8’ would have several inches of deductions. I had a few encounters with him that year but none within bow range. I ended up finding one of his sheds in the spring of 2022.
“As summer of 2022 rolled around, I put a few cameras out in late May and early June, eager to see what Dirty would turn into. I only got two sets of photos of him during the summer—one in mid June and the other in late July. He spent his summer on a nearby peanut field, but I was optimistic he would return once the season came in. With only a couple of nighttime pictures of him during bow season, I took it easy and didn’t put too much hunting pressure on the property. I was running seven cameras on 200 acres, mostly on scrapes and well-used trails, waiting for him to return. I got my next pictures of him on two different cameras the night of Oct. 27. From then on I would get his picture several nights a week in 18 different locations over the 200 acres, five of them being in daylight.
“He outsmarted me all season without one single in-person sighting. The last weekend of the season rolled around, and I had all but given up hope. My wife and I had a date night planned for Friday, Jan. 6, and she insisted that I go hunting while she got ready. I got in the stand about 5 Friday afternoon not expecting to see much. I was sitting on a 2-acre food plot planted in a homemade mixture of wheat, oat and clover. Shortly after climbing in my stand, six does came by. They got downwind of me and never entered the food plot.
“Shortly after 6 p.m., I was scanning the field when a big body and set of antlers caught my attention. I knew right away it was Dirty. He was about 100 yards away, and the only thing on his mind was filling his belly with food. I eased my rifle up, settled the crosshairs right behind his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. He turned and bolted into the woods. My first call was to my wife, who immediately said, ‘You just killed Dirty didn’t you.’ Needless to say, date night was cancelled and would soon turn into a celebration instead.
“Next I called my brother Adam and good friend Cam Williams to come help me track him. We found a little bit of hair at the hit site but no blood. We ended up tracking his hoof prints in the mud to the edge of the field where he entered the woods. I eased into the woods with my flashlight, down the trail I thought he had taken, and found him quickly as he had only made it about 40 yards into the woods.”
Taylor’s main-frame 8 also had two small abnormal points and netted 136 4/8.
Youth Wildcard: EJ Mullis, Worth County, Net Score: 148 5/8, Date: Nov. 15, Week 10
Fewer kids these days seem to have the patience for deer hunting, and then there’s EJ Mullis. On a Nov. 15 hunt with his dad in Worth County, 13-year-old EJ was in the stand from daylight until noon.
“We were seeing deer all morning long,” EJ said. “At 10 a.m. a doe came in being chased by a small 10-point. The 10-point chased her all around us for 45 minutes. The 10-point just left as the doe stood in the pines, that’s when I realized the big 8-point was coming in from behind the doe. We could hear him grunting as the doe took off running, and he began to chase her. That’s when my dad said get on him, and he stopped. At the sound of the gun, the deer dropped. The Lord was with me all the way.”
EJ earned the Wildcard package that includes a $250 Agri Supply gift card, mineral and attractant from 4S Wildlife Solutions, an HSS harness and a Realtree Shoot-Out shirt.
Public-Land Wildcard: Gerald Yoder, Flint River WMA in Dooly County, Date: Sept. 13, Week 1, Net Score: 132 3/8 Typical
The Public-Land Wildcard is a spot in the Shoot-Out each year for the best buck entered from Georgia public land that doesn’t win a week outright.
Gerald earned his spot in the Shoot-Out with a record-book qualifying bow-buck from Flint River WMA in Dooly County. He arrowed the buck the opening week of archery season. Gerald’s 9-pointer netted 132 3/8. He killed it on the Tuesday of opening week of archery season.
“I started running cameras in June,” Gerald said. “This deer was one of the first ones that I had on camera, and I knew he would be one that I would be after. On Sept. 13, I went in the area where I had pictures of him, but I was really just going after a doe because I had not had any daylight pictures of him. At 6:35 p.m., I saw a small buck headed my way. Not too far behind him, I saw another deer coming. I could not tell what deer it was for about 10 minutes. When it came out of the thick stuff at 30 yards, I knew for sure that I wanted to shoot it. He gave me a 22-yard quartering-away shot, and I smoked him. He ran about 40 yards and died.
“I just thank the Lord for the freedom that we still have to get out and hunt like this! Even more importantly, I’m thankful for the freedom that I have in Christ!”
Gerald didn’t win a super-tough Week 1, but with the highest-scoring public-land buck that didn’t win a week, he’s in the Shoot-Out for a chance at the John Megel truck and Firminator. Jeremy also earned the Wildcard package that includes a $250 Agri Supply gift card, mineral and attractant from 4S Wildlife Solutions, an HSS harness and a Realtree Shoot-Out shirt.
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