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The Hugh Barber Buck: Jasper County’s Former State Record

Hugh Barberʼs 1959 monster was the “sleeper” state-record non-typical for five years.

Lindsay Thomas Jr. | August 30, 2003

Every so often, a relic recovered from some dusty tomb, or a fragment of bone fossilized in rock, helps historians fill in one more gap in the story of the past. Similarly, it happens every now and then that a Georgia whitetail buck killed decades ago, brought to light by circumstance, is finally put down in our state’s Boone & Crockett Club records and gets the recognition it deserves.

That happened again in January, and it’s a story that begins 60 years ago, in 1944, when the first significant deer-restocking effort in Georgia took place. Deer had been released in small groups of two or three deer before that year, but in 1944 the state made a series of releases on Cedar Creek WMA at the intersection of Jasper, Jones and Putnam counties.

Records show that releases on Cedar Creek that year included 21 whitetails that originated in Georgia, 32 from Kentucky, and 90 from Wisconsin. The total of 143 whitetails was by far the most deer stocked in one year at one location in the entire Georgia restocking program.

Hugh Barber, of Newnan, killed this monster 16-pointer in Jasper County on November 13, 1959. Forty-four years later, in 2003, an official score placed it among Georgiaʼs best bucks ever.

The Cedar Creek restocking effort was the seed that produced the middle Georgia deer-hunting phenomenon of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and the “tracks” of those deer can be seen all over the list of Georgia’s biggest bucks. In 1957, 13 years after the Cedar Creek stocking, Georgia’s first two typical Boone & Crockett bucks were killed. Clayton Kitchens’ 180 7/8 B&C was killed just a couple of miles south of Cedar Creek WMA in Jones County. Hubert Moody’s 11-pointer that scored 179 0/8 was killed just east of Monticello in Jasper County.

That same November of 1957, many other Georgia deer hunters were flocking to deer camps in Jasper, Jones and Putnam counties, many of them out for their first ever deer hunt. Among them were three hunting buddies from East Point. By welding conduit inside the bed of his pickup, which had a camper cap over the bed, 27-year-old Hugh Barber had designed fold-down bunks for himself and his East Point neighbor, Johnny Armstrong. Johnny’s father-in-law lived in Jasper County just southeast of Shady Dale, and through him Johnny and Hugh got permission to hunt a neighbor’s 200-acre farm — at no charge, of course. Sometimes Hugh and Johnny camped on the property, sometimes they made day trips from East Point. Often another hunting partner accompanied them, East Point police chief Hugh Brown.

Hugh Barber had killed deer before while hunting with his brother-in-law in Heard County, but the first two seasons on the tract in Jasper County, 1957 and ’58,  did not produce a deer for any of the three hunters.

“By the end of the second year, I hadn’t seen a deer that I could kill,” said Hugh. “But we knew the deer were in there — we saw too much sign on the property.”

The property where Hugh Barber and his partners were hunting consisted mostly of hardwood forests and creek bottoms with beaver swamps, with small wheat, oat and hay fields scattered around. Each year before the November gun season came in the hunters built a few permanent hunting stands on the property, but Hugh spent as much time hunting on foot as he did in a stand.

The 1959 season arrived, and Hugh and Johnny took an entire week off from work to hunt, starting on Saturday, November 7. By Thursday, despite seeing plenty of deer sign, neither hunter had seen a deer.

“On Thursday night, Johnny had to go home so he could take his wife to the beauty parlor on Friday morning, because she didn’t drive,” said Hugh. “So I went on home, too. We were mad and unhappy because we knew deer were in there, but we just couldn’t see them. I got home and just kept on fussing about it to Joyce, my wife, until finally I was sitting there eating my lunch on Friday, fussing the whole time, and Joyce said,  got going.”

Hugh grabbed his Marlin lever-action .30-30 with iron sights, which could hold up to five rounds, but instead of putting it in his pickup, he chose his ’55 Chevrolet Impala, the first new car he ever owned, and headed to Jasper County. It was Friday the 13th of November.

Pulling off the road at the property, Hugh set off on foot, passing through one of the fields. Encouraged by the sight of fresh deer tracks in the field, Hugh moved on into the woods. He walked slowly, then he would sit down against a tree and watch for a while. After 15 minutes or so, he would move on again. In this way, he passed the rest of the short afternoon.

“It was getting darker and I figured I better head on out, when I came to a creek,” said Hugh. “I noticed that right there was a heavy crossing where a trail came to the creek, and it was full of tracks. I thought,  went straight down on my knees and raised my gun and got ready to shoot.”

No sooner was the gun up than Hugh saw a small buck burst from the thicket along another trail that ran parallel to the creek. Hugh aimed and fired the Marlin, then levered and fired three more times as the deer continued to run. On the last shot, Hugh saw the deer fall.

“I said,  had shot through a pine tree about 2 1/2 inches thick, and it had fallen over. That was what I saw fall, not a deer. And there was no sign of a hit. I was so disappointed. I just knew I had killed me a deer.”

Hugh was looking at the pine tree he had bagged when he heard another noise. He can still recall the sound of a steady, loud series of grunts and the noise of a deer hurrying through the pine thicket toward him. Astonished that another deer was still in the area, Hugh fell once more to his knees and got ready to shoot. A buck broke from the pines almost on top of him.

“He came busting through those pines, and when he saw me he slammed on the brakes,” said Hugh. “Both of his front legs went sliding out in front of him, and I shot. He just went to the ground in a pile right there.”

Standing up to get his first good look at the buck, Hugh could not believe the size of the deer, or its rack, that lay on the ground in front of him.

Hugh and his buck on November 13, 1959. The buck was still in the trunk of Hughʼs ʼ55 Chevrolet Impala.

“I’d heard about bucks getting back up and running after they’d been shot,” said Hugh, “He started to move a little, and I figured I better shoot him one more time to be certain. I aimed and squeezed the trigger. Click! That’s when I remembered that I had shot four times at the small buck, and I had killed this one with my last bullet! The Good Lord was looking after me that day. He knew I didn’t have another shot. I had shot the buck right in the front shoulder, and it busted his heart wide open. I’ve never seen anything fall as dead as that buck did.”

Now, the celebration began.

“I threw my hat up in the air and started yelling,” said  Hugh. “If anybody had seen me they’d have thought I was crazy.”

 

GON’s Official Jasper County Deer Records

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 

 

Hugh had killed an enormous 17-point buck, and he was all alone. He ran to the nearby home of Johnny Armstrong’s father-in-law, whom Hugh did not really know all that well, and busted into the house in the middle of the family’s supper, yelling, “I’ve killed the biggest deer in the country!”

A neighboring sharecropper was enlisted to help, and he and Hugh went to load the deer.

“I pulled that new Chevrolet right on down in the woods like it was an old pickup. I didn’t care a bit about scratching it,” said Hugh.

Hugh and the farmer managed to get the buck into the trunk of Hugh’s Impala, though the head, rack, shoulders and front legs stuck out. The farmer had a set of cotton scales at his house, and on these the buck was found to weigh an even 300 pounds.

All the way home to East Point, Hugh noticed the astonished faces of people in cars that he passed, and he could see them counting the points on the huge buck hanging out of his trunk and lashed to the bumper.

Hugh doesn’t know how, but the Atlanta Journal Constitution found out about the deer that night and called him, then came by the next morning to take photos. As soon as the Atlanta Journal Constitution story came out, Hugh received a phone call from the owners of Reeder & McGahee, which was Atlanta’s downtown sporting goods store and the place to go for hunting and fishing equipment in north Georgia.

“They asked if they could display the rack in their store for 30 days,” said Hugh. “In exchange, they said they would have it measured for the Boone & Crockett Club. They came and got it and displayed the deer, and they brought it back after 30 days, but somehow or another I never had any contact with the man who was supposed to measure it.”

Who Reeder & McGahee intended to score the buck is unclear. Jack Crockford became Georgia’s first official Boone & Crockett measurer, but that wasn’t until the early 1960s.

Though Hugh had offers from around the state from taxidermists who wanted to mount the buck at no charge, Hugh’s wife’s first cousin, Reeves Akin of Jonesboro, was a taxidermist, and Hugh stayed in the family for that job.

Over the years, folks often dropped by Hugh’s house to see the buck. Everyone from electricians to the cable guy would pass through Hugh’s basement and see the buck, admire it, and many asked if they could bring a friend over to see the deer. Hugh always obliged them, and sometimes they returned with a truck load of four or five friends. Hugh’s wife Joyce long ago grew sick of hearing the story of the hunt told to interested guests.

Last fall, one of those guests, Roger Curlee of College Park, an avid deer hunter and a good friend of Don Barber, Hugh’s youngest son, told Don that the deer needed to be officially scored. Don had always thought the buck had been measured years before, but a call to the Boone & Crockett Club revealed that the club had no record at all of a 1959 buck from Georgia killed by a Hugh Barber. Roger referred Don to GON, and we put him in touch with Dan Forster in Social Circle, assistant chief of WRD Game Management and an official B&C measurer.

On January 27 of this year, Dan measured the buck and came up with the incredible official score of 199 5/8 non-typical. That score puts Hugh’s buck in the No. 2 spot all time from Jasper County, just behind Hubert Moody’s typical-scoring buck that was killed two years before Hugh’s deer.

Hughʼs son, Don Barber (left), did the research that led to his dadʼs buck finally being scored this year. This view of the deer shows the 23-inch inside spread and the impressive normal and abnormal brow points.

In 1959, Hugh Barber’s buck would have been the state-record non-typical if its official Boone & Crockett score had been known. Not until 1964, five years afterward, did Lamar Darley’s Decatur County Boone & Crockett surpass the Barber Buck in non-typical score. And in the years afterward, many more non-typical whitetails would fall in Georgia, pushing the Hugh Barber buck to where it currently sits, 21st place statewide.

Aside from having some impressive measurements like a 9 7/8-inch brow tine and a 23-inch inside spread, the Barber buck features main beams that both meet or exceed 30 inches, the longest being 30 6/8 inches. Only three other main beams on record in Georgia are longer. The right main beam of the typical state record, the Buck Ashe deer of Monroe County, measures 30 7/8 inches. And the beam-length record holder, Donald Duren’s 1970 Brooks County non-typical Boone & Crockett, has beams of 31 0/8 and 31 6/8 inches (This buck, scored last year, was featured in GON in November 2002).

 

Since January, Hugh Barber’s massive Jasper County non-typical has been remounted. The hide on the old mount was fading, and the hair was slipping in patches. Taxidermist Steven Bradley of Newnan completely restored the mount, except for the deer-hoof rifle rack at the bottom of the plaque, which he left with the original hide of the buck. Don Barber is in the process of opening a sports bar in Newnan, the Corner Tavern, which will open in November on the Newnan by-pass, and Hugh and Don have decided to display the buck at the tavern for all to see.

In next month’s issue we’ll share more history — another Georgia Boone & Crockett that has only recently been measured.

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