A Hero’s Buck: Littlejohn’s Lamar County Giant
One of Georgia's earliest Boone & Crockett bucks is still the No. 1 buck ever from Lamar County.
The oldest son on a family of four boys, Gary Littlejohn grew up in Lamar County, just outside of Barnesville, in the tiny community of Milner. “Dinky,” as he was known to his younger brothers and friends, spent many a happy boyhood day roaming the woods in and around his home.
According to his younger brother, Jesse, “As boys, all four of us brothers hunted and fished together all the time.”
In 1968, when Gary was 20, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and became a Private First Class in the 9th Infantry Division. The war in Viet Nam was escalating to new heights, and like many thousands of other Georgia boys his age and younger, it was a good bet he would eventually see action there. As luck would have, it was Gary’s good fortune to be home during the opening weeks of the November ’68 deer season. Afterward, he would be off for several months of training, and then, in all likelihood, on to Southeast Asia.
“We were just getting into deer hunting about that time,” Jesse remembered. “The season hadn’t been open too long in Lamar County, and deer hunting was something new to all of us. Since he needed a deer rifle, Dinky had ordered himself a British Enfield .303 out of one of the mail order catalogs. Back then, you could buy all kinds of surplus military rifles for $15 to $20. He really got excited about that rifle when it finally arrived. Before deer season started, our cousin cut down the stock and sporterized it for him like a lot of deer hunters were doing during the ’60s. Dinky was a good shot with a rifle, and he sure had his mind set on trying to kill his first deer.”
Opening weekend of the long-awaited 1968 season passed without incident. Several days later, on Tuesday, Nov. 7, Gary was invited to hunt with a good friend, Greg Chapman. Greg’s father, William G. Chapman, owned several hundred acres just outside of Milner. Everyone regarded the land as a prime deer hunting tract. Arriving to their chosen hunting site well before the first faint rays of daylight, Greg directed Gary to a wooden platform nailed in the triangle of a split hardwood tree overlooking a well-used deer trail that wound through a thick patch of honeysuckle. Greg then went to another tree stand not far away. Because he had to attend school later that morning, Greg climbed down from his tree at about 8 a.m. and began walking toward his car. Although Gary planned to stay in the woods longer, the rapid chain of events that soon followed put an abrupt end to his hunting for the day, as well.
Within seconds, a wide-spreading large-bodied buck of unbelievable proportions came sneaking past Gary’s position. Apparently, the big animal had been spooked by Greg’s movement on the ground. Gary calmly drew a bead on the buck’s lung area with his iron-sighted British .303. He squeezed the trigger, and the shoulder-punishing rifle roared, sending a Winchester 180-grain factory bullet toward its short, 40-yard rendezvous with one of Georgia’s greatest bucks ever. The buck dropped in his tracks, down for good as a result of a high spinal shot.
Gary’s incredible trophy created much excitement in the community.
“We never weighed him, but he was a monster,” Jesse remembered.
The huge whitetail boasted a 14-point rack with an inside spread of nearly 22 inches. It was decided to have the head mounted by Athens taxidermist David Almand. After taking one look at the extraordinary trophy, David encouraged Gary to have the antlers measured for the record book.
In March 1969, William Chapman took the freshly mounted deer head to the state capitol in downtown Atlanta to be officially scored by Jack Crockford. Despite 11 3/8 inches in deductions for lack of symmetry, the impressive rack tallied up an impressive 179 2/8 typical B&C points. Gary’s prized buck went on to win the 1968 Big Deer Contest. For his achievement, Gary was awarded a brand-new Browning .30-06 deer rifle.
Tragically, fate would prevent Gary from ever using that handsome new rifle. Nor would he ever again be afforded the opportunity to chase whitetails in his beloved Lamar County deer woods. On May 27, 1969, Gary’s infantry unit shipped out to Viet Nam. On July 3, a scant 37 days later, his patrol was ambushed by Viet Cong guerrillas. A heavy fire-fight followed. During the combat, Gary was severely wounded in the head by an exploding grenade. He sustained severe brain damage and partial motor loss of his right side.
For exhibiting outstanding courage and bravery while on the field of battle, Gary was later awarded the Army’s prestigious Commendation Medal for Heroism. The accompanying citation read as follows:
For heroism in connection with military operations against an armed hostile force in the republic of Viet Nam: Private First Class Littlejohn distinguished himself on 3 July, 1969, while serving as a rifleman with Company D, 5th Battallion, 60th Infantry, on an ambush patrol in Long An Province. When his unit came under intense hostile fire, Private Littlejohn boldly maneuvered across 20 meters of open terrain, where he took up an exposed position from which to return fire. During the conflict, he braved a hail of enemy rounds as he rushed to resupply friendly positions with ammunition. Private First Class Littlejohn’s heroic actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 9th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
While the festive awards ceremony for the 1968 Big Deer Contest was taking place in Atlanta several months after Gary was wounded, he was undergoing intensive treatment at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C. The Browning rifle Gary won was later presented to him by Governor Lester Maddox.
For years, Gary’s extraordinary deer head hung proudly in the Barnesville Fire Station. The family wanted people to be able to see Lamar County’s finest. When a new fire station was built in the late 1980s, the head hung for a while in a local feed store. It now resides in the home of a relative. Gary lived with his parents for many years in a quiet country home several miles outside of Barnesville. Today, at 70, Gary spends his time at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta where he is well cared for.
In 1985, while working on my 1986 book Georgia’s Greatest Whitetails, I visited Gary on a warm summer’s day in mid-July. We tried to locate some old snapshots of him and his buck, and we took some new photos of Gary posed happily with his one-of-a-kind deer head. He smiled with a boyish grin at all the fuss I was making over him and his trophy. I think it made him happy. Together with his brother Jesse, we sat under the shade of a tree and enjoyed the afternoon breeze.
I’ve heard it said that Georgia ranks among the top two or three states in the nation for having had the highest number of casualties in the now almost forgotten Viet Nam war. And of course, the entire country has suffered many more casualties in more recent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somewhere Gary Littlejohn is probably just a number—one of those grim statistics on the long list of brave Americans wounded during a much-debated and highly-protested war. Gary, along with all of the other brave Georgians who fought in Viet Nam and elsewhere, are true American patriots and heroes.
Today, many of my deer hunting friends who served in Viet Nam are beginning to hang up their rifles due to bad knees, arthritis or other serious health issues. God bless each and every one of you who served your country with distinction. You made it possible for us to do what we do, and we’ll never forget you.
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