The Pope On Christmas – A Big-Buck Story

Christmas Day bow-kill in Tift Couny grosses in the 150s.

GON Staff | January 26, 2022

Nick Utley, of Atlanta, scored an extra Christmas present—a Pope & Young buck—while visiting his parents in his hometown of Tifton on Christmas Day.

For about two years, Nick watched a deer he called “The Pope.”

Nick Utley with his Christmas Day bow-buck from Tift County.

“We named this deer ‘The Pope’ because his rack is shaped like the hat/crown that a Pope wears on his head,” said Nick.

Neighbors had made a shot or two at him, but none of them lethal.

The Pope made regular appearances on Nick’s trail cameras throughout the entire 2021 summer, but when September came, he disappeared. October rolled around, still nothing.

In November, the buck finally appeared once on a neighbor’s trail camera.

“Toward the end of November, I pulled all the cameras, kind of losing hope, thinking the season was basically over,” said Nick.

Christmas Day, Nick went to Tifton to visit with family and made a last-minute decision to hunt that afternoon. He headed to his homemade box stand around 4:30 p.m. nestled on the edge of a clearcut, a powerline and a food plot.

“I saw a doe followed by a small 6-point, then an 8-point,” said Nick, “Right behind the 8-pointer was The Pope.”

Nick couldn’t believe it considering the buck had been missing in action for quite some time.

The Pope made the fatal mistake of coming in at 25 yards, the perfect distance for Nick to draw back his Mathews V3 and make the perfect shot.

“This was a very special to my dad and I because of this history we have with this deer,” said Nick.

Nick had the trophy buck rough scored at 151 inches but says he expects it to net in the low 140s.


Tift County Best Bow-Bucks Of All-Time

1151 3/8 Brad Hamm2020TiftBowView 
2150 Neal Roberson2023TiftBowView 
3145 3/8 Tye Cottle2016TiftBowView 
4145 3/8 Carly Patterson Brooks2022TiftBowView 
5140 1/8 Ronnie Baker2017TiftBow
6139 5/8 Tye Cottle2021TiftBowView 
7155 7/8 (NT)Ryan Branch2023TiftBowView 
8134 6/8 Shawn Watson2010TiftBowView 
9133 2/8 Tye Cottle2021TiftBowView 
10130 3/8 Shawn Watson2007TiftBow

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