Thanksgiving Thriller: Calhoun County 15-Point For 11-Year-Old

Bill Cooper | December 7, 2019

Thanksgiving is always a special time for family outings and get-togethers, but for Daniel Hunter, of Moultrie, this year’s holiday took on a special meaning when he received a deer hunting invitation from a relative in Calhoun County. The initial thought was the farm would provide a great opportunity for his 11-year-old son, James, to take a deer.

“James took his first deer, a spike, when he was nine, and he has been fired-up about hunting ever since,” Daniel said. “I was hoping we might be lucky enough on this hunt for him to get a chance at a little bit bigger deer. I recently bought him a single shot rifle, in .243 caliber, but unfortunately there wasn’t time to get a scope mounted and sight the gun in before Thanksgiving. Naturally, he was disappointed at not being able to use his own gun, but he understood the situation.”

The following morning, after arranging to borrow his grandfather’s rifle, a Remington 783, in .270 caliber, Daniel and James climbed into a buddy tree stand well before daybreak. Positioned along the border of a large acreage CRP field that had been mowed for quail hunting, the hunters had an excellent view of the surrounding terrain.

The morning was quiet, with no sign of early deer movement. Unsure as to whether there was any rut activity in the area, but hopeful of initiating some type of response, Daniel blew a short series of low grunts.

“I don’t believe I grunted more than two or three times,” Daniel remarked. “But almost immediately I spotted a small group of deer emerge from a nearby block of woods about 150 yards away. All of the deer turned out to be bucks, but one was noticeably bigger than all of the others. I motioned for my son to get into shooting position.”

Seeing the deer suddenly appear had instantly kicked the young hunter’s nerves and excitement level into high gear. No matter how hard he tried, James couldn’t stop shaking.

“I saw his rifle barrel bobbing up and down and knew there was no way he could make a shot under those conditions,” Daniel said. “Being as quiet as possible, I continued telling him to take his time and breathe slowly. Eventually, I saw the gun barrel stop moving back and forth, and I could tell he was calming down. The deer were still milling about in the field. Occasionally, the big deer would begin to walk away in the opposite direction from our location, and I would grunt softly, which at least momentarily stopped his movement.”

James Hunter, 11, and his dad Daniel show off the 15-point Thanksgiving buck. The wide rack has a basic 5×5 main frame with great mass. It should gross a non-typical score in the mid 150s or even 160s.

Finally, in shooting position and reasonably calm, James indicated he was ready and squeezed the trigger. At the shot, there was an instantaneous flurry of whitetails disappearing into the woods, but Daniel thought he detected the big deer react as being hit.

“We sat for a short while before climbing down and walking to where the buck disappeared,” Daniel said. “We were both excited, but unfortunately that didn’t last for very long as we could find no trace of the deer or any sign of blood. To say James was disappointed would be an understatement, and I believe I felt even worse. I tried to explain that those things happen to everyone that hunts, but I knew it wasn’t helping his feelings.”

Daniel told his son they’d get back in the stand and maybe one of the bucks would come back. But before climbing into position he told James to wait there, he was going to make one more check of the area.

“Despite not finding any sign, I was convinced he had hit the buck and wanted to make one more check,” Daniel said. “After walking back to where I believed the buck was standing, and still not seeing any evidence of the deer, I decided to continue walking beyond where we had been looking. After covering an additional 60 yards or so, I practically walked over the buck, lying dead. I couldn’t believe it. I began hollering for James and jumping up in the air. I’m sure if anyone had seen me, they would have assumed I was nuts.”

Needless to say, it was a father and son moment many other hunters can readily identify with. Certainly, one that will never be forgotten.

“Seeing the buck up close for the first time, I was a little shocked at the size of its rack,” Daniel said. “I knew it was definitely a shooter, but I really had no idea of its true size.”

The wide rack, which includes impressive mass and webbing, has 15 points that include a fairly symmetrical 5×5 typical frame. The rack won’t be officially scored until after the required drying period, but should gross a non-typical score in the 150s or possibly 160s.

“Later, I returned to the hunt site with a range finder,” Daniel said. “Instead of my estimate of 150 to160 yards, the deer were slightly over 200 yards from the stand. All things considered, I’m just glad he was using his grandad’s .270 that morning and not his .243. His shot was slightly high and I believe broke the deer’s back. I’m not sure the .243 would have performed as well.”


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