The 180 Club

Georgia leads the Southeast in typical bucks netting above the magical 180 mark.

Duncan Dobie | July 31, 2020

It’s an exclusive club in the Deep South, and only nine Georgia hunters can claim to be a member. In order to qualify, you have to have killed a buck scoring a minimum of 180 net typical inches or higher. Five of the Peach State’s 180-inch-plus bucks were taken in the 1950s and ’60s, and two were taken in the ’80s. The most recent entries were taken in 2004 and 2018. Sadly, several of the hunters who shot these incredible bucks so long ago are no longer with us. They were all good men and good hunters.

Georgia boasts more 180-inch-plus bucks than any other state in the South. Mississippi is the closest with seven. Tennessee has four, with its top-end buck being a 186 1/8-inch monster 11-pointer taken in Roane County in 1959 by Sonny Foster. Alabama has two, including a 186 3/8-inch monster picked up by well-known bowhunter George Mann in 1986. North Carolina has two, and South Carolina has none. These stats are from the Boone & Crockett Club’s 2012 Records of North American Whitetail Deer.

Five great Georgia bucks scored 179 or slightly higher, including Usher Malcom’s brute taken in Oglethorpe County in 1974 that netted 179—and that’s after one of the long brow tines had been shot off. If the brow tine had been present, the final score might have been in the low 190s!   

Buck Ashe – 191 4/8 (Current State Record Typical)

There’s never been a better typical-racked buck taken in Georgia than Buck Ashe’s 1961 Monroe County giant that netted 191 4/8.

Buck Ashe was a larger-than-life character who passed away in 2017. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, he was an avid bowhunter who shot several giant bucks with a recurve bow.  Interestingly, he shot his state record with a rifle, something he always regretted doing. Buck was also an avid quail hunter and bass fisherman, and he caught numerous 13- to 14-lb.  largemouth bass in south Georgia and Florida. In November 1961, he had been training some pointer puppies in eastern Monroe County on land he often hunted. Several buddies approached him and said, “We’re going deer hunting in the morning, and we want you to go with us.” Buck replied, “I can’t… I don’t have my bow with me.” His friend Olin Hunter had an extra Marlin .30-30. The next morning Buck went to a swamp bottom where he had seen some big tracks, and he killed Georgia’s largest typical ever.

Buck’s world-class whitetail had over 12 inches in burr points and stickers. It also had a massive 6×5 frame. If not for the abnormal points that were deducted from the typical score, it would have netted over 200 typical inches. Only a handful of whitetails in history have managed to do that!    

Roger Price – 186 2/8

Georgia No. 2 typical of all-time was killed in 2018 in Brooks County by Roger Price. Roger’s buck nets 186 2/8.

When Roger Price shot this Brooks County monster on Oct. 24, 2018, he unwittingly threw himself into the “big buck” limelight. Roger’s incredible 6×6 trophy buck is the highest scoring  typical buck taken in Georgia in 14 years and ranks as one of the largest ever taken in the Southeast. For many years, Sonny Foster’s great Roane County, Tennessee buck, taken way back in 1959 and scoring 186 1/8, was hailed as one of the largest typical whitetails ever taken in the South, and Roger’s south Georgia giant beats that score. Amazingly, Roger killed his great whitetail not far from the Florida state line, probably one of the last places in Georgia where you’d expect such a buck to come from. The only other buck in Georgia ever taken that far south was Lamar Darley’s great Decatur County non-typical killed in 1964 and scoring 208 3/8 non-typical.

Floyd Benson – 184 3/8

Floyd Benson with his Paulding County buck from 1962 that scored 184 3/8.

Paulding County was one of the first areas of the state to be restocked, and these deer were real heavy weights. In 1945, 25 Wisconsin deer were released in Paulding County and another 25 were released in Bartow County. Three years later, 45 Texas deer were released northwest of Dallas. By 1962 when Floyd Benson shot his massive 10-pointer in that same area, the local deer herd was well established. Floyd was a well-known logger in the area. Making his living in the woods every day, he was an excellent woodsman and dedicated deer hunter. Reportedly he and his crew had seen a giant deer several times in the area they were working along Raccoon Creek north of Dallas. It was the fall of 1962.

Floyd killed his massive buck in November with a Savage bolt-action .30-30. The deer was officially scored 21 years later in 1983 at the Atlanta Buckarama. At that time, it was declared a new typical state record, beating Gene Almand’s 1966 record from Newton County by 3/8s of an inch.

Other giant bucks have been rumored to have been taken in Paulding County around that same time period, but none have ever surfaced publicly. Hunting pressure has always been heavy in Paulding and Bartow counties. This may be one reason why no additional B&C bucks have been taken in the area. Today, Floyd is a spry 87 years old.

Joe Morgan – 184 2/8

Dooly County’s best buck ever is Joe Morgan’s 1984 typical that nets 184 2/8.

Joe Morgan is prime example of the old adage, “You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can never take the farm out of the boy.” Joe grew up trapping and hunting small game on the family farm in Dooly County. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he moved around the country and ended up living in several big cities. He eventually made his way back to Georgia. When the first deer season opened in Dooly County around 1970, the “country boy” in his genes came alive and he made a b-line for the family farm where he had enjoyed so many boyhood adventures. It took him nine years to shoot his first giant buck—a massive 13-pointer that scored 164 3/8. If it hadn’t been for a broken tine, his 1979 buck would have scored over 170

In 1985, Joe killed another outstanding buck, a beautifully symmetrical 6×6 that some of the locals knew as “Old Gray Face.” Joe’s 5 1/2-year-old buck tallied 184 2/8 typical points. At the time, it was the No. 2 typical from Georgia. Joe always regarded the taking of his 1985 buck as one of his greatest achievements. He passed away on July 25, 2017 at the age of 90. Fittingly, photos of him posed with both of his great Dooly County whitetails were on display at his service.

Gene Almand – 184

Gene Almand killed this monster buck in Newton County in 1966.

Nov. 16, 1966 proved to be a memorable day for Gene Almand, of Riverdale. Gene and good friend Harvey McCullers were hunting on private land in the southern tip of Newton County not far from Lake Jackson. Both men were hunting from innovative wooden platforms they had erected in trees. In Gene’s case, the newfangled tree stand served him well.

Around 9 a.m., he spotted a doe moving through the woods. A few minutes late, a large buck appeared some 250 yards away. The deer closed the distance to about 100 yards before veering off in another direction. Using a Marlin lever-action .35 Remington with open sights, Gene was forced to make a fairly long shot. The buck lurched ahead and ran about 100 yards before collapsing.

Gene’s huge buck field-dressed at 228 pounds and was later officially scored by Jack Crockford at 184 typical inches. The massive 6×5 rack would have scored considerably higher had it possessed a matching sixth point on the right side. For 17 years, the great Newton County whitetail stood as Georgia’s largest typical ever. It was replaced in 1983 when Floyd Benson’s buck was measured. At the time, the Buck Ashe deer, taken in 1961, had not yet been scored.

Kenton Adams – 184 

The best buck ever killed in northeast Georgia is Kenton Adams’ 184-inch Hart County deer.

Hart County in northeast Georgia is not normally associated with giant bucks, but in late 1986, Kenton Adams, of Hartwell, did the impossible. It was after Christmas and the season was almost over. Almost desperate, Kenton was hunting on leased land that bordered the Savannah River. Texas deer had been stocked in Elbert and Wilkes counties just to the south of Hart County, and some of those Texas genetics no doubt had migrated northward.

Kenton had discovered some good sign on Christmas Day, and the next morning he was firmly planted in a portable stand watching that sign. The morning was uneventful, so he decided to go back and hunt late that afternoon. Seldom an afternoon hunter, this decision proved to be one of the best of his hunting career. A doe followed by a buck carrying a massive rack suddenly appeared. The doe practically walked underneath Kenton’s stand. Then, having to twist around in a contorted position, Kenton drew a bead on the buck. His open-sighted Winchester .308 roared, and the buck went down. The incredible 6×6 rack was later scored at 180 typical inches. Rumor had it the record buck had often crossed the river into South Carolina. If true, and if the deer had been killed in South Carolina, it would have been a national sensation.

Clayton Kitchens – 180 7/8

Clayton Kitchens, a barber in Gray, killed the earliest buck in the 180-club, a Jones County Booner taken in 1957.

Small-town barber shops used to be one of the best places in the world to catch up on local hunting and fishing gossip. Several decades ago, if you were ever lucky enough to go into Clayton Kitchens’ barber shop in downtown Gray on Highway 129, you’d be treated with more than a little local gossip and the latest hunting and fishing magazines. Your eyes would have feasted upon the skull plate and antlers of one of Georgia’s greatest bucks ever. Clayton loved to show it off, and the rack was a conversation piece for years.

It was the fall of 1957, and Clayton was squirrel hunting not far from town with two good friends. As usual he was carrying his trusty double-barreled shotgun. Clayton had a lifelong passion for squirrel hunting, but in the late 1950s a new and different game animal was beginning to make a presence in Jones County… Just to be on the safe side, Clayton loaded one barrel with buckshot and the other with No. 6 shot, his standard load for squirrels. It was a good thing he did. That afternoon, he encountered a buck like few other hunters in Georgia had ever seen in the woods before or since. After the smoke cleared, Clayton had a buck estimated to have weighed close to 300 pounds stretched out on the ground. Like any good hunter, he divided the meat with his two companions. He kept the awesome rack without ever having it mounted. The massive 10-point rack was eventually scored for the record book and tallied up 184 typical inches.

Tony Lewis – 180 4/8

This 2004 Dooly County buck was killed by Tony Lewis. It netted 180 4/8.

Hunting in the rain on the afternoon of Nov. 19, 2004, Tony Lewis, of Cordele, shot a massive 7×5 typical buck in Dooly County that stretched the tape to 180 4/8 inches. This made it the eighth best typical in state history at the time it was killed and the highest scoring typical taken in 18 years. Tony’s awesome buck possesses three tines over 13 inches in length. It’s not surprising this one-of-a-kind buck was the second 180-inch-plus buck to come from Dooly County. The county has been under a state quality deer management program since 1993 in which a legal buck must have an inside spread of 15 inches or more. Soil-rich Dooly County was stocked with Wisconsin deer years earlier, not to mention the fact that the iconic Flint River borders its entire western boundary.

David Moon – 180 3/8

The second Newton County buck in the 180 Club is David Moon’s 180 3/8-inch deer killed in 1972.

On the evening of Nov. 11, 1972, 22-year-old David Moon, of Stone Mountain, shot a wide-spreading buck near Social Circle in northeast Newton County that he and his brother Carlton had been chasing all season long. The ill-tempered whitetail, known locally as the “Rocking Chair Buck,” was reported to have been extremely aggressive and had actually killed several dogs belonging to an old man who lived near the Walton/Newton County line. The gentleman claimed the deer had on several occasions made threatening advances and run him and his wife out of their summer garden. For that reason, he was extremely happy to learn that David finally caught up with the giant and one shot from David’s Remington 742 ended the marauder’s terrifying reign. David’s incredible 10-point trophy with an “attitude” had unusual mass and scored 180 3/8 inches.

• • •

In a time with widespread deer management and supplemental feeding so commonplace almost everywhere, it’s interesting to note that seven of  nine bucks in the 180 Club grew their enormous antlers under natural and wild conditions. Several probably had access to corn and soybeans, but none of them were raised under optimum management conditions, and most were killed before trail cameras and food plots came into use.   

Why did all of these great Georgia bucks and many others both typical and non-typical start showing up in the later 1950s and throughout the ’60s, only a few years after the restocking program got underway? You probably know the answer—superior genetics.

Contrary to what some deer experts have claimed in recent years, almost all of Georgia’s highest scoring, record-book deer and the counties they came from are a direct result of Wisconsin genetics. Except for the mountain region—stocked with North Carolina deer in the 1920s and later Texas deer in the 1950s—and the coastal area including all of Georgia’s barrier islands, which contain the Peach State’s only truly native deer populations, most inland Georgia counties were void of deer by the late 1800s.

The state’s deer restocking program began in earnest in the late 1950s when visionary biologists like Jack Crockford and Dick Whittington pushed hard to bring deer back statewide. By chance, a game farm in Babcock, Wisconsin had plenty of deer on hand to sell the Georgia Game and Fish Commission. Several truckloads of deer were transported from Wisconsin and stocked in a number of central and south Georgia counties. At the time, no thought was given to genetics, but these deer—northern woodland whitetails—just happened to be the heaviest bodied and largest antlered whitetails in the world.

With so many record-book deer to its credit, why doesn’t the Peach State have a lot more typical bucks scoring 180 inches or higher? Most typical bucks tend to grow a few abnormal points once they reach the age of 4 1/2 or 5 1/2. This often puts them in the non-typical category. The Buck Ashe deer, for example, has more than 12 inches in abnormal points, but it still scores well as a typical.

With more record-book whitetails than most of the other southern states combined, Peach State hunters have much to be proud of!       

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