Wide Load’s Legacy: A Tale Of Resilience, Ethical Pursuit And Conservation

Jason Stoughton | December 5, 2023

Jason Stoughton with his DeKalb County bow-buck.

In the shifting shadows of Georgia’s suburban wilderness, a saga unfolded that would resonate with the heartbeat of nature itself. “Wide Load,” a majestic buck from where rugged bottomlands meet concrete and steel in DeKalb County, stood not just as a creature of the wild, but as a symbol of the intricate ballet between nature and urban sprawl.

My acquaintance with Wide Load began through the unblinking eyes of trail cameras, guardians of his hidden world. They captured his regal demeanor, but also something unexpected—a narrative of vulnerability. Last summer, the cameras revealed a startling truth: Wide Load had suffered significant trauma. A collision with a car left him with a severe hip injury and his right antlers, now rugged and asymmetrical, pinned back his ear, impeding its natural movement. Another scar of his encounter with our encroaching world. Yet, his left beam stood in stark contrast. A flawless architectural marvel and masterpiece of nature’s artistry, a bowhunter’s dream materialized from the pages of my early childhood hunting fantasies was a testament to his unbroken spirit.

For weeks, Wide Load became a phantom, his presence ebbing and flowing like a whispered legend. When he did emerge, it was a fleeting spectacle, each appearance a rare gift. But with a lot of does in the area and the rut in full swing, I foresaw his unpredictable nature might expose a weakness in his irregular sightings, adding layers of anticipation to our chess match.

Then, on a day marked by celebration—my wife Lara’s birthday—she gifted me the opportunity to seek Wide Load. As the day waned, I arrived to my stand later than I had hoped, however, our final encounter began. There, amidst the dense underbrush, calm overcast skies and the occasional kiss of sunlight, Wide Load appeared, his movements a measured minuet in the wild theatre. For twenty spellbinding minutes as I heard the roars of distant commercial blowers and lawn equipment, he navigated the thicket—his journey a slow, deliberate procession towards destiny. Perched high in a large ancient cedar, I watched, every sense attuned to his path.

In a small clearing, Wide Load finally stepped into an opening, but unfortunately, his vitals were hidden behind his large frame as he faced me. There he was, one of three big bucks I had targeted for 2023, but the shot he deserved eluded me. Then, as I whispered a sincere prayer, in one slow movement framed by fate, he turned—offering a quartering away shot a mere 18 yards away, yet laden with inexplicable meaning. With the grace and intention of a seasoned archer, I released my arrow from my PSE Mach 34. It flew, a harbinger of respect and closure, finding its home in the center of his heart. The G5 Mega Meat broadhead did the rest. Wide Load came to rest within eyeshot, just 25 yards away. His final movements, punctuated by two very deep long resonant grunts, seemed a personal farewell to me—a dignified epilogue for a remarkable creature who thrived at the intersection of Georgia’s wild woods and urban living.

Sharing this moment with Trip Healey, ‘The Camo Preacher,’ wasn’t just about the hunt or the harvest; it was a communion in the sanctity of the wild, a celebration of shared values and enduring friendships forged in nature’s embrace.

Reflecting on Wide Load’s journey, I am reminded of the profound narrative that we, as guardians of Georgia’s suburban and urban wilderness, are part of. Wide Load’s story is more than a bowhunter’s tale; it’s a mosaic of resilience, coexistence, and the responsibility we bear towards these majestic beings and their fragile habitats.

In the legacy of Wide Load, we find a reflection of our own journey – one of respect, stewardship, and the pursuit of balance in a world where the wild and the urban intertwine. He was more than a pursuit; he was a teacher, his life and recovery illustrating the resilience of nature, and the poignant reminder of our role as custodians and stewards of the environment.

As we walk the paths of Georgia’s wilds softly, let’s carry Wide Load’s story in our hearts—a beacon guiding us to tread with care, to honor with integrity, and to pursue with intention. Listen to the wild’s whispers, and write our stories with dignity and purpose. Here’s to the enduring spirit of Wide Load, an impressive and majestic buck whose odyssey will echo in the annals of my heart and Georgia’s hunting heritage.


DeKalb County Best Bucks Of All-Time

1177 1/8 Manny Kaloyannides2018DeKalbBowView 
2195 2/8 (NT)Kevin Carnes2015DeKalbBowView 
3165 2/8 Adam Lomax2021DeKalbBowView 
4164 Austin Hill2023DeKalbBowView 
5187 4/8 (NT)Rusty Osborne2008DeKalbBowView 
6161 Jason Lancaster2001DeKalbBow
7157 3/8 Robert Taylor2012DeKalbBowView 
8155 4/8 Jason White2022DeKalbBowView 
9155 1/8 W. Justin2021DeKalbBowView 
10174 7/8 (NT)Taylor McCann2004DeKalbBowView 

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  1. dbh1206 on December 12, 2023 at 6:45 pm

    Wow! What a well written story of your pursuit on “wide load”. I cannot wait to learn and pursue my hunting pathway with one of the best out there!!! You are my true HERO! Great story, pictures, and an even better Buck!

  2. mlee1422 on December 8, 2023 at 10:16 am

    Man….! Extremely well written Jason. As I read this article I actually felt like I was watching a moving about you hunting Wide Load! Great work, and photos.

    • JJStoughton on December 12, 2023 at 6:38 am

      Thank you, my friend. An image-rich, thought-producing highlight reel on paper (digital paper) was what I was shooting for. Very grateful you took the time to comment. Your encouragement took me to higher ground this morning! 🙂

  3. RKROLLART on December 6, 2023 at 12:06 pm

    What a wonderful heartfelt description of your experience with this beautiful animal! I admire your views and overall respect of nature as a whole! Your display of patience, waiting for the “right shot” is a true mark of fine sportsmanship! Well done Jason!

  4. [email protected] on December 6, 2023 at 9:52 am

    I loved reading about your jouney with Wide Load. I know Dad is looking down on you, smiling. I can hear him say, “Great job, kid!”

    Thank you for sharing, brother!

  5. jdheiden05 on December 5, 2023 at 12:51 pm

    Absolutely incredible story about the pursuit of “Wide Load”. Your way with words put me in the woods, watching Wide Load move with grace through the Atlanta suburbs. Can’t wait to read more!

    • lmhernandezkroll on December 8, 2023 at 7:22 pm

      Wow Jason! What an incredible and impressive story!! I am proud of you Jason, and I know deep in my heart that your Dad is also very proud of you! I know that hunting is something you are very passionate about and it brings you much happiness. Like father, like son!

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