Oconee National Forest 170-inch GIANT
Public-land bucks are on the prowl.
With WMA and other public-land hunts happening all over the state this month, it should encourage hunters to remember the old deer-hunting adage, "You never know what may show up during the rut."
If anyone believes this saying, it’s Chip Johnson, of Milledgeville. While hunting on Oconee National Forest property in Putnam County on Nov. 5, he killed a giant buck that looks to have more than 170 inches of antler. Even though nobody has put a tape on the deer, the main-frame 11-pointer could net in the 160s.
"I give all the credit to the deer," said Chip. "What are the odds that a deer would grow that big on public land, and I would be in the right place at the right time?"
Chip said he was enjoying a hunt before work on that Tuesday morning. Before daylight, he walked to his hunting spot and sat down on the ground. By 7:50 a.m., Chip had yet to see a deer, and he was fixing to leave and head to work. That’s when a doe showed up.
"She was coming down the hill, and I said, ‘She’s way too small, and I’m a mile back in the woods,’" said Chip.
All thoughts on how to haul a dead deer 1 mile through the woods disappeared when Chip saw antlers behind the doe.
"He stepped behind a huge pine tree, and I got my gun up," said Chip. "I had to shoot him left-handed. I am predominantly right, but I don’t mind shooting one left-handed when I have to. He stood there behind that tree for a minute and half, and all I could see was his right antler."
At that point, Chip was just waiting for the buck to step out so he could place a bullet from his .280 rifle behind the shoulder.
"I was about to fall out because I knew he was huge," said Chip. "Plus, by then the doe had figured out something wasn’t right. She had come down in front of me. She started stomping her foot."
As this nerve-racking scene was taking place, the buck finally took about two steps and had 6 to 8 inches of its neck sticking out from the pine tree.
"That was really all I needed," said Chip. "I put it right behind his head on his neck and squeezed the trigger, and he dropped."
Chip does carry a deer-hauling cart in his vehicle.
"I was afraid to walk out of the woods because I was afraid I couldn’t find him again," said Chip.
He called his co-worker Chadd Zakis, of Eatonton, who drove out, got the cart and wheeled it back to Chip and the giant buck.
"We spent an hour rolling him out," said Chip.
Due to the high prices of joining a hunting club, Chip said he’s been hunting WMAs and public lands for 15 years. He had no idea his 13-pointer was in the area, but he said he was attracted to the particular area after finding some old big-buck sign during turkey season.
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