Roadkill Monarch Grosses 174 Inches
Massive buck found dead causes stir In Worth County.
People commonly see dead does and other animals on roads but rarely a 14-point buck killed by a vehicle. When that happens, it creates a buzz among local sportsmen. Such a buck turned up on Highway 33 just south of Douthit Road near Sylvester in Worth County.
This deer had quite a history in the neighborhood. For the past four years, it lived on the 4,000-acre Samara Plantation, a commercial quail operation. Although the plantation welcomes quail hunters, only the family of the owners and selected friends hunt deer on the property.
“We’ve been feeding this deer for the past four years,” said Keith Wisham Jr., general manager of the plantation. “Where that deer was raised, we feed them protein all year long. We had hundreds of photos of that deer over the years. I could have killed it in 2020, but I let him walk. It was a nice 8-point then, but it really didn’t draw that much attention at the time.”
The deer stayed on the Samara Plantation most of the time, until rutting season began. When the urge hit him, the deer started leaving the plantation every night to make his rounds miles from home, most likely searching for receptive does. Numerous game cameras on different properties caught the deer during its moonlight forays, but few people ever actually saw it. He always returned home to the plantation before sunrise.
“In the middle of October 2021, I started getting pictures of this big deer,” said David Dunn, a hunter who owns a small tract a few miles from the plantation. “He was on my property about 300 yards behind my house just about every night. I never did see it with my own eyes. My son and his wife hunted my stand back there a lot more than I did. My daughter-in-law saw it one evening for just a few seconds, but she didn’t have time to raise her gun. That’s the only time any of us had seen him in daylight. My sister-in-law, who lives right next to me, spotted him crossing the road about a week before he got killed.”
Many people hunted that deer hard, including Keith Wisham Sr., who also owns property near the plantation where his son works. Cameras on the plantation and neighboring properties tracked his phenomenal growth during the summer and fall of 2021.
“We keep cameras out and feed deer all year long, so we watched his progression all summer,” the younger Wisham said. “In 2021, he really blew up fast. We knew he was definitely going to be a special deer. Until about the middle of the first week of deer season, the buck moved around in broad daylight. It was always the first one to the feeder. When the 2021 season opened, I could have easily killed this buck, but I was down with COVID.”
Wisham Jr. named the deer “Hightower” because of its tall rack. He thought of calling him Tempy after a small community in the area. During his nocturnal romantic ramblings, Hightower frequently wandered as far as 5 miles in Tempy. Many people captured photos of the monarch, but always at night. Nobody ever fired a shot or launched an arrow in his direction as he meandered through the area.
“My dad probably hunted this deer harder than I did,” Wisham Jr. said. “When quail season starts, I can’t do as much deer hunting. My dad has some land around the plantation. When he found out that the buck left the plantation, Dad knew where it was going because we tracked it last year. When the deer left the plantation, we had him on three different cameras on different properties, including on my dad’s property. The buck was seen a couple times in the week before he was killed, always right at the lowest light.”
On the night of Nov. 28-29, 2021, Hightower visited at least three separate pieces of property. Probably returning home from its amorous adventures, the buck crossed Highway 33, but apparently forgot to look both ways.
“In mid-November, the deer quit showing up on my camera,” David Dunn said. “I figured he was finished running does or someone killed it. The night he got killed, I had my last picture of him. At first, I thought it was another monster buck until I learned he had been killed on the road. As far as I know, that’s the last time anyone saw him alive until he got hit. After the deer had been killed, I found out that probably half a dozen other people had pictures of the deer and were actively hunting him.”
The next morning, a man found the carcass on the side of the highway. The impact split the deer’s skull. The man who found the deer cut the antlers off. Few people knew about the roadkill monarch for two days. Then, word spread rapidly.
“A couple days after the deer got hit, a friend of mine texted me a photo of the dead buck on the side of the road,” Wisham Jr. said. “I immediately knew what deer it was and posted it on Facebook. He had 14 points, but one broke off. He had a drop tine that went down the left side of his eye and 7 1/2-inch brow tines with split G2s on each side. The person who found the deer called me and we met. I showed him a bunch of photos I had of the deer and told him how I rattled him in during the 2020 season.”
The man who found the deer told Wisham Jr., “This deer doesn’t mean anything to me like it does to you.” He gave the rack to Wisham Jr.
“Where it got hit was about 200 or 300 yards from where it stayed most of the year by the feeder,” Wisham Jr. said. “It was pretty depressing to see the deer killed on the road like that. We don’t see a deer like that every day. For a deer like that to come to that kind of an end by a vehicle without anyone harvesting it is upsetting.”
“When we found out this buck had been killed on the road, he broke my heart and those of a bunch of other people in the area,” David said. “I’m guessing it probably weighed about 200 pounds, but he was run down from the rut. He had been chasing does for a while. We hardly ever see a buck that big killed on the road, but there aren’t that many deer that big. The good news, he probably put some good genes into the local pool.”
Several people unofficially measured the antlers. The rough green score grossed 174 4/8 inches with 161-inch net. With the buck having a split skull, the buck can’t ever be officially scored for GON’s Georgia Big-Buck Rankings.
Wisham Jr. plans to have a shoulder mount on a pedestal put on display in the Samara Plantation, located at 3702 GA-33, Sylvester, Ga. For information about the plantation, call 229.776.3994 or see www.samaraplantation.com.
Worth County Best Bucks Of All-Time
|1||234 6/8 (NT)||Fletcher Culpepper||2012||Worth||Gun||View|
|2||211 4/8 (NT)||Wade Patterson||1988||Worth||Gun||View|
|3||209 1/8 (NT)||George Brannen Jr.||2010||Worth||Gun||View|
|4||179 4/8||Jason McGovern||2021||Worth||Gun|
|5||175 3/8||L. Edwin Massey||1962||Worth||Found|
|6||200 3/8 (NT)||Shannon Sledge||2016||Worth||Gun||View|
|7||171 7/8||Sam Brannen||2011||Worth||Gun||View|
|8||170 7/8||James Mashburn||1983||Worth||Gun||View|
|9||195 6/8 (NT)||Paul Murray||1997||Worth||Found|
|10||195 4/8 (NT)||Shane Calhoun||1985||Worth||Gun|
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