photo of a deer killed by Will Matchettphoto of a deer killed by Will Matchettphoto of a deer killed by Will Matchett

Hunter: Will Matchett

Points: 12 (5L, 7R)

County: Stewart

Season: 2016-2017

Hunt Story

Our family tradition has always been to have Thanksgiving at our hunting camp. This year was no different, except my father was not there. He passed away a couple of hunting seasons earlier. Although it was not the same without him, I started my hunt that Thanksgiving morning, with no luck. That afternoon, after a great Thanksgiving lunch with family and friends, I did not go hunting and took a little teasing from the others because I did not. However, I arose bright and early the next morning and drove to Hannahatchee WMA. Lucky for me, no one was at the spot where I wanted to hunt. After checking the wind, I set out through the woods. On the way to where I wanted to sit, I could hear big white oak acorns falling. I stopped and sat down by a big white oak. At about 8:00 a.m., after sitting for a while and not seeing anything, I moved on to an area that had lots of water oak acorns. I didn’t see anything there, either, so at 9:20 a.m., I decided to move to a well-used trail that went in and out of the area. Once I got to the well-used trail and saw more white oak acorns, I decided to sit down for a while. At 10:40 a.m., after watching only squirrels munching on the acorns, I saw a doe coming over the ridge. She was running hard, but then she stopped about 50 yards in front of me. I could see that she had been running for quite a while. Then I saw movement from where she came from and realized a big buck wasvchasing her. I raised my trusty old .280 Remington and let out a grunt. The big buck froze in his tracks and looked straight at me. All I could see were his antlers, head and neck at 75 yards. I knew he was big, and I had to shoot. I pulled the trigger and down he went. The doe looked my way as if to say, “thank you,” and off she went. The closer I got to the buck, the bigger he got. When I finally put my hands on his antlers, I realized he was a giant. I took the next few minutes to say a prayer of thanks, and then I texted my two nephews and asked them to come help me get this giant buck out of the woods. I have passed on some nice bucks in this area over the past 10 years, and I thought I had the buck of a lifetime on public land in Georgia back in 2011 when I took a 130-inch 8-point and won the Truck-Buck Public Land South Wildcard (2012 Shoot Out), but this buck far exceeds that one. My preliminary measurements indicate this deer may gross near 170 inches—truly a buck of a lifetime anywhere. After the Truck-Buck deer scoring in Tifton on Feb. 25, I was close. His total gross score was 167 3/8 inches, and he ended up netting 155 6/8. While carrying this big buck out of the woods, I came upon a set of locked antlers, both in the 120-inch range and probably from last year. That incredible find made the day even more special, and I thought about my father, who truly loved to hunt as I do, and how he was with me and helped guide me on this phenomenal hunt.
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