From the phone calls, letters and comments on the Rate Your Deer Season VOTES card, you’d think there were no deer left in Georgia. Many deer hunters are complaining of the worst season in memory.
But the Truck-Buck contest tells another story, one of high-quality bucks and numbers that are second only to the record-breaking season last year. The final tally of 529 entries is the second-most in contest history, and it is 16 percent above the overall average of 423 entries per season. Even when you factor out some of the smaller GONetwork contest entries, which were also placed into Truck-Buck automatically, this year was still the second-best season ever for the number of Truck-Buck entries.
There is no way to dimiss the chorus of complaints coming from deer hunters this season — whether it was the weather, too many acorns, or that there aren’t as many deer in some areas, the season didn’t meet the expectations of many. However, the state’s ability to produce outstanding bucks is no longer a trend, it is a constant even during a deer season many rate as poor.
Here’s a brief summary of weeks 14-17:
Week 14: Typically, there is a big drop-off in entries that begins in Week 14. Not this season. There were 66 entries from Week 14 through the final week of the season, which is 40 percent above the contest average for the last four weeks of the season.
Week 14: Here’s the winner of the 2000 Shoot-Out, Will Oder of Oglethorpe. Will has another great Macon County entry, a 10-pointer taken December 17.
Week 14: This wide-racked buck had been seen in an area of Baker County for three years. David Hendrickson of Arlington saw him crossing a road the morning on December 16. A few hours later at 10:30 a.m., David was slipping through some planted pines when he spotted the buck at 15 yards.
Week 14: This Miller County 10-pointer was running a doe hard at 10:30 a.m. on December 13, and Keith Bowen of Donalsonville was able to kill the buck.
Week 14: Andrew Laney of Cochran hunted a ground blind after school on December 15, and this Bleckley County 9-pointer walked within shooting range.
Week 14: This buck had been tormenting Brady Deal of Conyers all season. Brady finally got the Rockdale County 9-pointer on December 15 at 5:45 p.m.
Week 14: This 10-pointer is the first buck Hank Haddock of Damascus has shot in six years, since they started QDM on his Early County property.
Week 14: Jason Kinser of Cumming was hunting a Telfair County food plot on December 11 and was about to shoot a doe when he heard grunting. This 9-pointer came running toward the doe.
Week 14: Matthew Fields, 15, of Tifton shot this 10-pointer on December 12. He decided to go deer hunting after he went dove hunting most of the afternoon and didn’t see many birds.
Week 14: Zachary McCurley, 12, of Canon with his first buck — a Hart County 8-pointer taken December 15.
Week 14: Greg Wilbanks of Calhoun with a Gordon County 10-point buck that he shot on December 13 while hunting a soybean field near a hardwood bottom.
Week 14: Rodney Locke of Dawson with a nice 10-point buck taken on December 12 while hunting in Terrell County.
Week 14: Ocmulgee WMA produced this 8-point buck for Gene Brantley of Macon. Gene shot the buck the morning of December 11 while hunting the edge of a pine thicket.
Week 14: This Gilmer County 8-pointer was easing along the edge of a powerline when Anthony Bramlett of Calhoun made a 100-yard shot.
In Week 14, there were 16 entries, including some excellent bucks and at least one very familiar face. Former truck winner Will Oder of Oglethorpe is vying for a return trip to the Shoot-Out with another great entry from Macon County.
Late rutting activity accounted for 21 percent of the Week 14 bucks. Four of the entrants — one each from Miller, Telfair, and Gordon counties, and one from Blue Ridge WMA in Union County — killed bucks that were chasing does. The evenings were only slightly better than the mornings, with nine bucks taken in the p.m. hours and seven killed in the a.m. Food sources were mentioned by nine of the 19 entrants, and five of those bucks that were taken on a food source were killed on food plots.
Week 15: The week before Christmas is typically a slow time in the Georgia deer woods, but this year there were 19 entries, second-most for Week 15 during the history of the contest. The quality of the bucks was excellent — it’ll take a high-scoring buck to win this week. Bucks that should compete for one of the three weekly prizes include an awesome bow-kill from south Fulton County taken by Chuck Birchfield, a monster Wayne County buck killed by former GON editor Lindsay Thomas Jr., and another incredible Worth County buck taken by a young lady who just missed the Shoot-Out last season — amantha Linhart of Oakfield.
Week 15: It was a Washington County parade of bucks – a spike, 4-pointer, 7-pointer, 8-pointer and a 10-pointer all came out of a creek bottom, then this big 8-pointer appeared. Johnny Stovall of Norcross said after he dropped the big buck, the others circled it several times.
Week 15: This Grady County 10-pointer was taken by Jeremiah Brinson of Pelham. The buck came out of a creek bottom behind a food plot.
Week 15: Todd Bell of Blakely shot this Early County 10-pointer at 2:30 p.m. on December 23.
Week 15: Jeff Vandiver of Good Hope with a 9-pointer taken with his bow in Walton County on December 22.
Week 15: Man, what a pretty buck — and taken with a bow! Chuck Birchfield of Dallas was bowhunting in south Fulton County on December 18 when he spotted a doe, and this 10-pointer was trailing about 50 feet behind her.
Week 15: Here’s a huge Irwin County 13-pointer. The buck was killed by Chip Wideman III of Ashburn on December 19 while hunting between a new clearcut and 15-year-old planted pines.
Week 15: Kelly Hamby of Jackson shot this impressive 8-pointer on December 18 in Monroe County. The buck has an 18-inch inside spread and a 12-inch tine.
Week 15: Patrick Brown of Swainsboro with an Emanual County buck, an 8-pointer killed December 20.
Week 15: Samantha Linhart of Oakfield just missed making the Shoot-Out last year, and now she’s in the running again, both in Week 14 and the Youth Wild-Card. The 14-year-old shot this tall-tined 11-pointer while hunting a food plot at Red Oaks Plantation in Worth County.
Week 15: The windows on his shooting house were frozen shut when this 8-point buck appeared on Christmas Eve in Dade County. Nelson Hartline of Trenton had to tap and push the window to open it.
Week 15: He ran the Truck-Buck contest for years, now former GON editor Lindsay Thomas Jr. is a contender. Lindsay, now with the Quality Deer Management Association, shot this Wayne County 13-pointer on Christmas Eve. This is likely the second-best buck ever from Wayne County.
Week 15: This Dougherty County 10-pointer is also a Youth Wild-Card contender. Ten-year-old Joshua Wardrip of Albany shot the buck on Decemeber 23.
Week 15: Here’s another great youth entry. John Hanna, 12, of Donalsonville shot this 10-pointer in Seminole County on December 18.
Week 15: A rainy morning cleared up as shooting light broke, and it turned out to be a great day for Stuart Drew, 14, of Douglas. Stuart shot this Coffee County 8-pointer on December 23.
Seven of the Week 15 bucks were killed on food plots. Eleven were taken in the p.m. hours, continuing a season-long trend of the evenings out-producing the mornings. Four of the bucks were taken while chasing does, and only one from a county (Early County) you’d expect for late December. The other three late-chasing bucks were killed in Bartow, Fulton, and Walton counties.
Week 16: Another 19 bucks were entered in Week 16, but it was a week with no patterns or trends for the successful hunters. Only two of the bucks were chasing does — ne in Richmond County and one in Lowndes County.
Four of the bucks were taken on food plots, and four were killed on agricultural fields. Bottomland hardwoods accounted for seven of the 19 entries. There were three Youth entries during the week, a positive sign of hunters continuing to get youngsters to the woods even late in the season.
Week 16: Heath Jackson of Jefferson first received a holiday gift with an 8-pointer (left) taken at 6:04 p.m on Christmas day.
Week 16: Heath Jackson with a second buck. This 10-pointer shot on December 31 at the same Jackson County farm.
Week 16: This Colquitt County 8-pointer weighed 220 pounds and had an 18-inch inside spread. Bryan Shaw of Norman Park shot the buck the morning of December 29.
Week 16: Paul Corbin of Highlands, N.C. with a Talbot County 10-pointer taken at 9:30 a.m. on December 28.
Week 16: At his Warren County lease on December 31, Mike Lawlis of Thomson was having trouble deciding where to hunt, so he sat on the ground in an area he hunted only once this year. At about 8:45 a.m. Mike spotted this 8-pointer easing through the thick hardwood bottom.
Week 16: Mike Smith of Acworth shot this 9-pointer in Talbot County December 29.
Week 16: Derrick Smith of Acworth was hunting a 27-acre tract in Cherokee County on December 26 when he shot this 8-point buck.
Week 16: A food plot of rape, wheat and clover produced this Lowndes County 10-pointer for Frank Strickland of Valdosta. Frank said the deer have really been concentrating on the rape this year.
Week 16: Fifteen-year-old Brett Croy of Richmond Hill with a Harris County 7-pointer taken on December 29.
Week 16: It was 20 degrees, but the Richmond County woods were hot with rutting deer the morning of December 27. Lewis Gasaway of Augusta saw eight to 10 bucks chasing three does, and he shot the biggest, this 9-pointer, with his muzzleloader.
Week 16: Mark Walker of Covington with a nice 10-pointer taken on intensively managed land in Hancock County. This season Mark logged 103 hunts, and he saw 228 deer total, 80 bucks, and 26 legal bucks.
Week 16: Gage Smith, 13, of Tallahassee, Fla. and his father were visiting and hunting with friends in Harris County after Christmas. Gage shot this huge 9-pointer on December 30.
Week 16: Eleven-year-old Clay Tapp of Tifton couldn’t believe his eyes when this Tift County 11-pointer stepped into a strip of oats. Clay shot the buck at 5 p.m. on December 28.
Week 16: This Heard County 10-pointer was heading to a corn field behind a group of does on a chilly morning, December 27. Steve Samay shot the 4 1/2-year-old buck that had 24-inch main beams and a 16 1/2-inch inside spread.
Week 17: The final “week” of the contest this year actually had nine days of hunting, but only one open day in the Northern Zone. That last day of hunting in the top half of the state produced four of the 12 entries for Week 17. Food plots accounted for five of the entries, and agricultural fields accounted for five others. This week appears to be wide-open, with numerous bucks that look like they’ll score close to each other.
Week 17: Light was fading fast on the last day of the season in Clarke County, and J.C. Bates of Athens was thinking that another season was almost over. Then J.C. heard deer running. This double-drop-tined 12-pointer was chasing a doe.
Week 17: Jason Sheets of LaGrange got a second chance at this Coweta County 8-pointer after missing it with his bow on December 26. Five days later, on the last day of the Northern Zone season, Jason’s arrow found its mark.
Week 17: Marcus Rock of Cleveland with a Dooly County 10-pointer that he shot on January 8.
Week 17: Brian Schmeck of Newnan shot this Talbot County 8-pointer on January 6 after the buck chased some does out of a food plot.
Week 17: Dan Kemp of Chula hadn’t been seeing any bucks this season due to the warm weather, but his season ended on a good note when he shot this Turner County 10-pointer on January 8.
Week 17: This Greene County buck had its right beam broken off, and it still had eight points. Sean Dudish of Snellville shot the buck.
Week 17: Marion Miles Jr. of Hiram hunted his favorite spot one last time on January 7, and it paid off with this Jefferson County 8-pointer.
Week 17: A food plot of oats in some planted pines produced this Twiggs County 9-pointer for Clint Hale of McDonough.
Week 17: Jay Hendley of Dublin had his 5-year-old daughter in his lap when he shot this Laurens County 10-pointer on January 8.
Week 17: Josh Fordham, 14, of Vidalia with a Toombs County 6-pointer taken on January 8.
Week 17: Walter Horne of Americus shot this 8-pointer in Baker County.
Week 17: Jerry Johnson of Buford with a real trophy — a Gwinnett County, piebald 9-pointer that was mostly white on the rear hips and sides.
Deer season is over, but there’s still Truck-Buck business to conclude. We have the official-scoring in Perry this month, the polygraphs, and then the Shoot-Out. All entrants need to read the details for the scoring weekend on this page.
We also ask in advance for your patience during the scoring process. This is not the most convenient way to get a rack scored, but it’s the only way to score the racks accurately and fairly for the contest. If you have a contender, come on down and see us.