A Mississippi buck recently scored up to 228 inches, making it one of the biggest bucks taken in the state.
Shelton Earls wasn't planning on taking down one of the biggest bucks in the state when he went out to his stand on a cold, windy morning last December. He'd seen a nice looking 10-point on his trail cams and was out on the prowl for that deer when the hunting opportunity of a lifetime trotted in front of him.
Mistaking the day for primitive weapons season, Earls was out with his .45-70 rifle instead of his trusty .30-30,
"I'd have had my .30-30 up there with me had I known it was still season already, and I sure am glad I had that bigger gun to shoot this buck with," said Earls, 72, of Roxie. "I'd prefer that kind of knockdown power, especially with this buck."
It was the power of that gun that would eventually solidify his hunt later on.
While Earls had never seen a trail cam picture of the buck, legend of the massive beast had spread far and wide throughout the region for a number of years.
"You wouldn't believe it, but I've had so many people between here and the Natchez prison six miles away tell me they've had pictures of this buck and have been hunting him for four years," he said.
"My neighbor has pictures of him. The guys up at the prison say they've been watching him his whole life. They say he hangs around up there all spring and summer and then just before the rut when the bucks go to fighting, he just disappears and they don't see him again until the next summer.But all these people had seen him and got pictures of him, but I have three cameras out on my 97 acres and I have over 1,100 photos and not a single one of him is in there. Can you believe that? I can't."
Nevermind the fact that Earls hadn't been stalking the same deer as everyone else, because his patience and seasoned years in the stand are what brought the buck close enough for him to take a shot. When the buck appeared, he initially thought it was the 10-point before realizing he may have something else on his hands entirely,
"It was kind of strange. When he walked out, even when he started eating his tail was up. It stayed up. I don't know that I've ever seen or heard of that. I think it may have been because he was following a doe. I think he may have been rut. I never saw a doe. I don't know, but I know I've never seen a tail up like that unless it was a deer that was frightened and he wasn't acting like that."
And so began the waiting game. Earls had brought along some bullets given to him by his son, and considered changing out the hollow point he had already loaded in his cartridge,
"Like I said, I had my .45-70 rifle... you know there's something else pretty funny about that, too. I had two different cartridges with me. My son had traded me some Hornady bullets that he said would be better for a long-range shot than my hollow points. I had them in my pocket. I had a hollow point in the gun, and when that buck came out at 100 yards I started thinking about switching."
Earls sat patiently, considering his options. In all honesty, he wasn't comfortable shooting either bullets at the buck's current distance of 100 yards. Just after his realization though, he noticed the buck start feeding more and more in his direction. Slowly but surely, he made his approach to Earls without noticing him, getting as close as 40-50 yards before Earls felt confident he had his shot.
"I guess he was about 40 yards when he walked out into the clear and I put the gun on him and I shot him," Earls said. "He went down and I tried to eject the cartridge and get another one in there in case he got up, but for the first time ever, it didn't eject. I couldn't get it out. It was truly a single-shot situation, and had he gotten up I wouldn't have been able to shoot him again."
What happened next is something many hunters will twist their neck and wonder 'why?' about, but Earls was excited. Instead of checking out his deer, he headed home to have a nice cold Coca-Cola and wait for his family members to call him back (they hadn't answered his initial calls). As he was heading back out to collect the buck, his daughter called back,
"She called and I was just getting excited and she asked me if I had killed anything, and I couldn't even think of the words 'dominant buck,' so I told her 'I just killed the wood boss," he said, laughing at the memory.
"Oh, me, I was so excited. I told her he was big, a really big one. She asked me how many points he had and I had my hand on the antlers and I started counting, 11, 12, 13, 14 ... She said, 'You mean you killed a 14-point?' I had to tell her that I was still only counting that one side of the rack. I said 'you ain't gonna believe what I killed.'
Image via: Mississippi Sportsman
Shortly after his son-in-law arrived with his Polaris to load it up and haul it in for check-in and to get it measured. "He took one look at it, shook his head and said 'I'd say that was a buck of a lifetime right there.' Then we loaded him up."
The history of the property has yielded many a beautiful buck for Earls and his family, but nothing this big.
"We've killed a lot of nice bucks on it. My granddaughter killed a nice 10-point this year, about 130 inches typical, that she entered in the Big Buck Bounty up in Jackson."
That same competition is where Earls took his trophy buck, easily leading the pack with its 222 2/8 inch score. The buck has scored between 222 and 228 inches at various facilities.
"They scored it as a 30 point, but they say a point has to be an inch long to count," he said. "I've always said anything that you could hang a ring on is a point, and if that's the case it is at least a 32 point. I also had it scored at Simmons in Bastrop, La., and they scored it as a 29-point but had it at 228 5/8 inches."
An area taxidermist, who scored the buck for the Big Buck Bounty contest, later chimed in to give context to the epic kill and its rack,
"It depends on a couple of things, really, but it was one heck of a fine non-typical buck," Heasley said. "It's not all that massive, at least not at the bases. It's not until you get out on the main beams a bit and run into all that palmation and growth that it gets a lot of mass. And it does get a lot of it there.
"It's just basically one of those gnarly non-typicals we see every few years. It's just got a lot of stuff there."
Can you imagine bagging a buck like this? Have you ever taken a trophy near this size? Share your thoughts in the comments below.