Chris Metcalf is a long-time member of the 7,500-acre Harris County Sportsman’s Club, land that was part of what was once known as Rocky Branch Plantation. If the name rings a bell, it’s because in 2002, Florida resident Lauren Atwell shot a non-typical giant known as “Big Moe” on the same property that scored 204 6/8 inches. That was the first year that the land had ever been leased to a group of outside hunters. It had always been private up to that time, and most local hunters could only stand quietly on the sidelines and drool at the mouth because of some of the stories they were hearing about big bucks coming off the property.
When it was turned into a hunting operation, some of those same hunters now had the opportunity to go after those fabled bucks. The Harris County Sportsman’s Club property is a close neighbor to Jeff Foxworthy’s well-managed farm, which was also part of the Rocky Branch Plantation tract and has produced its share of big bucks in recent years. In fact, on Sept. 25, 2013, Jeff arrowed a huge buck on his property known as “Will Smith” (a character in the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” TV series) because of the deer’s unusually high rack that went straight up like Will Smith’s hair. Jeff’s deer had 175 total inches. (See the November issue of GON for the full story.)
“We’ve had a pretty intense management program for the past 12 years,” Chris Metcalf, of Senoia, says. “I’ve been a member for about 10 years, and I can tell you it’s a tough place to bring up a young hunter on. We stress age structure no matter what the antlers score, and finding that 5 1/2-year-old for your son and being able to close the deal is not an easy matter.”
The club’s standards are to get bucks to 5 years old. There is an exception for straight 8-pointers. The standard goes down to 4 years old on 8-pointers they’ve followed on camera and are certain of the age.
Chris’s son Chase, who was 13 during the 2013 deer season, had been hunting on the property with his dad for a number of years. At that young age, Chase has experienced both the difficult part of hunting an intensively managed club—having to pass up 3 1/2-year-old 10-pointers—and he’s seen the rewards. This past season the young hunter had the season of a lifetime.
Chase started out opening day of bow season with his first bow-kill. It was one of those legal 8-pointers, a 200-lb., 4 1/2-year-old buck.
Then there was the buck Chase encountered the second week of gun season…
“We have a pretty good idea of the bucks that we carry on our property from year to year through our camera surveys,” Chris says. “Ironically, we did not have any pictures of Chase’s buck (the one he encountered in late October) from over 60 camera stations and the 35,000 photos we got during the month of August, our survey month. Of course, we know we have some bucks that live on our property year-round, and we have some that we know summer on our place then leave in September right before hunting season.”
A Magical Sunday Afternoon
“Chase and I were pacing around the hunting lodge and looking at the map, trying to figure out a game plan for the afternoon hunt,” Chris recalled. “We were up against a bad southeast wind that day and didn’t have many good stand locations to choose from. About that time, Shawn Morman, the property manager, pulled up. At his recommendation, we decided to go sit in a double ladder stand he recently had put up overlooking a field we called the “bottleneck field.” On the way there, I remembered there was another good stand not far from the bottleneck field that would work for a southeast wind.
“Shawn had mentioned at an earlier meeting that he’d love to have a couple of does for the freezer, and we both knew Chase was the man to help him out. Chase was excited about the prospects of shooting some does. I had started letting him hunt a little by himself the year before under some strict guidelines, and he had obeyed all the club rules and really did a great job. He had been hunting with me since he could walk, and it was a little sad to think that he was rapidly growing up and the day was fast-approaching when he would be hunting on his own permanently. “
Chris and Chase arrived at the bottleneck field and got out to appraise the situation. They immediately noticed that some limbs needed to be removed around the ladder stand before it could be used. Fortunately, Chris had a pole-saw in his truck, parked 200 yards away, and soon they were busy cutting limbs.
“We had to cut a lot of limbs and drag them out of the field,” Chris remembered. “I think a D-8 dozer would have made less noise than we made that day. By the time we finished, we only had about 1 1/2 hours of daylight left. We talked things over and decided to let Chase stay there and shoot a doe or two for Shawn while I went to the next field over to hunt for something with horns. I watched Chase get situated, and then I walked the 200 yards back to the truck and drove over to the next field.
“Soaking wet with sweat from having cut all those tree limbs, I no sooner got to my stand than I received a text from Shawn saying: ‘Tell Chase not to shoot any does tonight because I have to go somewhere with my wife and won’t have time to clean ’em.’
“I was not looking forward to sending that text. From Chase’s reply, you’d of thought I had just run over his dog. He was very disappointed.”
Thirty minutes before dark, Chris got a text from Chase saying that a 4-point buck was chasing a doe all over the field. Of course, 30 minutes earlier that doe had been fair game, but now Chase couldn’t shoot it. Chris sent a text back saying he’d have plenty of chances to shoot some does in the days ahead and he added, “Just be cool and wait for a big’n.”
The quick reply he got was, “Dad, I probably won’t see a big’n over here after all the noise we made.”
Chris knew his son was probably right, but you never know.
“It couldn’t have been three minutes later that I nearly jumped off my stand from the “WHOOP-BOOM” echoing across my field that had come from Chase’s direction. In all honesty, being the father of a 13-year-old son, I thought the worst. There’s no way he would have shot that doe after I just told him not to. Or would he? I was in the process of typing a text to him when my not-so-smart phone started ringing. It was Chase. I answered to a hyperventilating, crying, runny-nosed boy that was speaking a language I couldn’t make out.
“Man, slow down! Stop crying! I can’t understand a word you’re saying!”
“Dad, you’ve got to come now! I just shot a monster! It’s the biggest buck I’ve ever killed in my life!”
“I’m thinking: Okay, he shot something good, but I’m not sure what. He’s killed some really nice bucks on this property over the years, but he’s saying this is the biggest ever. I was trying to process all of this at one time, and I said, ‘Chase, where is the buck? Can you see him, or did he run off?’”
“Dad he’s laying dead in the field—I see him! Please come quick. He’s at least 170 inches!”
“Okay, I’m coming. Unload your gun and wait ’til I get there.”
Although there is no way to prove it, Chris probably broke some sort of Guinness speed record in vacating his stand and running to his truck. While in route in the truck, his phone rang. It was Chase’s mom. Apparently Chase had started going down the list and was calling everybody he knew; with Mama being first of course.
She said to Chris, “Where are you at? Chase is trippin’ out over this buck. He says it has 17 points.”
“Suddenly I’m flipping through my Rolodex memory bank trying to remember any trail-camera photos of bucks with 17 points,” Chris said. “The only buck I could think of was a buck we called “Bullwinkle.” He was an old buck, at least 6 1/2, with a messed-up rack. He sort of resembled a caribou that had been hit by a truck. The cartoon character Bullwinkle was the closest thing we could think of to compare him with, so we called him Bullwinkle. But 170 inches? On his best day Bullwinkle might score 120.
“As I pulled into the field, I saw Chase standing next to what appeared to be a larger set of antlers. The closer I got, the more they grew. I pulled up beside the deer, jumped out and gave Chase a huge bear hug. We high-fived, and I told him how proud I was as we looked down at his buck. This definitely was not Bullwinkle. Chase was still crying, tears of joy, and his nose was running down his red face. He was still shaking from buck fever. It was an awesome moment! I can only hope that every dad gets to experience a memory like that with one of his children during his lifetime.”
Chase Tells His Story
“After I saw the 4-pointer chasing the doe, I was bummed that I couldn’t shoot the doe,” Chase remembered. “She was limping badly, and I saw him gouge her with his antlers at least once. While the buck was chasing her across the field, I picked up my grunt tube and grunted four or five times to see what he would do. After about 45 seconds, I looked behind me and saw the biggest deer I have ever seen in my life in person.
“Looking through my scope, I could tell he was a monster and was old enough to shoot. (At least 5 1/2 years old by club rules). I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. After the smoke had cleared, I saw that I had dropped him in his tracks. I immediately called my dad and told him to come as quickly as possible. Then I climbed down and started walking toward the buck.
“When I reached him, I was completely filled with emotion. I counted his points. He was a main-frame 5×6 with a sticker on his left G-2. He had several other small points on his burrs. About five minutes later, my dad pulled up.
“He said, ‘Dude, that’s the buck of a lifetime!’
“He congratulated me over and over. I probably will never kill a deer like that again, but if I do, I will give credit to my dad for allowing me hunt on a place that few people will ever get a chance to hunt on.”
Chase’s great buck grossed 164 3/8 and netted 148 7/8 inches.
No doubt, his is a once-in-a-lifetime buck for any age, but how ironic is this? Chris shot a beautiful buck with his bow the first week of the archery season that scored 132 inches. As an avid subscriber to GON, Chris entered the Truck-Buck contest, and his buck won the Week 1 Southern Zone category. Then, no eligible bucks were measured for the Week 1 Northern Zone, which means Chris has a straight shot to the Truck-Buck finals for a chance at a new truck or 4-wheeler and a guaranteed Mathews Creed bow.
Chase shot his big buck with a rifle during Week 7, and it finished third for the Week 7 South. But, it was the highest-scoring youth buck of the season, which under normal circumstances would have made Chase eligible for the Shoot-Out in the Youth Wildcard South division. However, there’s a Truck-Buck rule that only one buck per season, per subscriber and his or her dependents, can win a spot in the Shoot-Out.
Chase does have a great consolation for not being eligible for the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out. He easily won his week in GON’s Youth Big-Buck Contest. Chase will be in the Youth Shoot-Out for a chance to win a $3,000 shopping spree at Adventure Outdoors and a Dream Hunt for deer and wild hogs at Woods-N-Water Outfitters.
Come see Chris in the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out and Chase in the Youth Big-Buck Contest Shoot-Out during GON’s Outdoor Blast at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth July 25-27.
“All my buddies constantly remind me that my son has a bigger buck hanging on the wall than I do,” Chris says with a grin. “But I wouldn’t want it any other way!”
For information about the Harris County Sportsman’s Club, contact Shawn Morman at firstname.lastname@example.org.