It’s been an emotional time for Jeff Foxworthy and the crew at his Harris County farm. There was elation for everyone when on Sept. 25 Jeff arrowed a freak of a buck, a main-frame 4×5 with a couple of sticker points that’s been taped at 175 total inches.
The emotional release after a free-range buck of that caliber being taken with a bow in Georgia was only heightened because of heartbreak everyone was going through. A friend and brother from this community was battling cancer, and as anyone who has been through that knows, the impact on family and friends is profound.
The story of this buck-of-a-lifetime is not just that Jeff killed it. Yes, he’s a celebrity. What’s even more special, Jeff believes it is divine—is simply that this buck was killed, by anyone who hunts the farm, and how and when it happened. Jeff didn’t even plan to hunt that day.
He had traveled from his home in the suburbs north of Atlanta to visit Larry Garner Jr. in the hospital. Larry Jr.’s brother, Glenn, is Jeff’s close friend, and he’s been farm manager since Jeff purchased the Harris County property a decade ago.
It was Glenn who tipped Jeff off that the property—then a hunting club known as Rocky Branch Plantation—was about to be sold and developed into a golf course and subdivision. This is the same property that produced famous Georgia bucks like “Big Moe” and “Skyscraper” in the 1990s.
Now the property was home to another freak of a buck.
Jeff said, “He was one of those deer… We had trail-camera pictures of him as a 3-year-old. Glenn named him right off the bat—Will Smith. He named him Will Smith because in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will’s hair went straight up.
“He lived right on the edge of our property. He did the same thing for three years. He would be on us, and we’d get pictures of him in the summertime and the early part of September. Then he’d move off, and they’d get pictures of him on the neighboring property all through hunting season. You look at the pictures, and you just start laughing. He’s just a freak.”
Knowing about a buck that size and actually killing it are worlds apart, as Jeff and his crew have seen over the years.
“With those big deer, especially when you bowhunt, the vast majority never get killed. We’re so blessed that we’re able to grow big deer, but especially because it’s fair chase and we bowhunt, we don’t kill many of them. We get pictures of them once in a while, but we don’t kill them.
“This stuff with Glenn’s brother Larry Jr. being sick… It’s been kind of a weird year. Normally we’re all just jacked up about hunting the first of the year, but we just hadn’t done that. I had been on the road, and I got home and told my wife Gregg, ‘I’m going to go down and spend time with Larry Jr.’ I got up that morning at 5:30 and drove down there and visited with Larry from 8:30 to 2:30. Then I had a load of stuff in the car I had to take to the farm. I wasn’t even thinking about hunting.”
At the farm, none of the crew was heading to the woods that evening. Glenn had gone home to sleep after spending the night at the hospital.
“It was kind of down to Jay (Jeff’s brother) and I, and I said, ‘What do you want to do?’
“He said, ‘Well, if we leave now we’ll be in Atlanta traffic. We could go sit for an hour and a half.’
“Then it started raining. I said, ‘Well there’s your answer to that.’
“Five minutes later it stopped raining, and he’s like, ‘Come on, let’s go.’
“And then we argued for 10 minutes on where do we go where we can both use the same truck.
“Jacob Womack, we call him Dirt ’cause at the end of the day he looks like Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoon… Jacob said, ‘I’ll film you shooting a doe.’ That’s the mindset I walked out with. Let’s go shoot a doe.”
On the stand, Jeff almost got his shot at a doe—and ruin his chance at Will Smith—but the doe was standing at an angle where Jacob couldn’t video.
“I let back down. She kind of walked on. As soon as I let down, I heard Jacob whisper… ‘Will Smith. Will Smith.’
“I slowly turned, and he was standing there 20 yards away. It’s funny. I had seen tons of trail-camera pictures of him, but I’d never seen him with my naked eye. It wasn’t, ‘Oh, could that be a shooter? Or could that possibly be Will Smith. I mean, as soon as I looked at him, I went… ‘Will Smith.’
Jeff said he felt a calmness as the buck moved closer.
“Lord, I’ve gotten shook up on does, but I didn’t get nervous on him. Glenn always says when he sees a big deer, ‘It ain’t gonna happen. It ain’t gonna happen.’ And that’s how he stays cool.
“He walked that same path, and when he went behind that tree, I drew just like I had 15 seconds earlier on the doe. Probably the easiest shot I’ve ever had at a deer with my bow. I went from being totally calm to… if you look at the video, I spin around about three times and about fell out of the tree. I was like, ‘I just killed Will Smith! I just killed Will Smith!’
“I was telling my wife it was divine because with Larry Jr. being sick… we all just love this guy, he’s such a good guy, and it’s just been heartbreaking for everybody. It was like that divine moment for a couple of hours you forgot about everything. We’re such a tight group. When one guy shoots a deer, everybody gets just as excited as if they do it. Everybody wants to be a part of it. There’s no part of me that thinks that’s my deer. When I tell the story, I keep going, ‘When we killed him.’ For me, to get to see Glenn that excited…
“He was our deer. Just for a little bit you didn’t think about hospitals and chemo and all that stuff. It was, ‘Dang we got us a really cool deer.’”
Six days after Jeff talked to us about the buck, Larry Jr. lost his fight.
You can watch the story of this buck on the web show “Inside & Out Season 3” at www.foxworthyoutdoors.com/videos/hunting-a-georgia-giant.