Cody Dalton isn’t your average 15-year-old hunter. Before his dream hunt to Little River Plantation in November he’d killed 33 deer, 13 of them with a bow. In fact, he took 13 deer in the 2004 season, one of them being on a check-in hunt at Ossabaw where the deer didn’t count against his state limit.
Cody, from Athens, was the grand-prize winner in the 2004 SEEDS Big-Buck Contest. He got there by entering a 7-pointer in District 47. After the scoring event in February, Cody’s buck was beat out for grand-prize contention, meaning Cody wouldn’t enter the drawing for a Chevy Colorado in the GONetwork contest.
However, Cody’s deer was the highest-scoring SEEDS deer in his district, which meant he went into the drawing for the SEEDS Big-Buck Contest. He won that drawing, and I don’t think he would have traded that grand prize for a Chevy Colorado.
Cody’s grand prize was a two-day dream deer hunt at Little River Plantation, 22,000 acres of prime agricultural land centered around Turner County. Along with this opportunity of a lifetime, Cody won a Mathews bow, a CVA muzzleloader, a pair of Danner boots and a set of Realtree camouflage.
Cody is a bowhunter, and he was hoping to arrow a good buck at Little River. Months before the hunt he practiced hard. His dad, Jeff, said Cody would shoot after school, often in the dark, with a spotlight, just preparing for the chance that a good buck would step in bow range.
“Bowhunting is just more fun,” said Cody. “It’s more exciting when a deer is that close, even when it’s not that big.”
For each hunt Cody would also take his .30/06 to the stand, just in case a buck that he wanted to shoot showed up out of range.
On the first afternoon, Friday, November 18, Cody hunted a food plot in some planted pines. He saw seven deer — six does and a buttonhead.
For the next morning, hunting guide Buck Davis had Cody in a super setup for a bow kill. The area was a 200-yard-long funnel between a food plot and a thick swamp bottom. Buck said there had been a piebald 8-pointer using that area, which got Cody very excited. Also, there were rubs and scrapes in the area.
At 7:30 a.m. Cody caught movement 130 yards away at the edge of the swamp.
“I grabbed my gun and looked. It was a buck, and I decided he wasn’t quite big enough,” said Cody. “I could have shot him. He was a bow-kill deer for sure. He looked like an 8-pointer with a broken browtine.”
Before heading back to the lodge for a hot lunch, Cody had a doe five yards away from the stand. He was allowed to shoot does, but he was more interested in keeping his stand undisturbed, in hopes a buck would show.
By 1:30 p.m., he was back in the same stand.
“Since it was the rut, I was hoping a good one would come out early,” said Cody.
At 4:45 p.m. Cody saw two bucks at 60 yards walking through thick stuff.
“I knew they were good, I knew I was going to shoot one of them with the gun if not the bow,” said Cody.
As it turned out, it was twin 8-pointers, bucks that looked to be in the 125-inch range.
“They both had their ears laid back, looking like they were ready to fight,” said Cody.
The two bucks walked single file, just inside the swamp’s edge. Once Cody realized the bucks weren’t going to come into bow range, he grabbed his deer rifle.
“They never came out of that thick stuff,” said Cody. “I shot when the first one hit an opening. He went 20 yards, and I saw his antlers disappear.”
Buck and Jeff were in the area and heard the shot.
“My phone rang right after the shot,” said Jeff.
The three of them headed for a thick head of privet, the last place Cody saw the buck. Jeff was 15 feet behind Cody and Buck when the two discovered the buck.
“Cody started jumping up and down, and I could just see his head pop up above the privet,” said Jeff. “He was hollering, ‘It’s big, it’s big.’”
Even though Cody didn’t shoot a buck with his bow, it took nothing away from the excitement and thrill he got from taking a beautiful Turner County 8-pointer.
Michael Ward, Little River Plantation’s owner, has been gracious enough to sponsor the SEEDS Big-Buck contest again this year. One lucky SEEDS member who has entered a deer in this year’s contest will have an awesome crack at shooting the buck of a lifetime.
Little River offers deer, turkey and quail hunts and bass-fishing trips. They’ve got a roomy lodge, excellent southern food and even a skeet range.
If you’re interested in spending a weekend in south Georgia hunting and fishing paradise, call them at (229) 567-0394, or visit their website at <www.littleriverga.com>.