In spite of the fact that Georgia’s 2013 deer season produced few entries for the Boone & Crockett Club’s records books; hunters took a significant number of outstanding bucks around the state. Several of these deer placed high in individual county rankings, and in a few cases, new records were established.
Two of these records were set in the south Georgia counties of Lanier and Ben Hill. Following are the stories of how these big whitetails were taken.
Lanier County: Nathan Livingston’s 15-Pointer
For Nathan Livingston, and his sons, Chase and Cole, deer hunting is an eagerly anticipated happening each fall. However, the 2013 season proved to be unlike anything the family had ever experienced.
“After setting out a trail camera about a month before the season, Chase began getting photos of a buck that was literally jaw-dropping,” Nathan said. “During all my years of hunting the county, I had never previously seen a deer in this size class. Even more amazing was the fact that the buck was in a wooded area only a short distance from our house; however, we had never sighted the big deer a single time.”
The tract of land where the buck was located includes a 100-acre scrub oak ridge and a bordering stand of 15-year-old pines. A narrow creek bottom separates the two types of wooded habitat.
“During the first part of the season, I primarily hunted a tower stand in the scrub oaks,” Nathan said. “We have three lanes over 200 yards in length cut through the oaks, basically in the shape of a turkey track. The stand is positioned at the junction of the three lanes. Chase and Cole hunted out of climbers or ladder stands along the stream and at other locations.”
Nathan realized the absence of daylight trail-camera photos indicated the buck’s movement pattern was primarily nocturnal. Nevertheless, he was hopeful that once the rut began, increased deer activity in the area might expand the buck’s movements.
Unfortunately, by Thanksgiving there had not been a single sighting of the big whitetail. At that time, Nathan decided to abandon the tower stand on the scrub oak ridge and move across the creek into the thicker cover of the pines.
After selecting a location adjacent to the dense cover along the stream corridor, Nathan positioned a pop-up blind in an open lane between the trees. Over the years, deer had established several trails through the thick cover. Which one the buck might choose was obviously an unknown, but the location was within 150 yards of where many of the trail-camera photos had been recorded.
“Once I trimmed away a few branches and a bit of undergrowth, I had a fairly clear view between the pine rows of over 100 yards,” Nathan noted. “The one critical factor about the stand location was that it could only be hunted with an easterly wind.”
On an early morning hunt during the first weekend in December, Nathan was positioned in the blind, intently watching the open lane between the pine rows. Without warning, the buck suddenly stepped into view—not at 100 yards, or 50 yards, but less than 15 yards away. The deer took one look at the blind, snorted loudly and bounded out of sight.
“The entire encounter lasted only seconds,” Nathan said. “There simply was no time to react. Hard to believe after weeks of hunting to finally see the buck, but not get a shot. When I left the woods that morning, the blind went with me.”
The hunter may have given up on the portable blind, but not the location. Using hog wire and a few stakes, he constructed a second blind; this one camouflaged with wax myrtle cuttings and other bits of vegetation.
Unfortunately, a change in wind direction forced Nathan to wait a few days before returning to the site. However, on Friday morning, knowing there were changes forecast for the local weather, Nathan was up well before dawn. The wind had shifted during the night, and there was a light breeze now blowing out of the southeast.
“That wasn’t exactly the direction I was hoping for, but I decided it was close enough to give the location another try,” Nathan said. “I was positioned in the newly built blind before daybreak.”
At first light, the hunter spotted three does near the far end of the open lane, approximately 100 yards away. After meandering about for several minutes, the deer eventually moved out of sight. The woods remained quiet until shortly after eight o’clock when just as before, the big deer abruptly stepped into view only a few yards away. But in this instance, it paid no attention to the vegetation covered blind.
“Never hesitating, the buck walked out and immediately turned into the open lane, heading straight away from me,” Nathan said. “Watching the deer through the rifle scope, I paused for just an instant, hoping I might get a better shooting angle.”
Fortunately, within seconds the buck quartered slightly to the right, providing a brief view of its side and front shoulder. Realizing this might be his best opportunity, Nathan quickly aimed and squeezed the trigger. At the shot, the big deer quickly bolted out of sight, and for a few brief moments the hunter could hear it crashing through the undergrowth.
“I was pretty confident the buck went down,” Nathan said. “But I wanted to wait a little while before checking, so I made the short walk back to the house.”
Chase and Cole also hunted that morning, but they had already returned home. Having heard Nathan’s shot and knowing he was hunting only one deer, they were eagerly waiting to hear his story.
“All three of us went back to the woods and found the buck,” Nathan said. “The deer had traveled about 100 yards before going down. It was definitely a moment I’ll always remember, and we did some celebrating. However, I believe the happiest person of all was my wife Sheila, because for weeks that buck had been just about our only topic of conversation.”
One look at the buck’s amazing 15-point rack, and it’s not hard to understand why the deer became the Livingston family’s main focus of attention. The rack exhibits a great combination of tine length and mass, with specific antler measurements that include 23 1/2-inch main beams and five tines that tape between 10 1/2 and 8 inches. After grossing 176 4/8, the rack nets a final non-typical score of 170 3/8. It is by far the biggest whitetail ever recorded for Lanier County.
Ben Hill County: Victor Hulett’s 11-Pointer
Anyone having deer hunted for any length of time has at some point left behind a piece of equipment or article of clothing at their stand location. In most cases the situation is merely an inconvenience, but it does usually require a return trip and occasionally a change in hunting plans. Last fall, Victor Hulett, of Fitzgerald, discovered first hand that the experience can also produce positive benefits.
“Following a sudden rain that ended my early morning November deer hunt, I discovered that in my haste to get out of the woods, I had left my hat and light hanging in the tree,” Victor said. “Three days later I had an afternoon hunting opportunity, but instead of going to the location I preferred, I decided to return to the site where I left my hat and light.”
The hunter was located on a ridgetop in large 25-plus-year-old pines. With a fairly open understory, he could see more than 400 yards to a distant creek bottom. Although he had not sighted a deer during his earlier rain-shortened hunt, he knew there were several fresh scrapes scattered throughout the area.
“I hadn’t been in the stand very long when I saw a deer step out into one of the open lanes between the pines about 300 yards away,” Victor said. “I knew it was a pretty big buck since I could actually see antlers at that extreme distance.”
Picking up his rifle, Victor dialed his scope to nine-power and looked at the deer. The image more than confirmed his earlier assessment of the buck’s size. While still looking through the scope, he saw the deer turn and begin heading in his direction.
“After covering a short distance, the buck disappeared into a dense thicket of briars, honeysuckle and saplings,” Victor said. “I was beginning to get nervous, wondering if I would see the deer again, when it suddenly reappeared, still heading in my direction at a steady walk.”
At this point, the buck had closed the distance to less than 150 yards. While the hunter continued to look on, the big deer again disappeared from view as it entered a large gallberry thicket.
“Within a couple of minutes, the buck exited the thicket, still in a steady walk, but now within 50 yards,” Victor said. “Thankfully, despite being extremely nervous I had remembered to adjust my scope back to the original setting.”
While obviously within range, the buck’s rapid movement and nearly head-on shot angle gave the hunter little choice but to wait for a better shooting opportunity. Finally, at approximately 12 yards, the deer abruptly stopped.
“Because of my height in the tree, I was shooting almost straight down. Realizing I had only seconds, my intention was to hurry without making any mistakes. Just as I squeezed the trigger, the buck snapped its head around, and for a brief moment I thought I had made a bad shot. But fortunately, the deer dropped in its tracks.”
With the buck lying in full view below the stand, Victor took a couple of minutes to relax and attempt to calm his nerves. He also called his hunting companion, Benny Gillis, to request assistance with moving the big deer.
After arriving on the scene, Benny was excitingly examining the buck’s rack when he saw a freshly made hole in the right beam. Upon further examination, the only plausible explanation was that when the buck suddenly turned its head and rack, just as Victor fired, the bullet initially struck the beam before at least part of the projectile continued on into the deer’s neck. Remarkably, the massive antler beam withstood the force of the 130-grain .270 caliber bullet without breaking.
Also remarkable is the size of the buck’s giant 11-point rack. While the long 26-inch main beams and 18 2/8-inch inside spread are impressive, tine length is easily the rack’s most outstanding feature. Six tines measure between 13 and 8 5/8 inches. After grossing 182 2/8, the rack’s final non-typical score stands at 167 3/8. It is the biggest non-typical whitetail ever recorded for Ben Hill County.
Ben Hill County Bucks GON’s All-time Rankings
1. 162 4/8 Dwight Thompson 2009
2. 157 6/8 Thomas Rodgers 1975
3. 155 5/8 Scott Revell 2012
4. 154 5/8 Victor Hulett 2008
5. 154 3/8 Jerry Young 2006
6. 154 0/8 J.W. Young 1985
7. 152 6/8 Joe Richardson 2003
8. 150 7/8 Clay Jones 1998
9. 150 2/8 Buddy Snowden 1995
10. 149 0/8 Jack Smith 2008
11. 148 5/8 Larry Bellamy Sr. 1986
12. 147 1/8 Ryan Luke 2013
13. 147 0/8 Jared Garner 2009
14. 147 0/8 Billy Joe Padgett 2008
15. 146 5/8 Scott King 2003
16. 146 4/8 Carl Baldwin 2001
17. 167 3/8 Victor Hulett 2013
18. 145 6/8 Chip Wallace 1999
19. 145 3/8 Jim Gilbert 2009
20. 145 2/8 Tammy Adams 2002
21. 145 2/8 Anjette Griffin 2002
22. 145 1/8 Adam King 1994
23. 144 2/8 Lamar Reynolds 2000
24. 144 1/8 Buck Tyler 1983
25. 143 4/8 Virgil Purvis 2008
• Victor Hulett’s 2013 buck is the No. 1 non-typical Ben Hill buck of all-time. Typcials vs. non-typicals are compared by dividing the net scores into the B&C minimums—170 for typicals and 195 for non-typcials.