The Legend of “Stick Man”
In the late 1950s and early ’60s, avid whitetail hunter Buck Ashe, of Chamblee, earned the nickname “Stick Man” because he hunted deer exclusively with a recurve bow. At a time when few deer hunters were using archery gear, this popular Georgia hunter arrowed some exceptional trophy animals. However, in 1961 fate played a dirty trick on him with his biggest whitetail ever—at least, to his way of thinking.
After a friend introduced him to hunting deer with a longbow in the 1950s, Buck became consumed with archery. He soon retired his longbow for a recurve and mastered its use. He wasn’t simply hooked on bowhunting. He was obsessed with it!
Buck began bowhunting on private land in Monroe County. Most of his deer hunting was done in a large river swamp that he fondly called the “big swamp.” He often hunted with his mentor, Connie Brown, of Atlanta, and his brother-in-law, Olin Hunter. Buck also struck up a long-term friendship with a local pulpwooder known as “Sweet Man.”
“Sweet Man knew the area like the back of his hand,” Buck said. “Each season, he’d take me back in the swamp and show me sign from several big bucks. He had about six or eight kids, and every time I killed a deer, I’d always give him plenty of meat.”
Filling his tag each season became almost routine for Buck. After each successful bowhunt, he’d go find Sweet Man, who would obligingly fire up the tractor and summon one of his sons. Sweet Man would then drive down into the swamp and haul the deer out for his friend. Several of these deer were exceptional trophies that field-dressed at more than 200 pounds. It was during this period that Buck appropriately earned the nickname “Stick Man.”
Buck was also a passionate quail hunter and dog trainer. One day in early November 1961, the 27-year-old hunter was out working some of his bird dogs in Monroe County near one of his favorite whitetail haunts. Deer season was also in. In fact, the rut was in full swing. Olin approached Buck and said, “Several of us are going deer hunting in the morning, and we want you to go with us.”
“I’d love to, but I didn’t bring my bow with me,” Buck answered.
“No, problem,” Olin said, shoving an iron-sighted, Marlin lever-action .30-30 into Buck’s hands. “Here, take this. We’re going deer hunting.”
Buck was extremely reluctant to hunt with a rifle. Nonetheless, in order to appease Olin, he accompanied the group the next morning.
“We headed to the woods before daylight and split up,” Buck said. “I went down into the river swamp with no intention of shooting anything. As soon as it was light enough to see, I started working my way up a creek bottom and found a freshly shredded 6- to 7-inch cedar tree. I also found some enormous tracks that were relatively fresh. They looked like they had been made during the night.”
Buck was hunting near the present-day site of Rum Creek WMA, located about 7 miles east of Forsyth near the Ocmulgee River.
A Buck for the Ages
“I always liked to hunt from a tree, but the trees were so big I couldn’t find one to climb,” Buck continued. “I finally found a large dogwood. I managed to get about 6 or 8 feet off the ground. In the next 30 to 40 minutes, I heard several shots about a half mile up the creek. A few minutes later, I saw a deer coming toward me. It was a buck, and he had a huge rack. He was about 150 yards away, walking very rapidly. When he got to within about 70 yards away, he turned and started heading toward the creek. I aimed and fired, and he dropped in his tracks.”
Buck’s one and only rifle trophy was indeed a monster. The deer weighed 320 pounds (on the hoof) and sported a wide 16-point rack. The rack was a main-frame 6×5 with five abnormal points, most of which were burr points protruding from the base of the right antler.
“Olin and I had a heck of a time dragging him out of the woods,” Buck remembers.
The big deer, which carried scars of previous encounters with hunters’ lead, was immediately hailed as a possible Georgia state record. However, very few Peach State trophies were being scored for the record book in 1961. Furthermore, the idea of having his trophy entered in the record book meant very little to Buck.
“I never felt right about shooting that buck with a rifle,” Buck said. “I was mad at myself for a long time. If I had taken him with a bow, he would have been a real trophy in my eyes, but I never intended to kill such a beautiful buck like that with a gun. After it happened, I never hunted with a rifle again.”
One of Buck’s closest friends was an old schoolmate named Fred Brown. Fred, who was six years younger, had grown up in Buck’s shadow and shared many days afield with him. Buck had always been Fred’s outdoor hero.
“Please get it scored,” Fred urged. “I think it’ll be a new state record!”
But Buck never did get the massive antlers officially scored. He moved to New Orleans in 1963 where he lived for the next 14 years. Later he moved from there to Tulsa, Oklahoma. While in New Orleans, Buck became good friends with nationally renowned whitetail taxidermist Joe Coombs. At the time, Joe was just getting established in the trade and had not yet made a name for himself.
Fast forward to 1990, when I went to visit Joe at his home near Loranger, Louisiana. Several years earlier, I had published a book titled “Georgia’s Greatest Whitetails.” Joe knew about my book, and he told me about Buck Ashe’s incredible trophy.
“You’ve got to find that deer and get it scored,” Joe said. “It’s bigger than anything in your book. It has to be a Georgia state record. Stick Man is the best deer hunter I’ve ever known. He told me the rack had been green-scored in the high 190s, and I believe it!”
“Stick Man?” I asked.
“Yeah. He was such a good bowhunter back in Georgia, that’s what everybody called him,” Joe answered.
Thus began a long search for Buck Ashe and the vintage trophy. I finally located Buck’s son, Mark, who lives near Gainesville. Mark set up a three-way conference call to Oklahoma so I could talk to Buck about his trophy.
“Where’s your trophy deer head now?” I finally asked him.
“You’re not gonna believe this,” Buck told me. “A few months ago, I broke up with my girlfriend. I left town for a while. All of my personal things were in her apartment, including my deer head. When I got back to Tulsa, she had moved back to Pennsylvania. All my things were gone including my deer head!”
Even though the deer head was lost, I ended up writing a story about Buck’s lost trophy in the February 1999 issue of North American Whitetail. The magazine went out to subscribers in early January. Two old photos of Buck and his trophy ran with the story. Within a few days, the unbelievable happened. A reader called in, and Buck’s deer was located! The former landlord of Buck’s old girlfriend had taken it as collateral for back rent. He still had the old mount in a closet.
The trophy was returned to Georgia and officially scored at 191 4/8 typical B&C points by well-known measurer Bill Cooper. It easily became a new state record typical. Buck graciously gave the trophy to his son Mark.
Fittingly, Buck’s world-class trophy was remounted by Joe Coombs. Joe was thrilled to get a chance to mount this legendary whitetail for his special friend, Buck Ashe.
Editor’s Note: This story is featured in Duncan Dobie’s new $35 book, “Legendary Whitetails III.” The large format, coffee-table book features stories about 40 of the greatest bucks ever taken across North America. For credit card orders of an autographed copy, call (770) 973-8049.