In their first season on a new Johnson County lease, this group of hunters didn’t yet know what to think of the property. They had heard stories of some impressive bucks from neighbors, but on opening weekend of bow season they still hadn’t had much time to do a lot of scouting, and they definitely didn’t know what they had stumbled onto.
That was before Alpharetta hunter Eric Flowers killed the first deer on the lease and the first-ever Pope & Young buck to come from Johnson County, which is featured on this month’s cover. The main-frame 10-pointer green-scored a whopping 165 2/8 gross and will probably settle into the list of the top-five bow-killed bucks ever taken in Georgia once it is officially scored.
“We were trying to spread out and see what we had available,” said Ernie Dorough, one of the club members. “My stand was overlooking two old roads and a single persimmon tree that was so loaded the limbs were about to break off.”
The persimmon wasn’t dropping fruit yet on Sunday, September 9, but it was still a good stand. It was from Ernie’s stand that Eric arrowed the tall-tined buck, and Ernie handled that situation with a grace that would make most hunters seem villainous.
“I was thinking about it all day, and I had a good feeling,” Eric said, recounting the events of the afternoon. “He (Ernie) was going to sit it out, so I thought I’d go and fill in for him.”
By 5:45 p.m. Eric was set up in the stand overlooking the two roads, the persimmon and a mix of pines and water oaks. He got out his cell phone and started playing a video game called Brick Breaker, which explains why his buddies kept telling him to “smile and say brick” during the photo shoot.
“I hadn’t been sitting there 10 minutes and I heard deer walking behind me. I went ahead and stood up and got my bow,” Eric said. “I turned around and was facing the tree. I was looking out and I saw a leg through the brush. Then I just saw tines coming through the woods.
“I knew I was going to shoot him, but I didn’t know how good he was. I tried not to look at his rack.”
Eric drew his bow and waited for the buck to step into an opening he had ranged earlier at about 20 yards. The buck was in no hurry. It kept looking back in the direction it had come from. Eric thought there might be an even better buck coming behind the first, but he had already made the decision to trigger his release at the first opportunity.
“All I could see was the top of his back,” Eric said, “and I couldn’t let off on my bow because I knew he would see me.”
A smaller 8-point buck came in behind the first buck and looked straight up at Eric in his stand.
“He looked up at at me, and I felt like I was pretty sky-lined,” Eric said. “For a little while, he acted funny, like something was wrong. Then he went back to doing what he was doing.
“I felt like it was about two minutes I had my bow drawn. But they weren’t moving. I was shaking — not just because of the buck fever, but also because I still had my bow at full draw.” Eric said. “I held it until I couldn’t hold it any more. I stood up on my tippy toes, leaned up onto the tree, said a little prayer and let it fly.”
Eric saw the deer bolt, then heard it fall and thrash around in a thicket about 40 yards away.
“When I heard him go down, I did a little dance up in that tree stand,” Eric said.
He tried to give the buck time, but he couldn’t sit still long. He climbed down from the stand because he couldn’t wait to see what he killed.
“My jaw dropped when I walked up and saw him,” Eric said. “I left him there and drove all around town trying to find a signal on my cell phone so I could call everyone.”
When he couldn’t find a signal, he parked behind his buddies’ vehicles and waited for them to finish their hunts.
“When they came out of the woods, I told them I’d shot a spike, and that I needed help finding it,” Eric chuckled. “I set it up so they’d see the horns when they walked up on it.”
You can imagine his surprise when club member Jamie Fry was the first to follow the blood trail up to the buck.
“We knew there were going to be some decent deer up there; we didn’t know they were going to be that good,” Jamie said.
Jamie also said he saw another buck over the weekend that he thinks may be bigger than the one Eric killed. He and Ernie are both hoping to appear on the cover of a future issue of GON.