As the 2005-06 deer season went from archery, to primitive-weapons week, to full-blown gun season, one thing remained constant. Big bucks were being taken at a fast clip, and entries for the Truck-Buck contest were coming from every corner of the state.
Weeks 7-11 of the contest provided plenty of thrilling tales and some lifelong memories for a group of hunters. In Week 9, a hunter from Eastman killed an amazing 10-pointer that ended up being the best buck taken in Georgia last season. Two youngsters, Tyler Pelfrey of Decatur, Tenn. and Jana Sizemore of Arlington, took the youth and ladies wild-card honors. Finally, last year, we made a comment in these pages about how it was almost impossible to have a tie between two deer when the measurements are done in eighths of an inch. Guess what? It happened in Week 11.
Keep reading to find out how these Shoot-Out contestants took their week-winning deer. If a photo doesn’t appear along with the hunt story, that means our weekly winner’s buck is also in the Fab 40 this year, so photos will appear in that article which begins on page 46.
Youth Wild-Card: Tyler Pelfrey
Date: November 26, 2005
Net Score: 140 1/8
At the ripe-old age of 14, Tyler Pelfrey is a seasoned deer hunter. He has been going with his stepdad, Rick Boatwright, since he was six or seven years old. And though Tyler didn’t start carrying a gun to the woods until a few years ago, he learned a lot about deer and deer-hunting safety from his time spent observing.
During the 2004 season, Tyler killed his first deer, a spike buck. He’ll always remember that first one, but it was his second buck, a 140-inch brute killed last season, that the young Decatur, Tenn. hunter will remember as the one that got him in the Shoot-Out.
“I got in the stand late that morning because Oscar, the president of the hunting club, said the deer hadn’t been moving until about 10 o’clock,” Tyler said.
Oscar let Tyler sit in his stand that morning, and the young hunter was trying to sit as long as he could, but he hadn’t seen a deer.
“A few minutes before 10, I was ready to get down when I heard something running,” Tyler said.
Tyler looked to see what was causing the commotion and noticed a doe with its tail straight out darting through the woods. Tyler knew the doe was running from something, and he patiently waited to see what had her on the move.
“There was a buck chasing her,” Tyler said. “When he came out, I saw nothing but horns.”
What happened next happened so quickly, Tyler didn’t have much time to react. Instinct kicked in, and Tyler was able to put the big buck in the bag.
“The buck was running so I kind of whistled at him, and he stopped behind some bushes,” Tyler said. “When he took another step, I shot.”
Tyler put the double-lung punch on the buck, hitting the deer squarely behind its left shoulder with his .270. The deer didn’t go far, only running 30 to 40 yards before crashing.
“My stepdad told me if I shot to not get down from the stand right away, but I couldn’t wait more than five minutes,” Tyler said. “I was too nervous, and I couldn’t wait.”
Tyler got his feet on the ground, went to where the buck had been standing, and easily tracked the buck to where it was laying.
Tyler’s stepdad, who was hunting on another part of the property, knew the buck was there because of trail-camera pictures from earlier in the season. The pictures were snapped a half-mile from where Tyler shot the buck.
Tyler knew killing the buck was no easy feat. He doesn’t expect to kill a 140-class buck every season, but he knows the potential exists. So when deer season comes in, he will be eager to jump in the truck and take the five-hour trip from just north of Chattanooga to Marion County.
Hey, it’s better than hopping a plane to somewhere else for a high-dollar hunt.
“Most people pay big money to kill a buck like that,” Tyler said.
Ladies Wild-Card: Jana Sizemore
Date: January 7, 2006
Net Score: 141 4/8
It’s always nice to see youngsters interested in the outdoors, and as last year’s Shoot-Out showed when a 13-year-old finished first and a 14-year-old place third, the girls can shoot just as well as the grown men when the pressure is on and a big buck — or a big truck — is on the line. Jana Sizemore, a 14-year-old softball-playing, deer-hunting young lady from Arlington, took the Ladies Wild-Card with a late-season buck that broke the 140-inch mark.
When Jana’s dad, Kenneth, put her in her deer stand on January 7, a week before the deer season went out in south Georgia, he gave her two instructions.
“I told her to not shoot any does, and I told her to squeeze the trigger,” Kenneth recalled.
With her dad’s words fresh on her mind, Jana complied and busted the buck that put her in the Shoot-Out.
Jana, who gets as much time in the woods as possible, was hunting with her father on a tract of land he manages for a lady. The property, which has a few small ag fields, is planted in cotton, corn and peanuts, and is interwoven with thick woods, including the swamp Jana was in when she took her buck.
The evening before the hunt, Kenneth said if the wind was right, he and Jana were headed to the woods the next morning. However, as often happens, the wind was howling before the sun came up on January 7, and worse, it was blowing from the wrong direction for Jana to get to her stand undetected. Kenneth told Jana to sleep a little longer, and by 7:30, the wind had calmed down and shifted.
Kenneth knew the time was right to try putting Jana on a big buck he knew was roaming the property. On New Year’s Day, Kenneth had come face to face with the monster buck while walking a firebreak near the property line. The buck, which was using the swamp as a travel area, was headed to a field off the property when Kenneth came around a tree and was greeted by the buck, which was standing about 20 steps away.
Jana had only been in her stand a few minutes, such a short time in fact, that Kenneth hadn’t even reached his own stand, which was only a short walk away.
“At about 9:30, I heard something crossing the creek behind me, so I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw deer movement,” Jana recalled in her hunt story.
In typical big-buck fashion, the bruiser was standing behind a bush, not offering Jana a shot, but when he took one more step, Jana found the buck in her sights and her .243 let out a roar.
“He didn’t go far,” Jana said.
When Kenneth turned around to walk back toward Jana, he saw her sitting in her stand, looking back over her shoulder.
“I whispered up to her, ‘What happened?’ She turned around wide eyed and said, ‘Daddy, he was HUGE.’”
“I have killed four deer,” Jana said. “I have killed a doe, a little six, and a spike for my first deer, but I hadn’t ever seen a buck that big.”
The deer grossed better than 145 inches. Its main beams were both longer than 22 inches, and the buck had G2s of 8 2/8 and 6 5/8 inches. The most whopping tale of the tape was the deer’s nearly 20-inch wide spread.
Jana knows bucks like the one that made her the Ladies Wild-Card winner don’t come along every season, or maybe even more than once, but when bow season opens, she’ll be up a tree, looking for another one.
Week 7: Shane Bethea
Date: October 24, 2005
Net Score: 151 1/8
Would you believe an 8-point buck in Georgia could gross almost 160 inches of antler, or net better than 150? Shane Bethea of Americus dropped the hammer on just such a deer and took Week 7 of the Truck-Buck contest by a comfortable margin over the second-place deer.
Shane couldn’t believe it either, because he passed up a shot on a 10-pointer that was traveling with the buck he killed on October 24.
“We just got access to hunt some property that hadn’t been hunted in a long time,” Shane said. “We knew there were some good bucks there, but we didn’t know how good.”
Shane found out just after gun season opened.
Shane hunted opening weekend of gun season on the property but didn’t kill a deer. He hunts a lot of mornings before work, so he knew he would have ample opportunity during the 2005 season.
“I try to hunt before work as much as possible,” Shane said. “You only have a couple of hours, but you usually see the biggest deer right at daylight anyway.”
Shane says that to be to work on time, he needs to be leaving the hunting club at 8 a.m., and on October 24, time was running out on his hunt. Shane saw the first deer at 7:45 a.m., right before he was going to climb out of the stand.
Shane’s stand was positioned in front of a thicket. To his left were some thinned pines, and some planted pines were to the right. Shane was set up on the corner, looking into the thinned woods and about 250 yards down two roads that run alongside the timber.
“About a quarter to eight, I saw a deer, and I immediately knew I was looking at a buck,” Shane recalled. “The deer was big, but I didn’t feel like he was fully mature, and in just a second, he stepped into the pines.”
Shane figured after seeing the big buck, he would not see anything else the rest of the morning. Shane turned his head for just a second, and when he looked back, a different, bigger buck had walked into the open.
“He was standing there broadside in the same place as the other one,” Shane said.
Shane had seen some deer take the same trail on opening morning of gun season. Those deer circled in front of him and came out to his right. Shane guessed the bucks would do the same.
“I had already moved my gun over because I knew where they were headed, and sure enough, here they came,” Shane said.
When the deer reappeared, Shane couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“I looked at this deer, and he was an 8-pointer. I’ve never seen an 8-pointer like that,” Shane chuckled. “Heck, I’ve never seen a 10-pointer like that.”
Shane had the scope on the buck, which turned and looked directly at his stand location. In about three seconds, the buck turned, and Shane squeezed off a round.
“I knew I made an awesome shot, and though I wanted to wait, I couldn’t for long,” Shane said.
Shane called his dad to come help him look for the doe that he had shot. By the time his father arrived, Shane had already moved the deer to the edge of the pines.
“He was walking along in front of me looking at the blood when he walked up on that buck,” Shane laughed. “He turned around and said, ‘I knew you got a buck.’”
The 8-pointer has amazing tine length — brow tines that are seven inches, G2s that are 11 1/8 and 13 6/8 inches, and G3s that are 10 6/8 and 9 0/8 inches. The net score was 151 1/8.
Week 8: Tracey Johnson
County: Monroe, Rum Creek WMA
Date: November 4, 2005
Net Score: 144 0/8
Throwing a change up is sometimes the difference in taking the buck of a lifetime, or just whiling away the hours in a treestand, watching the squirrels gather nuts for the winter.
Tracey Johnson of Canton has been deer hunting for 25 years. In that time, he has learned a few ways to teach an old deer new tricks. One of those techniques paid off in spades at Rum Creek WMA on November 4 last season, giving Tracey Week 8 of the Truck Buck Contest, his biggest buck ever, and the first WMA buck to ever win a week of gun season during the contest.
“I grew up over in Aiken, South Carolina, and we used the drive the points on Clarks Hill Lake to kill deer sometimes,” Tracey said. “A buddy of mine taught me that 25 years ago, and we do it on Rum Creek occasionally.”
Tracey and his sons, Julian, 14, and Corey, 11, headed down to Monroe County for a weekend of hunting in early November. Gun season had been in for several weeks, and the woods were probably getting worked over pretty good.
Tracey knew that just such an occasion would be the perfect time to drive the points of Lake Juliette, and possibly roust some deer out and get them moving.
Tracey and his boys hunt from treestands in the morning, and try to make a drive or two in the afternoon.
“It’s a lot of walking, but it works,” Tracey said. “It has been a very productive way for us to see deer.”
The hunt had already been eventful, with Julian killing a 10-point buck that had a rack still in velvet and no testicles.
“It was pretty strange to see that,” Tracey said.
The afternoon of November 4, Tracey put his study of aerial maps of Rum Creek to use as he and his boys headed to the woods to make a drive.
“We like to do this in the middle of the day when the deer tend to be bedded down,” Tracey said. “They get up and think they are escaping, but they are really coming right to us.”
On this drive, Julian went to the end of a point on Lake Juliette while Tracey and Corey waited farther up in the woods. When Julian started walking back toward where dad and little brother were waiting, the deer started moving.
“We had a buck and a doe come by, and I shot the buck,” Tracey said. “Corey shot at the doe twice and missed.”
The two deer were trotting when they came into Tracey’s view, not having any clue he or his youngest son were there, only knowing they needed to escape the sound of a man walking behind them.
The buck didn’t break stride when Tracey shot, and he was unsure about whether or not he had hit the buck, so he walked toward where the deer went, looking for blood or other sign.
“There wasn’t any blood at first, but I had heard some crashing, so I walked to where I heard that, and there he was,” Tracey said.
Tracey’s bullet had caught the deer almost in the breast and expanded, putting the deer down quickly.
When Tracey turned in his antlers to be scored for the Truck-Buck Contest, he thought he had a good chance to win the WMA Wild-Card category. When he came back to pick up his antlers and find out how the buck scored, there were some anxious moments.
“I came up to claim my antlers, and GON editor Brad Gill said, ‘We’ve got some bad news, you didn’t win the WMA wild card,’” Tracey recalled. “He said, ‘You won Week 8.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
Tracey’s buck scored exactly 144 0/8 after deductions. The buck grossed almost 150 inches. The deer sported matching 22 5/8-inch main beams and impressive G3s that both measured longer than 10 inches.
Tracey has been preparing for the Shoot-Out since early spring. He built a target to put up in his basement, and he, Corey and Julian have been staying busy, shooting against each other almost every day.
The most important thing to Tracey is knowing his boys will stay involved in the woods. And as much as he would like to win a truck, raising two lifelong hunting buddies is an even better prize.
“I like getting the boys involved in hunting,” Tracey said. “They like to hunt and camp together, it’s fun.”
Week 9: Tony McCranie
Date: November 10, 2005
Net Score: 169 1/8
There were no Boone & Crockett bucks confirmed from Georgia last season, but Tony McCranie of Eastman came about as close as a hunter can get without hitting the magical 170-inch mark that is the minimum net score for a typical rack to make the all-time record book.
Tony’s Week 9 buck netted a stunning 169 1/8, and it is No. 1 on GON’s exclusive Fab-40 list as the best buck taken in Georgia last season.
Tony killed the buck on a 200-acre tract he has been hunting since 1989. He knows the property like his own, but the stand location he chose looked different thanks to a recent timber cut between some hardwoods and a hill of planted pines.
“I had the day off work, so I wanted to get a hunt in,” Tony said.
“It was pretty cool that day, but not cold,” he remembered.
Tony positioned his climber in a pine tree and had the advantage of watching not one, but two different hardwood drains. He could see across the cut section, which was about 25 yards wide.
“It’s like a ‘Y’ shape, and I was sitting in the corner of the Y, so I could see down each side,” Tony said.
Tony could see about 250 yards down the left side. Little did he know, he was going to need a majority of that space when his hunt got underway.
Tony got in the stand just after daylight. At about 7:45 that morning, he saw his first deer, a doe that crossed the clearcut between the hardwoods and the pines.
“She didn’t act spooked,” Tony recalled. “She stopped a few times as she crossed the opening.”
Tony could have shot the doe, but because it was November, he knew the best was possibly yet to come.
“The deer didn’t act like there was anything behind her, but 15 minutes after she crossed, I saw a little movement,” Tony said. “I already had my gun oriented to where she crossed.”
When the deer first broke the treeline, it was in the new-growth understory that characterizes areas recently timbered.
“There’s a bunch of sweetgums and stuff in there,” Tony said.
Tony couldn’t tell what the deer was exactly, but it appeared to be big, so he gave a grunt to stop the deer. The grunt didn’t stop the deer, but it did look up briefly. That’s when Tony saw the antlers, and he saw all he needed to see to know the deer he was looking at was the quality of buck he had been searching for.
“When he raised his head and I saw the main-beam length and the width, I knew he was a shooter,” said Tony.
The only problem with seeing monster bucks is they do things nobody expects, which is the reason they got to be monsters to begin with. The buck kept striding right across the clearcut. It didn’t run or act as if he was chasing the doe, but the buck wasn’t going to give Tony a standing, broadside shot.
“It happened so fast,” Tony said. “I remember seeing him come out. I remember seeing that rack, I remember thinking I was going to have to shoot, and I remember the crosshairs on the scope getting to the middle of the deer’s shoulder,” Tony said.
After the shot, the next few minutes were a blur. When Tony looked through his scope, the deer was gone, and he had no idea which way to look.
“I waited for about 45 minutes and got down,” Tony said. “I wasn’t even sure I had hit the deer, but I felt like I made a good shot.”
Tony went to where he thought the deer had been when he shot and was disturbed that he didn’t find any blood or hair, so he started looking in earnest for any sign of a hit.
“I walked about 10 yards farther, and I could see one of those tines sticking up,” Tony said.
The buck had been cracked through both shoulders with Tony’s .25-06, and buckled right where it had been when Tony shot.
The incredible buck only had about three inches in deductions. Its main beams were long, the tine length was incredible, and the deer’s width, almost 22 inches, all combine to make the buck one the prettiest racks you’ll ever see.
Tony and two others are still leasing the property, and he says the genetics are there for more huge bucks.
“Us and the neighbors are managing,” Tony said.
He didn’t cite any hard-and-fast rules regarding buck harvest, but Tony said the premise was simple.
“If you want to mount the deer, take it,” Tony said.
No doubt about that one… the incredible rack on the wide, tall 10-pointer, Georgia’s No. 1 buck last season, will look mighty good on Tony’s living-room wall.
Week 10: Marvin Hightower
Date: November 18, 2005
Net Score: 146 7/8
Marvin Hightower has been hunting a tract of Dodge County property for some time, and he has killed and seen some nice bucks there over the years. The one he killed last November put him in the Shoot-Out as the winner of Week 10 and gave Dodge County two weekly winners in a row.
“A guy that lives there leases the place, and there is a trophy club below us that has been at it a long time, so there are some big deer around there,” Marvin said. “We only kill 8-points or better, and we have been pleased.”
Marvin had put a friend of his in a good stand to help him take a deer.
“It was a great day for hunting, and everybody had been seeing a bunch of deer, and my buddy saw a nice buck,” Marvin.
Marvin’s friend fired at the buck but missed. The pair looked for any sign of a hit, such as blood or hair, and found none.
Marvin’s friend went back to the same stand next morning, and a big buck came back.
“That afternoon, he told me the big buck came back by the stand,” Marvin said. “He told me to go hunt the stand since I had put him in that spot and he killed a doe and seen the buck.
“That’s a buddy right there. Anyway, I told him he needed to go hunt the stand again, but he wanted me to go there, and he’s a big ol’ fella, so I wasn’t going to argue,” Marvin laughed.
Marvin’s buddy said the deer came out both mornings trailing a doe at about 8 o’clock.
The next morning, Marvin was in the stand and ready when the time came.
“A few minutes before 8:00, a deer blew,” Marvin said. “I thought she smelled me even though I am extra careful about my scent.”
The deer must not have, because soon a doe was ambling toward his stand. The doe kept looking behind her, so Marvin kept straining to see what had her so nervous. Then he saw a mass of bone.
“I saw nothing but horns.”
However, Marvin’s friend had told him the buck he shot at was a monster. The next day, he decided the buck wasn’t as big after all. Maybe a decent 8-pointer.
“When I saw that deer, I figured he had been looking at two different bucks,” Marvin surmised.
When the buck stepped into the open, Marvin let the deer have it. The deer jumped straight up and ran, as wounded deer are known to do.
Marvin couldn’t bear the excitement, so he got out of the stand and began looking for the deer. In short order, he found blood, and then lung tissue.
“I knew I hit him good,” Marvin said. “I went to where he crossed a log and saw him down through the pines.”
The buck had led a rough life.
Marvin saw a hole through the deer’s neck, and one hole high through the shoulder. Marvin’s taxidermist later determined the deer had been shot once, and he guessed the hole in the neck to be from a fight with another buck.
That suspicion was made even more relevant by the fact that the taxidermist removed a 3/4-inch long, broken piece of antler from beneath the buck’s scalp.
“He had been fighting and the antler broke off under his hide,” Marvin said. “I kept that piece of antler because it makes a neat story.”
While Marvin believes he was blessed to kill the buck, he doesn’t know about his chances to take home the Z-71.
“I wear bifocals and it’s hard to see iron sights, so I probably don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning,” Marvin said. “But I’m going to be there to give it a try because you never know what might happen.
Week 11: Henry Shugert
Date: November 19, 2005
Net Score: 146 2/8
What are odds of two Georgia bucks in the same week that end up with the exact, to the eight-of-an-inch net score? It happened last season, and both hunters got a new rifle as a weekly winner and a spot in the Shoot-Out.
Henry Shugart of Suwanee has access to some prime deer hunting in Lee County, right in the heart of Georgia’s big-buck country. Henry and the others who hunt the 600-acre tract work hard to manage their herd. They are surrounded by other hunters who practice quality management, and the local whitetails are well fed by all the local ag fields, which provide year-round nutrients for growing huge antlers.
“The management is really paying off,” said Henry. “A guy on some neighboring property killed a big 10-pointer last season, and this year another guy took one off the same place.”
The farm where Henry hunts, like many southwest Georgia tracts, has plenty of upland woods, but also contains some great travel areas like the swamp Henry was sitting in when he killed the 10-pointer that gave him a shot at a brand-new pickup truck.
Henry was having the kind of hunt on November 19 that most of us dream about. He knew the swamp was a great place to sit, and he wasn’t disappointed in the amount of deer activity he was seeing. While Henry was in the stand, he was seeing scores of deer, including a number of bucks.
“I had already seen several bucks that day, including another 10-pointer, but I was going to sit there that day until the right one came along.”
Patience and persistence are keys to killing big bucks, and they paid off for Henry, as he killed his 140-class monster in the middle of the day.
A few minutes after noon, after Henry had watched a veritable herd of deer walk by his stand, Henry saw a deer he didn’t have to consider before he shot.
“I was facing south, and there is a creek in front of my stand,” Henry said. “The deer came out from my left.
“I could hear the deer but I couldn’t see him when he crossed the creek,” Henry recalled, “When the buck came out of the water on the opposite side and started shaking the water off, I saw him and knew he was what I was looking for.”
Henry, who carries binoculars to the stand to help him closely examine bucks to determine whether they are the kind of buck he wants, never made a move to pick up the binoculars.
“When I saw this buck, there was no doubt,” Henry laughed. “I didn’t need the binoculars to tell me this buck was the one.”
Henry leveled the scope of his .270 and dropped the hammer on the buck. The search wasn’t a long one, as the deer fell right where it had been standing when Henry squeezed the trigger.
Henry’s 10-point brute was 14 6/8 inches inside, but had main-beam measurements of 25 7/8 and 24 5/8.
Henry said a lack of pressure has been a key to killing big deer on the Lee County tract. The land only gets hunted one week a year, and every year, somebody takes a large-antlered trophy. Henry owns a small farm in Randolph County, and he manages it the same way.
“I have owned it four years, and we have killed some does, but we are letting the bucks walk so they can get big,” Henry said. “You can tell a big difference season to season.”
Week 11: Chad Myers
Date: November 23, 2005
Net Score: 146 2/8
Chad Myers of Sparks has entered a couple of bucks in the Truck Buck Contest in past years, but he was never able to win a week and clinch a spot in the Shoot-Out. That is until the 2005 deer season, when Chad bagged a buck that tied for the top spot in Week 11.
Chad was hunting the 800-acre tract in Brooks County for the third season, and he had found a great place to take a deer.
“It’s real thick where I hunt,” Chad said. “It’s a thicket at the end of a hardwood funnel that is bordered by planted pines.”
Chad went to his stand on November 23 and was greeted by a strong wind. While he sat, the wind blew hard at his back, meaning wary deer in front of him would most likely catch on to his whereabouts, but Chad was ready to wait it out. He put a dab of Paula & Boyd’s doe in heat scent on his stand and started watching for deer.
Chad got in his stand at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and at about 4 o’clock, his hunt got good.
“I hadn’t been there long,” Chad said. “I never even heard the deer because it was so windy, but all of a sudden, I saw him.”
The buck was making his way through a thicket, and when Chad saw the rack, he knew the buck was the kind of deer he was looking for. It didn’t take Chad long to relay his story, because everything happened so fast.
“It was a blur,” Chad recalled.
The deer stepped into an opening where Chad could get a shot, and he let loose with his .308 rifle at a scant five yards.
“The deer was standing five yards from the tree I was in, and I couldn’t see him good through the scope because he was so close,” Chad said. “When I shot, he took off running.”
Chad got down and started searching for his deer, which he found 65 yards away.
Chad said his close calls before were helpful not only in his hunting knowledge, but also in making him understand that sometimes things just need to happen the right way.
“You have to have a little luck,” Chad said.
Next month, How the Weeks Were Won will continue with more Truck-Buck hunt stories, including another WMA buck that made the Shoot-Out.