Every year, the majority of the best bucks killed in Georgia can be found in one place — they’re entered in the Truck-Buck contest. That says a lot about the credibility and popularity of the largest, most well-known deer contest in the state. The 2005-06 season was no exception. Truck-Buck entries included the No. 1 typical buck of the season and seven of the Top-10 bow-bucks. And everyone knows, anyone in the Truck-Buck field doesn’t have to worry about rumors and accusations about how they killed their bucks. GON is still the only big-buck contest that goes through the expense of polygraphing every winner.
It is an elite group of hunters who get to see their photo and the story of their hunt in How the Weeks Were Won. The winners of the Truck-Buck weeks get to see this and much more — they’ve already won a Browning rifle, a Mathews bow, or a CVA muzzleloader, and now they get to compete in the one-of-a-kind original, the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out, with a new truck and a four-wheeler one the line.
As we near the annual Truck-Buck Shoot-Out, which this year will be held August 6 at a free hunting show, the Bass Pro Shops Fall Hunting Classic in Lawrenceville, it’s time to tell the tales behind the winning deer and the hunters blessed to take them.
Week 1: Loy Banks
Date: September 13
Net Score: 171 6/8 non-typical
In the past decade, few tracts of Georgia dirt can match the quality of bucks that have come off the Banks Farm in Morgan County. The 2,220-acre tract of private and leased land has been intensively managed, a recipe that has been profiled in GON and through a book written by Jeff Banks and outdoor writer and editor Duncan Dobie. Jeff shot a Boone & Crockett buck in 2001 that netted 172 3/8 typical and won a week of Truck-Buck.
Despite past accomplishments on the Banks Farm, the 2005 season was likely the most productive ever, and if not it has to rank as the most special for the family and friends who hunt there.
The first week of the season, Loy Banks, 22, of Athens, made the 30-minute drive to the property for an evening hunt. He arrowed an incredible, massive buck that had a non-typical score of 171 6/8. Later in the season, Loy’s dad, Lamar Banks, shot another huge non-typical that netted 185 5/8, the best non-typical buck taken in the state last year. In the nation there has never been a father and son take such high-scoring non-typical bucks in the same season.
Loy’s place in Georgia deer-hunting history started with a decision to hunt on a hot Tuesday afternoon during the first week of bow season.
“I was undecided about a stand to hunt, so I asked my father, and he recommended a ladder stand in a bottom near one of our soybean fields,” Loy said.
He got to his stand at 5 p.m., and Loy said it was at least 90 degrees.
“It was close to 6:30 when three does and some fawns came out of a bedding area, crossed the creek, and filed toward the soybeans. The next two deer were bucks. One was a 6-point, and the other was a nice 8-pointer, a 125- to 130-class buck. What happened next, I wasn’t prepared for.
“I heard something in the creek. A huge buck with a huge rack came up the creek bank. The wind was swirling, and the buck stopped in its tracks, looked around, and turned around and went back into the creek. My heart stopped, I think.
“But it must have been my time because the huge buck emerged out of the creek behind me and headed up a trail toward the soybeans. He stopped about 35 yards from me to rub on some small trees. I could see about two feet of velvet handing from his rack. I came back to my senses, put my 30-yard pin on his chest, and squeezed off.
“I called my brother, and he said to stay put until he got there. While I was waiting, I saw another buck that was bigger than the one I had shot.” Loy said.
The crew got to Loy’s stand two hours later, and they found the buck just 75 yards away.
“What an unbelievable afternoon,” Loy said.
Week 2: Douglas Carter
Date: September 19
Net Score: 129 4/8
Nicholls farmer Douglas Carter has access to lots of land. He hunts deer on the property he farms, and one of his favorite spots is a 200-acre tract owned by his wife.
“She lets me hunt it if I behave,” Douglas joked.
Douglas described the area as a natural funnel between a big, thick area, and a peanut field, and he knew the deer were traveling through it.
“I don’t know why I really decided on that stand that day other than the wind happened to be right for it,” Douglas said. “I’ve had a bunch of places scouted, I just happened to go there.”
Douglas had hunted for a little while when a doe came by him, acted nervous, stepped through some gallberries behind him, and headed west, away from Douglas, down a firebreak.
“A few minutes later, I heard a deer back where that doe had just gone, and I thought it was her coming back,” Douglas said. “All of a sudden, out steps this buck, with his nose down like he was back-trailing the doe.”
The buck was staying in some thick stuff, not giving Douglas an open shot, but it was moving toward a shooting lane Douglas had cleared only a few weeks prior to the hunt.
“I knew that lane was a little over 20 yards long, and the deer stopped out there at 21 yards,” Douglas said.
Douglas drew on the buck, touched off his release, and watched as his arrow made a hard hit, stopping as it entered the deer’s body. The impact spun the now snorting buck in a circle and dropped it like a bag of hammers.
“I was sitting there thinking to myself, ‘he’s supposed to run’.”
Apparently, the arrow had entered the deer slightly high behind the shoulder and broken the buck’s back.
The 10-point buck grossed more than 137 inches, and topped 129 after deductions. The 18-inch inside spread was impressive, as were the G2s, which measured 11 2/8 and 12 1/8 inches.
Douglas now has Ware County’s first Pope & Young entry, and the buck puts Douglas at No. 7 on Ware County’s all-time County-by-County rankings.
Douglas is already getting prepared to shoot for a brand-new pickup truck.
“I’ve been practicing with the same model gun,” Douglas laughed.
“I don’t have any visions of winning, but I don’t want to be the first one to miss.”
Week 3: Harley Davis
Date: September 25, 2005
Net Score: 124 1/8
Harley Davis of Forsyth came across a unique piece of hunting land a few years ago, but he never considered that the property would pay off for him in the form of the 124 1/8-inch buck that took Week 3 of the Truck-Buck Contest.
Harley, who is a Jones County sheriff’s deputy, was granted permission to hunt the 65-acre tract by the landowner, a lady who owns valuable Arabian horses.
“She had a couple of those horses get stolen, and later, somebody stole some stuff out of the barn, so she asked if we would come help her keep an eye on it,” Harley said. “She said if I would help her watch over the place she would let me hunt.”
Harley often stopped by the land to make sure nobody was snooping around where they shouldn’t be, but he never took up the lady’s offer to hunt the property.
“I just never did hunt over there the first year,” Harley said.
Last season, he decided to try his hand at bowhunting on part of the property, away from where the horses live. Much of the tract is wooded and had been thinned a few years ago, so new underbrush was thick, and patches of broomsage revealed deer trails aplenty.
“I went and did some scouting last summer, and I figured out there were a bunch of deer bedding in that broomsage,” Harley said. “Near there, there were plenty of muscadines and a persimmon tree with a few persimmons on it.”
Food source? Check. Bedding cover? Check. Hunting pressure? None. The property hadn’t been hunted in three decades. Even more promising to Harley was the intensive management taking place on property surrounding the 65-acre tract.
“It backs up to about 10,000 acres that’s trophy managed, there’s about 1,800 acres next door that’s trophy managed,” Harley said. “Almost everybody around there is taking good care of the deer herd, and they aren’t hunted too much.”
On September 25, Harley would find out exactly how much the local management practices were paying off. He was off duty that afternoon and enjoying time in the deer stand.
A little before 7 o’clock, Harley saw a doe and a yearling coming. The pair of deer walked nearly underneath his lock-on stand, which was perched about 25 feet high.
“The wind was swirling and I think it blew right to her, and she just moved off pretty quick,” Harley said. “I thought I was ruined.
Pretty soon more does walked out, nearly surrounding Harley’s tree. As he prepared to shoot one of the does, he heard something he couldn’t believe.
“I heard a buck grunt,” Harley said. “I couldn’t believe one was grunting that early in the season.”
The buck came by at a walk, close enough to check out the does. The big deer would never give Harley a clean shot, staying behind a bush in the middle of the broomsage.
“I had already let my bow down when he took a couple of steps and his front end was between two bushes,” Harley recalled. “I was afraid I would mess up when I was drawing and spook the does, or they would bolt when I shot, and he would duck the string.”
When Harley pulled the trigger on his release, the arrow was true, zipping through the buck right where he aimed.
“I immediately picked up my phone and called a buddy of mine and told him I thought I had a Pope & Young buck on the ground,” Harley said.
When his friend got to the property to help Harley look for the deer, he spooked another buck.
“I could see another deer coming as my buddy and his son made their way across the field near where I was hunting. The buck they scared past my stand was bigger than the one I killed.”
That’s saying something, because Harley’s buck gross-scored 126 4/8. After deductions, the buck netted 124 1/8 inches.
This coming season, Harley will be back on the property, trying to take the bigger buck and make it two straight years of Truck Buck.
Week 4: Jammy Strickland
Date: October 6, 2005
Net Score: 115 7/8
Tommy “Jammy” Strickland of Hull knows he was lucky to get a second shot at a deer he missed early during bow season. What he could never have counted on was missing the deer two times, yet still connecting and taking home Week 4 of the Truck Buck Contest.
“I thought I got lucky,” Tommy chuckled. “Then I thought about it later, and I knew I got lucky, because if I had killed the deer the first time I shot at it and entered it, I wouldn’t have won my week.”
Tommy, who paves roads for a living, had permission to hunt a 200-acre tract in Oconee County while his company worked on the roads where a subdivision was going in.
“I had seen deer there almost every morning, so I was fired up to give it a try,” Tommy recalled.
The property, which included some fields and some thick woods, had plenty of the right things to hold deer.
“A lot of the place looked like it had been select cut about 10 years ago, and it had some really thick understory,” Tommy said.
He did a little scouting on the property in the afternoons and found a nice opening under a canopy of large sweetgum trees near a thicket and a creek that bisected the land.
On September 29, Tommy took a climbing stand to the spot, found the tree from which he wanted to hunt, and climbed up to look around and clear some limbs.
“I had been up there cutting limbs, sat down to take a break, and there he stood, rubbing a tree about 40 yards away,” Tommy hurriedly picked up his bow, nocked an arrow, clipped his release on his string and sent an arrow toward the deer. The shot missed the deer low.
“I think the arrow hit a limb,” said Tommy, who has killed other deer at 40 yards or more with his bow.
The following Monday, Tommy went back to the spot and watched some does feed through the area, 15 yards from where he sat, but he didn’t want to shoot because he wanted the kill the buck that he had missed a few days before.
The wind was rotten for the stand location on Tuesday and Wednesday, then Thursday, October 6 brought rain showers. The rain was intermittent, and not a total gullywasher, so Tommy decided to give the spot a try in the evening.
His brother was headed to hunt some property near Athens, so he dropped Tommy off.
“The rain stopped just about the time I got to the stand, and it wasn’t 10 minutes after I climbed up, here he came right at me,” Tommy said, talking about the deer he had missed a week prior.
When the buck got to 15 yards, Tommy had his bow drawn, and he fired. The deer jumped, ran a few yards and stopped. Tommy had missed a second chance to kill the buck.
Tommy grabbed another arrow and the buck bounded away. Inexplicably, at 35 yards, the deer stopped, and Tommy got another shot.
“I knew it was a good hit that time,” Tommy said.
Tommy called his brother to come pick him up.
“He had barely had time to drop me off and get on the road before he was turned around and coming back,” Tommy said.
The buck had only gone 100 yards from where Tommy’s arrow had found its mark.
“I killed two deer last season,” Tommy said. “That buck and one in Illinois that went in the 140s, so I guess I had a pretty good season.”
Week 5: David Bailey
Date: October 11, 2005
Net Score: 145 0/8
Another monster buck from suburban Atlanta? Another Cobb County Pope & Young? Just another typical deer season in Georgia.
Imagine making that statement 10 years ago, when the only good bucks killed in Cobb County were hit by SUVs around Kennesaw Mountain. These days, little pockets of woods in Cobb County are producing some of the state’s best whitetails.
David Bailey of Marietta took a bruiser of a buck off a private Cobb County tract that was less than 100 acres in size. In one of the closest bow weeks ever in Truck-Buck history, and certainly unique in the amazing quality of the top two bucks of a week, David’s buck edged by 1/4-inch of antler the second-place entry for Week 5. In second-place was a Burke County buck killed by Kelvin Rhodes of Augusta that scored 144 6/8.
David’s hunt was several years in the making. He started bowhunting exclusively a few years back. While he has taken good numbers of does and small bucks with the stick-and-string approach, David had never killed a real wallhanger until October 11 of last deer season.
David has been seeing deer in a field on the property for years, and the summer before the 2003 deer season, he approached the landowner for permission to hunt there.
“He said no the first time, because he said if he let me hunt there, he would have a million other people ask for permission,” David said. “I certainly understood where he was coming from.”
The next spring, the landowner approached David and said he could hunt there provided he helped keep an eye on the property.
“I was stoked,” David said.
He saw a large number of deer during the 2004 deer season, and even got a shot at a nice 8-pointer that David said was in the 115 class.
“It was the first deer I ever missed,” David said. “Buck fever at its finest.”
Come opening day of the 2005 deer season, David wouldn’t have to wait for action.
“I started seeing bucks from opening day, and plenty of them,” David said. “They were walking under my stand the whole season.”
On October 11, David decided to go for a hunt in the evening. He went to a stand that overlooked where a field funneled down to a point. David had a creek and a thicket to his right, and a hardwood ridge coming down to a point on the left. A small firebreak between the two left a good opening that deer crossed regularly. The field is full of waist-high broomsage and some small, scattered pine trees.
“Everything sort of tapers down to that one little place, and it is a perfect funnel,” David said. “I had seen a bunch of deer come down the ridge and cross the firebreak, and sometimes they would walk along it out into the field.”
The evening David hunted, he stuck it out through temperatures still in the 80s and plenty of bugs.
“I first saw the deer at about 80 yards. When I saw he was headed toward that trail, I knew he would come out in that corner,” David said.
The buck was walking along the firebreak, and as the deer passed behind some thick brush, David tried to draw, but his arrow wasn’t sitting on the rest. Somehow, David quietly shook the arrow back in place and waited for the buck to hit an opening.
“When he hit that little open spot, I made a little kissing sound at him, and he stopped,” David said. “He never looked toward me, he just stood there.”
David drew in a deep breath, shot his arrow, and watched as it hit the buck. David said the buck reared up on its back legs and then started trotting, tore through some bushes into the open field, and stopped for a second.
“I knew I had a nice buck, but when he stopped, I realized how big a deer he was,” David recalled.
The deer started trotting again and got out of David’s sight. David, who was trying to be patient, said he might have waited for 20 minutes before getting down to find the deer.
“I had to sit that long to calm down,” David said. “I was shaking so bad.”
When David got to the ground and started looking for the buck, he called a friend from Dallas to come help him.
“About the time I got my phone out, I saw the rack out there in the grass,” David said. “I didn’t know I could still run that fast.”
David called his wife, who had been cheering him on, then had the deer back to his truck before his friend showed up.
“We had him out of there before dark,” David said.
David has been practicing for the Truck-Buck Shoot-Out. He hopes when it’s time to go hunting this fall, he’ll be driving a new truck to the woods.
Most of all, he thanks the landowners for allowing him to hunt their property and take such a magnificent deer.
Week 6: Glenn Paschal
Date: October 16, 2005
Net Score: 154 0/8
If you have been following the Truck-Buck Contest for the last few years, you probably know the name Paschal. Jacob Paschal, Glenn’s son, won the Shoot-Out in 2004 at 20 years of age. Jacob was also in the Shoot-Out when he was 14. Now, dad has a shot at taking home a new Chevy Z-71.
The day that Glenn killed a huge bow-buck last season on the 11,000-acre Nilo Plantation in Baker County, temperatures were in the 70s, and the wind was relatively calm.
Glenn decided to hunt a live-oak tree in an area of plantation woods, which is mostly mature pines and upland grasses. It is the same area where Jacob’s 2004 weekly winner came from. Jacob, who is a student at the University of Georgia, had sat in the area the previous day, and on Sunday, headed back to Athens.
“We had scouted the area and found a good place for a climbing stand,” Glenn recounted. “Jacob saw two deer that he was sure were mature bucks on Saturday, but they were too far away.”
Glenn carried his climber and bow into the woods and got up the tree at about 5:30 in the evening. Just after he settled down, Glenn saw a doe headed toward a different oak tree than the one he was hunting near. The doe fed around a little soon and moved on through the high grass and scattered trees.
A half hour later, something happened that gave Glenn a chance to win his week. A huge buck came out on a mowed trail and headed toward where Glenn was positioned.
“He was on a trail that ran right by where I was sitting,” Glenn said.
Glenn got to look at the buck long enough to know he certainly fit within the management principles he has instilled at Nilo.
“I knew it was a shooter, and at least a Pope & Young buck,” Glenn said.
The buck started trotting down the trail toward Glenn’s tree, so Glenn drew his bow. A bow shot at a running deer isn’t a high-percentage bet, and what’s even more amazing, is when the deer stops of its own volition right in the spot it needs to for a clean shot.
“The deer stopped suddenly at the base of the tree and looked up at me from five yards away,” Glenn said.
Glenn released the arrow, which entered the deer at the base of the neck and angled through the buck’s chest cavity. The deer ran about 80 yards and crashed.
It was a week before rifle season, and Glenn had downed a buck bigger than most people can imagine seeing on the hoof in the woods. He could have killed the deer the previous season, but he didn’t.
“I had a chance to kill him with a rifle in 2004, but I let him go,” Glenn said.
Glenn’s management philosophy is paying off in a big way. On a tract of land that is intensively managed for quail, the big-game population seems to be doing just fine. The impressive buck scored 154 0/8, easily winning Week 6, the primitive-weapons week, and making it the No. 2 typical buck taken with a bow in Georgia last season.
“We’re 15 years along in managing this property, and we’re really seeing the benefits of it,” Glenn said. “We harvest does pretty liberally to try to keep the herd numbers where they should be, and we let the little bucks go so they can get older.”
Glenn’s property has a lot of upland terrain, but it also has a couple of agricultural fields that serve as nutritional boosts for the deer that roam the 11,000 acres.
The 2005 deer season was a great one for the Paschals.
“I put two bucks in the Pope & Young book, and Jacob killed one that made it too,” Glenn said. “We had good rainfall last year during the spring and summer and that really helped.”
Could this summer mark the second time in the past three years that a member of the Paschal family has won a new pickup truck? Surely, Jacob will be on hand to help coach his dad through it.
“I’m sure he’ll give me some tips,” Glenn said. “I just wish I could let him do the shooting.”
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.