Phil Mills, of Ivey, has an unbelievable deer hunting story that will likely put his name in GON‘s Fab 40 rankings in the August 2018 issue.
Phil’s buck was taken Oct. 25, 2017. The main-frame 10-pointer has a 15 3/8-inch third beam and several kickers that allowed for 25 1/8 inches of abnormal inches and a gross score of 179 4/8 inches. John West, of Milledgeville, officially measured the buck and gave the 15-pointer a net score of 174 4/8 inches.
Phil is an associate pastor at a church in Irwintown called Voice of Truth (VOT), and before they built the church, they held church in his home. He is a big-time hunter and has been hunting for the past 40 years and managing his land for the past 20 years. This land is family land that his dad owned and has now been handed down.
Phil lets people hunt the property some. One of Phil’s buddies who hunts the land is former Georgia Bulldogs fullback J.T. Wall. On Dec. 12, 2017, J.T. killed a buck on the property that netted 146 3/8 inches and is now No. 17 of all time for Wilkinson County.
On Wednesday, Oct. 25, Phil got in his ground blind around 6:45 a.m. He was set up on the edge of a field that was about 70 yards long and 40 yards wide with a feeder at the end of it.
About 9:47, Phil stepped out of his blind to head home and relieve himself and then came back in to get his backpack and binoculars in order to head out of the woods. As he stepped in, “The Lord told me just to stay another 15 minutes,” said Phil. So he did just that.
Around 9:52, a doe walked out to his right about 50 yards up the field. She kept looking behind her in the woods, so Phil picked up his binoculars and saw a buck headed his way through some pines. When the buck finally stepped out to give Phil a good look, he saw that it was a 10-pointer that he’d never seen before. That’s when he decided that he wanted to shoot it and picked up his gun to put the scope on the buck. When he did, he noticed the buck had a third main beam, and he immediately tried to put the scope on the shoulder of the buck, and that’s when the doe took off into the woods, and the buck followed.
“I about had a heart attack. I pulled out my phone to text my son and tell him how stupid I was that the Lord told me he was going to send me a deer. He sent a deer to me, and I didn’t have any sense to even shoot him,” Phil said.
About 9:55, Phil looked up, and the buck was standing at the end of the field. He threw his phone down and picked up his gun. When he did, the buck turned to the right like he was going to go back into the woods. Phil took a shot. The buck nudged and took off into the woods.
Phil tried to let the deer sit and expire but couldn’t stand it any longer. So after 10 minutes of waiting, he went to see if he could find blood. He looked for the deer for about an hour and found not a single drop of blood anywhere.
“I couldn’t understand it. I shoot a Browning 7 mag, and you find blood when you shoot one with that,” stated Phil.
He left and decided to go into work, but he wanted to eat before he went in and stopped at Subway.
He got in line to get a sub, and the man in front of him asked how his day was going. He told the man that he couldn’t answer that question; it was either going to be super great or super bad. The man asked why, and that’s when Phil told him the story. The man told him that he had a friend, Timmy Oller, who had a good tracking dog, a chocolate lab named Banks, so Phil got his number.
Phil called Timmy, and he was in Hawkinsville tracking another deer, and that he would be there around 1:30 pm. Timmy asked Phil if he found any blood, and Phil told him no. He then asked him if he thought he hit the deer, and Phil knew he hit the deer, so Timmy replied that if he hit him, then they would find that deer.
Phil and two of his friends, Joel Beasley and Burt Evans, went back to the blind and started looking again. They looked for 30 to 45 minutes and were about to go meet Timmy and Banks. Before they went back up, Phil went back to the spot where he hit the deer and got down on his knees to get a different angle. That’s when he realized there was a wire cage around a tree he planted three years ago. Sure enough, Phil had hit one of the wires on the cage, and it ricocheted the bullet. He thought for sure he missed the deer or grazed him one or the other. One of his friends saw the trail camera and asked if he thought it would have captured any of it. There were two pictures on it.
They took the card out of the camera and put it in his friend’s laptop that was in the truck. Amazingly, the kill shot was photographed. The bullet ricocheted off the wire and hit the deer in the hip. They all four went back down there with Banks and looked until about 3 pm. They had tracked two or three different trails, and they also split up in order to cover more ground. Timmy and Banks went behind the stand, and about 80 yards away she found some dried meat and blood. From there on out, every 100 yards, they found another piece of meat about the size of the end of a fingertip. They tracked the deer for 500 some odd yards, and Banks started doing circles about 70 yards from them. Low and behold, she found the buck 600 yards away from Phil’s stand. At the time, Timmy had no idea, but this was one of the biggest bucks that Timmy and Banks had ever tracked and recovered. Timmy’s tracking service is called Outer Banks Deer Tracking, and they serve Bibb, Crawford, Crisp, Dooly, Houston, Jones, Macon, Monroe, Peach, Twiggs and the surrounding counties.
“Everything worked for a reason, me getting back in the stand, me going into Subway and getting that man’s phone number… I’ve been blessed,” said Phil.
Phil said he even used this story in his sermon one Sunday while talking about listening to the Lord and what he tells you. Phil already has his trophy on the wall thanks to Gary Mosely, his taxidermist, who got it back to him within two months.
“I have a bunch of deer mounted, but I took this one to the same guy, and he told me he would have it to me around Christmas, and he sure did,” said Phil.
Phil began a feeding program using 4S products by Advanced Wildlife Solutions back in 2000. Prior to then he had never killed a 135+ class deer. Since then he has killed eight bucks between 135-150 and two over 150. He contributes the noticeable increase in antler growth to the 4S product line.
Phil’s buck is the No. 8 best buck of all time for Wilkinson County and the counties second-best non-typical ever.