A Monster Trophy
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure to hunt whitetail deer with my friend Foy Tatum at his property close to Union Springs, Alabama. We met close to Montgomery and drove from there to the property through some beautiful country roads, which included several angus cattle ranchs and long-leaf pine plantations, which probably double up as perfect Bob-white quail preserves.
The former 750 acres cattle ranch is intensively and carefuly managed for deer hunting, and it is formed by a healthy mix of food plots (at least several acres each), long-leaf pines which are regularly harvested for timber and harwoods which are religiously preserved. There are some twenty-six elevated shooting platforms and blinds, many that will sit two people so Foy can hunt with his grandchildren, and several more ladder and tripod stands.
In the heart of the property there is an almost 80 acres lake from which Foy and his friends pull at least one thousand trophy bass every year in order to keep the growing population in check. He told me that local matting pairs of Canada geese seldom see their hatches grow as more often that not the ten-pound bass will feed on the goslings while they swim.
Since the property has no fences, the hunt is completely fair chase, and in order to stay the deer must fell comfortable. Somewhere inside it, there is a one hundred acre deer sanctuary of swamps and harwoods, where no human is allowed to enter, and from February through September high protein pelletized food is offered to the herd at a rate of a ton every ten days.
For the year round efforts, the harvest consists of around twenty-five does and two trophy bucks per year, plus a truck load of memories, quality family time and good friends.
Before going out on the first afternoon I asked Foy what were "the rules of engagement" and which animals the guest hunters were allowed to shoot. Would an eight-point be the minimum antler size?
Foy answer surprized me. He said that hunters could take any deer in the property, either buck or doe, but that any buck taken must be mounted and rang in the main lodge for one year, and the hunter that took the animal would have to come back for a dinner in order to take his trophy home.
During the two afternoons and one morning that I hunted I saw between twenty and twenty-five deer, mostly does, buttom bucks and other yearlings, but there were also two bucks that I will talk more about.
On the first afternnon I passed on several healthy does and watched some buttom bucks play in front of my elevated blind, but on the following morning around 8:45 a buck came from behhind me and walked right under my tree stand. I shot the little five-point, that I also would gladly shot back home, several times. I put the cross-hairs of the clear Zeiss scope mounted on the Steyr Mannlicher 270 Winchester on the deer heart, the when it moved I shot it again at the back of the head, and after a while I shot it again thought the eye, and a couple minutes later I made a broadside lung shot. After several more minutes the young buck wandered away following the sent of three or four does that had come by earlier.
Later that day Foy dropped me at a big "condo" blind. An elevated insulated "cabin" overlooking the a food plot on the clearing formed by a powerline that bisects the property. It was a grey drizzling afternoon that reminded me of the Netherlands, and completely different from the bright sunny, almost warm, previous day. Close to dusk a buck crossed the field at a brisky pace, but not running. As I brought the rifle up on what I knew to be a shooter I started sneezing and just never could steady the cross-hairs on that animal. Was it a case of buck-fever or buck allergy?
While Foy's property is strictly managed according to Quality Deer Management principles, I beleive that the way he defines a trophy buck is a lot simpler and much more effective on its enforcement, for before the hunter pulls the trigger he must carefully consider wether he wants his mount to go in the wall of fame or in the wall of shame!