A Black Belt Oldie Finally Gets Its Due!
Old times there are forgotten.
What the boll weevil started in this former land of cotton, plummeting corn and soybean prices surely finished. Since 1990, Perry County, Ala., has lost a full third of its job-hungry residents, and vast stretches of land, no longer farmed, are used to grow pine trees, catfish and cattle.
The same has occurred throughout Alabama’s Black Belt, once known throughout the world for the enormous white-tailed deer it yielded before aquaculture and tree farming replaced agriculture.
So named because of the nutrient-rich soil that spans the state’s midsection, the Black Belt includes Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Dallas, Wilcox, Lowndes, Macon, Bullock and Montgomery counties (plus portions of two or three more). This thin, crescent-shaped strip coughed up 52 percent of the bucks listed in the first (1989) edition of Alabama’s homegrown big buck registry.
Throughout the 1980s, when the yield of record book bucks from the fertile crescent reached its peak, there were just as many magazine stories about the Black Belt’s super bucks as tales about monstrous deer from anywhere else on the planet. But that was before soybeans and other row crops practically disappeared from the rural landscape and before the area’s deer population began exceeding the carrying capacity of the land (or the land’s capacity was diminished).
Jon Moss hasn’t forgotten the good old days. The buck he shot back in 1989 might very well be the reason the Black Belt garnered more publicity than any Midwestern state or Canadian province for years afterward.
Jon’s buck, the largest (at the time) taken in North America since 1982, put Alabama back on the map. And it eclipsed the newly crowned state record in the just-published “Alabama Whitetail Records.”
This deer has also been at the top of the B&C charts since it was panel-scored in Wisconsin in the early 1990s. But it wasn’t taped for the BTR until last spring, nearly a quarter-century after Jon shot it.
Incredibly, it’s even bigger by our yardstick because of a common-base brow tine and a string of stickers that B&C measured from their shorter sides.
While the Moss Buck isn’t the largest Irregular the BTR has from Alabama, it is indeed the largest toppled by a rifle bullet. Thus, it’s a state record.
Jon drove to Alabama from his (then) home in Hazlehurst, Miss., to visit and hunt with his brother-in-law, Billy May of Tuscaloosa. Before that, he’d never stepped foot on the private club’s property in Perry County, several miles south of where Billy lived.
When Jon and Billy drove to the parcel on Nov. 24, a work day at the club, the trip’s focus was to repair treestands, but there was time to spare. The sky was clear, the temperature was climbing into the 50s, and Jon decided to spend a few hours in a stand.
While getting out of the truck, Jon banged his rifle’s scope. He wound up borrowing Billy’s spare .30-06, a Remington model 742.
Billy had explained the rules, and he told Jon where to go.
Bucks had to be large 8-pointers or better, a commonplace minimum nowadays, but lofty back in 1989.
“I was told there was a high buck-to-doe ratio, too, and that I would probably see a lot of young bucks,” Jon said. “So I stuck a grunt call in my pocket. I thought I might try it and see how some of the young bucks reacted to it.”
Following Billy’s suggestion, he went into a strip of trees between fields and jacked himself up a tree beside a creek. His second order of business was to toss cotton balls scented with doe urine to the ground.
About an hour later, having seen nothing, Jon pulled out his grunt call.
“I blew it about six or seven times, real deep and slow, waited about four or five minutes, and then did it again. Shortly after I grunted the last time, I decided to call it quits,” he said.
After lowering the stand most of the way down the tree, Jon stopped to look and listen for a while. When he saw nothing, he jumped the last five feet to the ground.
As soon as his boots hit the dirt, he heard an echoing crash nearby and turned to see a huge buck lunging into the field. When the deer cleared the trees, it stopped and stared at Jon from a mere 12 steps.
When Jon first looked at the animal through his scope, he saw only brown. He frantically scanned the deer until he found its head, and then he followed the neck down to the chest and squeezed the trigger. The buck never took another step.
“I just knew that deer was fixing to jump,” he said. “I can remember thinking: I’m going get only one good shot.”
Billy was riding a three-wheeler, on his way to pick up Jon, when he heard the shot. As he approached, Jon told him, “You’re not going to believe the size of this buck. Man, this thing must have 30 points on one side.”
The 4 1/2-year-old buck was just as impressive in body. It weighed 265 pounds (9 of those pounds were atop its head).
“I was just lucky,” Jon said later. “If I had seen this buck coming from a long way off, I probably would’ve missed it.”
Jon had always been more of a turkey hunter. He says he never got serious about deer until he began hunting with Billy in 1984. So, other than being on Cloud Nine after shooting such an enormous deer, he had no clue as to how exceptional it was until he and his brother-in-law took it to taxidermist Richard Hicks in Northport.
“The man took one look at it and said he thought it was probably going to be a state record,” Jon said.
It was indeed.
Hunter: Jon Moss
BTR Score: 283 7/8
— Photos by Mike Handley
This article was published in the October 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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