You know that awkward moment when you realize, hey, those ARE antlers? This guy does.
Although Jerry Watt is a self-professed “man cave kind of guy,” that doesn’t mean he leaves the rest of the house — or the chores — to the missus. He’s also the kind of guy who’ll cut short a deer hunt in order to help his wife prepare the family’s Christmas dinner.
And that’s precisely why the man from Emelle, Ala., unwrapped a big ol’ present on Christmas Day, 2007. Or you could call it luck. Or maybe it’s because he’s a stickler for being downwind of the deer he hunts.
“I’d rather be good than lucky,” he says. “When I’m hunting, the main thing I’m cautious about is wind direction.”
Jerry was halfway joking that day when he told his wife, Carol, “I’m gonna go kill me a deer.” That’s not a stretch in Sumter County, which has one of the largest populations of whitetails in Alabama, but there are few sure things in deer hunting.
He didn’t have to drive far from their home near the Mississippi-Alabama border.
“I thought I’d slip up to an oak ridge where I’d seen a lot of deer sign, where there were rubs on trees as big around as beer cans,” he said. “I went up a tree in my climber at about 2:30 that afternoon.
“It was a beautiful sunny day,” he added. “But as time went by and I hadn’t seen a thing, I started thinking I ought to be helping my wife get supper started.
“I had walked around a big green field to reach the oak ridge, and as I walked back toward the field, I put the wind in my face,” he said. “Suddenly, a doe came streaking past me.”
Jerry scanned the area in front of him and eventually saw a huge buck, too.
“It was standing in a thick area, (jerking) its head around, and the bushes, saplings and vines were shaking, like its antlers were hung up in them,” he said.
Jerry had gotten a clear sense of the deer’s body size, which told him it was a buck even before he could make out antlers. But because the antlers were somewhat entangled in brush, he had no idea how big they were, even when the big whitetail tore free and ran out into the open.
Only when it stopped and approached the doe did Jerry realize he was looking at a one-of-a-kind animal.
“The doe was standing still, and as the buck walked up behind her, it still looked like it had a brush pile on its head,” Jerry said. “The antlers were just massive … massive all the way out to the ends.”
Jerry knelt on one knee and leveled the .30-06’s crosshairs on the buck’s shoulder.
“As soon as I shot, it hit the ground,” he said. “It all happened very fast.
“When I reached it and pulled the head around, I started counting, and I kept starting over because I couldn’t believe it,” he added. There were crab claws, kickers, and even the kickers had kickers!”
In fact, the kickers were so long that they’d rubbed the hair from the buck’s shoulders.
“It wasn’t lost on me that had I been five minutes earlier or later, I never would have seen that deer,” he said. Ditto if he’d taken another route from ridge to truck.
He had dropped the best Christmas present of his life, and the gifts just kept coming. The buck fell near a drainage ditch, which enabled Jerry to back his truck into it and load the deer easily. Afterward, he closed the tailgate, drove home and backed into his customary spot.
“My sons and their buddies were there and said something like, ‘Where you been, old man?’” Jerry said. “I told them they weren’t going to believe what I had in the truck.
“When I dropped the tailgate, I felt like a rock star,” he said. “Cell phones started flashing, and they began texting away. In less than an hour, about 50 people were there.”
Jerry then took the buck to Wayne’s Taxidermy. Wayne greeted him with a notebook and measuring tape, and Jerry wanted to use the tape to measure the width of his friend’s open mouth.
“He told me he’d never seen a deer like that,” Jerry said. “He encouraged me to enter him in the Big Buck Bounty, a contest sponsored by Tony’s Sporting Goods in Meridian, Miss.”
The deer won, and Jerry collected even more Christmas presents, including a new Yamaha Rhino, a rifle and scope.
In April 2011, his home was hit by an EF5 tornado that tore off the roof and did lots of other damage.
“The first thing I grabbed was that deer head,” he said. “He’s just so exceptional, so unusual, and I’m mighty proud of him. I didn’t want to lose him.”
The home was rebuilt, and the Christmas Day buck hangs in a new man cave, where Jerry likes to keep him company, even during deer season.
“I know he’s the best one I’ll take in my life. And, to tell you the truth, I’ve just about quit deer hunting,” he said.
“I love turkey hunting and hunting hogs with dogs. Those are the things I’m doing in my free time.
“But I won’t ever forget what it was like to get a deer like that,” he added. “There were pictures of him everywhere, and he was the talk of the town.”
Hunter: Jerry Watt
BTR Score: 195 4/8
– Photos courtesy Jerry Watt
This article was published in the September 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
• Deer Dementia? Even smart, nocturnal bucks can forget everything they’ve learned.
• Where Calendar Trumps Thermometer: Whether hunter or hunted, if you live in the sauna known as southwestern Georgia, you’re going to break a sweat.
• The Perfect Garnish for Backstrap: Bluegrass doctor makes up for lost time in a span of five minutes.