By Patrick H. White
Photo: Patrick White and the Lion Deer
-- It all started in the summer of 2004. My brother-in-law, Jon, and I had just purchased some digital Cuddeback cameras, and we were excited to see what had been leaving the huge foot prints in our lablab fields. Jon and I have been hunting together for 25 years. After giving the cameras several days to collect evidence, we downloaded the images. There was not one but two huge bucks captured on camera. The images revealed a large main frame 8-point buck and a non-typical 9-point buck along with several smaller bucks and does feeding on the tender peas.
For the rest of that year and through out the next two hunting seasons, we continued to get pictures of the bucks. We named these bucks the "Big 8" and the "Lion Deer" because of the tuft of hair on its neck, which stood up like a lion's mane. Both deer continued to develop mass. Jon and I decided that we would not take these two bucks and hoped that they didn't wander too far from our hunting property.
We were hunting a mere 50 acres, which gave the bucks food, water and a secure bedding area. For several years, we planted spring and winter crops for the deer. Plus, we provided protein throughout the year as Alabama law permits. We think this is what helped produce these large Hale County bucks. Needless to say, we were excited in February 2006 to see the bucks on the camera. It was then that we started planning our hunt for the 2006 hunting season.
Photo: Jon White and the Big 8.
As fall approached, we placed our treestands on the edge of our greenfields and along trails. Bow season came and went with us seeing several small bucks and does but not the two bucks. We continued to get pictures of Big 8 and the Lion Deer, which had grown into a 12-point buck. Unfortunately, all of the pictures of the two deer were taken at night. It is like the deer were notified that deer season was open and they changed their habits overnight.
On opening day of gun season, we flipped a coin to see who would sit on which stand. Jon won the toss and took a stand in the bottom of the property overlooking a greenfield and small creek running along the edge that butts up to a pine forest. For seven days he hunted the stand with no sign of the two bucks. I, on the other hand, had sat in a stand at the top of the hill where the deer would cross over from neighboring property heading toward their bedding area. Each hunt, I would see several groups of deer moving though but no sign of the two bucks.
On the sixth day, Jon had to go back to work, and I began to sit in the bottom. On the ninth day of gun season, we checked the camera and noticed that the bucks had started showing up closer and closer to legal hunting hours. That evening several does came out to feed in the greenfield grown with Rack Master. With 20 minutes of legal shooting light left, the does went on alert and looked toward the pines. I could see a large-bodied deer coming down the trail. It was a buck! No, it was one of the bucks!
I quickly looked at the buck through my binoculars and saw it was the Lion Deer. I eased up my rifle and centered the crosshairs just behind the buck's shoulder. A clean shot and the buck was down within 60 yards.
The morning of the 11th day, Jon was off and took over the stand in the bottom, and just as the sun was rising behind him, the Big 8 walked down the same trail as the Lion Deer. Jon dropped the buck in its tracks.
Photo: The Big 8 and the Lion Deer caught on camera.
This was one of the most rewarding hunting seasons of our lives. Had we not been using the cameras, we would have moved on to another hunting area as we had done in the past. The pictures told us the deer were there - we just had to spend time on the stand. We hunted the same stand 11 days in a row, morning and evening, thanks to Cuddeback we stuck with it.
Each deer weighed over 225 lbs., which is big for an Alabama buck. We attribute their impressive size to the food plots, protein pellets and age. Watching the deer develop was as much fun as harvesting them. Both are mounted and remind us of the enjoyment we had during the 2006 hunting season.
Patrick H. White
Crystal River, Florida
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