By Tom White-spunner
-- My hunting career started more than 60 years ago. My father did not hunt, but I had an uncle, Fred T. Stimpson, who took me under his wing. A well-known Alabama conservationist, Fred was in the timber business and had a tract of land on the Alabama River. It was the home of the Choctaw Bluff Hunting Club — the closest thing to heaven on earth for a young boy.
Whenever I was invited to go to the “bluff,” I could have my bag packed in 10 minutes. Game was plentiful in the area, which was not the case all over Alabama as it is now. At age 11, I dropped my first turkey, a jake with seven beards, with a .410 shotgun. Two years later, I took my first deer, an 8-point buck with an 18-inch spread.
I hunted the property with good success over the next 10 to 12 years. My hunting was interrupted for several reasons: uncle Fred passed away, and I became interested in offshore fishing.
When my hunting resumed a decade or so later, it was in south Alabama, mostly along the Alabama River. A friend asked me if I would take a young man from Tennessee turkey hunting. We hunted for two days and worked birds, but didn’t kill any. I invited him back the next year, and it was the start of a friendship that has continued for over 20 years. We’ve hunted deer and turkeys in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
I have since bought a second home on Pine Lake in west Tennessee, and my friend Rick Potts and I have bought a 350-acre farm in Chester County, Tenn. We are pretty protective about what we shoot there. We are fortunate to have several places to hunt, both private and public. Tennessee is blessed with a lot of public land that holds populations of game and is not heavily pressured.
Rick has an 18-acre tract that adjoins a property we lease for hunting. It is mostly open hardwood ridges, but one ridge has a cedar thicket. We went to look for sign after a morning hunt and found some scrapes and good rubs. I decided to give it a try. I went in before daylight, hung a climber, and started the wait.
A deer was under me before I had light enough to see. About 8:30, a doe came running off the adjacent ridge, followed by two other does and a good buck.
I was unable to get a shot at the buck. He and the doe he was chasing circled back, while the other does stopped right under me and then began filtering up the draw toward the thicket. Twenty minutes later, I spotted a deer on the ridge. By the time I determined it was a buck, I did not have a shot.
I called it quits for the day and looked around for a tree that would provide a better shot farther up the ridge. I found what I was looking for, marked it on my GPS, and then took a good look around so I could find it the next morning.
I was in my tree before daylight. Soon after daybreak, a doe came down the draw at 15 yards, and later a young buck started up the ridge. When he turned back, I realized there were four or five deer with him.
About 20 minutes later, a doe ran onto the ridge. It was obvious she was being chased, and soon a shooter buck appeared. I decided to take him as soon as he cleared the brush. It was not an optimal shot, but I felt confident. When the smoke from my muzzleloader cleared, the buck was gone.
I decided to wait 30 minutes before starting the search. I did not find any blood, but he didn’t go far. WOW! I knew he was a good buck, maybe a 10-pointer, but he had 13 points and great mass.
I sent my wife a three-letter text message,”BBD,” something I always wanted to do. I then called her to explain it means big buck down. I field-dressed the deer and started to drag it 200 yards uphill. I could only move a yard at a time, but I had time. At the truck, I used a come-along to hoist it onto the bed.
It is the best whitetail I have ever taken — composite score: 165.75 — and at 73 years of age, I will be lucky to see another one like the 18-Acre Buck.