Three of the four winners in the men's and women's divisions were taken during Mississippi's primitive weapon seasons, including the contest's overall winner, a 192 1/8-inch non-typical buck taken in Marshall County by Calvin Alderson of Olive Branch with a .45-70 rifle.
The top women's non-typical, Karen Worthington's 164 3/8-inch palmated freak from Rankin County, also fell to a .45-70.
Andy Lloyd used a .50-caliber muzzle-loader to take the prettiest buck among the 252 entered in the contest, a Boone & Crockett qualifier at 183 1/8 inches. It will be the Mississippi record for typical bucks by primitive weapon when entered in the Magnolia Records Program.
"This is an amazing group of deer, especially when you consider that so many primitive weapons were involved," said Chad Dacus, the deer project coordinator and the assistant chief of wildlife for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "It is indicative of the kind of season we had in Mississippi, which was among the best on record. We have officially scored nine B&C qualifiers so far."
The Big Buck Bounty featured three of those nine book deer, with Lloyd's public lands monster - killed on Morgan Brake National Wildlife Refuge - topping the list. The other two were Thomas Adam Steele's runner-up male typical at 174 2/8 inches and Josh Alford's 170 1/8-inch winner in the youth typical division.
"Book deer are nice, but we had so many 150- and 160-class typicals and non-typicals that topped 170 and 180," Dacus said. "Heck of a year."
And it was a great one for the Big Buck Bounty, according to one of the event's coordinators, Nancy Fletcher of sponsor U.S. 96.3 Radio in Jackson. The other title sponsor was Mississippi Sportsman.
"Best overall entries we've ever had," Fletcher said. "We had 252 deer, and what was most impressive to me was the number of big non-typicals and the number of women who had big deer.
"We even had three women's archery entries."
And one of the best stories was told by Pelahatchie's Worthington, who laughed through its telling.
"This was my first year to hunt," she said. "My husband and others in the family all hunt, and I've been going to stand with them and just watching for a while. This year, though, I took the 'if you can beat 'em, then join 'em' approach."
In Worthington's case, it was more like "join 'em, then beat 'em."
"I killed my first deer, a doe, two days before I took this one," she said. "I had makeup on and all that. Can you believe it?
"Then on Dec. 2, on the opening day of the primitive weapon season, I took a .45-70 and shot this one. It walked out in the field and I saw it had a nice rack and I shot it."
Nice? The palmated brute grossed over 180 inches and netted 164 3/8 inches non-typical.
"They tell me that's pretty rare for Rankin County, a non-typical like that," she said. "What else was rare was that it weighed 253 pounds, and that's unheard of in that area."
Alderson also told a funny story about his buck, which he killed Jan. 21 during the late primitive weapon season.
"I shot it at 150 yards with the .45-70 about 10 minutes before legal shooting hours ran out," he said. "I knew it was a big one, and I saw it run off out of the field. I went down and looked and found one blood spot.
"But that far a shot with that rifle, I was scared to go down in the woods for fear of jumping it and having it run off and losing it. So I went home to sleep and come back the next morning. Sounds like a good plan doesn't it? Well, let me tell you, I didn't sleep a wink that night. Not much at all."
Next morning Alderson was back in the field.
"I found the blood spot, went over to where I saw it run and went looking. He had gone 100 yards in the timber and piled up," he said. "All that worry was wasted. He had died right there."
Lloyd's story, which was featured by Mississippi Sportsman in December, began two years before he shot the massive deer that is now the No. 2 all-time typical buck in Mississippi.
"My brother Jeff came home from a hunt ranting about this giant typical he'd seen that he swore up and down would go 160 inches back then," Lloyd said. "We'd been hunting that same small area ever since, and we knew that if anyone else killed it, we'd have heard about it."
None had and on Dec. 7, the big buck made its fatal mistake, walking out into a clearing within 100 yards of where Lloyd was sitting with his 50 caliber Thompson Center muzzle-loader. But, the killing was not so much a matter-of-fact affair.
"No, far from it, because I liked to have never gotten darn hammer cocked," Lloyd said. "It was a combination of things, I guess: nerves, the big gloves and it was cold. I had to use both hands to get it cocked."
His aim, however, was perfect, with the 240-grain bullet punching a hole through both lungs. The blood trail was easy to follow, all 200 yards the buck managed to run.
Other first place winners in the Big Buck Bounty were:
• Youth non-typical: John Yates, 159 3/8.
• Youth typical: Alford's 170 1/8-inch B&C qualifier.
• Non-typical archery: Jake Cox, 158.
• Typical archery: Jimmy Riley, 158.
• Typical female: Elizabeth Ratcliff, 140 4/8.
Presenting sponsors included Joe Usry Chrysler Jeep Dodge, Lampton Love Gas Company and Rankin County Co-op.
Additional sponsors included Realtree, Bud Light, Gold-n-Guns Pawn Shop and Southern Tractor.