It was Jan. 18, 2012 - the last day of Mississippi's zone 1 rifle season. And Ricky Sullivan knew immediately when he saw the buck at 210 yards that it was Pea Vine.

He quietly opened the window of his shooting house and laid the bull-barreled Remington across the sandbag. The buck neared the woods, and he would soon be gone from the clean cutover and out of sight.

Sullivan made a loud sound and Pea Vine stopped.

When the crosshairs looked right, he sent the .308 165-grain Custom Hornady BTSP bullet on its way.

The giant deer crumpled in place. It was 6:48 a.m.

"When I bailed out of the stand, I shouted and cried on my way to where the buck was lying," Ricky said.

He was soon trying to call his wife, Becky, on his cell phone.

Well before noon, Sullivan met his lease partner, Duke Wilson, in Meridian to show him the deer they had both hunted for two seasons. A crowd gathered near Wilson's office, and soon the Internet buzzed with the news and crowds showed up everywhere Sullivan went that day.

Cell phones snapped photos and sent out word for others to come and see the giant buck.

Just the two of them, Wilson and Sullivan, had leased the 386 acres in the summer of 2010. Half of the very hilly tract had been logged, poisoned and replanted early that year. The pair cleared grown-up fields and planted clay peas.

The peas were thriving and about waist deep on Aug. 5 when a game camera showed what at first glance looked like just more tall pea vines in one of their patches. A closer look revealed a wide-antlered buck in velvet standing in the deep vines.

The big deer was aptly named "Pea Vine."

More game cameras found Pea Vine in pea patches, as well as at feed troughs filled with high-protein feed. As the buck's antlers grew to trophy proportions, Sullivan and Wilson made careful plans to bag the big deer.

"We laid a strategy and stuck with it," Sullivan said. "We concentrated on keeping our scent away from the deer so as not to move him out or cause him to become nocturnal."

Although many hunters might have chosen to hunt in the deer's bedding area, the thick woods that surrounded the clean cutover, these two hunters decided to stay out of his comfort zone and gamble that he would eventually feel safe enough to step out into the open, especially during the rut.

This proved to be the right strategy.

Later, Conservation Officer Thomas Williams suggested that the buck might have sometimes continued taking his same routes that he had used when the big timber had covered the area, and that some of these trails now led into the open.

Sullivan agreed.

When the buck cut across the corner of the new opening that exposed him to Sullivan's rifle, the buck could have been following one of his habitual paths.

Pea Vine began to visit one feed trough more than the others, all of which were positioned far away from shoot houses to hide the hunters' scent.

This trough was deep in the woods and visited by the hunters only to check the associated camera and refill feed. They did no riding around with ATVs.

On the last Friday of the 2010-2011 hunting season, Pea Vine and another large buck appeared with three does in a bowl-shaped depression as the two hunters approached.

Sullivan ran to a log and steadied his .444-caliber rifle. When the deer moved into the clear, whistles and shouts could not stop him, and Sullivan's shot went over the buck's back.

After the season closed, Pea Vine did not appear on game cameras as usual. The hunters stayed out of the area so they didn't disturb the deer further.

After two weeks Pea Vine showed up on film again.

"We fed him from just that one preferred trough in 2011," said Sullivan.

Again they planted summer clay peas and in the fall, followed with an oat, rye, wheat mixture.

Just before Christmas, Wilson glimpsed the buck crossing the cutover from a stand they named Condo One. He told Sullivan about the sighting, and Sullivan hunted the stand that afternoon.

Pea Vine came into the field with a doe - and Sullivan's shot hit a tree.

The hunter then spent time in the woods almost daily through the holidays with no sighting. All his hunt days were now before daylight until dark.

One day - to ward off monotony - he moved to Condo Two, a stand far to the south. At mid-morning he saw the buck standing at 94 yards.

When Sullivan opened the shoot house window, there was a tiny squeak and the deer took off, offering only a neck shot at 200 yards when he stopped.

Sullivan would not take the risky shot.

He continued to hunt Pea Vine, spending long days in the stand.

Displaying a mountain of patience and persistence, and with support from his understanding wife Becky, Sullivan took his vacation time in January, determined to give maximum effort to bagging this trophy buck.

He would hunt the last five days of the rifle season from daylight until dark, except for taking lunch at a nearby diner. As described above, the final day would bring success.

Pea Vine was brought to bag at perhaps the height of his antler development.

On March 17, Sullivan and Pea Vine were honored with first place in a local big-buck contest, and the hunter took home a shiny four wheeler, a Remington .270 rifle and other prizes. He gave the ATV to Becky and the rifle to his good friend and hunting partner, Duke.

At the Mississippi Wildlife Federation annual Extravaganza in August, Pea Vine was the first-place winner in the Magnolia Records Program scoring session for typical bucks taken in Mississippi with a rifle. The buck's 196 4/8-inch gross and 170 7/8-inch net Boone & Crockett score made it the all-time record for Lauderdale County.