Beau Johnson, 15, of Madison, isn't likely to forget his first hunt with a muzzle-loading rifle, which took place Dec. 8 in the woods of Yazoo County.

If the memory fades of sharing the morning with his dad Shane, or how the loud click of the safety on the borrowed gun actually helped him, or how he tripped in a mud puddle and fell down in his excitemet.

All he will have to do is look up on the wall and see the mount of his 164-inch Boone & Crockett (gross green score) 12-point with an extra main beam, and Johnson will remember everything.

It will likely produce a smile, too.

"It was my first time to hunt with a muzzleloader and the second time I had shot the gun," Johnson said. "I had borrowed (a 50-caliber Remington) from my cousin and shot it one time at a target to get used to it."

Being 15, an eight-grader at Tri-County Academy, the youngster didn't have to use a muzzleloader. Mississippi allows hunters aged 15 and under to use a regular gun during any open gun season.

"But it was muzzleloader season and I wanted to use one," Johnson said. "I usually hunt with a bow. I will hunt with a rifle but usually I like to bow hunt. That's my preference."

So on that Saturday morning, Beau and Shane Johnson loaded up their muzzleloaders and climbing stands and headed to the woods.

"We went into an area where I have been doing some bow hunting," said Shane Johnson. "I had seen plenty of deer and sign in that area and I knew the time was right for them to be moving. We took our climbing stands and I put Beau on one side of this thicket and I went to the other, about 100 yards away. I couldn't really see him but I could make out his orange."

Hoping to get in a quick hunt before arrival of a rainy cold front, the pair got in the woods about 6 o'clock and were up in their respective trees by 6:15.

At 6:40, Beau Johnson was done. His big buck was down.

"I hadn't been up there long, and I started hearing some wood ducks and some mallards hitting the water to my right," the teenager said. "Then I heard what I thought was a deer walking through the water. Then I heard it either wheeze or sneeze, and I spotted it.

"It was about 30 yards away and I could see it had antlers, and I could tell they were pretty big. They were tall. I could see that, and tall enough to know right away he was a shooter. I didn't know exactly how big he was but I knew he was big enough."

If it sounds like it all happened so fast, it's because it did, and it didn't slow down.

"He stepped behind a big old oak and I got ready," Johnson said. "He was walking in the woods and I could see him clearly so I took the safety off my gun. Like I said, it was my first time in the woods with that muzzleloader and I wasn't used to that safety and it made a pretty loud click.

"I guess he heard the click and he stopped. He didn't run. He just stood there looking straight ahead. I put the crosshairs on his shoulder and pulled the trigger."

What Johnson didn't think about at the time was the difference between a regular gun and a muzzleloader, and that slight delay in the ignition of the powder changed the shot.

"You know with a muzzleloader, when you pull the trigger, the first pop is the hammer falling on the percussion cap," he said. "There's a slight delay and I guess I pulled the gun off the shoulder. Then there was all this smoke and I couldn't see anything.

"I immediately started trying to reload the gun, but I wasn't having much success with that. By that time I could see the buck again and he had turned and was running right toward me. He stopped 15 yards away and was looking right at me. Then he turned and walked away."

Johnson wasn't sure he had hit the buck, which walked away with its tail down and wagging side to side. He didn't know that he had put the bullet through both lungs of the buck, which wouldn't go far.

"I was trying to watch him and reload and I guess he went over there about 70 or 75 yards and laid down," he said. "If I had leaned around the tree and been looking, I bet I would have seen him lay down."

Meanwhile, about 100 yards away through the woods, Shane Johnson was trying to recover. The roar of his son's muzzleloader had left him a bit shaken.

"I was far enough away that I couldn't see anything he was doing," the dad said. "I didn't know there was a buck out there. When he shot, I was startled. It shook me. Then a few minutes later I got a text saying that he had shot at a big buck. Now, he's killed a bunch of bucks and I knew he knew what a big buck was.

"I figured he had shot a good one, but the deer were active and I wanted to keep hunting."

Unsure of the shot and the buck's reaction, combined with the pre-rut activity turning into the actual buck/doe chasing, the two hunters decided to stay in their stands and wait to look for the buck. At least for a couple of hours, which was long enough for the teenager to see another buck, an 8-point, chasing does. He enjoyed the show, despite his nervousness.

"At 8:30, I climbed down to go look for blood," Beau Johnson said. "I couldn't find any and was a little concerned. I looked all over and didn't see any and I just happened to look over my shoulder and I saw antlers sticking up. The buck was laying right over there.

"I took off running toward him and I slipped in this puddle and went down in the mud and water. I was pretty shook up at that point. Then I got up and went to the deer, and when I got there I told myself 'oh man, that's the biggest buck I've ever shot.' I didn't want to go back up that tree. I wanted to take him to the taxidermist right then."

What he found was a main-frame 8-point, tall and wide, with four sticker points including an odd 10-inch third main beam on the buck's left side. The antlers were 20-inches wide with G2s in the double digits and G3s over 8.

"It's a monster," Shane Johnson said. "Better than anything I've ever killed and bigger than anything he's ever seen."

Beau Johnson's biggest previous buck was a 140-inch trophy "10 point with a lot of junk last year. It was a nice buck, but nothing like this one," he said.

Click here  to read about other big bucks killed this season.

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