In 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant's federal troops crossed the Mississippi River at a sleepy little town called Bruinsburg, where Bayou Pierre empties into the Mississippi below a magnificent mansion named Windsor that later burned, leaving only stately columns standing as mute testimony to the former glory the federal troops saw when they climbed those steep bluffs.

Today, this area is a farming operation named Hammett Farms, owned by the Jack and Peggy Hammett family, descendents of the original family that built Windsor mansion. With flat, rich land along the river banks and rolling hills replete with huge hardwoods, Hammett Farms is ideal habitat for an abundant variety of wild game, including deer, duck, turkey and hog.

Around 2003, the family leased all hunting rights to a group of hunters who today are Clarke Stewart, Thad Strange, Michael Ellis, Charles Greenlee, George Smith and Brad Smith.

When I first hunted this wildlife paradise in 2003, I came away feeling I had just hunted the prime place in Mississippi, so when it came time this year to take my 11-year-old grandson Miles Thomas on his first deer camp hunting trip, Bruinsburg was the place I wanted him to experience.

The week before Christmas, I called Clarke, and we scheduled a trip to his other hunting camp, Mt. Serratt, located off the Natchez Trace below Rocky Springs. At the time, I had no idea of the various circumstances that were about to meld to make this a memorable time in young Miles' life.

Miles and I hunted some stands at Serratt, but weren't able to get him a shot. The impending weather was ominous, calling for bad storms under a tornado alert that finally forced us down from our stand and into a quick retreat to camp.

Serratt is a mighty fine camp, but I still wished Miles could have a go at Bruinsburg. Although Clarke was really pushed by time commitments during the holiday season, he took us to Bruinsburg for a Friday afternoon hunt where Miles got a shot at a big 6-pointer. Based on the deer's reaction, I thought it might have been wounded, but we found no sign.

Saturday, we briefly hunted Serratt during a tornado alert while Clarke returned to Jackson on business. Having no success that day only left Sunday, and Clarke was due back at his home church in Raymond. Miles still didn't have his first deer.

On Sunday morning, we decided to return to Bruinsburg for a very brief hunt and to check again for Miles' 6-pointer before we would all head for home no later than 8:30 a.m. When Miles and I entered the same stand as before, the winds were stiff, gusting up to 40 m.p.h.

Around 7 a.m., a doe entered the field behind our stand and began feeding, so I handed Miles my Primos Large Grunt Can. After a couple of calls, a huge-bodied buck stepped out of the far wood line about 170 yards away, and Miles' 6-pointer was following right behind, healthy and unharmed.

Miles (a left-hander) was using a right-handed Browning Short Mag .308 with 140-grain WSM ammo I had loaned him. His eyes bugged as he peered into my 4x12 Kahles scope.

"POPPA!" he stage-whispered.

Even with bare eyes at that distance, I could see the buck was sporting a really good rack and dwarfing the big six. I whispered as calmly as I could.

"Take him, Miles!"

The rutting buck's attention was completely focused on the doe in our field, so when Miles' first shot missed low, the buck only moved up a couple of steps and kept looking at the doe. I told Miles to elevate and place the crosshairs on the buck's front shoulder. This time when Miles pulled the trigger, the buck hunched up before turning around and walking stiff-legged back into the woods.

"I didn't gut shoot him, did I, Poppa?" Miles asked.

I just grinned.

"No, son. You hit him real good."

After waiting for 15 minutes (normally I would have waited longer, but we had a deadline before leaving for home), Miles and I slipped down to where the buck entered the woods. I found good blood just inside the wood line, and began to teach Miles how to blood trail by having him wait at the last sign of blood until I found new blood farther up, then having us repeat that process and marking our trail with orange flagging as we went.

After we had gone about a hundred yards, camp hunter Charles Greenlee and his friend Tony Dodgen (tennis coach at Alcorn) showed up, so we moved aside to let them take over trailing while I took photos of Miles' historic event.

About 200 yards into the woods Charles froze, craned his neck forward and stared wide-eyed around a huge oak. Then he uttered a phrase we would hear countless times before nightfall: "Oh, my Lord!"

Lying on the ground was a bruiser 10-point buck weighing about 225 pounds with a nearly perfect rack that would later net 164 1/8 B&C.

It took some effort for us to get this "Bruinsburg Bruiser" out of the dense woods and onto Charles' ATV and then into a truck bed, where it became an instant sensation at Port Gibson, drawing a huge crowd who had heard about it via the cell phones and CBs burning up the airwaves over two counties. Many insisted on having their photos taken standing inside the buck's wide antlers.

Later at Serratt, Miles had a standing-room crowd, and posed with his trophy buck for several hours as many would shake their heads and say, "Boy, do you know what you went and did?"

With the red blood smeared on his face perfectly matching his red hair, Miles would smile and respond: "I killed a big buck?"

Then they would laugh and tell him he was ruined for life, predicting he would never again kill a buck this big. Although he was much too polite to argue with them, the beaming smile on this new deer hunter's face seemed to say: "Don't bet on it!"