My first really good buck, like many trophy bucks, was taken almost by accident in the mid 1970s at Pete Lake Hunting Club near Sand Hill. It was a 220-pound 8-pointer scoring in the 120s, a nice weight and rack in those days.

My family was sharing a Thanksgiving day visit with Ray and Winnie Reinhardt's family at their country home next to the hunting club where Ray was a member.

We guys went hunting on the camp property that morning without either scoring. We went back to Ray's home, where Ray owned/leased about 40 acres. While the ladies were putting the finishing touches on the meal, Ray took me on a walking tour of his woods. I carried my "everything gun," an old Browning 12-gauge shotgun loaded with three slugs.

As we were walking about, the largest buck by far that I had ever seen jumped out of its bed. As it ran down an open path, I threw my shotgun to my shoulder, and fired a round. When he kept running, I squeezed off a second round that missed. As he turned left to jump into a thicket, I moved my bead ahead of his left shoulder and squeezed off my third and final slug.

When we ran into the thicket, we found the buck lying on the ground, but up on his front legs. I was out of slugs, and my heart sank at the thought of this beautiful trophy getting to his feet and running away. I dearly loved that shotgun, which had brought down many ducks, squirrels, dove, quail and a few smaller deer.

But I wanted this buck really badly. So I took the gun by the barrel, and slammed the butt end across the buck's head right above his eyes. Already seriously wounded, that blow ended the buck's life.

However, my "everything gun" was now bent backwards, making it great for shooting over my shoulder.

When Ray ran into the thicket, we both gawked at how big the dead buck was with its large 8-point antlers, a rarity in those days. Then I noticed that my first slug had taken off the tip of an antler, so we backtracked and found the broken-off antler, which I skillfully reattached via nutty putty at home and later decided to leave as is.

Neither of us had a truck or jeep, so Ray drove the family van down the path, where we still-hyper hunters proceeded to load our hunting gear, coats, guns and other gear into the sliding door of the van. Then we jumped into the front two seats and started to drive off, raring and ready to show off this monster to all the club members and other neighbors.

However, we didn't go very far before we both looked at each other sheepishly as we realized the buck was still lying on the ground in the thicket. We snickered at our mutual "buck fever," backed the van up and proceeded to rearrange everything to make room for the deer. Then we had to struggle before ever getting the big buck into the van. However, he was so long-bodied we couldn't close the sliding door, so we decided just to leave it open so everyone could see his rack when we drove up to their houses.

When we got him back to the scales at Pete Lake later that morning, we discovered that another big deer had been killed that morning which had broken the existing all time weight record of 215 pounds, but then our deer broke it a second time when he weighed in at 225 pounds. In those days, weight - meaning meat for the dinner table - mattered more than those inedible horns.

Our life paths took Ray and me in different directions after that until recently when I called him about doing a Mississippi Hunting Camps feature on our deer and Pete Lake Hunting Club.

So, on a Sunday afternoon in July, I drove out to his house, armed this time with a note pad and camera. Ray met me at the front door of his and wife Winnie Kay's home. After visiting for a bit, he and I got into my truck and drove to the entrance to the club's property next door.

Inside the ancient clubhouse, I discovered that the camp kill book went back over 30 years, and my buck still ranked as the No. 2 all-time biggest buck taken at Pete Lake. President Michael Smith (alias "Woods Boss") and his fellow members have done a remarkable job of keeping game kill records for those many years.

Smith told me the camp's 80-plus members average harvesting 30 or 40 bucks each year, as well as taking hogs (including one 325-pounder), turkeys, rabbits, squirrels and ducks, plus pulling in some good fish out of the lake. He estimated that more than 1,200 deer have been taken on the club's grounds since its inception.

For many years, the majority of the camp's members were also members of the local Lions Club, making it one of the largest such clubs in the state.

It was a special treat to revisit the site of my first big buck kill and see how friendly and hospitable all the members still are. If anyone out there is looking for a fine camp with some fine folks and some reasonable dues, give Smith a call at 601-506-2303.

For autographed book copies of Mississippi Hunting Camps ($81) or Tales of Old Rocky Hill ($18), mail check/money order to: Bill R. Lea, P. O. Box 321023, Jackson, MS 39232

To schedule Lea to visit your camp, call 601-502-4720 or email billrlea@yahoo.com.