Ridgeland’s Dustin Venable has his dad, Roger, to thank for his love of hunting, especially chasing white-tailed bucks.

Now, the 31-year-old son owes his dad another big thank you.

A cell phone text alert from Roger Venable to his son that a big buck was walking toward him led to Dustin Venable taking biggest buck ever — a 155-inch 10-point.

On Dec. 7, the younger Venable arrived at the family’s deer club in northern Hinds County about half an hour before his dad, jumped an 8-point buck near the gate and called his dad to report the sighting.

“I also told him which stand I was going to, and he said was going to another stand farther into the camp,” Dustin Venable said. “I went on to the stand, which is along a four-wheeler trail that has 20-year-old pines on one side and a stand of old hardwoods on the other. I had my stand back in those hardwoods.

“I got to the stand at 2:30 and had been there about 20 or 30 minutes, and I get this text from Dad. He said, ‘There’s a big shooter buck headed your way.’”

Roger Venable had parked and had to cross the trail that led to his son’s stand. As he passed, in the distance, he saw a big buck walking up the trail toward Dustin.

“We usually try to get to the cabin at the same time, but that day Dustin beat me up there,” Roger Venable said. “I went to the cabin, got my stuff and headed out to my stand. We walk in every time we go hunting, so I was walking and going to the back side of the property.

“When I got to this one point, I looked up and saw a big deer in the road several hundred yards ahead of me. Well, the first thing I do every trip is put my binoculars on around my neck and I raised them and immediate said, ‘Oh, my God!’ It was huge.”

So big that he considered a shot.

“I pulled up my .35 Whelen and cocked it and looked, but I decided against the shot,” Roger Venable said. “It was so far, and I was free-standing without a rest point, and he was facing the direction that would take him right to Dustin, and I’d much rather let him shoot it. He deserves it. He works so hard at hunting, much harder than I do. I used to, but not now.”

So he sent the text message: “Big buck, headed your way.”

The text was received just in time.

“It was like a few seconds after I read that text, I heard the buck grunt back to my right,” Dustin Venable said. “I looked over and I saw a doe. Then I looked behind her and I saw his antlers. Since Dad had sent me the text telling me it was a shooter, I pretty much knew it had to be him.”

That gave the hunter the opportunity to get his CVA .35 Whelen ready, and his eye in the scope. What he saw surprised him.

“When I had walked up the trail to the stand I had used a scent drag with Tink’s Dominant Buck on it, and when I turned and walked to my stand I hung the drag on a limb near the stand,” Venable said. “When I saw the buck it didn’t really look like he was chasing the doe, like she was hot. It was more like he had just bumped her and was following her.

“When they got to where I had turned, she kept going straight, but he turned and followed the scent trail I had left. He walked right on the line. That is the first time I have ever seen a buck leave a doe and follow the scent. It tells me they aren’t hot yet — at least she wasn’t.”

The buck walked closer and soon provided Venable with a clear, broadside shot at about 60 yards. He aimed and sent the bullet on its way toward the 220-pound buck’s vitals.

“Perfect heart shot,” he said. “He took off sprinting to the left and crossed right in front of me, and I heard him crash in the pines about 100 yards away. I saw the pines shaking and I knew where he was.”

Roger Venable was pleased when he heard the blast.

“I had just about reached the point where the buck had been standing when I saw him when Dustin shot,” the dad said. “I knew it had to be him and I knew it had to be that deer, but I went ahead and walked to my stand.

“Right after I got in, I got a text from him that he might have missed. Apparently, he misjudged the distance to where the buck had been standing and he didn’t immediately find blood. I thought ‘Oh no. He didn’t miss that big buck.’”

No worries. Once Dustin Venable found the spot, finding the deer was easy. 

“The blood trail was 3 feet wide and looked like someone had gone through there with a can of red spray paint and sprayed a big trail right to the deer,” he said. “I took a cell phone picture and sent it to Dad.”

Roger Venable was impatient.

“I kept texting about the buck and wasn’t betting an answer, and all of a sudden I get this picture,” the elder Rogers said. “It was the big buck I’d seen. I can’t tell you how happy I was.”

Dustin told his dad to keep hunting, that “it looked like it could be a good day.”

Turns out, it was going to get better.

Roger Venable shot a nice 8-point in a green field about an hour later.

“I was sitting there and some does were in the field and then a 7- and then an 8-point came out and they started sparring,” he said. “They weren’t really getting after it, more like ticking their antlers together, which I thought might draw in a big boy. I got excited and got ready. I grunted and they stopped for a minute to look but then they started sparring again.”

No other deer approached, but Roger Venable gave the 8-point another look.

“I pulled up the binoculars and decided it was better than I thought and decided to shoot it,” he said. “There were three reasons. One, I hadn’t killed a buck this season. Two, I was hunting with my .35 Whelen and I love that gun.

“And three, I thought how neat it would be to have two nice bucks down on the same day — my son’s and mine. Now, there is no comparing the two. Dustin’s deer is a lot bigger.”

Dustin Venable doesn’t care much for numbers, at least where buck antler scores are concerned.

“I’m more interested in targeting mature bucks, at least 4 ½ years and preferable older,” he said. “This one was 5 ½, and it is the best buck I have ever taken. It has great mass. The bases at the skin line were nearly 7 inches, but at the measuring point 5 ½, and it carried over 4 ½ inches past the next two (measuring points) and then over 3½ at the last measure. It was only 17 inches wide and the main beams were just 18½ and 20½, but it’s a beautiful rack.”

The son then talked about the impact his father has had on his hunting.

“Dad got me started hunting when I was real young; our first trip was squirrel hunting,” Dustin Venable said. “I started going deer hunting with him right after that. That’s where I caught the bug, and I caught it bad. He’s more of a duck hunter, but I never got that bug. I don’t have anything against duck hunting except that it’s during deer season.”

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