When Philip Hollimon talks about how he killed a 155-inch buck during primitive weapon season in Yazoo County, he only casually mentions the gun.
Like it was no big deal.
But, in these days of lax definitions of “primitive” guns, it is a breath of fresh air to hear of a hunter doing it the old way.
Hollimon, of Madison, killed the 9-point on Dec. 9 with a muzzle-loader without a scope or even an aim point.
“Yep, I shot him with my 50-caliber Thompson Omega muzzle-loader and I never got around to putting a scope on it,” he said. “I shot it with iron sights.”
Sure, there are some black-powder purists who would say the Thompson Omega rifle is still “too modern,” but without the optical advantage it is far more primitive than the .45-70s or the 35 Whelen centerfires the law allows.
“I just like to shoot the muzzle-loader and the iron sights are a challenge,” Hollimon said.
The hunter had been looking for this buck since first finding him on trail cam photos at his private deer camp in the rolling hills overlooking the edge of the South Delta.
“I first saw this buck on the cams in late October and early November, and always at night,” Hollimon said. “I think the closest to daylight he ever stepped in front of a camera was like 5:15 one morning. Then he just disappeared for several weeks, but in early December he showed back up. It was still only at night, but there was a change.
“In those early pictures both his eyes were clear and reflective in the light. In December, his left eye wasn’t right. It wouldn’t reflect at all and in one photo when he turned just right you could see it was injured and had been bleeding and had puss all around it.”
Otherwise, though, the buck was big and healthy and hanging in the area, and on a chilly Monday morning Hollimon was in the woods at the right place, at the right time.
“I was in a hardwood bottom at an intersection of several ridges,” he said. “Those ridges came together and formed like a drain with one small creek bed. I got there at 6:30 and I shot him at 8, and the whole time there was plenty of deer activity. I had seen a small 8-point at about 7 that morning and a couple of spikes came through.
“Then, I saw this bigger buck coming down a ridge to my west, which was the way I was facing. He was working southerly, to my left, and I was looking at him going in and out behind trees and limbs and brush and trying to decide if he was a shooter. Without optics, I couldn’t really tell.”
The buck was broadside the entire time but kept moving until he was within 50 to 60 yards. With Hollimon’s window of opportunity closing fast, he took a chance.
“I grunted at him and he stopped, and turned his head to look at me,” Hollimon said. “I was floored. He was so tall and so wide and I knew it was the big buck and definitely a shooter.”
Hollimon already had the iron sights squarely on the buck’s vital area and squeezed off the shot.
“I took the shot with him broadside and I hit a little high and behind the lungs,” he said. “It was not the ideal shot but was still a solid kill shot. I missed his vitals a little high, but it did enough damage for him to bleed out. He took off running up another ridge and went over it.
“I got down out of the stand and went to the creek bed and looked for blood and found a bunch where he was standing when I shot and could see a good clear trail where he ran.”
Still, though, Hollimon played it cool.
“I decided to back out and give him some time,” he said. “I’ve gone to deer before when I just knew they were dead and had them get up and run some more. I didn’t want that with a muzzle-loader.”
An hour later, he followed the trail and quickly found the buck where it fell about 100 yards from the creek.
“I immediately recognized the buck and the bad eye,” he said. “It was the deer. The taxidermist found a small puncture wound in his left eye, apparently from a fight with a buck. He said the buck was either already blind in that eye or would have been soon.”
Hollimon entered his buck in the Big Buck Bounty and received a score of 155 1/8 inches. The beauty of this rack is in its impressive heighth.
“The brow tines are big including one just under 10 inches, and two of the points are longer, one 11 3/8 and the other just under 11 inches,” Hollimon said. “The inside spread is 18½ inches. The two main beams were 22 inches, but like everything else, they were nearly exact. There’s not much difference in symmetry on the buck except for that extra little spur point off the G3 on the right.”
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Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.