Ron Garavelli had given up on his morning hunt Tuesday, it being 9:30 and very little deer activity to report from his elevated shooting house in northwest Madison County.

It was also Christmas Eve and there were some final touches needed to finish his gift list.

Suddenly, it was almost like Santa Claus suddenly appeared at the deer camp to give the hunter his perfect gift — a broadside shot at a 167 6/8-inch (green score gross) 11-point buck.

“I had gotten my stuff together and was getting ready to go,” said Garavelli, the former fisheries director for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks who retired July 1. “I had the door to the stand open and was on my way out, and then I saw a doe walking across one of the shooting lanes.

“It being close to the rut I decided to get back in the stand and get my stuff ready, just in case a buck was following her. Turns out, there was.”

Almost on cue, Garavelli said, a big set of antlers materialized out of thin air at the edge of the shooting lane, about 200 yards from his stand. The buck was right on the doe’s trail.

“When I saw him, I immediately recognized him as the big one we’ve been getting on trail cams this year,” Garavelli said. “He took a half step out into the shooting lane, and I was able to see his shoulder. I couldn’t see his rear end but I saw enough so I put the crosshairs on the shoulder and pulled the trigger.

“He crumpled, but managed to stumble about 20 yards before going down. He was done.”

The buck, which was measured at a taxidermist, is Garavelli’s best, although the hunter was a bit disappointed at one aspect of the rack — well, actually two aspects.

“On all our trail cam photos, he had two drop tines, both about two inches, one on each main beam,” Garavelli said. “They were missing. I guess they were knocked off in a fight or something. I’d like to have had those but he’s still a good deer with a lot of mass.”

Oddly enough, the buck was nowhere near his usual hangout, evidence that once does start entering or nearing estrus, buck behavior can certainly change.

“All of the trail cam photos we had of him were from the north side of the lease, and I was on the far south end,” Garavelli said. “This is our second year with the lease and he’s the best buck we’ve seen. It’s only 200 acres in the Big Black River bottoms in Madison County, so he didn’t have to move much to get from one end of the lease to the other.”

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Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.