Ask a very proud Jeff Messina about the 177-inch buck he killed on Dec. 9 near Lake Mary in Wilkinson County, and he will tell you that it was well earned and very much deserved.
“The deer gods obviously agreed,” said Messina, who lives in Baton Rouge, La. “After what we went through that day in that weather, I guess they felt they owed me.”
If that is indeed the case, he shouldn't expect another favor anytime soon. The buck he was given that day, halfway through the primitive weapon season, was, in his words, “a true Mississippi River 18-point bruiser.”
Yet to be green-scored by a trained scorer, the heavy-antlered buck is an amazing sight. What it lacks in width, it makes up for in mass, height, points and character.
The bases are massive, 6 7/8 and 7 inches, and that mass carries out throughout the length of what is either an 11- or 12-point main-frame. Its most unique feature is its dual, triple-split brow tines.
“I have no idea what an official scorer will do with it, but we followed all the instructions and when we cut the strings to use as measures, we underestimated ... horribly,” Messina, 50, said, laughing. “I remember as soon as we started to measure, I started hollering at my friends ‘go cut longer strings. We’re gonna need longer strings.’”
Messina credits one of his hunting partners, Dr. Graham Tujaque of Baton Rouge, for his insistence of hunting through the horrible conditions, which included rain from sunrise until sunset.
“Tujaque told me, ‘come rain or shine, we’re gonna sit it out and get a big boy today,’” Messina said. “He kept saying that the big bucks were going to move that day; he just knew they would. He kept saying, ‘we darned sure aren’t going to shoot them sitting around the camp all day. We got to get out and go.’
“Man, oh man, am I glad I listened to him and decided to stick it out, and it took all day.”
The two guys went to their stands in the dark that morning.
“I was hunting in one of those portable blinds, and the only time I got out of that stand that day was to meet Tujaque at the truck for lunch,” Messina said. “We went back to camp to use the facilities, dry out and eat, but we were back in the stands within an hour to an hour and a half.
“It was miserable. It rained all day and then late in the afternoon, it really started coming down again. You want to know the truth? I was about ready to pack up but I decided that, heck, I’d been there that long I might as well stick it out.”
What kept him interested, he said, was that after seeing does keep roaming through during the day, a big group of maybe seven or eight had stayed in a shooting lane to his left about an hour before dark.
“I kept looking back over there in that spot,” Messina said. “That’s where I first saw him. I had my binoculars up and he came out across that lane where the does had been standing, and I saw his large body (225 pounds) and his antlers and he got my attention. He had his nose to the ground and was sniffing as he went, and he went quickly.
“Then, poof, he was gone. I thought that was it. I had a chance at the biggest buck of my lifetime and I never even got my gun up.”
His disappointment grew when a few minutes later, the buck reappeared in the middle of three shooting lanes, again with his nose to the ground.
“Can you believe it, I still had my binoculars up, and, once again, he came and left heading back the same way he’d come, without me getting my gun up,” Messina said. “Now I was really mad at myself. I felt so stupid. ‘Dummy, you let him get away twice,’ I told myself.
“I figured it was probably too late, but right then I put the binoculars down and picked up my rifle and had it up and my eye in the scope just in case he came out again.”
What happened next is why Messina is sure the deer hunting gods were shining on him.
“He walked back out in that original spot where the does had been standing,” he said. “He stopped this time and I was ready. At about 130 yards, I let him have it. My .444 rifle knocked him down right where he stood. He went straight down, buddy.
“The funny thing about it is that it was at the very last moment of the day, that time of the day at dusk when you have to leave and wait for the next day to come. We were there dark to dark. I think I earned it, don’t you.”
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Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.