With a giant buck that will score somewhere between 178 to 201 inches, Tommy Tinsley is getting a last laugh on one of his hunting camp partners and good friends, Dan Hall of Vicksburg, and enjoying it to the max.
“You better believe I remind him my buck is bigger than his, every time I get the opportunity,” said Tinsley, who lives in a rural part of western Hinds County. “There’s a history there that makes it funny, at least to me.”
It starts with the weeks leading up to Hall killing a 181-inch (gross) 14-point at their Claiborne County camp on Dec. 19, a buck that adorned the cover of the February issue of Mississippi Sportsman magazine.
“It had been a couple of years since he had hunted that stand, and he couldn’t find it and thought somebody had taken it,” Tinsley said. “I went down in there to look around, hang a camera and a stand and found his stand. I told Dan I found it and that I was going to hunt near it, and I told him I could bring it out if he wanted me to. He said not to, that he’d get it after the season. Well before I could go hunt down there, he went in there and killed that giant buck. Man, that was a fine buck.
“And I was proud for Dan. I had that buck on camera and he was on that trail every day. His stand wasn’t 50 yards from where I hung my camera. He was apologetic and I told him not to be. I was happy for him.”
But, Tinsley is happier about the buck he killed on Jan. 2, also a 14-point that is likely to be scored as a typical 10.
“I didn’t kill it at camp,” he said. “I killed it on my property, literally in my backyard, about 125 yards from my back door. My ground blind is against my barn. I’m not kidding you.”
A rabid bow hunter, Tinsley had been trying to kill a buck he’d found on his property with a trail cam in September. It was the biggest deer he’d ever seen there.
“I put the cameras out in mid to late September and the first night they were out there, I got pictures of this giant buck in full velvet,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. We just don’t have big bucks like that on our property, at least not that we knew of.
“I love to bow hunt but we don’t have a lot of timber on our property and my opportunities are limited. I plant some food plots, clover, turnips and chicory, but the way it lays, I can only bow hunt the land with a south wind. When it’s blowing out of the north I can’t bow hunt there. I did get a few days to hunt with the bow there, but I never saw him on those days.”
On days when a bow was not an option, nor was a trip to camp, Tinsley hunted from his barn blind with a slug shotgun. He loves the gun, an H&R Ultra Slug 12-gauge.
“Man, that thing is deadly, as good as a rifle at 100 to 150 yards and accurate for me out to 200,” he said. “I can get 3-inch groupings at 150 and about the same at 200 with a 300 grain Hornady slug. I have no qualms about shooting deer at 200 yards.”
Two times in November and December, with shotgun in hand, Tinsley had close encounters with the big backyard buck.
“Just wasn’t meant to be those days,” he said. “First time, I was looking over behind my tractor and saw him leaving the field back to the woods. I could only see his rear end and I wasn’t going to chance a butt shot.
“Second time, he was out chasing a doe and came within 40 yards but I never could get them to stop and they left. You know with a buck like that, you want to make sure you get a good clean shot.”
In the meantime, Tinsley and his wife and daughter would hunt weekends at the camp. He was there the day Hall killed the big buck.
“Funny thing,” he said, “I had gotten there late that morning, about 9 o’clock because of work and was waiting for all the guys to come out of the woods so I could go in. I was going to hunt my stand back there where he killed that deer that morning, and he came in with it.”
Not long after that, the Claiborne camp dried up.
“It was like the deer disappeared and nobody was seeing anything,” Tinsley said. “On New Year’s night, Jan. 1, we were in bed at camp and I was telling my wife that I didn’t know what to do, that I didn’t know where to hunt.
She said, ‘you know, you’ve always got that big buck in the backyard. We can go home if you want.’ After tossing and turning a bit, I got my wife and daughter up around 11 and we went home.”
Next day, Tinsley hunted in the morning and didn’t see but a few deer.
“That afternoon, I got in the stand at 4:30 and about 15 minutes before dark, I had a bunch of does and a couple of young bucks in the field feeding,” he said. “Then I looked up and saw a buck with his head up, swinging it in cypress limbs. I couldn’t see his antlers so I wasn’t sure it was him. Then he dropped his head and I saw it was a nice buck.
“But he was facing me straight on, and stayed like that looking around the field for what seemed like forever but was actually probably about a minute or so. Then he started walking into the field and I saw him limping and then I knew it was him. He had an injured left front foot and always limped. At about 125 yards, he turned and gave me a broadside shot and I took it.”
The buck bolted and ran, but Tinsley didn’t see where.
“I couldn’t tell where he went, so I figured he went back the way he came,” he said. “I was too excited to go look so I went home to tell my wife I had shot him. Of course, she’d heard the shot and pretty much knew that if I had shot, it was a good buck. I told her I shot him and she asked if I found him. I had to tell her that I was too scared, too nervous to go look.
“Well, she wanted to go with me and my daughter, she’s 6, she always wants to go look, but I told them to let me go look because I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Tinsley said he returned to the field and went to where the buck had been standing and found no blood. Not a drop, and fear set in.
“That worried me... a lot,” he said. “So I started walking in the direction he had come from but I had this deer blowing at me from the other direction. It was a young buck and he kept blowing at me and that got my attention. I’ve had that happen before, you know, a small buck will stand by a dead bigger buck and blow. So I went that way and immediately saw skid marks on the ground. I figured he had run that way and when I got to the edge of the field, I could see a big trail that he had run through and 30 yards down it I saw him in my flashlight. Heck, you couldn’t miss him those antlers were so big.”
Tinsley walked up and saw that the buck was bigger than he thought, had more palmation than he remembered in the picture and had drop tines and other “junk” around the rack. It affected him.
“You know how you hear everybody say they like junk, well this one had it all and I got all excited,” Tinsley said. “I called my brother and tried to tell him I had shot the big one and I just couldn’t get it out I was so excited. He told me to settle down, and catch my breath, and I finally told him.
“He asked, ‘is it as big as you thought?’ I told him it was bigger. He asked how big, and I got excited again and I couldn’t really tell him. By then my wife came and she was crying and my daughter was all excited. My brother told me not to do anything until he got there and I sat there and waited the full 45 minutes until he arrived.”
The buck has 14 points, but has been scored by a B&C scorer at 183 2/8 inches gross as a typical 10. It has so much character, including plenty of the aforementioned junk. There are two drop tines off the right main beam and two other sticker points that weren’t counted by the B&C scorer.
* There is great mass with the palmated main beams, with the third and fourth measurements on each side producing nearly 38 inches total. The biggest circumference measurement is 12 3/8 inches.
* There is great width, with an inside spread of 23½ inches.
* There is great length. The G2s are 12 and 10 7/8 inches, and the G3s 11 2/8 and 9 7/8 inches. The main beams are 25 and 24 inches, with the shorter one showing a break that likely shortened it an inch.
“I’ve had him scored several times including the contest at Simmons’ in Bastop, La., where they score everything and he grossed out at over 200 inches,” he said. “The scores I’ve had range from a low of 178 to a high of 202 inches. The difference is in the opinion of the scorer.”
Two things Tinsley thinks the buck lacks are age and size.
“The jawbone was lost in confusion at the taxidermist, and it was my fault, so we aren’t sure of the age,” he said. “But I ran my fingers down in there when we were taking pictures and I could feel that the teeth weren’t that worn down. I doubt he was 5 years old, if that much.
“And he was small. He weighed just 175 pounds and had a 19-inch neck. Kind of strange, a rack like that on such a small deer.”
* Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.