Mississippi's run of trophy bucks continues. Here are some of the monsters that skilled and, sometimes, lucky hunters took this season.

"I could have taken him last year: I was in a ground blind and had him at 40 yards, but (the rack) was really broke up."

So he opted to wait and hope the deer made it until the 2008-09 season.

To keep tabs on the buck, Murray used a tractor to push out a small food plot right in the middle of the 15-acre thicket the deer apparently was using as a primary bedding area.

"I tried to make that area as interesting as I could to keep him in there," he said.

It worked, and Murray's trail cams caught occasional images of the big deer.

When bow season arrived, the hunter climbed into a stand on the edge of the thicket, and put in more time than probably was wise trying to arrow the beast.

"I stayed in the tree so long during bow season that I nearly lost my wife, my business and everything else," Murray said.

Despite the number of hours invested in the pursuit, Murray never saw the buck.

"And then he went missing," the hunter said, explaining that his cameras stopped capturing any images.

Finally, he heard that the deer had been sighted.

"A buddy about a half mile down the road saw him," Murray said.

The goal was to take the deer with a bow, but it quickly became apparent that Murray might have to settle for a rifle kill.

"Several people had seen him cross a public highway," he said. "He could step across the highway and get shot."

Murray quickly spread out his 10 cameras across his family's 300 to 400 acres, hoping the buck had remained on the property. He finally struck pay dirt, catching images of the deer.

"He had basically switched thickets as his home bedding area," Murray said.

His first on-the-hoof sighting came a few days during muzzleloader season, and the deer was well within range.

"I went to look at the camera at the thicket, and he was in a (nearby) grown-up field," Murray said. "He was only at 90 yards. But I didn't have a gun."

He didn't see the deer again until Dec. 21, when he eased into a homemade ground blind on the edge of the thicket where he had a good view of the deer's bedding ground.

"I was kind of on a knoll so I could see in there," Murray said.

The day was cold, and the wind was howling. So the hunter didn't even bother getting out early.

"I didn't leave the house until about 7 (a.m.)," he said. "I went and checked some cameras in other areas, and didn't get to the (buck's bedding area) until about 9."

The swirling wind apparently became a problem, and Murray caught his second peek at the trophy.

"I don't know if he had busted me with the wind or what," Murray said. "I was looking through thick cover, and I had lost my concentration a little bit, and I saw the deer trotting through some pines."

The deer wasn't running away, however; instead, it was moving quickly across Murray's field of view at about 50 yards.

Murray snapped his AR-15-style rifle to his shoulder, and popped off a round. The deer buckled momentarily before bolting. It seemed the deer was hit, but Murray also knew that there was a problem.

"The way the rifle recoils, it pushes back instead of up, so you can usually keep the target in sight when you shoot," he said. "I knew I had hit a little old tree and then hit the deer."

The potential disaster was confirmed when Murray eased up to the spot and found clear, runny blood that quickly disappeared.

"The first thought was, 'Gut shot,'" he said.

Murray didn't hesitate: He quickly left the woods so he didn't push the wounded animal in hopes that it would pile up and die.

"I decided to wait four hours before looking for him," he said. "That lasted 1½ hours. It was killing me."

Murray and 5-year-old son Grant headed back, but he never found a trace of blood. The only choice left was floundering about in hopes that he'd find the downed deer.

"You know how deer make sort of tunnels through a thicket? I'd follow those tunnels until I reached the open woods, and then I'd look," he said. "I would then move to the next tunnel."

That led nowhere, however. He put in a call to a buddy who owns tracking dogs, and walked to a nearby fence. That provided Murray's first real clue.

"I saw a lot of hair on that fence," he said. "There was just hair all in the fence."

On the other side, a deer had slipped and slid down the ridge. Murray said it was obviously an injured deer.

"I felt like that was the deer," he said.

Murray followed the trail to a narrow but deep slough. He wasn't about to stop just because of some water, so he put his son atop his shoulders, and waded across. Murray ignored the freezing water, but the passage took its toll.

"We got to the other side, and I kind of got up on the dry ground and just laid down," Murray said.

Meanwhile, young Grant did what all boys his age do: He just started running around playing.

"He ran around for about five minutes, and he said, 'There he is,'" Murray said.

The big deer indeed had done exactly what Murray had: crossed the slough and laid down. The only difference was that the buck never moved again.

Murray popped off the ground, and hurried to his deer. He couldn't believe what he found.

"He was bigger than I thought," Murray said. "I've probably killed maybe seven deer in the 170 class, and this deer was much bigger."

Indeed, the rack was nothing short of spectacular, with 11 typical points and 14 or 15 scorable points (depending upon whom does the counting) arrayed along the 28-inch main beams.

"One of the G2s was 14 inches long, and the other one was almost 14 inches," Murray said. "He's got four tines over 10 inches long."

It was the mass, however, that was so deceiving.

"The inside spread was only 17½ inches, but the mass is such that the outside spread measured 20 inches," Murray said. "It's not palmated; it's just natural baseball-bat mass."

What Murray had initially figured was a 180-class buck proved to be much larger, roughing out with a gross score of 195 Boone & Crockett inches.

"I guess he looks big in a picture, but you can't see the mass," he said.

The only disappointment was that he had to resort to using a rifle.

"I really had it in my heart to kill it with a bow," Murray said. "He would be about unbelievable with a bow, but I didn't want somebody else to kill it."

Priorities Buck

Jeremy McMahan couldn't believe his eyes when he spotted a monstrous buck during dove season.

"He was just out in the field," the Tupelo hunter said. "It was about dark, but he took my breath away. I told myself, 'That's the biggest deer I've ever seen alive.'"

The hunter couldn't wait until bow season started, and he set up a bow stand on the 4,000-acre Concordia Hunting Club in Bolivar County by keying on sign he found along a cotton field.

"I started wondering if he was really that big, but I went ahead and set up for him," McMahan said.

The 33-year-old hunted the stand, which was placed overlooking a slough in a wooded finger that jutted into the cotton field, on a regular basis, and that effort almost paid off.

"I saw him one afternoon during archery season," McMahan said. "He stayed about 90 yards away. It just hurt my feelings that he wouldn't get any closer."

McMahan's goal was to kill the deer with a bow, since he felt the clean 10-pointer would shatter the 162 7/8-inch state typical record killed in 2007.

However, the location of the hunting club along the Mississippi River actually allowed McMahan to begin using a rifle two weeks before stated state regulations.

"It's in the (natural) curl of the river, but it was straightened by the (U.S. Army) Corps (of Engineers)," McMahan explained. "So we get to hunt Arkansas and Mississippi seasons under a reciprocal agreement. But it's on the east side of the river, so it's in Mississippi."

That meant that on Nov. 8, McMahan was able to begin using a rifle to reach out and touch the big boy.

What he didn't know was someone else on the club had been hunting the same deer.

"One of the members of the club had eight cameras out, and he had 18 to 20 pictures of this buck," McMahan said. "He was hunting him. He didn't tell anybody, but I didn't tell anybody I was hunting it, either."

As it happened, on Nov. 9 McMahan's club mate had to leave after the morning hunt. But he suspected another hunter might take the big deer down.

"He told the club president, 'Somebody's going to kill that buck. He's too visual,'" McMahan said.

As it happens, McMahan wasn't even at the camp that Sunday morning.

"I wanted to go hunting, but my wife told me, 'You know, I just need you here,'" he explained. "So I said, 'Alright, I can hunt later.'"

McMahan went to church services, and then with the blessings of his wife headed across the state for the camp.

His first inclination was to climb right back into the stand from which he watched the buck during archery season, but that wasn't meant to be.

"The cotton farmer was cutting stubble, and I knew that the big buck just wasn't going to be coming anywhere near that field," McMahan said.

So he went to Plan B, and headed to the dove field where he first saw the deer in September. He simply climbed atop an old Indian mound, and sat down.

"About 4:45 p.m., he just stepped out in the field," McMahan said. "He was following eight does and a small 8-point."

The hunter, whose heart was racing, watched as the deer fed about 300 yards away. He wanted to get a shot, but didn't want to risk such a long shot.

About 10 minutes later, a couple of the deer headed back to the woods, and McMahan knew he had no choice.

"He was about 250 yards, and I just barreled down on him," he said. "I knew I hit him hard."

The buck headed for the safety of the trees, and McMahan popped off another round.

"I've never shot twice at a deer when I knew I hit him, but this deer had me messed up," he chuckled.

Once the deer disappeared into the woods, McMahan took a few minutes to collect himself.

"I just laid down on the ground to catch my breath," he laughed.

He then hurried into the field, and quickly found blood. But he also heard something that worried him.

"I heard him get up," he said. "So I backed off and gave him about an hour."

The deer ran only 100 yards or so into the woods, where McMahan finally collected the trophy. And he was stunned by the animal's rack, even though he already knew it was huge.

"I've seen lots of pictures of big deer, but I have never seen one as big as him alive," he said.

The only thing that marred the celebration, which included "hooting and hollering," was the fact that he had come very close to ruining the rack with the second shot.

"I just put the crosshairs on his head and shot, and I hit one of his tines," McMahan said. "I just about shot one of his G3s off."

But the perfect 10 points were all intact, and the rack was just as impressive as McMahan originally thought.

Each main beam surpassed 27 3/8 inches in length, and encircled 22 inches of air. The bases each measured more than 5 inches in circumference, and the G2s were each longer than 9½ inches. The G3s passed the 12-inch mark.

The greenscore tallied 182 7/8 Boone & Crockett.

McMahan said he could only think that God had blessed him for attending church with his family that morning.

"Put your priorities first, and God will bless you," he said. "I can't say God is worried about me killing a deer, but he is worried about me putting my family first."

Big sign gives up big buck

Oxford's Guy Billups and his brother own 1,500 Carroll County acres dubbed Oakhurst, and it's regulated for big deer. So Billups wasn't overly surprised during Thanksgiving when he and a biologist who helps manage the place came across some solid deer sign.

"We were in an area we don't hunt a lot, and we saw a hooking on about a 10-inch tree," Billups said. "The biologist looked at me and said. 'You better spend some time in here."

Billups put up a lock-on that afternoon in a cedar tree along the edge of a logging road, and said he heard deer moving nearby but couldn't see anything.

On Dec. 6, he returned to the camp and got into the tree early.

"I cut limbs where I could see back in the wooded area," he said.

That would allow him to get a shot at any deer moving along the ridge behind the stand, where Billups had heard deer the previous week.

"I wasn't there 40 minutes, and I looked down the logging road to the left, and a doe crossed," he said. "I told myself, 'That buck might be behind her."

As he stood, a huge-racked deer stepped out about 60 yards away.

"He picked up his head and crossed," Billups said. "I thought, 'Gosh, I missed my chance."

The deer could be heard feeding just inside the woods, but no shot presented itself.

"I could see the horns, but I couldn't get a shot," Billups said. "I knew he was a big deer and the biggest deer I'd seen in the woods."

Finally, the doe eased behind Billups' stand. The buck followed.

"Every time I thought I would get a shot, he'd take a step behind something," Billups said. "He wouldn't leave her side."

By this time, the deer were downwind of the hunter, and eventually something spooked the doe.

"All of a sudden, she smelled something she didn't like, and broke and ran," he said.

However, the deer only took a couple of hops and stopped.

"When she did that, it spooked the buck, too, and he jumped into an open area," said Billups, who waited anxiously for the doe to stop looking in his direction.

"I waited for her to put her head down, and when she did, I shot him," he said. "He ran off like I didn't hit him."

Billups' heart sank, but then he heard him crash.

"I knew he was down, and I didn't go 35 or 40 yards in the woods, and could see his white belly," he said.

The rack staggered the veteran hunter, who has let many a deer in the 130- to 150-class range walk.

The buck had 11 sweeping points protruding from long, heavy beams that stretched to 19 inches inside. The bases topped 6 inches in circumference, and the beast greenscored at 167 B&C.

"The rack has a lot of character to it," he said. "I watched him for 20 minutes, and I couldn't tell you any of that, but I knew it was a big deer. I didn't know he was 160, and I wasn't even sure he was 160 when I walked up to him."

Life-list accomplished

Jason McGuffie has killed bucks before, but his biggest rack when the 2008-09 season began was a spindly 8-point. So when he moved to Vicksburg, where big bucks roam, in August, McGuffie said he hoped he'd eventually fulfill his life's dream.

"My goal was to find a buck that was big enough to hang on the wall," the youth pastor explained. "I wanted to do that before I die."

The opportunity presented itself after he performed Dr. Michael Ellis' marriage ceremony.

"He told me, 'Since you married me, I'm going to take you hunting,'" McGuffie said.

But McGuffie almost missed his shot when the Vicksburg dentist called.

"He called me on (Dec. 12) and asked if I could make it to the camp that afternoon. I told him I couldn't because I had to go to the hospital (for visitation)," McGuffie said. "So he asked me if I could be at the camp Saturday morning, and I told him I couldn't because my wife worked that morning."

The two hung up, but Ellis was back on the horn to McGuffie after hunting the morning of Dec. 13.

"He said, 'Is there any way you can come down here this evening? I saw a monster down here this morning, and you or I are going to get it,'" McGuffie said.

That was all he needed to hear, and the minister headed to Ellis' Port Gibson-area lease.

"I tear off down there, and but don't get there until about 3:50 (p.m.)," McGuffie said. "He told me, 'Don't worry. There's no hurry.'"

The pair climbed into box stands along a right-of-way shortly thereafter, and it wasn't long before McGuffie was watching deer.

"A cull buck came out, and I asked Michael (via a two-way radio) if I could shoot it," McGuffie said. "He told me not to shoot it."

He was still eyeing that deer, which was between 250 and 275 yards out, through his scope when movement caught his on the other side of the stand.

"I look, and here comes that big buck," McGuffie said. "It was 19 yards (away), broadside."

All McGuffie originally saw was the left side of the rack, but the hunter realized it was a monster deer.

"He turns his head, and I could see the spread," he said. "I said, 'This is a big deer.'"

The problem was that the buck didn't seem inclined to hang around, and the nervous hunter wanted a stationary target to ensure he didn't miss.

"This dude is walking. I mean he's in a fast, fast-paced walk," McGuffie said.

He tried to do a mouth grunt a couple of times, but the deer ignored the sound. Finally, McGuffie threw all caution to the wind.

"I whooped, and he turned and looked at me, and I said, 'Oh gosh, don't miss,'" McGuffie laughed.

The deer's antlers were wide and massive, and the hunter quickly focused on putting the crosshairs in the kill zone. The gun fired, and it was clear the shot hit home.

"He folded, and then ran," McGuffie said.

Ellis, heard the shot, and called to check on his guest.

"He said, 'Did you shoot that cull?'" McGuffie said. "I couldn't even breathe. I said, 'No, man, this is a big buck. You've got to come help me get this thing.'"

That's when the story turns weird.

When the pair of hunters followed the blood trail, they were stopped by a nearby 150-foot sheer bluff.

"Michael said, 'Well, he didn't go off that,'" McGuffie said.

After searching for more blood without success, the two hunters returned to the last sign at the edge of the cliff and looked over the side.

"We were hanging onto bushes looking over the bluff, and there he was at the bottom of the gorge," McGuffie said. "This wasn't one of those hills you could slide down."

With easy no way to reach the bottom, the two men tied a length of rope to Ellis' ATV wench and the other end around McGuffie. Ellis then lowered the still-excited hunter down the cliff face.

"We let out the wench, and the cable wasn't long enough," McGuffie chuckled.

He finally was able to get to the bottom, and when he got to the deer, the gravity of the kill sunk in.

"My hand wouldn't go around the (base of the) horns," McGuffie said. "I started screaming. That's when I knew he was bigger than I thought."

That made it easier to drag the 250-pound animal closer to the rope and lift the deer high enough to tie it to the rope.

"But Michael's ATV couldn't lift it," McGuffie said. "We had to get another hunter from the camp to come and pull Michael's four-wheeler to get it up."

Once McGuffie was back atop the cliff, the celebration really began. The deer's antlers stretched 19½ inches inside, and boasted 10 mainframe points with an extra 4-inch sticker on the left side. The bases were both larger than 6½ inches around.

It greenscored at 164 1/8.

"He's a man," McGuffie said. "I'm still grinning about it."

The only problem is that McGuffie isn't sure what he'll have time to do now, since he's accomplished his life wish.

"I might keel over now," he laughed.

Second chance

Paul Meeks has spent the past year reliving every hunter's nightmare. You know the one, where a huge buck is only yards from your stand but spooks before you can get a shot.

The story began Nov. 20, 2007, when Meeks was sitting in a stand overlooking a big cutover. The morning sun was blinding him, so the founder of API Outdoors turned his back and watched the other direction.

When he heard a soft snap behind him, Meeks turned around and couldn't believe what he saw.

"Between the brightness of the sun and the bushes, all I could see was his whole body and head and only about 6 to 8 inches of his horns," the hunter said of the buck that was only yards from the stand.

Despite much of the rack being blocked from view, Meeks knew he was looking at a big deer.

"It was outstanding. The bases on the deer were huge," he said.

There was only one problem - there was the slightest breeze blowing toward the deer.

"He was standing there nose up, winding me, when I saw him," Meeks said. "I started to pull my gun up, but I had zero chance. He blew and ran off, and blew some more to rub salt in it.

"I was sick."

The disgusted hunter returned to the camp, and shared the story with his brother-in-law and some buddies. The collection of men made a pact to hunt the deer hard.

"From that point … at least two or three of us have been hunting that deer," Meeks explained.

But the animal had seemingly evaporated, and Meeks' hopes of ever seeing the buck again waned.

"We put out cameras, and never got a picture of him," Meeks said. "What I thought was this deer would probably cross the property line and somebody else would get him, or he'd die of natural causes.

"I just never thought imagined I would see him again."

His hope never quite dissipated, however, leaving the stand in position and hunting it when conditions were right.

That said, Meeks almost didn't go hunting on Dec. 27, 2008.

"It was 77 degrees," he said. "It was so warm, I didn't even feel like hunting. And on top of that, there was a 25-mph south wind."

That meant there was no easy way to approach the stand, since Meeks' scent would be blown into the bedding area.

Finally, at about 4 p.m., he decided to walk to the woods. After parking his truck, Meeks got out and quickly decided against walking the 200 yards to the stand overlooking the thicket.

"I walked about a mile out of the way to get to the area," he said.

He never made it to the stand, however, because he found a huge scrape about 50 yards away.

"I decided that if I go any farther, the wind will blow right in that thicket," Meeks said. "So I just got over from this scrape about 20 yards and sat down."

Meeks pulled out a doe bleat, sounding out once and letting it quiet down.

"A couple of minutes later, I heard some leaves shuffle over behind the thicket," he said. "I couldn't see anything, so I thought it must be some armadillos."

A few minutes later, Meeks bleated again and there was a quick response.

"A minute later, I saw a doe cross (near the thicket)," he said. "Immediately, (a buck) stopped in the only opening there was."

Meeks reacted instinctively, pulling his rifle into position even as his mind was registering that this was buck standing only 40 yards away.

"I dropped him in his tracks," he said. "It happened so fast. I had to shoot then or never."

The excited hunter hurried to the deer, and was shocked to find that it was the same buck he'd seen.

"It had 27-inch main beams and huge bases," Meeks said. "I knew the instant I saw those main beams it was him."

The buck hadn't left the area at all: The stand from which Meeks first saw the animal was only 40 yards from where it hit the ground dead.

"I just could not believe you could go that long without seeing a deer like that and have another chance at it," Meeks said.

The bases of the rack measured no less than 6½ inches, and the long main beams were the foundation for eight mainframe points. Another three to four kickers (depending upon the criteria) protruded from the rear of the antlers.

It roughed out at 160 B&C.

Meeks credited the fact that he didn't take the easy way out and walk directly to the stand from his truck.

"The big lesson in this is you need to go that extra mile, to do what you've got to do to do it right," he said.

Meeks said he's killed bigger bucks, but that this one meant the most to him.

"I was so proud to get another shot at him and actually get the deer," he said. "This one was haunting me, that I didn't get him the first time."