Nash Stanford knows the secret to success when hunting deer on public lands, like the massive Upper Sardis Wildlife Management Area in Lafayette County.
“Go the extra mile,” said Stanford, who did just that on Dec. 13 to kill a 154 1/8-inch 10-point with a primitive weapon.
“If you want to have success on public lands, then you have to be willing to walk further than most people will, get past them, because that’s where you will find the big bucks.”
Hunting at Upper Sardis, which has 47,224 acres to roam, it’s not an easy task to reach solitude.
“I live in Guntown, about 10 miles north of Tupelo, so to hunt at Upper Sardis, I have to leave home at 4 a.m., drive an hour, start walking at 5 a.m. and hope to be where I want to stop and hunt by 6,” said Stanford. “You can only use an ATV there to retrieve a deer, which means you have to walk back to where you parked, leave your gun and then return to the deer.
“I hunt off the ground, because I have to pack everything in for the hour walk. I take clothes and lunch and all the necessities.”
A bulky climbing stand, as nice as it would be to be elevated, simply is a luxury and not a necessity.
At least, it’s not for Stanford, as his trophy attests.
“I got in and sat down just after 6 a.m., and I didn’t see much activity. I saw a couple of does early but after than I didn’t see anything,” he said. “I got a friend who hunts up there, too, and he said he’d seen some small bucks starting to (show rutting activity), but not the big ones.
“I decided to do a snort wheeze and grunt sequence to see if I could stir something up.”
It worked. Within two minutes, the hunter heard movement.
“He must have broken a branch, a pretty good one, because I could clearly hear the snap,” Stanford said. “He was down along the creek in some thick brush. I could tell it was a deer and it was coming fast.
“Then I got a glimpse of him as he ran out of the thicket with his nose on the ground, like he was searching for a doe. I immediately turned around and positioned myself for a shot. I picked my lane and as he stepped into it at about 80 yards, I squeezed the trigger on my TC Pro Hunter 35 Whelen and he dropped in his tracks.”
It happened that quick, probably longer than it took to read those paragraphs.
“I didn’t realize the caliber of the trophy I had just bagged. I knew he was a big deer, but not 150 inches like that,” Stanford said. “I consider myself lucky for a chance at a trophy deer like that on public land.”
Luck has little to do with it, actually; it’s more like dedication.
“I have my way of hunting public lands, and it starts with Google Maps,” he said. “I study the public areas, and I look for the creeks, the draws, the thickets, all the signs that indicate where big bucks would be. That’s how I found this area, with thickets along a creek, way back in there a long way from the road.
“I grew up hunting that way. My dad used to take me to our cabin near the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge and I learned to hunt public land. You have to pack in and pack out everything there. You have to go where other people won’t go. I learned that after I had people walking up on me while I was hunting. I learned to go where they weren’t going, and when I did I started seeing more deer. The further you go, the more deer you see.”
And sometimes you find a giant.
Stanford’s buck had an 18-inch inside spread with 23-inch main beams. It is extremely tall, highlighted by 11-inch G3s and 9-inch G2s. The bases were 4 1/8 inches each.
“That’s my second 150-inch class buck in two years,” Stanford said. “I killed one last year on my hunting lease. You can find bucks like that on public lands; you just have to be willing to work a little bit harder.”
Want to read about Stanford’s second trophy of the season? Click here.
*Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.