On a morning when the bucks in Scott County were in a serious mood for love, Jason Hooper got a lucky break when he pulled the trigger on the first shooter than ran past chasing a doe.
That errant shot allowed him to stay in the stand, wait another hour or so and shoot — and kill — a 183-inch 16-point non-typical with double drop tines.
“The buck I missed was the sixth one to run through there that morning,” said Hooper, a former Jackson resident now living in Benton, Ark. “At least I think there were six. There were bucks going everywhere at one time, and I actually shot at another deer and missed. He went through the patch so fast I just knew he was good but never could really tell what kind of rack he had.
“I do know it was not the deer I killed. He was running away from me, and it was a snap shot. It was about 100 yards ”
An hour or so later, at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 22, Hooper would realize his good fortune when a bigger buck, not showing the rutting behavior of the many that had passed that morning, suddenly appeared.
“This deer stepped out on an old road directly across the patch from the shoot house I was in,” Hooper said. “All I could tell was that he was a big-bodied deer and had dark horns. I shot him, and he bucked up like a bucking bronco, spun and turned back into the woods.”
Hooper waited 15 minutes before starting the recovery. He said he knew he’d hit the buck based on the deer’s reaction at the shot, but ….
“Instantly, my mind started in on me,” he said. “Did I gut shoot him? Did I hit him in the leg? With his head down, did I hit an antler? So I was pretty nervous when I started that walk across that field.”
That anxiety would have been a lot worse had he known the full extent of the buck’s antlers.
“I still had no idea” about the size of the rack, Hooper said.
Fortunately, when Hooper reached the spot where the deer had been standing, he spotted the body in nearby brush.
“As I entered the road where he’d been, I started looking in the direction he ran and immediately saw him lying there,” he said. “I could see his left horn and it looked bloody, and I instantly thought he was still in velvet.
“As I walked up to him, it started dawning on me how big the left horn was. Then I raised his head to see the right side and almost passed out. Besides how big he was, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the double drop tines.”
What Hooper found was a 205-pound buck with long, thick main beams. The right beam was 26 4/8 inches long, the left 24 3/8. The spread was 16 5/8 inches, and the longest tines were the two G2s at 8 1/8 and 7 7/8 inches.
Then there were the two drop tines, with the longest being 7 inches off the left beam. The one on the right was 4 inches.
“To our knowledge, no one had seen this buck, and there are no trail cam pictures of him,” Hooper said.
It made for a wonderful holiday trip to his old home.
After graduating from college, the West Memphis, Ark., native moved to Jackson in 1992 to begin his career. He lived in Mississippi until 2004, when he moved back to the Arkansas town of Benton just southwest of Little Rock.
While in Mississippi, Hooper made many friends and became a serious deer hunter, joining a club in Scott County. Now in private ownership and no longer a club, it was on that same property he took the 16-point.
“I still have a lot of friends and some family in Mississippi, and the only time I get to come back and hunt is during the Christmas holidays,” he said. “I purchased a lifetime license before leaving there.”
Hooper realizes his good fortune, even if the story belies just how good a shot he usually is.
“Trust me: I thanked the good Lord numerous times for this buck and for letting me miss that first buck,” he said. “I’m a pretty good rifle shot; for some reason it comes naturally to me, and I don’t typically miss. Last year, in Arkansas. the only deer I killed was an 8 point, and I shot him at 295 yards.
“The way I see it, this deer was my deer — the good Lord made sure of that.”
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