You’ve got to give Doug Miller credit for being brave, if not crazy.
Not many husbands would ask their wives on Christmas Eve if it would be OK if he got up the next morning to go hunting … on Christmas Day.
Miller is also very lucky. His wife never hesitated in giving him the OK.
“Oh yeah, that’s exactly what he did,” said Jennifer Miller, laughing. “I had absolutely no problem with it, because he was going to be hunting about two miles from our house and he’d be home early. We’ve got two boys, Matt 13 and Sean 11, and they’re past the age of getting up at sunrise for Christmas. We said we’d get up at 7 to get ready to do presents.”
Doug Miller, nursery manager for Pecan Hill Farms south of Raymond, promised he and Matt would be home by 9 to celebrate the holiday.
“I shot that buck at 7:54 that morning and had to call her and tell her we were going to be late,” he said. “I told her I had shot a big one and she never hesitated. She and Sean loaded up and came over to help us.”
Turns out, the Millers’ first Christmas morning in Mississippi couldn’t have been any better. Nor could it have been more unique.
“We ended up having a great Christmas right out there in the field, the whole gang of us,” Jennifer Miller said. “We helped get the deer and then we sat around and took pictures. We even put the camera on the timer and took a family portrait.
“We had a really wonderful morning. I don’t know if it could have been any better.”
What made it so good was that Doug Miller, a Pennsylvania native who moved his family here from Florida last July, killed the biggest buck of his life that morning. It was a 15-point, a main-frame 12, which taxidermist Matt Townsend of Utica scored at 170 inches gross B&C. He also killed the doe the buck had been chasing.
“That was not the buck I was hunting, and, matter of fact, I have never seen this buck before,” Doug Miller said. “We have three cameras on about 400 acres, and I had gotten several pictures of this nice 12-point buck in that area. That’s the buck I was hoping to see. We never had an image of this buck, the 15-point, at all.”
The reason he wanted to hunt so much on Christmas morning was that it was the peak of the rut in their part of Hinds County.
“I grew up hunting in Pennsylvania and I learned a long time ago that during the rut, if you can find does, you will eventually find a buck,” Doug Miller said. “I chose stands that morning for Matt and I where we had been seeing a lot of does and that 12 point.
“My stand was a 14-foot ladder stand in a corner where a big field, a ravine/creek channel and a pecan grove all meet. It forms a perfect natural funnel for deer to travel. I got there at 5:30 and the first deer I saw was a doe just before I saw the buck.”
The doe came through trotting, and Miller shot her.
“She’d been running like something was chasing her, and I was ready,” he said. “I looked and I saw another deer coming. It was about 25 seconds behind her and all I could see was antlers above the brush. I knew it was a shooter, and I was thinking it was probably the 12-point buck I’d been seeing.
“It kept putting its nose to the ground so I know he was following that doe. I had my gun up and had taken the safety off, ready for him to hit that 10-yard clearing down in the corner. It was just 40 yards.”
The buck was following right on the doe’s trail, probably stepping in every footprint she’d made.
“When he hit the clearing, I was ready and took the shot,” Doug Miller said. “He piled up right there.”
Back at home, not far as a crow flies, as they frequently do at a pecan grove, Jennifer Miller heard the shots.
“We’re pretty close and I heard the first shot, and I thought, ‘I hope that’s Doug or Matt and they got one,’” she said. “Then, about 20 or 25 seconds later, I heard a second shot, and I thought, ‘that’s not good.’ Turns out it was, because the first shot was the doe and the second the buck.
“Then he called and told me he had a big one, I immediately told Sean to grab a hat and his shoes and we were out the door.”
Doug Miller, who shot the deer with his custom-built 7mm Shooting Times Western rifle, called Matt to come from his stand.
“When I got to the buck and I saw it, even before I started studying it, I immediately knew it was not the 12,” he said. “The 12 had this unique curve to one of its longest points and would have been easily identifiable. Plus, this one had so much more mass. It was heavier (250-pounds plus) and its antlers had much more mass.
“We hadn’t even started field dressing it before Jennifer and Sean got there. We ended up making a big morning out of it.”
The help was needed, too, since the big-bodied buck had to be dragged nearly a quarter of a mile where they could get a vehicle to it. But, before that, there was a big celebration.
“Oh yeah, we had a great little party out there,” Jennifer Miller said. “We set up the camera on a timer and we took photos of the whole family with the two deer. You have to understand, that both of us, Doug and I, grew up in hunting and fishing families. We’ve both been hunting our whole lives.
“Hey, for our honeymoon 15 years ago, we went to Canada on a fishing trip. There’s only two seasons in our family, hunting and fishing. We love it, and we like feeding our boys fresh venison and other game and fish. Boy, we went a long way to filling it that morning, too.”
Townsend didn’t have the score sheet available but said the buck’s main beams were close to 24 inches in length, and it had about a 20-inch inside spread. The mass was also good, with bases over 5 inches.
“It’s going to hold up for a great net score, too, after it dries because the three sticker points are not very long,” Townsend said. “I would think it will wind up somewhere in the mid 160s. It’s a really nice buck.”
For sure, it’s a great Christmas gift.
“That it is,” Doug Miller said. “That it certainly is.”
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.