All of us can probably recall Christmases from our past that we vividly remember — when Santa Claus came through with that extra-special gift we had been thinking about and hoping for.
But even in Cheri Hillebrandt’s wildest dreams, she probably never expected the giant 184-inch present she got this year when her husband treated her to a three-day Christmas hunt at Giles Island.
On Dec. 26 during her very first trip to a stand there, the 26-year-old from Lake Charles, La., smoked a massive 9-point stud at 80-yards and immediately wrote her name into the record books of the historic hunting club near Natchez.
“They actually told me they’ve had one other deer bigger than him killed, but it was a non-typical, so this is actually the second-biggest ever killed, but it’s the biggest typical deer they’ve ever killed,” Hillebrandt said. “He had a lot of mass on him, a lot of height and he was wide — he had a little bit of everything.
“Nothing will ever compare to the experience I had there.”
She and her husband Brad had arrived around noon that Saturday, then drew for a stand. Since Brad had been there before, Cheri requested Barry “B.L.” Loftin as her guide for their afternoon hunt.
With relatively low expectations because of unseasonably warm weather, the three set out around 3 p.m. for the stand, which overlooked a food plot and a thicket.
“When we first got in the stand, we were all sweating and it was really hot. We really weren’t too sure what to expect,” she said. “When we got settled, B.L. said, ‘Lady, is today your day?’ I said, ‘I”m feeling pretty good so far.’”
She jokingly shared with him that she would like to be one of the hunters pictured in the stand posing with a giant deer shot from where she was now sitting.
“And he said, ‘Well, this is the only blind I’m not in, so maybe we can make it happen.”
They saw several does and smaller bucks, but Loftin finally spied the big buck moving through the thicket almost 400 yards away around 4:30. He told her to get her gun ready, which started a tense 15-minute wait as the monster slowly ambled into the food plot.
“I first saw him when he came out of the thicket from about my 1 o’clock,” Hillebrandt said. “Whenever I saw him, I said, ‘Oh my god.’ I wouldn’t really look at him that good. Once I saw him, I refused to stare at him because I knew I would get really nervous and start shaking uncontrollably like I already was.
“I think everybody in the stand was kind of holding their breath, hoping he’d make it all the way in.”
The big buck made slow but steady progress into the plot, but was obscured by another deer at about 85 yards. When the big buck stepped clear, Hillebrandt was ready with her .270.
“He ended up walking a couple more yards and stopped perfectly broadside, and B.L. told me to take the shot whenever he stopped,” she said. “I drilled him right in the sweet spot, and we actually got to watch him run maybe 50 yards and fall in the field.”
To see a video of the kill shot, click here.
Getting her hands on the giant rack was another adrenaline rush, she said.
“It was so surreal,” Hillebrandt said. “By the time I actually put my hands on him, all I kept saying was, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s huge.’”
The giant 9-point, which was aged at about 5 years, weighed 225 pounds and featured a rack with mass for the ages. The inside spread measured a whopping 23 6/8 inches, with 5-inch-plus bases.
With a green score of 184 inches, the buck is the pending No. 2-ranked all-time typical white-tail in the Mississippi Magnolia Records.
Needless to say, Hillebrandt’s picture with the big deer and B.L. will be hanging in that stand, and a replica mount of the big 9-point will hang in the lodge at Giles Island.
The massive buck is at the taxidermist now, and will eventually be located on a very special wall in the Hillebrandt home.
“Now it’s just the long waiting game until we get him back and I actually get to look at him again,” she said. “It was an amazing Christmas present to start off with, but when you kill something like that, it just heightens everything.”
Click here to read about other big bucks killed this season.
And don’t forget about the Mississippi Sportsman Big Buck Photo Contest, which is free and offers great monthly Sportsman Gear prizes.