Joel Alexander, 33, of Flowood, began this week with an albatross around his neck — “I’ve been hunting with a bow most of my life and I’d never killed a deer, neither a buck or a doe.”

Alexander has not only shed that symbol of bad luck and futility, he shot it dead on the way to the ground.

Hunting with a permit for a draw hunt at Barnett Reservoir, Alexander stuck a doe on Tuesday afternoon and followed it up Wednesday with the biggest buck taken in the four years that hunting has been allowed in the lake’s swampy bottoms along the spillway. He was using a crossbow.

“Unbelievable,” was how Alexander described his feelings on Wednesday, after first shooting and watching the buck fall, then later locating the doe he had shot the night before. “That doe is the first deer I killed with any archery equipment, and then I kill this guy (the buck) before we recovered the doe.”

Sharing the hunt with longtime friend Drew Matthews of Madison, Alexander said they had located the hot area on a Monday scouting trip. Hunters drawn for a Reservoir permit are allowed to take a friend, and have from Tuesday a.m. to Sunday p.m. to fill their limit of one buck and two antlerless deer. Both Alexander and Matthews were drawn, and both selected the Rankin County side of the spillway area (about 250 acres).

“We scouted it on Monday and we walked almost the whole area,” said Matthews, who will hunt the area later in December, and will have Alexander as his guest. “We found a good scrape line and saw some other signs and it looked like a good spot.”

Alexander said he put his tree stand up on Tuesday, and late that afternoon the doe came ambling by and presented a 20-yard shot.

“She came right off the ridge and was at 20 yards and I thought that I’d hit her too far back,” Alexander said. “When Drew came over, I told him and we decided not to push her.”

Added Matthews: “We knew we were coming back the next morning to the same area and we’d hunt and then look for her.”

Alexander returned to the same tree before sunrise on Wednesday, ascended 20 feet and waited for daylight. A few small deer walked by and at about 8 a.m., he decided to spice up the action. He pulled out a Primos Hardwood grunt call and repeated some cadences similar to a tending grunt.

“About two or three minutes after I called, I saw this guy walk over a ridge about 100 yards away,” Alexander said. “He was coming to check that grunt call, I’m sure of that.”

The buck was walking right to Alexander, who had the wind in his favor, but it all came to an end when the buck hung up 60 yards from the stand. It appeared the deer would investigate no further.

“He just stopped and I started getting nervous that he would walk away, and I felt confident in my crossbow, so I took the 60-yard shot,” he said. 

Good decision.

Not only did Alexander deliver a mortal wound, it was so pure that the buck made it only 50 yards before collapsing to its knees and dying within the hunter’s line of sight.

“I saw him go down and I thought, ‘that’s crazy, I killed him before I even found my doe,’ but we took care of that later,” he said. “We went back and got on her trail and found her. I went from never killing a deer with archery to killing one of each. That’s pretty good.”

The buck is a mainframe 10-point with about a two-inch sticker point on the left main beam. The antlers had an inside spread of 18 inches. It weighed 175 pounds. No other measurements have been taken.

Alexander isn’t through, and neither is Matthews. They have one more doe to kill this week and …

“We can also get some extra scouting in for my hunt later in the month,” Matthews said.

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Barnett Reservoir offers draw hunts by permit below the dam on each side of the Pearl River. There is also a draw for three areas of Pelahatchie Bay. For information for the 2017-18 season draw, visit TheRez.ms.

Click here to read other big-buck stories from the 2016-17 season.

And don’t forget to post photos of your bucks in the Mississippi Sportsman Big Buck Photo Contest, which is free and offers great monthly prize packages.