With the first photos, Josh Guilbeau immediately knew the massive 8-point at the Jefferson County camp was the buck he would hunt during the 2016-17 deer season.
Staying true to his target, the hunter’s patience — and passing up on another shooter — paid off with a 140 3/8-inch trophy, which, even in an area known for big bucks, is a massive 8-point.
“We began tracking this big typical 8 during bow season in October,” said Guilbeau of New Orleans. “At that point, he was running all over our club property and was usually accompanied by a much smaller and younger 8. We named the pair Bruce and Springsteen.
“Bruce was the big guy and the shooter buck. In early November I began telling friends that Bruce was who I was out to kill this season.”
The bucks were what Guilbeau’s camp calls “serious roamers” because they were getting multiple pictures of him at night at up to six different stands.
“Since November I only have seen one buck and while he was nice he wasn’t who I was looking for so I passed,” Guilbeau said. “Fast forward to Tuesday Dec 27. I decided to hunt one of my favorite stands on our lease. It is difficult to access and pretty secluded.
“I had only a few photos of the big 8 on this stand but thought I may have a chance on him or another we had in the area. Randomly my cousin decided to tag along so I agreed.”
Two days after Christmas in Mississippi felt nothing like two days after Christmas should feel like, unless you live at the equator. It was humid, cloudy and in the mid 70s.
“After being squeezed tight with my cousin for three hours the light started to fade,” Guilbeau said. “All of a sudden I heard movement from my left and knew it was a good-sized deer making its way toward the plot. In seconds he was on the plot, 45 yards from us walking away from my stand toward the end of the plot.”
What Guilbeau saw shook him, the biggest 8-point he’d ever seen in real life, with an inside spread topping 20 inches.
“I got my breathing under control,” he said, adding that excitement soon gave way to anxiety. “I watched in fear as he walked in to the woods at the end of the plot. The deer had never really presented me with a decent shot, since within about a second of his walking out to the plot he was walking away. I was afraid I had missed my chance.”
The late afternoon light and legal shooting time was fading fast.
“I continued to scan the food plot with my scope (.300 Win mag) hoping he would circle back to feed, but I was losing light very quickly as we were in the last 10 minutes of shooting time,” Guilbeau said. “Right as I was starting to lose hope I watched as he made his way back to the edge of the plot. He gave me his broad side and I took the shot.”
After the buck wheeled and left, Guilbeau and his cousin decided to sit tight, wait for two other friends to finish hunting and make their way over to his stand.
“After around 40 minutes we checked the end of the plot for blood,” he said. “It was wet out and very dark with cloud cover. We all began searching for blood. I knew I had hit him and was just in amazement that we were not seeing blood. After some time of searching my heart dropped …
“Then I heard my friend Ross said, ‘I got blood.’”
The blood was minimal but all eyes began tracking it, and it led them down a steep ravine through the woods.
“At about 80 yards we came to a 6-foot deep creek about 4 feet wide,” Guilbeau said. “We could see blood on the other side so we climbed down one by one helping each other scramble up and over the other side. By the time we all climbed up, there he was.
“We were all in disbelief of how good he looked in person — A deer many of us had seen on camera and there he finally was. We celebrated and then began the long haul back to camp.”
The buck, Guilbeau’s best, has a beautiful, wide and incredibly symmetrical rack.
“I dropped him at my taxidermist yesterday and he scored him at 140 3/8 inches,” he said. “He has a 20½-inch inside spread with 25-inch main beams. This deer is a stud and he made my season.
“It shows that well managed property in the hill country can produce some great deer. I’m hoping to see even bigger boys next year.”
Click here to read other big-buck stories from the 2016-17 season.