Josh Clark’s home is hours away from Canemount Wildlife Management Area, so when he was drawn for the second year in a row to hunt the public land he pretty much showed up blind.
“You can scout on Thursday (before the hunt), but I live six hours away, so I can’t drive that far to scout for one day,” Clark said.
But the hunter ended his 2016 lottery hunt standing over a buck that could score as the biggest typical buck in the state. It has been green scored as high as 205 inches, with the Canemount crew scoring it at 175 inches.
But outgoing Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Wildlife Chief Chad Dacus said he believes it will score higher than that lowest number.
“That seems a little low, in my opinion,” Dacus told MS-Sportsman.com in reference to the 175-inch score.
Making it even more amazing is the fact that the Iuka hunter couldn’t even hunt from last season’s experience because his latest lottery winning was for a different zone.
So Clark and a friend showed up at a local campground, and chatted with the owner of the cabins.
“He gave us three spots,” the hunter said.
The next morning, the crew headed to the closest of the two spot.
Clark set up in a sharp horseshoe of James Creek.
“I seen a big rub, and then I went a little bit farther and there was another one,” he said.
The setup was perfect, with the sheer bluff of the creek forcing deer to walk by his stand if they traveled to or from a food plot about 60 to 70 yards away.
“I could see the green field, and I could see the horseshoe,” Clark said.
That first day of the hunt, he saw a spike and two does. The second day was worse — he zeroed on sightings.
That evening, he was ready for a change.
“I told my buddy I was going to go on the north end of the creek,” Clark said.
He offered his spot to his friend the spot overlooking the creek horseshoe, but he turned it down.
The next morning, Clark still planned to move spots — and then called an audible.
“I had left my climber in there, so I decided I’d sit for awhile, since I had to go in there anyway,” he explained.
But on his way in, the hunter sprayed Buck Bomb — a lot of Buck Bomb — all the way to the horseshoe.
“I ran out of one can and used another one,” Clark said.
When he was settled into his stand, Clark rattled, bleated and grunted. He repeated the sequence 30 or 40 minutes later.
But he wasn’t optimistic.
“I didn’t have no confidence in the spot at all,” Clark said. “I said, ‘I’m going to wait 30 or 40 minutes and I’m going to get down and leave.’”
It didn’t take that long.
“About 15 minutes later, I lowered my rifle,” Clark said.
And that could have cost him a deer of a lifetime.
“I stood up to take the seat off the back (of the stand), and I seen that big main beam coming around the horseshoe,” Clark said.
He quickly sat back down and grabbed the pull rope to retrieve his gun.
“I just started pulling,” Clark said.
The deer never checked up.
“I picked me out an opening,” Clark said. “I said, ‘When he steps in the opening I’m going to shoot.’”
He steadied his .35 Whelen, and the hunter squeezed off a shot when the deer’s shoulder appeared in the opening.
“The recoil knocked my hat over my eyes,” Clark said.
When he got the hat out of his way, the deer was gone — and Clark was left doubting himself.
“The whole time I thought I missed him,” he said.
He eased down the tree and called his friend while walking to the opening.
That’s when he saw blood.
“I planned to wait to go look for him,” Clark said. “I couldn’t even sit down I was so excited.”
So he started following the blood trail.
“I tracked it over the crest of the hill, and I saw that big main beam,” Clark said.
Adrenaline kicked in, and from the distance he figured it was a solid 150-inch buck.
“When his right side lifted off the ground, I (told my friend), ‘I killed a 170-inch deer,’” he said.
He quickly started counting tines.
“I got to 18, and I said, ‘Dude, I killed an 18-point,” Clark said.
The massive rack was truly a trophy, with a 19-inch spread, and sweeping main beams stretching 26 inches and anchored by 61/2-inch bases.
If the initial score of 205 inches stands, the deer would esily surpass the current typical record of 1846/8 inches, which was killed by in 2010 James Saunders in Adams County.
It is not known if Clark’s buck will be classified as typical or non-typical.
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.