I couldn't believe the size of the whitetail buck hanging in Ronnie "Cuz" Strickland's back room near West Point. I'd known Strickland, the vice president of Mossy Oak's video and TV production, for more than 20 years, and he never had mentioned taking a buck of this size.

But that's Strickland's personality. He's basically a quiet guy who would rather talk about your hunting experience than his own.

"You've got to tell me about this big deer," I said.

Strickland smiled and answered, "That's the biggest deer I've ever taken in my life, and I couldn't believe I had the chance to take a buck like this in Mississippi."

The buck scored 209 6/8 as a non-typical and 183 as a typical. Strickland took this huge buck in Jefferson County in 1981. Strickland always had hunted in the Homochitto National Forest. Then he paid $60 to become a member of a hunting club 30 minutes away from his home at the time in Natchez.

"I'd been saving my money all year to be able to join a club and hunt private property," he said.

Strickland took the big buck on Nov. 27.

"I was 27 at the time," he said. "I shot the deer 27 minutes after 9 a.m., and the deer was a 27-point buck. All the stars were definitely lined up on that day."

On the magical morning, Strickland went to his new hunting club before daylight in a driving rainstorm. He'd not had an off day in a month, nor had he had an opportunity to hunt at his new hunting club.

"At the time, I only had the bottom half of an Amacker tree stand, so I had to hug the tree, while the bottom half of the stand was attached to my feet," Strickland said. "I pulled the stand up with my knees, locked the stand in place, reached up to hug the tree again and pulled up the stand until I was about 20 feet up the tree. Then I sat on the stand in the pouring rain, waiting for enough daylight, so I could see."

The heavy rain came down most of the morning, but as the rain cleared, and the sun peaked out, the woods became as silent as a tomb. After the rain, the landowner got on his three-wheeler - an old Honda ATC 90 - and started riding over his property.

Strickland had positioned himself on the edge of a cutover hollow that had grown back with thick undergrowth. Although he didn't know it at the time, Strickland had claimed one of the prime bedding places on the property for his stand.

"As the landowner drove along from the hill opposite of me and came closer to the hollow I was watching, I heard a deer get out of its bed," Strickland said. "Because of all the rain that morning, the deer never heard me when I came into the woods above him and climbed the tree with my stand. I'm convinced the big deer had been in his bed before I ever reached my stand site."

The deer started loping toward Strickland. Although he could see only portions of the buck's antlers through the heavy brush, Strickland realized this buck was a big one. As the deer came closer to the stand, Strickland searched for an opening where he could get off a shot with his rifle.

"There was a skitter trail off to my right that the loggers had used to pull the timber out of the hollow after they clearcut the area," he said.

So just before the deer reached the skitter trail, Strickland cocked the hammer on his Marlin .30-30 and prepared to take the shot.

"I knew the deer was a buck because I'd seen his antlers as he loped through the brush," Strickland said. "I planned to take the shot when the deer ran through the skitter trail."

Because the woods had become silent after the rain, the buck heard the click of the old .30-30 as Strickland cocked the hammer. However, the buck didn't hear the click until he'd reached the skitter trail, where he stopped abruptly and turned toward Strickland.

"I had my gun to my shoulder, and when that deer turned to look at me, I put those iron sights right in the center of his chest," Strickland said. "I could see the place where the deer's hair turned up to make a little haystack, so that's the spot I aimed for when I squeezed the trigger."

The huge buck dropped instantly, never knowing what had hit him. Although a non-typical, the buck also had enough matching points on each side of his rack to score high as a typical buck on B&C. He had double drop tines, double brow tines and more horn than I'd ever seen on a whitetail with the base of his antlers 6 inches around, and he also had 27 scoreable points and weighed 240 pounds.

"This was one of the biggest bucks I'd ever seen in the woods, and the biggest buck I'd ever seen in Mississippi," Strickland said. "I was fortunate to have ever had the opportunity to take him."

If we replay Strickland's story, we can see all the elements that came together to produce a buck of a lifetime. We also can learn from his experience how we can duplicate his success.

Strickland went to the woods when most other hunters wouldn't - during a driving rainstorm before daylight. He used a climbing tree stand and sat in the heavy rain until daylight dawned. When daylight came, and the rain still poured down, Strickland continued to sit in his tree stand. The rain had masked the noise Strickland made coming to his stand site, setting up his treestand and sitting down in the stand, allowing him to approach the bedding area without the deer's hearing him. Strickland hunted an extremely thick section of land with very little visibility, even though he had climbed high in a tree.

Most hunters won't hunt really thick places, where they can't see deer clearly. Generally older bucks live in these areas to survive. To bag these big, older bucks, you have to learn the thick spots, be willing to get only glimpses of bucks and find openings where you can take them in that thick cover.

If you know where deer are bedding and don't want to spook them out of their beds, consider moving to a stand site close to a bedding area during a rainstorm. By watching the weather radar, you can see the speed at which the storm's moving and learn the length of time you'll have to wait in the rain before the weather clears.

Also, on this morning, the rain came straight down, so no wind blew Strickland's human odor to the deer, making the deer unable to smell him. After the rain, the totally silent woods enabled Strickland to hear the buck get out of his bed and start moving toward him. Then Strickland could prepare to take the shot.

Although Strickland couldn't have known that the landowner would spook the buck when he drove his three-wheeler on the other side of the hollow, Strickland had put himself into a position to be successful - if and when the buck did leave his bed during daylight hours.

Once Strickland identified the deer as a buck after seeing him through the brush as the deer loped toward him, he prepared to take the shot. Strickland looked for an opening the deer would have to pass through and had his rifle up and ready to shoot when the whitetail arrived at the opening. He didn't cock his hammer back until just before the deer was in range. He then made an accurate shot.

Big bucks, like the one Strickland took so many years ago, are the most highly educated deer on any property. They've studied hunter-movement patterns for several years, and know when, where and how hunters move and how to avoid them. Oftentimes, when you hunt at a time of day and in weather conditions when other hunters won't hunt and choose a stand site most hunters don't pick, you'll have an opportunity to take the big bucks most other hunters never will see.