This past season was really one for the record books, with monster deer seemingly falling every week. The cold fronts that rolled through the state on a regular basis kicked deer movement into high gear, and hunters flocked to the woods to kill the big bucks as they moved about.

And the trophy action wasn't limited to private property. there were at least two beasts taken from state-owned public land.

Mississippi Sportsman searched the state for the biggest of these kills, collecting the stories of just how hunters bagged these mature bucks.

The white-spots buck

The stand on the Monroe County property had produced a couple of 130-inch bucks last season, so it's been popular with the Watkins family. It was no surprise, then, that Kenny Watkins decided to sit the stand - even though it was technically his father's - when he arrived on the afternoon of Dec. 2.

As Watkins sat in the box stand overlooking the food plot, he was less than enthusiastic. A misty rain was falling, and he didn't have a lot of daylight left by the time he climbed into the stand.

"It was 4:20 (p.m.) before I got in the stand," Watkins said. "I was mad I was so late. But about 4:30 I saw two white spots on the edge of the field.

"I said to myself, 'Well, that's too big to be a deer,' so I didn't even scope it."

Five minutes later, the white spots were still there, and curiosity finally won out.

"I scoped the white spots, and I couldn't believe it," he said.

The white spots were part of a huge set of antlers.

"I could see the antlers before I could see the deer," Watkins said. "He was standing there about 10 minutes on the edge of the field checking things out."

Nerves kicked in, and Watkins was soon a shaking mess.

And then the deer finally stepped into the open.

"He was just standing out there looking straight in my direction," Watkins said. "I couldn't believe when I first saw it."

While he knew it was a heavy, wide rack, the hunter still hadn't gotten a great look at the antlers.

"He finally turned and I could see how big he was," Watkins said.

The man quickly shouldered his rifle, but the crosshairs were jumping like frog legs in hot oil.

"I'm just shaking and thinking, 'Oh gosh, I'm going to miss this deer,'" Watkins admitted.

So he did what few hunters would have dared: He pulled off the deer and pulled out his telephone.

"I texted my dad and my friend and told them, 'I'm looking at the biggest deer I've ever seen,'" Watkins chuckled. "I was just trying to get my mind off of it.

"My dad texted back and asked why I didn't shoot it. I told him I was scared I was going to miss."

During this time, the massive buck eased closer to the stand, and, at 110 yards, Watkins finally put the .45-70 back on his shoulder and settled in to wait for a shot.

"He was facing me, so all I had was a brisket shot," Watkins said. "I've taken that before, but on a buck like this I didn't want to take that shot."

A few minutes later, the animal finally quartered, exposing its front shoulder.

"I shot him in front of that shoulder," Watkins said. "He took off, and I could see him running through the thicket (on the edge of the field).

"I saw him stop, and then he just disappeared."

Now shaking again, Watkins grabbed his phone and called his father.

"I told him, 'Dad, I'm probably exaggerating, but I'm going to say it had 14 points and was 20 inches wide,'" he laughed. "My dad said he knew I was exaggerating."

When Watkins finally climbed out of the stand and hurried into the thicket, he found his trophy - and was stunned.

"I told my dad that it had 14 points and was 20 inches wide, and that's exactly what it turned out to be," he said.

The deer's rack was just massive, indeed carrying 14 scorable points around a 21-inch-wide frame.

"I just couldn't believe it," Watkins said. "The pictures don't do it justice."

The non-typical rack isn't an easy score, since it has an extra beam on the left side and just tremendous mass all along the beams.

Two green scorings have resulted in a 202-inch measurement and a 189-inch tally.

Gratitude

Eddie Peterson had made the drive from Waveland to Mahannah Wildlife Management Area for a draw hunt, but hadn't had much luck until he ran across another hunter who had killed a pretty nice deer.

"He didn't tell us, 'Go here,' but he told us a general area to go to," Peterson said.

So during the mid-day lull on Dec. 16, the hunter and his buddies eased in to find stand sites.

"I was walking in to find a spot to hunt that afternoon, and I saw deer in there," he said. "So I put a stand right there."

He eased out, but was sitting in the tree early that afternoon. There was only one problem.

"I was down low because of the canopy," Peterson said. "I had climbed higher, but I couldn't see anything, so I had to stay fairly low."

About 4:45 p.m., he caught sight of a doe easing through the woods. Behind it were four other does.

"I kept watching because I knew they were rutting real hard," Peterson said.

And, sure enough, a young 5-point eased out about 100 yards away. The deer quickly began eating acorns with the doe, which was only about 75 yards away and moving downwind of the hunter's position.

Peterson was keeping careful watch on the doe, worried that it would be able to pick up his scent because of his low altitude, when he glanced back where the deer had walked out and saw movement.

"I looked back and saw this buck," he said. "He wasn't pushing her; he was just tracking her."

WMA guidelines mandate a rack measuring at least 16 inches wide, so Peterson immediately looked at the buck's head gear. It took only a glance to know it would easily live up to those standards.

"There was no doubt about that," he laughed.

However, he didn't study the rack carefully, preferring to start working out a plan to put the deer on the ground.

Peterson panicked a bit when the mature buck began moving toward the other deer, concerned that it would pick up his scent. So he quickly raised his .30-06 and put the crosshairs on the quartering deer.

"I told myself, 'Don't screw this up,'" Peterson laughed. "I said that about three times to myself."

And then he squeezed the trigger.

"He kicked, ran about 50 yards, stopped and looked at me," Peterson said. "I said, 'Aw, hell.'"

He snapped the rifle to his shoulder again, and popped off another shot.

"He went down in the front," Peterson said.

That was all it took, and the deer ran only another 75 yards.

Peterson waited a few minutes before hurrying to collect his trophy, which had been hit both times. As he neared the downed animal, the shakes really kicked in.

"I've never seen a deer like that in the wild," he said. "There was no ground shrinkage, that's for sure."

The antlers were huge, with 10 heavy tines and even heavier main beams.

"I called a friend and was trying to tell him about it, and he finally told me to calm down," Peterson said. "I told him, 'I can't. I can't. I'm shook up.'"

The deer eventually taped out at 169 6/8 gross, with estimated deductions of less than 4 inches. The inside spread was a staggering 21½ inches, with main beams that stretched more than 24½ inches in length.

When his wife saw the buck and heard the story about how Peterson came to be in that spot, she immediately dubbed the deer "Gratitude."

"I'd never seen the guy before," Peterson said. "He just told me, 'You need to get in the back,' and that's what I did."

Horseshoe buck

Monty Braley already had killed a couple of bucks when he arranged another trip to some Wilkinson County family land that for years had been off limits, but the Clinton hunter was ordered to up his standards for the hunt.

"They were all giving me a hard time, saying I was the lucky one this year because I was killing deer and seeing all kinds of deer," Braley told MS-Sportsman.com. "So they said, 'You can't kill anything unless it's a monster.'"

So when the sun came up Dec. 17, Braley had been duly chastised. And he couldn't help but think about the razzing he was taking when he saw his first deer.

"As soon as I pulled my gun up with my string and gotten it situated on the stand so I didn't have to hold it the whole hunt, here come two deer," he said. "I can't tell what they are because it's so dark; I can just see the outline of their bodies."

The deer turned out to be yearlings, which fed nearby for about an hour before easing into a cane thicket at the bottom of the draw over which Braley was hunting.

Shortly thereafter, Braley heard a shot from across the ridge and knew his buddy had shot at something a few hundred yards away.

And in less than a minute, the hunter's adrenaline spiked.

"I heard the God-awfulest chrashing coming through the woods," Braley said. "Something was coming through the cane thicket."

He stood up and held his rifle, and out popped two does.

"They stopped, and started feeding," Braley said. "I could hear some rumbling in the thicket behind them, but nothing came out."

Within 10 minutes, the does were just yards to the right of Braley's stand site, and the hunter was worried about being busted.

"I didn't look them in the eye," he explained. "I turned my head, and was watching out the corner of my eye."

However, it wasn't long before the does realized something wasn't right and began inspecting the tree in which Braley sat.

"I just turned my head real slow, and started looking at the thicket," he said.

And that's when a huge buck emerged.

"I saw him bust out of that cane thicket and jump up on top of a little knoll," Braley said. "I thought, 'Oh my God, it's huge.'"

But there was nothing Braley could do because the deer was looking at the does, which meant the animal was looking directly in the hunter's direction.

The buck didn't stand on the small hill long, walking directly toward the does and the amazed hunter.

"He was about 60 yards when he started walking toward me, and he closed to about 30 yards with a tree directly in between us," Braley said. "All I'm looking at is horns on one side of the tree and horns on the other side of the tree coming to me."

And he didn't know if he'd even get a shot.

"I just knew the does were going to blow, and when they did he was going to run off," Braley said. "So I just eased my rifle up."

That caught the attention of the does, one of which stomped its foot.

"When that deer stomped, the buck looked around that tree, and that's when I shot him," Braley said. "I shot it in the neck."

That's when he realized just how big the deer was.

"I knew he was big, but when I shot and the whole body fell into the (view of the) scope, I was like, 'Holy crap!'

"I started to jump, but was then like, 'No, I'm 20 feet up in the air: Don't jump.'The 233-pound deer boasted a 12-point calcium crown, with tall, thick tines arrayed around stout main beams. The inside spread measured 19 6/8, and the bases of the rack were about 5 inches around.

The rack has been scored at between 161 and 176 inches by two different scorers.

Braley said the kill allowed him to have the last laugh about his supposed lucky season.

"I just think it's funny that, when I went in the woods, it was understood that I wasn't going to kill anything but a monster and this deer walked out," he said.

The Vienna Sausage buck

Will Foreman has hunted with his dad since he was 5 years old, and a tradition developed for the youngster during those days afield.

"We had a routine: He likes Vienna Sausages, so I'd bring a can of them and a (cold drink) to the stand," father Terry Foreman explained. "I'd open that Vienna Sausage, and he'd eat three or four, and then he'd pour that juice out the window of the stand and say, 'The deer are going to smell that and come out.'"

That ritual was repeated many times over the years, but the elder Foreman had no clue that it persisted even after allowing young Will Foreman to begin hunting alone this past season.

After hunting together only once, the now-13-year-old Will spent most of the rest of his hunting days by himself. There's some discrepancy as to the reason for that (Terry says his son refused to hunt with him, while Will swears his dad wouldn't let him), but that's another story.

In any case, on Dec. 22 the Brandon hunters decided to team up again - and had the hunt of a lifetime.

After finally agreeing to go to a shooting house together, the Foremans sprayed estrus scent on their boots and made it to the stand about 3 p.m..

At about 3:15, Will Foreman pulled out a can of Vienna Sausages.

"I asked him what he was doing and he said, 'I do it every time,'" Terry Foreman said. "He ate some of the sausages, and then he poured the juice out the window."

The elder hunter was aghast.

"I'm like, 'We're not going to see a thing!'" Terry Foreman laughed.

Only 10 minutes or so later, much to the amazement of the elder Foreman, a doe popped out of the tall weeds. Following closely on its heels was a scraggly 4-point.

What caught the hunters' eyes, however, were two large shapes still in the weeds.

"There were two bucks back there," Will Foreman said.

The hunters could tell they were good deer, but Will was the first to really get a good look at one.

"He said, 'I see him. He's huge; he's wide,'" Terry Foreman said.

It turned out that each of the hunters was looking at a different buck, but they quickly developed the plan.

"We only had one gun, so I gave him the rifle and told him that when (the buck) steps out I'm going to stop him," Terry Foreman said. "The buck finally came out, and I went 'baaaa!'"

The buck stopped dead in its tracks about 30 yards out, and Will Foreman's 7mm-08 exploded.

"The deer dropped right there, and I looked at Will and asked, 'Where did you shoot it?'" Terry Foreman said. "He said, 'I shot it in the neck.'"

The younger Foreman had been talking about making a neck shot all season, so when his father looked at him as if he'd lost his mind Will didn't understand.

"He said, 'I told you I was going to shoot one in the neck this year,'" Terry Foreman laughed. "He didn't have a clue how big that deer was."

At this point, all either hunter knew was that the deer had a big rack. What they didn't know is that the antlers were huge.

The 210-pound buck's 11 points were spread around a 23-inch inside spread on main beams that held 5½ inches of mass to the G2s, and didn't shrink much past that point.

When they walked up to the beast, the celebration began again - but what really topped it off for Terry Foreman was what his son said next.

"He said, 'Daddy, I'm just glad you were here with me,'" Terry Foreman said.

As for the future of this young hunter, Will Foreman said he's got a lot of hunting left - and Vienna Sausages will continue to play a role.

"It's worked," he said.

The Beast

Wayne McAndrew stumbled across a piece of Amite County property available for lease in August 2009, and jumped at the chance to start his own club.

While the tract of land encompassed only 450 acres, McAndrew soon knew he had made the right decision.

"The first or second week of bow season, my buddy (Brad Balado) actually got a picture way on the other side of the lease of this buck," the Louisiana hunter said. "Our jaws dropped when we saw the picture."

That's because the buck was massive, with 11 distinct points and plenty of mass. But what really stunned them was the double main beam on the left side.

The pair dubbed the deer "The Beast," and kept mum about the photos.

Balado went after the deer hard, hoping to kill it before he had to back off to help his wife prepare for the birth of a baby.

However, the deer had never shown itself during daylight hours by the time Balado had to turn to familial matters just before Christmas.

Ironically, McAndrew had been sidelined with a newborn the first part of the season. He was back in the lineup by the time rifle season rolled around, but stayed away from the area in which Balado was chasing the big buck even after his friend could no longer hunt.

"Out of respect for him, I didn't even go in there," McAndrew said.

Instead, he was hunting a line of huge rubs. And then he started getting photos of the deer.

"One evening he popped up on my camera," McAndrew said. "I started getting a lot of pictures of him, but they were all at night. At about 8 p.m. he'd be heading one way and about 4 a.m. he'd be coming back."

He shared his good fortune with Balado, and continued to hope the deer would make a mistake.

"There were a bunch of does in this area, and I just kept thinking that eventually they'd pull one of those mature bucks in," McAndrew said.

And then early this month, McAndrew's camera captured the buck moving at 4 p.m.

"I started hunting him hard, thinking, 'If he slipped up once, maybe he'll slip up again,'" he explained.

Finally, the hunter sat back and assessed his strategy, and decided he needed to change.

"I had been hunting on a north wind, and so I decided to wait for a south wind," McAndrew said.

So he let the area rest a few days, until on Jan. 13 the wind swung around and started blowing from the south.

"I went in and pulled my camera, and I had him several times that (previous) night chasing," McAndrew said. "I felt like he was close. But I still couldn't dream I'd kill him.

"I just thought there's no way a mature buck like that would mess up."

But he hurried back that evening and climbed 30 feet up a pine tree.

As daylight began bleeding away, McAndrew heard something moving.

"I heard a couple of sticks crack," he said. "I didn't even look."

The movement continued, and the hunter eased his binoculars to his eyes and scanned the area.

"All I see is a huge body, and I think, 'OK, that's a mature deer,'" McAndrew said. "I scanned to the front of the body, and I saw tall horns."

He lowered his binoculars, thinking he was close to getting a shot on a big, tall 9-point he knew was in the area.

Soon the deer had eased behind some pine trees, and McAndrew raised his rifle.

"I was looking at his neck and front shoulder," he explained. "I decided I wasn't going to give him a chance to step out, so I shot him in the neck and crumpled him."

McAndrew's heart raced, and he answered the call from his dad.

"I was excited because I thought I'd shot that pretty 9-point," he said. "When my dad called and asked if I had shot, I told him, 'Yeah, I killed that 9-point.'"

After hanging up, McAndrew methodically packed his equipment and eased down the tree.

"I'm just kind of sitting there taking my time," he said. "I just knew I had killed that 9-point, and I knew exactly what he looked like so there was no need to hurry."

Once down the tree, McAndrew eased through the woods without his light. But he flipped the switch as he got close.

"I got about 15 feet away from him, and when I hit the light on him, I saw that double left beam," McAndrew said. "I don't think my feet touched the ground from there to that deer."

The big, triple-beamed 11-point lay dead, and McAndrew hurried to call Balado.

"I could hardly talk," McAndrew said. "All I could say was, 'I got him. I got him.'

"I didn't have to tell him what I was talking about - he knew which deer I had killed."

The buck's rack wasn't very wide, measuring only about 14 inches inside, but the 11-point was just massive.

"It just holds the mass all the way down the main beams," McAndrew said.

The deer eventually green scored 155 inches Boone & Crockett.

"It made for a heck of a year," McAndrew said. "The good Lord smiled on me."

Panther Swamp buck

Stan McCollough knew there were big deer on Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, so he was ecstatic when he and buddy Justin Vandevender were drawn for the muzzleloader hunt on Dec. 9-14.

The two friends were joined for the lottery hunt by McCollough's father Frank and his brother-in-law Kevin Ashley, both of whom killed bucks during the hunt.

However, it was Stan McCollough's kill of a 150-class 9-point that topped the successful venture.

The kill came Dec. 10 in a part of the 38,000-acre tract of public land on which the party had experience.

"We've hunted it before, and we knew there were some good deer in the area," McCollough said.

And they weren't disappointed, with McCollough seeing a shooter buck on the very first day.

"I missed a good deer," he said.

So when the sun rose over the vast refuge on Dec. 10, McCoullough was perched in a tree watching a funnel between two thickets.

"I was hunting over the water - I was in knee-deep water," the Clinton hunter explained. "There was a big island or peninsula out there, and it had this big thicket on it. You actually had to walk through another big thicket to get to where I was.

"I was hunting the opening between the two thickets."

During that morning's hunt, McCollough saw two deer, but they were too far away for a shot. So he climbed down and moved his stand about 150 yards to put himself in a better position. He then left the area to eat a sandwich at his truck.

He returned just after 1:30 p.m., and headed up the tree.

"I still had my feet in the (stand stirrups) and my backpack on my back and my rifle on my shoulder when I saw him," McCoullough said. "He was on the edge of the water on that island, about 85 to 90 yards away."

The only problem was the deer, which McCollough recognized only as a "good shooter," knew something was wrong.

"He was looking at me," McCoullough said. "I thought, 'Not good.'"

Hunter and hunted stared at each other for what seemed an eternity, and then the buck broke.

"He was leaving town," McCollough said. "He was just trotting through the edge of the water, sort of quartering away from me."

The 31-year-old hunter reacted instinctively - rolling the rifle off the shoulder strap, flipping the scope covers open, cocking the hammer and stabbing the stock to his shoulder in quick procession.

McCollough then quickly acquired the deer in the scope and squeezed the trigger when the deer was about 100 yards through the woods.

"It was real quick," he said. "It's kind of like a reaction-type deal. It wasn't the most high-percentage shot in the world, but you're not going to kill them if you don't shoot."

The buck hunched up, and staggered out of sight.

"I knew he wasn't hit the way you want to hit them," McCollough said.

So the nervous hunter, who still had no idea just how big the animal's rack was, waited 45 minutes before climbing out of the tree.

"I eased over to the island, trying to be quiet," McCollough said. "About the time I made it to the land, I saw him about 85 yards from me.

"He was laying there, but his head was up."

The deer hadn't noticed the hunter easing through the water, however.

"His head was behind a little tree, but I could see his antlers and an ear so I knew his head was up," McCollough explained.

The hunter moved into position, put the crosshairs on the deer's chest and fired another shot.

"I thought he would be piled up right there, but you know how it is with a muzzleloader - there was all the smoke, and I lost sight of him," McCollough said.

He hurried closer as the smoke cleared, and couldn't believe his eyes.

"I walked up right to where I shot him, and no deer," McCollough said.

There wasn't even much blood.

So the now-anxious hunter began looping to try to locate the deer.

"I made a couple of loops, and he was laid up in a tree top, like he had tried to jump it and couldn't make it," McCollough said.

That's when McCollough got his first really good view of the rack, which was enormous.

"I thought, 'That's the biggest deer I've ever killed before,'" he said.

That was an understatement. The nine points were arrayed around thick main beams sprouting from 6-inch bases and stretching about 19 inches inside.

"I knew he was a shooter, but I didn't know he was that good," McCollough said.

He still wonders if that was the buck he shot at the first morning.

"That deer looked similar, and he never really ran," McCollough said. "He just sort of trotted away."