Theresa Edmonson scanned the surrounding winter wonderland in search of a deer. As her keen eyes probed the timber edge searching for bits and pieces of any deer, she spotted movement. Could this be the deer she was looking for?

Now she wasn't looking for a doe or just any deer, mind you. Edmonson was looking for a trophy buck, as she had long ago quit hunting for numbers.

As the young buck moved stealthily down the edge of the wood line, Edmonson slowly centered the crosshairs on the buck's vitals for just an instant before lowering her rifle. This young buck was not yet mature enough to meet the expert hunter's strict trophy requirements. Her self-imposed rule was steeled with the desire and discipline to harvest only mature trophy bucks that would be mounted.

It's not hard to harvest a deer for the dinner table when you have an exploding deer population like Mississippi's. Harvesting a trophy buck is quite another thing, however.

Perhaps the most important key to harvesting a monster buck is to hunt in areas where they live, and to be prepared when the moment of truth comes. Edmonson and Todd Lawler are two excellent deer hunters who have experienced great success in the woods, and are excited about relating their stories.

Expertly honed woodsman skills, dedication, patience and time spent in the outdoors are all needed to become a trophy buck expert. Edmonson, of Columbus, is one such expert. If you met her on the street, you would have no way of knowing just how skilled an outdoorswoman she is. But if you observed her displaying some of her bucks in her trophy room, while relating hunting stories, then you would surely be amazed. The skills and outdoor roots that run deep in this gentle grandmother would quickly become evident.

Edmonson grew up as an only child, and followed her father, Arthur Gore, all over the country in search of game. She even went on deer drives with him in a time when females rarely ventured into the woods.

"I love deer hunting, and used to hunt with him at the camp," she said.

As she became more skilled at the sport, she began concentrating on harvesting trophy bucks.

In addition to taking trophy deer, Edmonson likes getting out and soaking in the beauty and splendor of nature.

"Where else can you go and watch beavers building their houses? I've got a deer stand overlooking a beaver slough, and I have watched them all day long," she said. "I just think it's so educational and interesting to watch what goes on in nature."

To some people, this lady is quite an enigma, as she'll harvest a trophy buck while also caring for sick or wounded deer or other animals. That's beyond belief to some, but just a way of life for this interesting lady. Whether she's hunting pheasants, hogs, deer, raccoons or squirrels, Edmonson is equally adept in the pursuit of her quarry. When it comes down to it, however, hunting and harvesting trophy bucks is what she enjoys the most.

A few years ago, Edmonson purchased 80 acres of land near Shuqualak, to do what she enjoys most, being in the outdoors and hunting deer.

During her younger years, Edmonson enjoyed hunting out of metal stands, including tripods and ladder stands. This allowed her to blend into and become a part of her surroundings, while experiencing nature up close and personal. These days, she primarily hunts from enclosed stands due to a nasty fall she took while hunting alone one afternoon.

Trophy slayer

While hunting near San Antonio, Texas, Edmonson harvested one of her best deer ever. The fine buck scored 170 B&C points, and of course, that's something most men only dream about.

Her finest achievements in deer hunting, however, have occurred right near her home in East Mississippi near the Black Prairie region. In fact, she's harvested deer from her home just south of Columbus to points farther south near Macon and Shuqualak.

Unlike many hunters in our state, this talented lady shoots only trophy bucks, and she's good at it too. Back when Mississippi hunters could harvest several bucks in a season, she really put on a show.

During one stretch, Edmonson went hunting five times and killed four trophy bucks. Two of those deer were 8 points, and two were 9 points. Just imagine being able to kill four trophy bucks in five trips to the woods. That's something almost unheard of even today.

One wall of her home is adorned by three trophy bucks, including the Texas trophy. The two Mississippi deer are impressive also. One is a 14-point 200-pound buck that scored 162 B&C. The other is even more impressive, a 12-point that weighed an astounding 260 pounds. Edmonson and her husband Ed couldn't budge that big brute of an animal; they had to summon help with loading the deer and getting it back home.

While this skilled lady has harvested deer far and wide, there's one not-so-secret key to her success, and that is to stay in the woods. Yes, she has been able to hunt in areas where big bucks live, but that's not a guarantee for harvesting a trophy buck. Along with skill and patience, there also has to be a strong desire to succeed, coupled with an unquenchable urge to go to the woods.

Monster buck

Already an impressive hunter, Edmonson is also tuned in to her surroundings and ready to shift into high gear at a moment's notice. Have you ever been riding down the road with someone who had the ability to pick out a deer far across a pasture or deep in the woods? Some people just have the knack for spotting deer in obscure places at odd times. Edmonson is one of those people.

During a recent December, Edmonson was going about her normal daily routine in the house getting things ready for Christmas and her afternoon hunt. While she was walking through the house, something caught her attention through the window. Stopping for a closer look, she was astonished at the sight before her. Right in the middle of a fire lane, not 300 yards from her house, stood a deer that looked like an elk!

"As I walked through the kitchen and glanced across the field, I said, 'My goodness, I can't believe what I'm seeing!'"

Though she had heard other people talking about a monster deer roaming around the community, she had never before seen this one or any deer that big.

Astonished at the sight, she called her son and told him about the deer.

"Momma, get your gun and shoot that deer!" he told her.

With little thought of being able to get outside and into position for a killing shot, she went to her gun room and quickly loaded her Browning .308 Gold Medallion rifle. She chose the "sweet" rifle that had never before missed, at least not while in her hands.

Sneaking out the back of the house, she maneuvered quietly and deliberately while trying to get into position for a killing shot without spooking the deer. The buck was obviously love sick and searching for a doe, but would he stay in the lane long enough for a shot?

By now the massive deer was standing about 200 yards away and at full alert.

Knowing she would never be able to make it to a good shooting location without spooking the deer, she eased into position and got ready.

"I'd look at the deer and he'd look back at me," she said. "Finally, I eased my gun up and my hands were shaking pretty good. He was fixing to bolt, so I shot, and down he went!"

Edmonson had made a perfect long-range, offhand shot.

When they finally recovered the deer, everybody was amazed at the massive 21-point buck. It was the largest deer ever killed in the area, and one of the largest ever killed in the state scoring 186 1/2 B&C.

"Normally we don't hunt near the house, but I just couldn't let that one go," she said.

Burgeoning bowhunter

Todd Lawler, of Southaven, harvested many deer over the years before trying his hand at bowhunting. After quite a bit of preparation, Lawler went to the woods in search of his first bow kill. Three years later, he had yet to kill his first deer with a bow.

That all changed early in November of last year, however. Lawler, a Vicksburg native, joined a couple friends at his camp north of Vicksburg for a short hunt.

After three years of hunting with his bow and passing up deer during bow season, Lawler decided to harvest some meat for the dinner table. On this particular day, he chose to hunt a lock-on stand that was located in the woods near an L-shaped wheat field. Yes, today would be the day he harvested his first doe with a bow, or so he hoped.

Arriving at the stand, Lawler realized he had left his safety rope back at camp. While the return trip delayed him slightly, safety was the main issue, and he made the trip to camp and back in nothing flat.

Arriving back at the stand site, Lawler quickly made his way up the tree and got ready for action. Around 3:30, two does suddenly appeared walking on a trail and headed straight for Lawler. As he drew his bow back to take a doe, one of the does heard something she didn't like, and the deer spooked. Aggravated more than disappointed, Lawler sat back and contemplated what had just occurred.

A couple hours later, Lawler spotted deer moving through the woods toward the field. As they came into full view, Lawler could see antlers on both deer. As they got closer and closer, the excited hunter got ready for his first kill.

The smaller deer stopped right under the stand, only 10 yards away. However, the small-racked deer wasn't what he was looking for. The mature buck that followed was just out of range, however, and he kept right on walking toward the food plot. As the buck walked by out of range, Lawler could only watch and wonder what might have been.

Suddenly, though, the buck wheeled around and came trotting toward Lawler's stand as something spooked him. Nearing the stand site, the buck slowed down and turned broadside. At a staggering distance of 10 feet, the old grey monarch suddenly stopped and offered the perfect shot for just an instant. And an instant was all Lawler needed this time, as he drew his bow, centered the pin on the buck's vitals and released the carbon arrow in one motion.

Feeling the sting of the broadhead, the buck spun around and disappeared shortly before Lawler heard a loud crash. The fine 10-point buck had obviously piled up in a heap, and was down for the count. The 110-grain Thunderbolt broadhead had performed well and done its job, with quite a bit of help from the Matthews LX bow.

In the process of taking his first kill, Lawler had now been transformed from a hunter to a trophy bowhunter.

Trophy buck

Though Lawler had killed many bucks in his lifetime, the thrill of hunting with family and friends and the camaraderie accompanying the hunts was just as much a part of the satisfaction as the actual harvest. And the ones taken while hunting with friends and family were even more special. After years of practice, scouting and learning the woodsmanship skills necessary for harvesting trophy bucks, Lawler had paid his dues and harvested his share of good deer.

What started as a typical December hunt with friends Bubba Byars and Larry Nipper eventually turned into much more. Byars and Nipper had been hunting a couple days already with no luck, so they naturally asked Lawler where he'd hunt that day.

"Well, I'd go to this stand first, and hunt that one over there next, if I had to pick," related Lawler.

And, of course, his buddies went to those stands, and Lawler went to his third choice, the chastity stand.

Lawler had seen a nice buck on a prior trip to the stand, but didn't have a shot. This time he put the climbing stand up high overlooking the drainage area that formed a thicket between the hardwoods. The plan was for Lawler to hunt a couple hours or so, and then get down and try to drive some deer toward his partners. However, the plan never came to fruition, as circumstances suddenly changed.

"I heard something walking behind me, before I ever saw him," Lawler said. "I turned to look over my left shoulder and saw the biggest deer of my life not 30 yards away."

Instinctively, the excited hunter stood up, spun around and pulled the trigger as soon as the crosshairs centered on the kill zone.

The startled buck bolted and ran head first into a large tree, crumpling instantly. The mortally wounded buck hit the tree with such force that antler tip impressions were left in the trunk. He was dead before he ever hit the ground. Lawler's 7-mm Mag had performed marvelously.

Sporting 10 points with two kickers, long G 2s and an 18-inch spread, the190-pound buck was by far the best he had ever harvested up to that time. The hunt had turned into a memorable event that would become a lifetime memory for Lawler and his companions.