Revel Rawlings felt pretty good going into a morning hunt in Hinds County Saturday, the first day of Mississippi’s archery season.
By day’s end, he was ecstatic.
Rawlings stuck his targeted buck 30 minutes after climbing his stand, went through some nervous moments, and wound up claiming not only his first trophy buck with full velvet but also his first on his farm.
“I tell you, it was unbelievable, the whole thing,” he said. “This 8-point may not be a buck that you’d call a record-book buck and it probably won’t score that well, but boy it’s special to me. It is my first in velvet, but even better this is the first buck I’ve taken on this property since I got it.”
Rawlings has had cameras on the property since June and July, and had several images of five or six bucks that he considered “shooters,” a description he reserves for only mature bucks who have hit their prime.
One of them was a buck he named Spot.
“I named him that because if you look close to the burr of his left main beam you can see a spot or bump on it,” he said. “I knew he was mature but he was not a great scoring deer, but one that I would be glad to have as the first buck deer I’ve taken off my farm.”
The story of the hunt is brief.
“Saturday morning I climbed up in my lock-on around 6:45, and at 7:10 I looked to my left and saw the feet and antlers of a buck,” Rawlings said. “I looked with binoculars and immediately knew it was Spot, a deer I wanted to shoot.
“I ranged him at 25 yards and he walked right out into my clover plot and proceeded to make his last scrape. That was cool to see, and then he turned around to leave using the same roadbed he came in on.”
Rawlings scanned the situation and started planning his shot.
“I knew I would have only one hole to shoot through so I went to full draw,” he said. “When he got to that hole, I went ‘burp’ to stop him and he did. I released the arrow and noticed that it hit him low and behind the front shoulder. The arrow did not pass through.
“It was 7:20 when I looked at my watch.”
Not wanting to push the buck, Rawlings texted a hunting partner that he had shot Spot and told him to keep hunting and they would look for him later.
“We arrived back at the place where I shot him at about 10:30,” Rawlings said. “We trailed and trailed, and two hours later we had given up because we could not find any more blood. We had noticed he bedded two or three times within 100 yards of the shot.”
Not ready to panic, Rawlings knew his best course of action if recovering this buck was going to happen.
“I have a good friend who joined the neighboring camp this year, my former camp, and I knew he was hunting there Saturday and had his trailing dog with him,” he said. “That’s Thomas Garland and his Lab Max.”
Garland is a member of Southern Track’n, a group of three Copiah County hunters who have made recovering deer a passion.
“It was in really thick cover and the blood was really spotty, and the last blood about 100 yards from the shot,” Garland said. “That’s where Max helped out.”
For Rawlings, the opportunity to watch Garland and Max work was an eye-opening experience.
“It’s really amazing the way they use technology to recover deer,” he said. “At 1:30, they came and Thomas put a collar on Max that has GPS. He synced that to his handheld GPS unit, and he could see everywhere Max went.”
Garland said it all worked perfectly Saturday.
“We took Max right where they lost the trail, at last blood, and turned Max loose,” he said. “I switched the device over to map display allowing me to track every step Max makes. Turns out, the deer had gone 100 yards to the right, which is where they had lost him, and then circled back, making a big U-turn and going 200 yards where it died in a creek about 75 yards from a stand.
“When Max stops for about 15 seconds or so, the device tells that he has ‘treed,’ which I guess comes from these devices be designed for squirrel and coon dogs. When Max stopped, I turned to Revel and said, ‘I think Max is chewing on your deer.’”
Rawlings was astounded.
“I said, ‘you’re kidding me’ because I couldn’t believe it,” Rawlings said. “We watched Max for 10 to15 minutes and he made two loops and on the second loop he took off on a line south. Soon thereafter he stopped and Thomas said if he didn’t move from that waypoint after about 10 to 15 seconds he has either bayed your deer or the buck is dead. So he then turns the GPS directional arrow toward the dog and says your deer is 237 yards southeast of us. I could not believe what I was hearing and seeing.
“The buck had traveled approximately 350 to 400 total yards and died basically in front of my stand. He had looped back once he got in the creek and we found him in the creek.”
The massive 8-point weighed 218 pounds and Rawlings said he aged him at either 4.5 or 5 years.
“Great start to a very young season,” he said.
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.