National wildlife refuge produces wild 180-class buck

John Thomason killed this 180-class buck in November while bow hunting on Yazoo and Panther Swamp national wildlife refuges.

Google Earth homework for hunt on Yazoo, Panther Swamp NWRs leads to trophy kill.

(Editor’s Note: Hunter John Thomason has been unavailable for a telephone interview because he works offshore, so this story was put together using an emailed account of the hunt.)

John Thomason’s emotions ran the gauntlet during the hours he spent planning his hunt, sitting in the stand and waiting to see if his shot was true.

As a youngster, he learned to appreciate the outdoors from his grandfather, Clyde Perkins. Hunting, fishing, learning about wildlife and other facets were soaked up by young John on his trips with Perkins, who died two years ago in an automobile accident.

During deer season, Thomason (who goes by Captain John T on the forum) plans his hunting trips to maximize the hours in the woods. He researches his areas, checks Google Earth and other online sites, and preps his equipment to have everything in top shape.

After learning regulations had changed for the Delta National Forest, Thomason decided to spend a week in the Yazoo and Panther Swamp national wildlife refuges. The move paid off in spades in November.

He hunted each morning until about 9 a.m., and then scouted different areas based on his Web research. The third morning, he saw four bucks, including a 150-class 10-point that held up about 60 yards away.

Three days later, he saw the 10-point again along with two smaller bucks.

So on the final morning, a little after 6 a.m., Thomason was ready when he saw the body and antlers of what he believed was the 10-point whitetail.

“I had a big-body deer coming right down the slough 20 yards (away),” he said. “I was praying to the deer gods for a little more light, believing that with the body size this was my big 10-point standing at 20 yards.

“Well, this time the deer gods answered my prayer. The deer stood there just long enough for a glimmer of light to hit a massive set of horns. I knew this was my 10-point.”

That’s all the bow hunter needed to see.

“I dropped back to find the sweet spot just behind the front shoulder, found my pin in the peep sight and let the carbon 5575 fly,” Thomason said. “Then the pit of my stomach turned upside down and sideways as the Easton Tracer S-nock disappeared just behind the last rib.”

The buck moved just as he released the arrow, which hit too far back for Thomason. He said the deer ran by his stand, stopped near a tree and blew at him.

“This made me even sicker,” he said. “Deer don’t blow at you with an arrow through their lungs.”

Thomason decided to wait for three hours before starting to trail the buck. During that time he thought about all the preparation, about his shot. He ran through all the “what if” scenarios.

He looked at where the deer had been and where it ran to in the woods.

“Sitting 30 feet up in that tree for three hours knowing the shot placement on my dream buck was terrible, all I could do was wish for a bottle of Pepto,” Thomason said. “Other than sitting in the delivery room waiting on the birth of my son, this was the longest three hours of my life.”

He called on past experience to maintain hope that the shot was enough to put the deer down.

“One thing kept me positive: I had the same thing happen on a bull elk in September while hunting in Colorado,” Thomason said. “On a moving elk, the shot also hit far back, but the bull piled up after only covering 65 yards. I believe the 2-inch cut Grim Reaper whitetail special broadhead is the only reason that elk didn’t run forever.”

Thomason finally began looking for his trophy deer, starting at the point of impact where he found brown hair and little blood. The sparse trail led him for about 50 yards, sometimes on his hands and knees.

“I had covered around 50 yards through thick vines and underbrush when I glanced ahead,” he said. “My knees almost buckled as my eyes caught sight of what had only filled my dreams up to that point.

“There, less than 10 steps ahead of me, was not the monster 10-point but the most unique whitetail deer I had ever seen. As I made my way over to my trophy buck the sickness in the pit of my stomach turned into butterflies.”

Thomason described seeing his buck as “ground explosion.” Instead of overestimating, his unique buck had more than a dozen points “going everywhere.”

It was a mix of typical and non-typical, and green scored at 183 4/8 inches Pope & Young.

His planning, patience and practice had paid off.

“As I sat down to admire my trophy deer and the back tracks of the hunt, I could only feel an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment as this deer wasn’t taken on an expensive private hunting lease: This deer was taken on public land, free for anyone with a $15 permit and a hunting license to hunt, and with a bow and arrow at less that 20 yards,” Thomason said.

He attributed the kill to all the online homework he did before the hunt.

“Google Earth is an awesome way to look for travelways, funnels and bedding areas,” Thomason said. “Combined with a good GPS, you can link to Google Earth (and) pinpoint these areas to within feet.”

Thomason also couldn’t help but think of his late grandfather.

“I believe, in part, he is responsible for me killing this fine deer,” he said. “My granddad was the most unique man I ever knew, the most optimistic human that has ever graced the planet. I still hear him say, ‘They’re going to start moving soon’ or ‘All you have to do is find them, John Robert, they’re here!’

“He taught me the way to truly enjoy and appreciate hunting and fishing, not killing and mounting. This is the reason behind calling my deer ‘Clyde.’ I know no better way to show the respect for such an animal than to call him after the man I most respected.”

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