Farmer overcomes many obstacles before putting Caesar down
Drew Burton’s pursuit of a Humphreys County trophy buck was epic, a two-month battle of man vs. deer.
And man vs. man.
And man vs. farming.
And man vs. time.
And man vs. …
“There was just so much involved, so much that happened,” said Burton, 33, a farmer. “I’ve hunted my whole life, and I’ve killed a lot of bucks, and a lot of big bucks, but never has there been one that consumed me like this one. He was all I could think of for two months. He got in my head.
“I named him Caesar.”
Caesar died on Dec. 12, shot by Burton practically out of self-defense, exactly two months after the farmer first got trail cam photos of the massive Delta buck.
“It’s unreal, this story, but I swear it’s true,” he said, just before retelling the tale of his taking the 173-inch (B&C gross) 10-point with two stickers.
“After I got those first pictures on Oct. 12, I realized very quickly that I would either kill it by mid-October during bow season or it would be after he started chasing does during the rut in December,” Burton said. “The reason was that of the 400 pictures I had of him, none were taken anywhere remotely close to daylight hours. All of them were taken at night. As a matter of fact, I never knew what color his antler’s were.”
The first pictures came from a patch of woods on the far eastern edge of the Burtons’ farmland, a low-pressured area practically on the property line.
“That bothered me because the camera was about three feet from the line, and my neighbors hunt,” he said. “He was close to access to other people, other hunters. When I got those first pictures, it was hot, but to kill the buck where he was I was going to need a north wind. On Oct. 12 it was hot, which means south winds.
“But, I got a long-range forecast that indicated we had a cold front coming that would give me the north winds for several days. I needed to harvest rice at that time, but I went and hired somebody to run my combine for me so I could take off and hunt.”
That first morning …
“Can you believe it, it was perfect,” Burton said. “I got in the stand in the dark and it was a north wind. I felt good, until first light. At 5:30 that morning, my neighbor to the south, who’s also a farmer, cranked up his tractor and started disking his field. I’m a farmer; I know he was doing what he had to do but he was disking the field right next to where I was hunting. I understand, but it sure jacked up my hunt. The buck disappeared.”
Two more photos appeared and then nothing. It was beginning to look like it would take the rut to get this majestic buck moving.
Burton and a bunch of friends from Mobile had scheduled and booked a Kansas hunting trip for Nov. 12. He knew that while he was gone, there was a possibility that Caesar could meet his doom.
“I started moving cams to the west; I had a hunch he was moving,” Burton said. “On the fourth or fifth day, I got a blurry picture but I recognized it was Caesar because on the end of the right main beam, he had a crab claw or a drop tine. It was him.
“I put new batteries in the camera, put up a stand, and went to Kansas. I started getting pictures of him like clockwork, early morning and evening, but never during the day. I was in Kansas realizing I had blown it. I had a friend with a buck like this one time that had to leave it and it had gotten killed by another hunter.”
Burton killed a nice 9-point in Kansas but his mind was elsewhere.
“All I could think about was Caesar,” he said. “Another friend of mine got a photo of him and text me while I was in a tree in Kansas and said it was a 170- to 180-inch and he was going to hunt him all week.
“Next day, again, I’m in a tree, and he texted and said the big buck was done. I was sick. I was just empty. Then, 25 minutes later he texted back and said he was just kidding and to enjoy my hunt.”
Heading back to Mississippi
Burton was driving back from Kansas on the opening day of gun season in Mississippi Nov. 17. He was monitoring his cell phone the whole way, watching for posts of any big deer going down near his property.
“I have a friend with a food plot near the area and about 5 p.m. we texted and he said he thought he killed the big 10,” Burton said. “I got nauseous that Caesar could be laying dead in that food plot. I waited a few minutes and called him back. He took a deep breath and said it was not the same 10-point. Caesar was alive.”
Burton was back home and his pursuit of Caesar was relentless.
“I got back and he was my main priority,” he said. “I was hunting every day I could and two weeks later I was in a stand and I hear gunshots from my neighbor’s property. His wife had shot Caesar.”
Rather, she had shot at Caesar.
“My neighbor called me and said she had hit a big 10 and could I come help find him,” Burton said. “I told him I would come after I finished dinner. I was getting ready to go when he called and said there was no blood or hair or any trace. It appeared it was a clean miss.
Caesar is still out there
“I got confirmation of him at 10:55 that night. My phone dings and I had a trail cam photo of him. He was in a small block of woods that probably hadn’t had a footprint in it since it had been planted. It was the middle of the week and I went and set up a camera there. The next morning, I got up to go duck hunting and my phone dings and I had a photo of him at 5:10 a.m. The trouble was I had no stand over there or anything. So I went duck hunting.”
An avid waterfowler and dove club operator, Burton’s mind was not on birds that morning. All he could think about was …
“Caesar, that’s it,” he said. “My buddies noticed and asked me what was wrong. I wasn’t feeling the duck hunt at all. What I was doing was scheming on how I could get in there and get Caesar. There’s no trees in there I could hang a stand on, and I tried calling around to see if anyone had a tripod so I could get off the ground. No luck.
“I did have a ground blind on another part of the farm so I got it. I needed a north wind but it was blowing out of the southeast, but luckily it was just enough out of the east to give me protection. So, I loaded up everything, guns, blind, chair, garden shears … man, I had a load, and it felt like was lugging 400 pounds in there. Something told me I had to go.”
So he did and he did get set up, but, boy, he was uncomfortable.
“I had replayed in my mind over and over for two months how I would kill this deer,” Burton said. “How it happened, didn’t come close to any of the scenarios. I have never really liked ground blinds and my mind was telling me I have to be the dumbest hunter in the world.
“I sprayed every ounce of everything I had to cover me. I mean everything from doe urine to covers.”
While he didn’t feel confident he did have one thing in his favor. It was the rut, bucks were chasing, and that makes them do some stupid things.
“At 3:15 I hear some low short grunts, and a young cow-horn spike came out. He never noticed me so that made me feel pretty good,” Burton said. “At 4 o’clock, I heard three very hard, deep grunts and instantly grabbed my binoculars. I didn’t know what was coming but I knew something was coming and I wanted to be ready.
“A doe came trotting from the woods into the grass, loping like something was behind her. Then a buck came out right behind her, right on her butt. I instantly recognized it was Caesar. Half of me almost collapsed the blind, but the other half grabbed the gun and was telling me to get this done. I tossed the binoculars and got the gun. She was running circles 20 yards in front of me, leading him around. This all took about 45 seconds but it seemed like an eternity.”
This was all happening in close proximity to the blind, and there was tall grass, like sage, everywhere. Burton was hesitant to move, they were so close.
The end game
“Finally, she turned and ran away from me about 45 to 50 yards out, and then took a left, hooked around and started running straight at me and the ground blind,” he said. “She was getting closer, 35 yards, 30 yards, 25 yards, 15 yards, 10 yards … and he was right behind her.
“I can’t see much of him above the grass, just his head and neck and he gets 20 feet from the blind. I literally thought she was going to lead him right into the blind with me. I finally said ‘this is it. It’s now or never.’ I put the scope on what I thought was his shoulder and shot. I hit him right in the throat and he fell dead right at my feet. I could have spit on him out the front window. All of this happened right out that front window.”
The buck was a main-frame 10 point with two stickers, one on a right brow tine and the other at the end of the right main beam. The antlers have an 18.5-inch inside spread, with long tines. The left G3 was the longest at 11.5 inches.
“My biggest before that in Mississippi was a 151-inch buck,” Burton said.
The farmer knows he blessed, not only with the opportunity to get the buck but also that his wife Lindsay had grown up in a family of hunters.
“She knew how important this buck was to me,” Burton said. “Look, she’s nine months pregnant. We have a baby due Jan. 15, but she never complained about my obsession with Caesar. She loves to see me have fun and have success.
“It really makes a man appreciate a good woman who loves what her man loves and understands.”