Panther Swamp buck scores 176 inches, weighs 280 pounds
Blake Herrin’s dream, like that of most deer hunters, has always been to kill a big trophy buck. On Nov. 23, hunting at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in the Mississippi Delta, he did just that, bagging “the biggest buck I’ve ever seen.”
Trophy? The buck’s rack produced 176 inches of antler. Yep, that qualifies.
Big? Herrin’s buck weighed 280 pounds. Yep, that qualifies, and then some.
“He dropped right where he was standing,” said Herrin, of Carriere. “That’s when I started shaking. You see those kids in all those videos shaking after killing a deer.… Well, let me tell you, I bet I looked just like them. I was shaking so hard that when I climbed down out of the tripod stand, I almost fell out of it.”
The buck was 60 yards away, and Herrin, a 29-year-old lineman for the Coast Electric Power Association was in for a shock.
“I knew he was a good buck, but I had no idea,” Herrin said. “Every step I took, he just kept growing. The closer I got, the bigger he got. When I walked up on him, I said to myself, ‘He’s bigger than I thought it was.’
“When I leaned down and picked up his head I almost threw up. Man, I was so excited. I can’t tell you how shook up I was.”
It was a team effort that involved a lot of helping hands both before the shot and certainly after it.
“I have some really good friends,” Herrin said. “I needed them, too.”
Living in the southeast corner of Mississippi’s boot-heel, Herrin had killed a lot of does and a few bucks, including a 125-inch 8-point that is certainly respectable for that area. He figured his hopes of getting a trophy meant applying for a draw hunt at a public area in one of the state’s big-buck regions.
“I put in at Panther Swamp for one of the 3-day gun hunts and got drawn for Nov. 21-23,” Herrin said. “That was a Saturday through a Monday but I had to skip the first day because we had a surprise birthday party for my mom on Saturday night. I left it a little early, went home, took a 3-hour nap and got up at midnight and started driving to the Delta.”
He was going in blind, too, and that’s where the team effort starts. Herrin had four friends who were drawn for that hunt, including two that were hunting with him. He also had a co-worker drawn for that hunt who was also at Panther Swamp.
“My two friends had gone up and hunted on Saturday and had scouted it pretty good,” Herrin said. “They had found me an area with some sign, some hooking, and I hunted it Sunday morning. I didn’t see anything, but one of my friends killed a nice 17-inch, 8-point, and the other got a doe. We left at 9:30 and drove to a camp about 20 miles away where one of my friends knew a guy. We used their cleaning shed to clean those deer and ate a sandwich and went back to hunt that afternoon.
“The guy who killed the buck let me hunt his area, because there was a lot more sign there. I saw one doe that afternoon. He went to where I had hunted that morning and didn’t see a deer.”
That night, the trio drove to Eagle Lake.
“One of them had a friend with a camp there, and we spent the night,” Herrin said. “We got up the next morning at 3:15, and we got to Panther Swamp before daylight, and I went back to the same area where my friend had killed the 8-point and where I hunted the afternoon before.
“I got in the stand about 5:30, and it was a beautiful morning, clear and about 45 degrees, and the sunrise, I think, was 6:15. It wasn’t long before three does came in feeding. I was in a tripod stand in a CRP area with an oak bottom. They were eating acorns and kept feeding off and coming back.”
Herrin held off on taking a doe, even though he was allowed two. Turns out, that was a very smart move.
“After they left, about 7:15, I heard a buck grunt, and that got my attention,” he said. “He grunted again and then again, and I said to myself, ‘I’m in the chips now.’ I knew where it was coming from and got turned in that direction. He sounded about 70 to 75 yards away.
“I was looking in that direction, and the first thing I saw of him was when his antlers hit sunshine and I said, ‘Ooh, that’s a big buck!’ When he reached the trail the does had used, he turned and started crossing broadside. I had one hole, one shooting lane, so I put the scope on that lane, and when he walked into it I made a doe bleat with my mouth to stop him. When he stopped, I put the scope on his front shoulder and knocked him down right where he was standing.”
The 40-year-old Savage .30-06 Herrin’s father, Vance, had given him did its job.
Not only did the rack shock Herrin, but the sheer size of the buck was beyond his belief, as well as his ability to move it. It would require five grown men.
“I took me, both of my friends, and my co-worker and his dad to get the buck on our deer cart and wheel him out,” Herrin said. “He was a horse.”
The buck was a main-frame 8-point with a kicker sticking straight out of both 5½-inch bases. There were two other sticker points, or at least the remnants of two that had broken off the 24- and 25-inch main beams. The G2s were an amazing 13 and 14 inches and the G3s 8 and 10 inches. The inside spread was 19 inches.
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