Caruso gets 191-inch public land trophy

MSU student follows brothers advice, borrows primitive gun, kills monster buck

A funny thing happened to Blake Caruso Dec. 12 on his way from finals at Mississippi State University to a duck hunt in the south Delta near Vicksburg.

The senior got sidetracked, and boy, is he glad he did.

Acting on a tip from his older brother Dustin, Blake Caruso took his brother’s climber, borrowed a .35 Whelan rifle from a brother’s friend and shot the buck of a lifetime — a 191-inch monster on public land in North Mississippi.

“I really don’t want to name the WMA because you know how it is, you put a buck out there like this and everybody and his brother will be hunting there the next few years,” Caruso said.

The buck’s rack is tall, thick, wide and dark, sporting 16 points on a 10-point mainframe.

“It’s unreal,” Caruso said, “especially for a guy that before this buck had never seen anything bigger than 120 or 130 inches from a stand.”

The story behind it is short, at least for the Caruso brothers.

“My brother and I and my dad and some friends, we’ve hunted this particular WMA for the past two or three years,” Caruso said. “We’ve always done pretty good there, killing a few bucks each year in the 120- to 130-inch range. We’ve always hunted this one section of the WMA, and on Dec. 9 Dustin was over there, and on a hunch, decided to scout this new area of that same section.

“I got a text from him that he had just jumped a monster buck; a really big buck. He said it was 160 or 170, and that I needed to get over there and hunt it because they were starting to chase does, and he had a business trip to Oklahoma. One of my friends at State was still taking finals and we were going duck hunting down at Vicksburg so I drove over to my brother’s house at Greenwood to get my shotgun and stuff for the ducks.”

The buck’s rack is tall, thick, wide and dark, sporting 16 points on a 10-point mainframe.
The buck’s rack is tall, thick, wide and dark, sporting 16 points on a 10-point mainframe.

It was then that the lure of a possible giant buck became too much.

“My brother hadn’t left yet and he got a map out and showed me where he jumped the buck and we discussed where I could hunt it,” Caruso said. “He had found this long gas pipeline opening along a creek and said if I could go in there and find a good tree, that’s where I needed to be.”

The next day, Dustin flew to Oklahoma while Blake headed to the woods with the borrowed gun and stand, and with directions on how to get the mile into the woods and set up.

“I got in there about 6:15 and found a decent tree, not a great one, and climbed up,” he said. “I was settled about 6:20 and about 10 minutes later, I had a doe walk out about 40 yards. I decided to change trees and I moved to another one. From 8 to 10 that morning, I saw six deer, four does and two bucks. One of the bucks was a good one and I considered taking it.

“But, I told myself, ‘Blake, you are in here hunting a monster buck. Don’t shoot. Don’t settle.’ So I didn’t shoot.”

Good decision, about as good as the one he had made that morning when Caruso went prepared to stay in the tree all day.

“From 10 until about 3 p.m., I didn’t see anything; it was like they quit moving totally,” he said. “I saw a few turkeys and some other animals but not a single deer. Then, about 3:30, they started coming back headed the other way toward the ag fields. Two does walked out, about 100 yards, and I noticed they were acting funny, and looking back.

“I text my brother and told him what was happening, he was at the Dallas airport waiting for his connecting flight with this bosses and other people from his office. Dustin texted back, ‘if it’s him, bust him.’ I told him it was probably just another doe.”

It was, but it was the doe that Caruso needed it to be — a hot one, the kind that can lead a big mature buck into a trap.

Which is exactly what happened.

“I got my gun up and looked and saw the third doe and behind her I saw movement,” Caruso said. “I looked over and I saw the deer and when he lifted up his head, I knew immediately this was the buck Dustin had seen. I could see chocolate antlers and I could see stickers, but I didn’t look long. I looked away and took a deep breath, and said ‘oh, my God.’

“The third doe was following the same line as the first two, which was across the 20-yard-wide pipeline that was about 15 yards from the creek. They had to cross those 15 yards of woods and brush to get to the pipeline and then 20 yards across the pipeline to the other woods. My first thought was that I hope she didn’t wind me; the breeze had been blowing that way earlier. My second thought was that if she followed those other two does, and if he followed her, which he was, then she would lead him right into the pipeline.”

As he waited, Caruso finished preparations, turning into position and checking the gun.

Caruso said a small tree had fallen down on the edge of the pipeline, blocking his shot line for about half the clearing at the point where the deer were crossing.

“She had just about cleared the pipeline on the other side when he finally decided to cross,” he said. “He was behind that tree top. I could see him but I couldn’t jeopardize the shot because of all the brush. I was ready for him. I mean when that third doe first stepped clear, I had put my crosshairs on her and practiced. I didn’t want to mess up.

“Well, finally, he started to move again and stepped clear of the tree top, then he stopped and turned and looked right at me. It was perfect. He was broadside and was giving me the chance. I put it on his shoulder and pulled the trigger.”

The gun roared and when it settled, Caruso liked what he saw.

“The buck was hunched up and I could tell I hit him square in the front shoulders,” he said. “His leg was flopping around. I felt pretty good that it was done. I knew he wasn’t going far and the emotions came out.”

Blake Caruso killed this 191-inch-plus (gross) buck on Dec. 12 chasing a doe on a state Wildlife Management Area in North Mississippi with a .35 Whelan rifle during primitive weapon season.
Blake Caruso killed this 191-inch-plus (gross) buck on Dec. 12 chasing a doe on a state Wildlife Management Area in North Mississippi with a .35 Whelan rifle during primitive weapon season.

The buck struggled off, and Caruso looked around and realized he had no one to share the moment with.

“I immediately called Dustin,” he said. “He was still at the Dallas airport and I know I was really excited because he told me he couldn’t understand anything I was saying. I told him I shot it and that he had to be down. He told me to call him back when I found him. I called Dad and I called Mom and a few others. I was so excited. It took about 30 minutes before I was ready to go look.

“So I climbed down and started to go look and I saw this big white belly in the woods; I knew it had to be him. It was and when I got to him and saw those antlers, I lost it. I Facetimed Dustin and told him ‘I’m looking at him.’

“He hollered, ‘turn the phone around and let me see it.’ I did and it was funny, because he was there in the airport with all his bosses and co-workers huddled behind him looking at the phone. When they saw it, they all started screaming and hollering. Don’t you know all the people in the airport were staring at them. Had to be funny.”

Of course, there was a lot of work to do.

“I had walked a mile from the truck to get in there, but my brother made arrangements with another friend to be ready to help me,” Caruso said. “I called him on my way out and within five minutes of me getting to the truck, he was there with his Ranger. We took off and could only get about halfway in there to him before there was another creek.

“We took a ratchet strap in there and got it around his head and we drug that buck 800 yards to the Ranger. He weighed 225 pounds at the check-in station, and, believe me, we felt every pound of it while we were dragging.”

Back at the truck, as they were loading the buck from the Ranger to the pickup, another truck drove up and stopped.

“Where I was hunting was pretty close to the property line between the WMA and a farm, and turned out that this was the neighboring landowner,” Caruso said. “He asked me if I had killed anything, and I said yes. He asked if it was a buck, and I said yes. He asked if it was a good one, and I said, yes sir, it was a big one.

“He looked at it and said, ‘congratulations, I’ve been hunting that buck for two years and haven’t been able to get him. Congratulations, it’s a good one.’ He wasn’t mad, but I guess disappointed, but he did end up sending me pictures he had of the buck for over two years.”

This trail cam photo was from a neighboring landowner and was dated Nov. 24, 2017.
This trail cam photo was from a neighboring landowner and was dated Nov. 24, 2017.

Several people have measured the buck, and the gross score has consistently been within an inch of 191 inches, including over 16 inches of abnormal points. The biggest appears to be a 6-inch extra brow tine on the right side. The main beams were 25 6/8 and 25 inches, with the longest tines, the G2s, measuring 10 5/8 and 11 2/8. The bases were 6 inches thick and the mass extends to the end of the beams with the last legal measurements 4 2/8 and 4 3/8 inches.

“They aged him at check-in at 4.5 but after the jaw bone was pulled, it appears to be more like 5.5 or 6.5,” Caruso said. “The coloration of the antlers is what is so great about this buck. They are dark and they are beautiful. I am very fortunate to have gotten him.”

As for the duck hunt?

“Yeah, we went two days later and got a wood duck and a ring neck,” Caruso said. “Didn’t matter.”

Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1203 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.