Double Purple Heart recipient gets 17-pointer

Aging Montgomery County monster had three drop tines

Cody Armstrong’s monster buck story is atypical, and that doesn’t just refer to the hardware atop the old deer’s head, which, with 17 points, including three drop tines, on a main-frame 6-point rack, is extremely impressive.

But just describing the Dec. 20 hunt in Montgomery County that put this trophy down wouldn’t do service to Armstrong. His story is so much better.

For starters, Armstrong, 27, received two Purple Heart medals during his service with the Army Infantry in Afghanistan, both in August of 2012.

“I was a sweeper for my unit both times, looking for IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” he said. “The first time I was in a vehicle; the second I was on foot walking through a village. After the second one, I was sent to Texas (for medical treatment). To look at me now, you wouldn’t notice anything, but I have to wear hearing aids and I had very bad burns on my legs.”

Texas Hunters for Heroes

During his rehab time in Texas, Armstrong hooked up with a few guys who had started a new group, called Texas Hunters for Heroes.

“They kind of took me into their group and took me hunting at their lease in Texas,” Armstrong said. “I was the second guy they chose to take, and I tell you, it was pretty special to get that opportunity.”

What it did was stoke a fire that burned deep inside the Brandon native, whose family has a history of deer hunting.

“My dad got me started when I was little and I killed my first deer at 8,” Armstrong said. “But, then, dad got cancer and lost a leg and had to quit hunting. He introduced me to the sport, but after that I guess I was sort of self-taught. My sister and I both hunt, and dad bought this 27-acre block of land about 20 or 21 years ago in Montgomery County for us to always have a place to hunt.”

Said Armstrong: “Don’t think 27 acres is too small.”

He admits that his family doesn’t kill that many trophy bucks on the property, but there’s enough to make it interesting. Prior to Dec. 20, the best to come off the land was his sister’s non-typical 14-point taken in 2000.

“Oddly enough, most of what bucks we have are non-typical in some way or other,” Armstrong said. “My sister’s 14-point had one side that was a perfect 5 points, but the other had 9 points and looked like somebody put in a vice and squashed it. We noticed he had a hurt leg, and we’ve been told that could have been what led to the deformed rack.”

Back in the woods

Completing his service and treatments in Texas, Armstrong returned to Mississippi and joined the Flowood Police Department. Now he’s moved into nursing school, has a girlfriend and started deer hunting again in Montgomery County. Perhaps, maybe hunting a little too much?

“Once I first started seeing trail cams of this buck, I pretty much hunted him every chance I had,” Armstrong said. “My girlfriend was arguing with me about how much time I was spending hunting with the holidays coming on. She wasn’t that happy.”

And it didn’t help matters that this one buck, which Armstrong had been interested in for three years, was starting to show up regularly on trail cameras.

“The first picture I got was Dec. 28, 2016,” he said. “But I didn’t know about it until after the season ended because I never checked the camera. I checked the camera card after it ended and saw this big deer with drop tines and big brow tines. He was huge.”

The big buck returned, briefly, in 2017.

“In 2017, I had pictures of him on Nov. 25 and Dec. 17, never in daylight,” Armstrong said. “He was a big main-frame 8 with a big drop and a couple of kickers, but all the photos I had were when he was passing through, like one shot, and it was like he noticed the camera and never came back.

“In 2018, he came one time, at 3 a.m. to Dec. 6. That was it.”

This season

Then came 2019, and the buck, now old, increased his visitations.

“I got the first photo Nov. 11, and in the second picture Dec. 7 he was checking scrapes. I got one photo of him at 6:30 p.m., and the second you could see him sprinting away. It was like he saw the camera again.

“But, then on Dec. 18, I got a photo of a doe coming by the camera at 9 a.m. and he came by two seconds later. The rut apparently brought him out behind this doe in daylight, which must have been close (to estrus). That night, he came back at 7 p.m. checking his scrape.”

Then it got real interesting.

“On Dec. 19, he came in three times, 12:40 p.m., 3:50 p.m. and 6 p.m. checking scrapes in the small hardwood bottom, like 50 yards by 50 yards, where I had a camera,” Armstrong said.

He has one of those cameras connected to his cell phone and was getting excited.

“I decided right then I was going to sit in my stand Friday, Saturday and Sunday, daylight to dark. I told my girlfriend I was going and explained the situation about how long I had been chasing this deer.”

Armstrong told her it was a once in a lifetime deal, and she agreed.

“I promised that no matter what, I’d be back for all the holiday stuff,” he said. “She wasn’t thrilled, but she agreed.”

He had to explain to her what it meant to have the few pictures he’d gotten over three years, and now he was getting photos regularly.

It was basically now or never for this aging buck.

Armstrong heads to his stand

On Friday, Armstrong made the hour and a half drive and was in his stand by 5:15 a.m. He was done by noon.

“I got into my Millenium Lock-On stand — I used to hunt from shooting houses and ground blinds, but I switched and learned you needed a tree stand if you were going to kill bucks and not just watch bucks,” Armstrong said. “The bottom is all in front of me and the property line is not far. I had permission on that property but I had never used it. There was a cutover thicket with tall grass on the neighbor’s land, and this bottom was on our property.

“At about 10:45, I noticed grass moving in the cutover. He had been laid up in the grass just off the line and I saw him stand up. I couldn’t see him; all I could see was the grass moving. I watched the grass moving toward the bottom. He had stood up about 75 yards from me and had to walk 20 yards through the grass and that whole time I had no idea which deer it was. It was coming from the east and the wind was from him to me. A doe had come through about 7 a.m. and her and her baby had fed for two hours without getting my scent. I felt good about it.”

The moment arrives

Armstrong just waited to see which buck was coming. There had been three shooters on camera, a big 7-point, non-typical 9 and this old deer, all behind this one doe.

“Then he stepped out and I knew it was him,” he said. “He was at 75 yards to my 3 o’clock. In the bottom there is a lot of blown-over trees for cover and he was on the backside of one of them. I knew I was going to have to shoot through brush so I chose a friend’s 7mm magnum over my 7mm-08 for the bigger bullet. When I told him about the situation, he insisted I take his gun.

“When he gave me what I thought to be broadside shot, I pulled the trigger. He was actually slightly quartering away. My shot was a double lung shot with a bit of the liver. He went 40 yards and fell. If I had glassed over quick enough, I’d have seen him fall.”

Once a giant, the buck didn’t weigh but 150 pounds.

“He was old, so old that the taxidermist said he couldn’t age him for sure,” Armstrong said. “It was the oldest he had ever seen. He put it up against a jawbone from a 7-year-old pen-raised deer and it wasn’t even close. He was at least 8 or 9.”

Armstrong’s non-typical had changed

The antlers weren’t as massive as previous years either, but still had the unique non-typical characteristics.

“He’s like 22.5 or 23 inches wide, depending on the angle you measure, and just a main-frame 6 or maybe even a 5,” Armstrong said. “The right side is crazy. It has two drop tines among the 11 points, and stickers and a hook on the base. The left side has six points, and one is a drop tine.

“He’s had the drop tine his whole life. He was a better buck in 2018 with a bunch of stickers and a drop tine. It was obvious this was the buck that I’d been seeing all these years.”

The biggest difference was body mass, and that’s a good thing.

“This buck had been easily over 200 pounds in previous years, but was 150 this year,” Armstrong. “I don’t think it was from running does or anything, just how old he was. The taxidermist said he’d probably never live another year with those teeth. Heck, he didn’t have any teeth.

“I was alone and I had to drag that deer out of the woods. It was 250 yards back to the truck, over logs and stuff. It’s so thick you can’t get a 4-wheeler in there. I’d drag 50 yards and take a break; drag 50 yards and take a break. Thank God he didn’t weigh 200 pounds. I’d have never made it.”

Mississippi Hunters for Heroes

The story doesn’t end there. Armstrong is starting another chapter by organizing a Mississippi Chapter of Mississippi Hunters for Heroes, which like the Texas Chapter, will be affiliated with the National Hunters for Heroes, which matches hunters with injured veterans and first responders.

He wants to pass on to others what was passed on to him in Texas.

“We’re working on the paperwork now, and I hope we get it going by next hunting season,” Armstrong said. “It’s a non-profit and we’ve got to get our certification in Mississippi. Once we get it set up, and added to the national program, we’ll be ready to take heroes hunting.”

In Armstrong’s case, it will be more like a hero taking other heroes.

Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1241 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.

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