Lyons kills the King of the Forest

Thomas Lyons killed this beast of a buck in Columbus on Dec. 11.

Biloxi man takes 187-inch Lowndes County trophy

A lot of deer hunters in an area of Lowndes County were hunting a legendary buck, so big that one group nicknamed it “King of the Forest.” Most of the clubs around the family land that Thomas Lyons hunts had pictures of the buck and were hot on its trail.

Seems the only ones unaware was Lyon’s family.

“We didn’t know anything about it really; we had a single picture of a big buck, but we’d never seen it and weren’t hunting it at all,” said Lyons, 37, a former high school football coach who is a real estate agent in Biloxi.

Lyons first saw the buck on a warm Dec. 11 afternoon hunt, the last day of the deer’s life.

“My wife, Claire, and I had driven up to Starkville for a Mississippi State football game the next day, and she was working remotely on the internet,” Lyons said. “I was sitting around bored. It was like 70 degrees outside, but I told her I was going to drive over to Columbus and go sit it in a stand to kill some time.”

He killed a lot more than that. He dropped the royal buck, its head crowned by a 20-point, 187-inch rack, leaving him with one of the oddest hunting photos you’ll ever see and best stories you’ll ever hear.

He wore what?

“I went hunting in short pants with boots and a Dallas Cowboys pullover; I wasn’t expecting much,” Lyons said. “I got in this shooting house in a corner of a big field with my back up against the back of the house with one tree line running straight out from my left and another over my shoulder to the right.

“I got in there about 2:30, and at about 5:05, I just happened to turn and look back over my right shoulder. Right when I did, this buck came walking out of the woods about 70 yards away. I had to really turn my head and shoulder to see him, and I was in about as bad a position as I could be in the shooting house to shoot in that direction.”

Yet, there was the buck.

“He walked a few yards out of the woods into the field and stopped and looked back at a doe standing right in the edge of the field,” Lyons said. “The doe was closer to me, about 20 yards closer, and all I could see was her head. She was feeding, and she was looking at the buck and turned to go back to the woods.

“I grabbed my binoculars to get a look, and all I could see was a lot of antlers, a huge rack and a bunch of points. I decided I wasn’t going to waste a lot of time, because when the doe had walked back into the trees, he had turned to follow her.”

A dilemma

Lyons was in a pickle, one that almost makes you laugh; he did as he told it.

“I’m in a bad situation, facing straight down the field and he’s over my right shoulder,” he said. “My gun is in front of me on the floor leaning against the house. I was going to have to get up, turn the chair, get the gun, get the buck in the scope and shoot.

“Here’s the deal, I’m no small guy. I’m 6-foot-4 and weigh 350. How was I going to pull this off? I put the binoculars down and started to move, but as soon as I did, the buck stopped and started looking right at me. I couldn’t move. I didn’t dare move, but I was going to have to.”

The buck might have been spooked, but instead of bolting, the buck just stopped, broadside, turned and looking straight at the hunter.

Going for it

Lyons weighed the situation and realized that at any second, the buck could either bolt to the trees or just walk into obscurity — it was only about 15 feet.

“I had to go for it,” he said. “I sort of half-stood, grabbed the chair to turn it and grabbed the gun at the same time. I did all that, got settled into the chair, threw the gun up and found him in the scope. He was still broadside staring right at me. As soon as I had the crosshairs on him, I shot. That’s when it got strange. He didn’t really react to the shot. He didn’t jump, buck, kick or anything. All he did was trot off into the trees. I looked at the doe, and she was just sort of standing there with a blank look.

“I was thinking, ‘Did the gun not shoot?’ and ‘Did I just miss a trophy buck.’ I sat there looking and saw the doe eventually just walk off. I waited 10 minutes and decided to go look for blood. I found where he had kicked up some dirt, but no blood. Then I walked over to the trail in the trees and found blood.”

Tracking the buck

Lyons stopped and called his stepfather, who was down on the coast. The land is part of his stepfather’s family holdings.

“I told him I just shot a huge buck, and he asked me if I was sure it was big, and if it was the big 10-point we had on camera,” Lyons said. “I told him I didn’t know for sure, because I didn’t have time to look him over good. I said ‘I just know it’s huge.’

“I also told him that if I did find him, I was going to need help and asked if he could call his brother, Charles, who hunts nearly every day, if he could come help. Turns out he was hunting in the next field over, which I didn’t know. He was on his way.”

In shock

Lyons started following the trail and was relieved when the blood began getting heavier.

“About 15 yards in, it was a lot, and some of it was nearly two feet up on the brush and trees,” he said. “That’s when I knew he was likely down. I kept tracking and lost the trail twice, but picked it back up both times. It was dark by then, and I couldn’t see him, but I started smelling him. He was rutting, and I could smell him. I walked right to him about 20 yards away. When I put the light on him, he was facing head away. I couldn’t see his white belly or his face, which is why my light never picked him up. When I got to him and saw the antlers, I was in shock.

“About then, I heard Charles walking up, and I said I found him. He came over and couldn’t believe it either. We took a couple of pictures, which is where we got the now infamous Facebook picture of me in short pants, rolled down boots with this giant buck.”

Thomas Lyons' big 20-point buck weighed 215 pounds.
Thomas Lyons’ big 20-point buck weighed 215 pounds.

In addition to some funny comments about his attire, Lyons started getting information about the buck and the different clubs that had been hoping to kill it.

“The most interesting one was when I called (a Columbus TV station) to enter their big buck contest, and I got switched to the woman in charge of it,” Lyons said. “I filled out the forms and sent her photos and she said ‘OH MY GOD! That’s the King of the Forest. We’ve been hunting that buck so many years.’ Turns out, she hunts a club about 2 miles away.”

King of the Forest

The buck is worthy of the royal name. It’s a mainframe 7×7 with incredible mass — 7½-inch bases. The right brow tine has three additional points and the left one splits and has another point, too. The right G-2 has two stickers.

“It’s not that wide, maybe 16.5 or 17 inches, I can’t remember,” Lyons said.

One thing is for sure, the buck and the hunt will live forever in his memories.

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Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1344 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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