Lincoln County man downs 220-pounder with crossbow on last day of hunt
When Natchez State Park is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is big bass, and rightly so. The biggest largemouth in Mississippi history, weighing 18.15 pounds, was caught in Natchez Lake in 1992.
But there’s also close to 3,000 acres of WMA land available as permit deer hunting for the few hunters lucky enough to be drawn.
Kenneth Wallace and his son, Garrett, from Lincoln County were fortunate enough to draw a four day Natchez State Park WMA archery partner hunt, Oct. 31-Nov. 3. Everything came together, with a good high-pressure weather system, cool temperatures, red acorns falling and, most important, a 220-pound, 13-point falling.
The first days of the hunt
The Wallaces intended to reach the WMA by noon on Oct. 31 but were running late. They arrived, scouted an area and hung climbing stands 150 yards apart on the same ridge. They got in the stands early the next morning. Kenneth Wallace saw a couple of does and took a shot, but didn’t connect.
After a lunch break, they headed back to the woods early, scouting another area. Not seeing anything to change their plans, they headed back to their climbers. On the way, they spotted deer. Kenneth tried cocking his crossbow as quietly as he could, but there was no shot opportunity, so they made their way to the stands.
Garrett Wallace took a shot at a doe and missed, while his father had a nice 8-pointer with a 15-inch spread come in and present a shot at 17 yards. He tried to take the shot, but his crossbow wouldn’t shoot, and the buck meandered out of sight. He realized that when he had cocked it earlier, trying to stay quiet, he had failed to completely cock it.
Family obligations kept them from hunting the next day, so they pulled their stands and headed home, returning the afternoon of Nov. 3, the first day after the change from daylight savings time. They made their way to the WMA, knowing dark would come an hour earlier.
Carrying their climbers in, they spooked a nice 8-point — the very same one Kenneth Wallace had failed to get a shot two days earlier. He went back to the same ridge as before, and he climbed a tree about 12 yards from his original position.
After a 30-minute sit Kenneth Wallace heard deer walking behind him. He got up to take a shot; it was four does. One of them gave him a shot at 12 yards. Wallace made a good hit and heard the doe crash down the hollow. Deciding to stay in the stand and let his son finish his hunt, he re-cocked his crossbow and nocked another bolt — just in case.
Another 30 minutes passed, and he heard more deer behind him. He turned and could see legs and tips of antlers at 25 yards, a buck eating acorns; he thought it might have been the same 8-pointer they’d already seen.
“The buck took another step or two, got where I could see him better, and raised his head,” Wallace said. “I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, this isn’t that 8-point.’”
A big surprise
It was a beast of a buck and within range, but it was facing Wallace, behind his stand and to the right, offering no shot opportunity. The buck moved towards the stand and turned to the right even more, dodging a downed tree. There was nothing Wallace could do but let him come in close, hoping for a shot passing by at 5 or 6 yards. He lost sight of the buck momentarily but could hear him walking. Then, he heard the buck jump and start bouncing away. It’s over — he’s gone, the hunter concluded.
Fortunately, the buck stopped, and Wallace could see him at 17 yards. The deer was still too far to the right of the tree, hindering a shot. The buck turned and angled left, and Wallace leaned as far out as he could to keep his bow from making contact with the tree.
The buck took three more steps and presented a shot at 12 yards. Wallace was ready and drilled the buck through vitals. It hunkered and ran down the ridge and into a hollow. Everything got quiet.
It was 40 minutes before dark, and Wallace texted his son and told him what happened. After dark, the two took up a good blood trail, following it down the hollow, finally coming upon him lying in a ditch 2 feet wide and 3 feet deep, about 70 yards from where it had been shot.
“He was almost totally hidden in the ditch,” Wallace said. “It would have been hard to find him without a good blood trail.”
With the help of a close by nephew the hunters got his buck out and recovered the doe that had been shot earlier.
Tale of the tape
Wallace hasn’t had the buck officially scored but did a rough score on him himself. The 220-pound monster has a 19¼-inch inside spread, main beams that were 22¼ and 23¾ inches long. It has 13 scoreable points and three more sticks not quite but close to an inch long. He is roughly scored at the very high 140s, he may even go 150. Wallace said it’s his biggest buck to date and also the biggest one he’s ever seen while hunting.
Natchez State Park WMA
Natchez State Park WMA is about 10 miles north of historic Natchez. The state park covers 3,425 acres, with 2,457 acres available for hunting. Deer hunting is by permit-only and the application period to apply starts Aug. 1 and ends Aug. 31. Only Mississippi residents are eligible for the youth, primitive weapons and archery draw hunts. There’s also a handicapped draw hunt where anyone can apply. According to the DMAP report for Natchez State Park, during the 2018-19 season there were 40 deer harvested: 27 does and 13 bucks. Check online at mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting/wma for all the regulations.