Score this one!

Hunter Bower of Vaughn killed this monster palmated buck on private property in north Madison County.

Bower’s massive, palmated buck will be a challenge

I pity the guy, or guys, or team of guys who have to score the buck taken Dec. 17 by Hunter Bower of Vaughn. It could very easily be the toughest task he or they will face in 2014.

The odd rack sports about 26 to 30 points, depending on interpretation, is only 13 inches wide and sports more boney material above the hairline than you can imagine.


“I haven’t had him scored yet,” said Bower on Jan. 2. “He’s still caped out in the freezer. I can’t even start to imagine how they will go about it. When I called our biologist (Will McKinley of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks) and told him I killed it, he looked at the photo and said ‘that’s nasty.’”

Bower, who killed the deer on private property in north Madison County, plans to take the head to a taxidermist this week and to get an official scorer to take a look.

Expect that scorer to seek help. Simply identifying the main beams may take a while.

“Don’t have a clue,” Bower said, when asked whether it was a main frame 8 or 10.

Then he just started laughing.

You can bet Bower is hoping that the scorer considers the huge palmated sides as main beams, because if he can get four, five or even six circumference measurements between the corresponding points, that would be over 100 to 150 inches alone. I kid you not.

You know how most antler mass is described in terms of how one’s hand fits around the beam? This one can best be described in terms of how one’s spread-out hand is dwarfed by the big flat beams.

Seriously: If Bower has a ping-pong table at his deer camp, he should consider having copies of the antlers made into ping-pong paddles. They would be a little bigger than rules allow, but hey…

Runs through the herd

Surprisingly enough, palmated deer like this one are not rare where it was killed.

“Actually, we have always had one or two show up like that every few years, just not that big,” Bower said. “I know Dad has killed a couple and I killed one with my bow several years ago that I entered in the Wildlife Extravaganza’s big buck contest and won the youth archery ribbon.

“Guess we just got a weird gene running around in the gene pool up there that shows up from time to time. I know one of our neighbors killed one back around Thanksgiving that he swears is this one’s younger brother.”

Bower hasn’t officially aged the buck, since the jawbone is still intact, but he figures 4½ years.

“We’ve had photos of him the last two years beginning in August, and last year Mr. McKinley (the biologist) told us we should pass on him,” Bower said. “He thought he was only 3½ last year and wanted to let him go a year.

“This year, when we got him on camera again in August, he told us to take him out as a cull buck. From that moment on I started hunting him. I bad wanted to get him with my bow, but I never saw him.”

As it goes, nobody ever saw him with the naked eye, either this year or last year.

“Not once, and believe me, we were looking,” Bower said. “All of our photos were from between 2 and 3 a.m. and we just figured he’d gone completely nocturnal. We have 1,200 acres and it’s mostly Big Black River bottomland, and a lot is in WRP and is so thick you can’t see in it.”

On Dec. 17, Bower called his father, who is a patient at the M.D. Anderson Clinic in Houston, Texas, awaiting treatment.

“I call him every day especially about deer hunting and that day he told me to go to a six-acre clover patch he has behind the camp and try that,” Bower said. “That’s his place, and we don’t hunt it unless he’s there with us. He can’t hunt this year so he told me to try it out.”

The clover patch is nearly two miles from the cameras that had captured images of the freakish buck.

“It’s a long way and I had no idea that afternoon that he would be over there,” Bower said. “We knew the rut was about to start, that bucks would soon start chasing does so I went hoping it would happen.”

The property, under D-MAP (the state wildlife agency’s Deer Management Assistance Program) for 17 years, has produced its share of trophy bucks with the rut bringing them up out of the WRP. Just last year, Bower said, a poacher claimed what would have been the property’s first Boone & Crockett qualifier.

“Yep, a road hunter shot a buck on us last fall and this spring when we had someone clearing timber, they found the skeleton and the rack,” Bower said. “I had an extra cape and we had it mounted. It measured over 180 inches typical. It was high and wide, an 18-point with some 14-inch tines.”

Following a doe

Determined to get a big buck, Bower went to the clover field hoping the rut was on. Turns out, it was just starting.

“About 4 o’clock this lone doe came out in the field and made a big loop, and eventually got around behind me and got my scent and ran off,” he said. “About 30 minutes after that, this big buck came out on the exact same trail. He was making every step she had made, but I didn’t let him get far enough to get my scent.”

At 115 yards, Bower squeezed the trigger of his Thompson Center .308 and punched a hole through the shoulder of the big animal.

“He still managed to run off and reached the edge of the field,” Bower said. “I thought he reached the WRP and I freaked out. I called my buddy who was hunting with me in another stand and he said he was coming so I climbed out and was sitting below my stand.

“I texted a trail cam photo of the buck to my Dad in Houston and told him I had just shot that buck. He texted back to call him when I found it.”

Bower said he was still freaking out when his friend arrived.

“He walked over to the edge of the field and hollered out, ‘man, here’s your buck right here,’” Bower said. “It hadn’t made it to the WRP after all. It was just in the edge of the clover field.

“I called Dad, and he was proud, and wished he’d been there. So do I.”

*Don’t forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways.

Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.

About Bobby Cleveland 1342 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.