Smiths, mom and son, score big in Wilkinson County

Her 165-inch 10 point is 3/8-inch more than his thick 12

Turner Smith of Flowood has every right to be proud of the club record 164 5/8-inch buck he killed Dec. 29 in Wilkinson County, after committing all his time and skills to the 12-point.

“It was the first time in my life that I have done that, deciding to get so involved with just one buck, but that’s what I did,” said Smith, 33, who works in the financial management office of the Mississippi Department of Transportation. “I went all in on this buck, and once I did that, it was all I could think about.”

That said, why was he so happy to talk about another buck, one his mom took Jan. 14 at the same club?

“Mom killed a gorgeous 10-point that measured 165 inches,” Turner Smith said. “I couldn’t be happier about that. You know what, I broke a club record that had stood for about 15 years. She broke my record in 16 days.”

Augusta Smith of Natchez killed this 165-inch 10-point Jan.14, just 16 days after her son Turner Smith had set a club record with a 164 5/8-inch 12 point.
Augusta Smith of Natchez killed this 165-inch 10-point Jan.14, just 16 days after her son Turner Smith had set a club record with a 164 5/8-inch 12 point.

Said mom Augusta Smith: “What’s funny about it is that I won’t just shoot any buck. I’m very particular in that I won’t shoot anything that isn’t bigger than the last one I killed. Guess that means it’s going to be a long time before I get another shot. The last one was seven years ago, about a 130-inch 8-point.”

How the son and mother killed their two bucks couldn’t be more different. His ended a month’s long pursuit in the heart of the thick woods. Hers came in a T-shaped food plot.

Similarities? Sure: Both bucks had been seen by other hunters and been captured on cameras, both were shot with .270 rifles, and both were shot less than an hour after the hunters reached their stands.

“I was riding in to the stand at 2:30,” Augusta Smith said. “I was jumping deer out of every field I passed, and I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m too late.’ I was hunting in a T-shaped food plot and I’d heard there had been another big buck hanging around. My daughter said she thought she jumped a big buck (and later guessed it was the one her mom killed) the day before, and a few days earlier a youngster was hunting the same field from the same stand and right before dark he saw a big buck and had gotten a dark photo of it through the scope. I don’t know why he didn’t shoot it, but I’m glad he didn’t.

“I jumped a couple of deer out of the field when I got there, but I got on up in the stand, which is elevated and enclosed. There was a north wind, so I opened all the windows but the south one.”

Worries of jumping deer quickly subsided. Deer were moving, and crossing her field.

“When I got there, a doe and a yearling crossed the field and went to the woods where the big buck eventually came from,” she said. “Those two came back out, and then a few minutes later a doe and two yearlings came out right behind them. Then an 8-point came out with his nose to the ground, but he wasn’t pushing the does and they weren’t running from him. I was looking at him through my scope and I looked behind him and there was another buck walking into the field.

“Right behind him — I just happen to look over — was this big buck. He was about 80 to 90 yards away and he was eating. When he raised his head maybe to swallow I could see his antlers and I said, ‘OK, wow, that’s him.’ I couldn’t shoot right away because he was walking right toward me. He kept coming and I had to wait for him to turn. Finally, at 70 yards, he did and I shot. He spun and went straight down.”

Augusta Smith celebrates her 165-inch buck with her husband Billy Key Smith and her grandsons.
Augusta Smith celebrates her 165-inch buck with her husband Billy Key Smith and her grandsons.

In the river bottoms of Wilkinson County, cell phone signals can come and go, and while Augusta’s husband, Billy Key Smith, heard the shot, none of her texts were getting through. Others were seeing them but not Billy Key.

“But he had heard my shot and he knew,” she said. “He walked a mile back to camp to get his truck — I had the 4-wheeler — and he drove down there. By then he had gotten texts from the kids that I had a big buck down.”

Big? Yep, it qualifies with 25-inch main beams, 10-inch tines, 18½-inch spread and good mass. The deer weighed just 168 pounds, “much smaller than he had been in one of the scope pictures we had of him in December. He must have worked off a lot of weight during the rut. He’d been busy.”

The half-inch more that it measured above her son’s buck broke his record, but not his joy and not his enthusiasm over his successful months-long stalk of the buck.

Turner Smith was well aware his big buck existed.

“My brother had seen it during archery season at 100 yards but all he had was a bow,” he said. “I usually only bow hunt but on this deer, as big as it was, I decided to take the gun. We’ve killed a lot of good deer at our club, which the members own, and a lot of 150-class bucks, but we’ve never topped 160.

“We also had gotten a lot of pictures of it last season. He was a main-frame 10 then, too, but had more split stickers. This year he had lost some of the stickers but had gained a lot of mass.”

Turner Smith committed all his deer hunting time and effort to this big 12-point, and scored 164 5/8 inches on Dec. 29.
Turner Smith committed all his deer hunting time and effort to this big 12-point, and scored 164 5/8 inches on Dec. 29.

It was enough to whet Turner Smith’s appetite.

“We had other members getting pictures, mostly at night,” he said. “I decided I was committed to him and I printed out a map of the club and started putting stars to mark the locations of all the reported pictures and sightings. When I finished, I noticed that there was this one small hardwood bottom at the very center of the marks. I figured he had to be using that bottom so I had a plan. On Dec. 6, I dove off into that bottom and hung three cameras. Two days later I started getting pictures of him.

“That bottom runs north and south between extremely steep ridges, at least 30 feet high. I decided not to take a stand in there because I could hunt from the ridges and be elevated. Being one on the east and one on the west, I had choices for any wind and I had different routes in and out.”

Thus began a long hunt, over many weekends.

“Ten straight hunts, I went to that bottom,” Turner Smith said. “I had seen a lot of deer including some decent bucks but I was committed. On the 10th hunt, the morning of the 29th, I saw him. I got in there and got set up in my little home-made ground blind of bamboo and palmettos. I had a good view of this one big white oak tree on the opposite ridge. There had been an old barren doe feeding there every day I had been there. I knew it had to be dropping acorns. I felt good because I had gotten a photo of him around 2 a.m. that morning so I knew he was in the area.

This trail cam photo at 2 a.m. the morning before the buck died assured Turner Smith the trophy deer was still in his core area.
This trail cam photo at 2 a.m. the morning before the buck died assured Turner Smith the trophy deer was still in his core area.

“I was settled in by daylight and at about 7 I saw a big ol’ hog come through, and we usually shoot every hog we see. But I let this one pass. I had too much on the line. About 10 minutes later, I saw a deer walking about halfway up the opposite ridge, right where the big hog had come from, walking straight to that white oak. He was about yards away and I saw him with the naked eye. I put the binoculars on him and saw those antlers.”

Smith knew immediately that everything he had worked for had a pretty good chance of happening in the next few moments.

“When I saw it was the buck I had been chasing, I got ready,” he said. “I had a makeshift shooting stick, a stick split at the top that I could use as a rest. Between where the deer was where I was is thick, and I had this one hole to shoot through and all that I could see in it was his antlers. I needed him to take one step and put his chest in that hole.

“I needed one step and he took two. The next thing I see is his belly and guts and no way was I going to risk that shot. I put the gun down and got binoculars up to start looking for any shooting opportunities. I knew that if he took a few steps he would be clear and there was no where he could move that I couldn’t get a shot. So I picked up the gun and then I couldn’t find him in the scope. I looked for a while, maybe a minute and was starting to panic.”

Smith scanned the entire area around and under the big white oak, but couldn’t find him.

“I felt like he was still there but I needed to get him to move,” he said. “I picked up a grunt tube and gave a half-roar grunt to get his attention. I saw him lift the rack. He was 10 yards left of where I had been looking. This time he needed only one step and that’s all he took. I shot him.”

The buck was quartered away, facing uphill still halfway up the far ridge. The shot ripped through his vitals.

“I saw him buck and run and then I heard him crashing,” Smith said. “I could hear him rolling down the hill and then it was quiet. He was done.”

Turner Smith and his dad Billy Key Smith celebrate the son’s giant buck.
Turner Smith and his dad Billy Key Smith celebrate the son’s giant buck.

Smith contacted his dad to let him know that the big buck was down.

“We had a plan to get the buck out by water,” he said. “We have a 15-acre fishing lake and a finger of it runs up to that bottom. Dad said we’d get a boat and that would beat dragging the deer up the hills.”

Gross scored at 164 5/8 inches, the 12-point was a main-frame 10 with both G2s split, one seven inches and the other five.

“Looks like a mule deer,” Smith said of the split G2s. “What he had was great mass, with 5 3/8-inch bases and that mass carried out throughout the 22- and 20.5-inch main beams. The total mass score was 35½ inches. He was just 15 inches wide but he had an 11-inch G3 on one side.”

Combined, mom and son have over 325 inches of antlers to add to the family’s trophy wall. That’s awesome.

Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1145 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.