So when a Waveland hunter bagged a 150-inch 9-pointer on Nov. 4, people sat up and took notice.
The fact that the hunter was a girl in the third-grade at West Hancock Elementary School also drew some notice.
Saylor Stiglet might not have gotten a shot at the big buck had she not forgotten to take the safety off moments earlier, while drawing a bead on a doe from a box blind she shared with her father, Jonathan Stiglet. In the moments it took her father to help her negotiate the safety on the borrowed rifle, the buck stepped out into a food plot at 95 yards.
She put a shot through the buck, which took off, circumscribing a 400-yard path through the woods that ended in a cutover, 75 yards from the place it was shot – watching its backtrail. With help from dogs belonging to Ben Ward of Gulfport, Jonathan found the deer two days later.
Big Hancock County buck
Ward rough-scored the deer at 158 6/8 gross and 149 4/8 net. If the latter score holds when the buck is scored after a 60-day drying period, it will be the biggest buck ever killed in Hancock County – according to the Magnolia Records Program.
“We’ve been hunting this buck for 3 years,” Jonathan Stiglets said. “This is one of my target bucks. We saw the deer on (trail) camera all summer, and we did a lot of work on the property, bush-hogging and disking.
“On opening day of youth weekend, she was about to shoot a doe, her first deer. She had her earmuffs on, went to pull the trigger, but the gun wouldn’t fire. ‘It didn’t go off,’ she told me. “I pushed the safety off, looked back, and the buck was down there; he’d just stepped out. I asked her, ‘Do you see him?’ and she didn’t. That’s when I told her she needed to move to the right, and she said, ‘Okay, I see him.’
“He got broadside, and she shot.”
The Stiglets climbed down from the elevated box blind headed to the spot where the buck had been standing and immediately found blood. The trail petered out after about 20 yards, and several hours later, after getting plenty of help, they gave up the search, agreeing to come back later and pick up where they’d left off.
Help from friends
That’s when a network of hunters and neighbors checked in.
“It seems like half the county was after this same deer,” Jonathan said. “He was all over the property we were hunting – the east, north, south and west ends. Everybody was calling me Sunday about him. And everybody kept telling me to call this guy, Ben. I called him Monday, and he brought his dogs. They found it in 30 or 45 minutes.
“The dogs trailed him for about 400 yards, the way he circled. He made a big hook, and he was looking on his backtrail. They found him 75 yards from the spot of the shot, in a 3- or 4-year-old cutover. We found it while she was in school, and when she got home, we had it all ready for pictures. The picture of her when she saw him, it was worth a million dollars.”
“She was a celebrity around Hancock County,” Jonathan said. “At the Dollar Store the other day, a man behind her in line said, ‘Aren’t you the little girl who shot the big buck?’”
Practice pays off
Jonathan Stiglets said he and his daughter began practicing in their backyard during the summer, shooting a Red Ryder BB gun to which he’d welded a scope. She shot all summer with the BB gun, and with a crossbow that was his original plan for youth weekend.
“We planned for her to hunt with the crossbow, but we couldn’t get the buck any closer to the box blind than about 100 yards, so I borrowed a buddy’s .243,” he said. “The shot was a little high and a little back.”
But it was good enough to drop the buck, which Ward put a tape on the 4×5 typical rack. He came up with 158 6/8 gross and 149 4/8 net, with a 19 4/8-inch inside spread, main beams measuring 24 ⅞ and 23 4/8 inches, one tine almost 11 inches, two more longer than 9 inches and another 8 ½ inches long.
The Magnolia Records program lists a 149-inch buck killed in 2014 by Cole Levi Stockstill as the biggest typical ever taken in Hancock County, ahead of Brennan Lee’s 143 6/8-inch buck, taken in 2013. Before the required 60-day drying period, Saylor Stiglets’ buck is, unofficially, a half-inch bigger.