Sunday, January 13, 2013

Finding the Magnet!

Scott Berry recounts the story of his largest buck to date and what has to be one of the hottest acorn trees on the MS River this fall!

Early Nov. I had stumbled across a single oak tree that was raining acorns with so much deer sign under it I was amazed. We don't have very many oak trees on the river bottoms where I hunt and this tree doesn't drop every year so I knew I needed to camp out on it and needed to keep this info to my self. I immediately hung a climbing stand there and started hunting it that afternoon. I saw a lot of bucks but they seemed to be all spikes and button heads for two days. I had to leave but I could not stop thinking about this spot. I showed back up with great anticipation and started seeing better bucks I had a great 8 pt that would be close to 140 coming in every time I was there but he looked young. There is a $500 fine for shooting anything under 4 1/2 year old deer at my camp so I was not going to take that gamble but I really want to arrow this deer. Every time I saw him I was trying to age him him older but.... Lots of bucks were using this tree morning and afternoon and pretty much all day so I was patient. I would have 10 to 17 deer under me at one time so it was getting easy to wait on a mature deer. That last morning of bow season I climbed the tree and deer started coming in instantly, the first deer was the big young 8 and I was still drooling over him literally since all of them was under me with in 15 yards. Behind him was a new buck that I had not seen before and wow what a cull buck. First glance I knew this was the deer I wanted to shoot. He was only a 6 pt but had at least a 24" spread and heavy long tines. It took me fore ever to stand and get ready to shoot cause there were at least 10 deer under me looking every  where. I didn't know if I was about to pull this off or not. I finally got ready and was drawing my bow back when I heard something. I looked over at half draw and literally almost died. A big 10 had stepped 10 yards under me eating acorns. I was so glad I had not got ton to full draw cause I would have probably made a big mistake. Well when he was eating all the other deer got spooky and I thought it was going to be over right before my eyes. It took a long time to regroup and get set up to shoot the 10. The deer had me pegged and I didn't have a shot. I had to close my eyes three different times and take lots of deep breaths before every thing lined up. I was literally about to pass out and fall out of stand and going to land on at least three deer in the process. I finally calmed down and said a little prayer and every thing came together. He was broadside at 10 yards and I finally got a shot. I looked around to make sure nothing was looking at me. I drew back and put top pin on his heart and the bow went off automatically. Looked like a 12 ring but it happened so fast... All the deer took off about 50 yards and stopped. More deer was steadily trickling in around the commotion and I was not sure which deer was the one I had shot at. I was so jacked up I had to sit down so I would not fall out tree. I was looking with my binos to try to figure out what was going on. Every thing under the sun was racing through my mind... Is it a good shot... Did I miss... Then I saw a flicker of white in the middle of all the deer. It was the tail of a deer laying on the ground and then I could see his horns. I must have done it cause it wasn't long he stopped moving. He was laying not 40 yards from where I had shot. Then all the deer came back to tree to feed. I sat in my stand for another couple of hours not wanting to spook them but wanting to put my hand on them horns. Several more nice bucks came to tree to eat that I had never seen before. wow this was truly a deer magnet. I went to texting guys at my camp to share the good news and a buddy got so excited he came and ran the deer off for me so I could climb down and recover my buck.  He ended up being my best buck ever. He weighed 275 lbs was 6.5 yrs old and scored 153 1/8 . I still can't believe it really happens. Thank you Jesus!

Scott Berry with a MS River monster!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Proud Papas!!!

Here are a couple of guys that have had unforgettable seasons: Jim Cole & Rich Nichols.  I met both guys in college and have enjoyed sharing hunting stories with them ever since.  These are two of the best I've received from them by far!


Meredith Cole and dad, Jim, with her very first buck!
First let me start out that this girl has hunted hard since Thanksgiving.  My hunting spots are not really set up for two people or youths so that has made it difficult.  Last Sat. evening she shot a 17" wide 6 point that we have been hunting for two years and we lost him.  Only a little bit of blood and we found some brown/white hair.  She got discouraged but Daddy kept lifting her up and telling her it was ok.  Then Monday  morning I messed up and scared off a 3.5 year old 8 point trying to get her into position.  I told her I was sorry for screwing that up and she said it's alright we will keep trying.  So we kept trying.

The Hunt:

I picked Meredith up from YMCA camp later than I expected due to work.  This set us back about 30 minutes getting in the stand.  This stand is situated between the end of an oxbow lake and the Mississippi River.  You can walk across till the river gets about 24' then it is boat only.  There was no cover on the back of the stand so I took a blanket we used and put it up there the best I could to try to hide us if anything came from the South.  Meredith fell asleep as soon as we got settled in.  At 4:50 I woke her up and said time to start looking.  We were having fun watching ducks and herons come into the lake when I heard some movement behind us.  I saw the buck and told Meredith to look.  She could barely see him since he was in a thicket feeding.  I told Meredith to keep an eye on the food plot and I would watch the deer.  The deer came towards us and I told Meredith to look.  As soon as he got into the open Meredith said "Daddy he is a monster".  I asked if she wanted to shoot him and she said yes.  Now I knew this would be difficult due to the deer being behind us and the stand had no shooting rail in the back.  Meredith slowly stood up and turned around with her gun Santa brought her.  I extended my arm to the side rail of the stand and let her prop the gun up on my arm.  This put me into an awkward position where I could not see the deer due to my head being rested against a sycamore tree.  Meredith said she had the crosshairs on his shoulder so I said squeeze the trigger.  The 7mm-08 sounded off, I looked back at where the deer was and there he laid.  She put a perfect shot on 150 pound 5 point.  We reflected on the moment the Lord gave us for about 10 minutes and then it was time for the important call to Momma.  I can say there was nothing like seeing the look in her eyes when she walked up to buck.  We are both still pumped and I can't say enough of how proud I am of her.


Laura Lane Nichols and her dad, Rich, with her very first buck!

My phone rang around 7:00 p.m. just as I was pulling in my drive way.  I recognized the number but the voice caught me off guard, at least for a moment.  I quickly realized it was Laura Lane Nichols calling me from her dad's phone to tell me that she had her first deer in the back of the truck!  As she recounted the story, her voice was still a little shaky from excitement and I felt privilege to be on their short list of phone calls for such a memorable event. 
Dad and daughter were hunting in Yazoo county from a shooting house located on a green field that Rich had intentionally prepared for this occasion.  Laura Lane said that they spotted the buck on a hill across from the plot and watched him walk into the plot.  They had to watch the buck for a while since he was a little out of her range.  Finally, the buck moved a little closer and Laura Lane convinced her dad that she could make the shot.  According to Rich, he was actually trying to stop the buck while he walked across the plot but couldn't.  He was just fixing to tell his daughter to shot anyway when he was surprised by the sound of her 7mm08.  Laura Lane knew it was now or never and dropped the buck in his tracks!  Laura Lane laughed as she told me that her dad yelled to the top of his lungs, "LAURA LANE NICHOLS, YOU JUST KILLED YOUR FIRST DEER"!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Long Time Coming!!!

Got a story I want to tell.  This is one I've been waiting to tell since 1994....yep, 1994!  Back then, I decided to carry my bow on an afternoon hunt on opening day of rifle season despite opposing points of view.  That hunt ended with me harvesting my first buck with a bow - a two year old 9 point with about a 10" spread.  A fire was lit that evening and ever since, I've been driven to chase critters with my bow....but enough of that, let's get back to the story -

We were running late!  Josh and I had been given the green light from our families to spend the evening of December 30th and the morning of the 31st in the Whitetail Wonderland - the Mississippi River delta.  We rolled into camp around 2:45 p.m. that afternoon and immediately began gearing up to get in the woods ASAP.  With all our gear loaded onto the buggy, we struck out.  On the ride in, we bumped into another club member who was headed out.  He had hunted mid-day with no luck; however, he did provide us with a valuable nugget of information.  "Keep your eyes out for a big 6 point, " he instructed.  "He's a stud and trust me, you'll know him when you see him"!  With that little tidbit, we continued on.
Josh dropped me off first with detailed instructions as to where I should hang my climber.  Trust me, if there's one fellow you want giving you instruction as to where to hunt, its Mr. Thrash.  "Head down this road til you hit a food plot; take a right out of the plot and swing southeast around the back; pay attention to any sign you come across and hang your stand about 75 - 100 yards off the old lake bed."  And with that, I was on my way.
My extra cautious approached must have paid off.  I was actually pulling up my bow when I surveyed my surrounding and instantly spotted deer activity.  Once I had all my accessories in their rightful place, I grabbed my binoculars to inspect the hardwoods further.  Several bucks seemed to be swarming the area in the back of the food plot.  Since none of them were eating, I could only assume that one or more of the does in the area was about to come into estrous.  Only one buck appeared to be a shooter by club standards (20" main beam) and he didn't stick around long.  He simply faded off into the distant cover.  I attempted to grunt and "can" but only managed to bring in a two year old 7 point and a one year old 5 point.  Josh and I had been texting back and forth and it seemed that he wasn't seeing near the activity that I had been.  That's why it caught me off guard when a sonic "BOOM" nearly shook me from the tree.  Mere seconds had passed when "BOOM" once again.  Initially, I thought that someone must have slipped in on Josh's hunting spot and sniped one out from under him; that is, until I remembered him having a rifle on the gun rack of the buggy.  I pulled out my phone and text: "I'm not one to knock another man's equipment but your bow has got a little twang to it"!  Josh simply replied, "You think"!
Things had been quiet for Josh until a doe busted out of the old lake bed and onto the hardwood flat.  Hot on her trial was a nice buck that immediately caught Josh's attention.  Josh had carried both his bow and rifle to the stand.  It was apparent the buck wasn't going to make it into bow range so Josh swapped equipment.  The buck stopped in an opening about 80 yards out and that's all it took for Josh to seal the deal.  Being the opportunist he is, Josh decided to collect some doe meat too since she didn't run after the shot; besides, she was standing right by the road!  Josh and I loaded the cart and were off to the skinning rack.  After taking care of the deer, we built a nice fire at camp and talked strategy about the next mornings hunt.



The next morning we were in the woods and in our stands just as the sun was illuminating the eastern sky.  Owls were hooting and duck wings were whistling...there's just no place like the hardwood bottoms of the delta.  Forty-five minutes had passed without a single deer sighting at my location.  Having stood that entire time, I decided to relax a moment and read a little scripture.  I had just laid my Bible in my lap when I glanced to my right and notice the hind end of a small deer about 150 yards to the west.  A quick look through my binoculars proved it was a yearling so I didn't think much about it.  I was thumbing my way through the pages of the Word when I decided to take another glance to the west.  This time I notice what appeared to be a horse slipping through the open hardwoods.  Once again I reached for my binoculars.  "Shooter"!  Man, I immediately began stuffing my books back into my pack and stood to my feet to take in what was sure to be an interesting show.  Glassing the landscape off to my west, I spotted the huge bodied deer and immediately knew it was the Big 6 we had been told about the day before.  Further inspection resulted in me spotting one more doe and two more bucks.  The other two bucks were not "shooters" but still were very respectable deer.  It was obvious that one of the does was fixing to come into estrous and this big rascal was staking his claim.  Initially, I thought I didn't have a chance at these deer coming into range; however, that's until a third doe stepped around a tree top and began heading my way.  I hadn't noticed this one before but it was apparent that she was the one the Big 6 was following.  Slowly but surely, she made her way to within 30 yards of my tree.  The Big 6 cautiously followed her from a safe distance.  He finally stopped once he noticed that she began getting a little nervous.  The doe had finally gotten close enough to me that she began picking up a little of  my scent.  I had been made...or so I thought.  Turns out, she was unable to pinpoint exactly what it was she was sensing.  Instead of proceeding on the north side of my tree, she turned around and headed around the south side.  Unfortunately, the Big 6 was wise enough to watch which way she was heading and rather than follow her step for step, he simply headed her off.  I couldn't stand it; I ranged a stump that he was fixing to walk by at 50 yards and came to full draw.  But just as he was about to hit my mark, he began trotting to close the distance between he and the doe.  No shot opportunity presented itself.  

Soon after my close encounter, we decided to get down.  Josh and I had been chomping at the bit to push a small block of woods on the property and that's exactly where we headed.  The two of us decided that the wood lot was big enough to push it in two sections.  Josh asked if I wanted to push or stand first, I opted to stand.  I eased into position about center ways into the stand of timber.  To my left was a well traveled road and to my right a large oxbow lake.  From my position, I was about bow range from each edge.  I decided to take my stand behind a tree top that had blown down.  One of the big tree limbs come across me about waist high and I thought that would be just right to break up my outline.  
Almost immediately, I could hear deer heading my way.  As the approaching deer got closer, I decided to draw my bow, even though I couldn't see it.  At full draw, the deer, a doe, stopped about 12 steps in front of me to look around.  My tree limb that I thought would be "great" cover turned out to be a "great" hindrance for me.  Since I was standing behind the tree, I was unable to shoot out in front of my position.  I would now have to wait for this doe to walk a mere 6 to 7 steps off to my side.  Well, as you've probably guessed by  now, she boogered before I was able to get a shot off.  Once she passed I ducked under the limb and took my stand in front of it for what I hoped would soon be "Round 2".  Sure enough, I hear another limb snap out in front of me. This time it sounded as though the deer would be coming down the water line of the oxbow lake.  The sound got closer and soon I spotted white antlers slipping through the brush.  When the buck stepped out of brush, I immediately knew he was a shooter!  Directly, I spotted another buck behind him but knew that he didn't hold a candle to the monster looking my way.  The smaller buck continued down the waters edge but the big one began easing toward me.  Just then another limb snapped in the distance and the bruiser I was watching hurriedly came my way.  A small tree top was between us and the buck simply jumped over it.  What he did next though really caught me off guard.  Upon jumping the tree top, the buck bedded almost in one motion.  This rascal was slick!  I, on the other hand, was about to have a nervous break down.  The largest buck of my bow hunting career was bedded a mere 40 yards in front of me and I had little to no shot opportunity.  Naturally, I thought my chances of harvesting this dude had significantly diminished.  I figured the buck would stay bedded until Josh got right on top of us and then he would explode out racing right by me.  Well, just as all this was going through my head, another limb snapped up the trail and the buck was back on his feet closing the distance once again.  As the buck came up from his bed, I came to full draw and waited for him to enter my shot window.  Sure enough, as though he had read the script off a Primos video, the buck stepped to 20 yards and stopped!  My top pin settled on his vitals and I cut the shot.  "Smoked him"!  I actually think I said that out loud when the arrow hit him.  It all happened so fast, I don't exactly remember.  The buck scampered a few steps down toward the oxbow and behind some brush.  I immediately nocked another arrow and waited for him to step out from behind the brush.  I spotted his rack just before he stepped out from the behind the cover and soon saw him pile up less than 40 yards from where I shot him.  I was just about to lose touch with reality when the second buck that had been on the waters edge came running back towards me.  That rascal stopped less than 15 steps in front of me and was much better than I first thought.  He kept his focus on his back trail as Josh made his way closer and closer and eventually just slid past me down the wood line.  
 WOW - I could hardly believe the push worked as well as it did!  After the second buck slipped by, I looked up and there was Josh.  I figured I'd try to have fun with him, so when he walked up and asked, "what'd you see", I told him I had smoked a doe and let a good 8 point get by me.  He gave me a hi-five and then suggested we let her lay and go push the second half of the woodlot.  Well, seeing how I had not put my hands on my buck yet, I couldn't hold out that long.  So I told him, I'd like to put make sure she was dead before starting the next push.  Josh smelled a rat almost immediately and called my bluff.  I tried not to lead on that I was bluffing until we got within sight of the buck.  Josh stopped and took one hard look then asked, "son...what have you killed"!  My reply was simple, " A FREAKING MONSTER"!!!  The two of us celebrated the kill and took a couple of photos.  Then it was back to business.  We still had the second half of the woodlot to push.  Josh jumped back out on the road and drove the buggy to the far end.  I began easing through the woods with hopes that he would soon arrow the 8 point that I had just seen.  The anticipation was almost more than I could bare.  As I approached Josh, I couldn't tell if he had shot or not.  Unfortunately for Josh, the excitement of my recent success and the anticipation of his potential success was a little more motivation than I needed.  Apparently, I pushed a little too fast and ran the 8 point and several other deer past Josh at less than an ideal pace.  They came flying past him!  Thankfully, Josh wasn't too hard on me and we set out to retrieve my best buck to date.

One thing is for sure, the push would have never worked had Josh not progressed through the woods at the perfect pace.  He simply let his presence, not noise, push them in my direction.  These two bucks never hastened their pace much over a trot.  
Words can't do justice to the flood of emotions I experienced this particular day.  You know as well as I that when you hunt as a guest and are fortunate enough to harvest an animal, it doesn't always turn out well.  Jealousy, regret and even anger can rear its head ruining what should otherwise be a wonderful moment in God's creation.  I'm blessed to have a friend who enjoys sharing a spot in camp with me and who can celebrate a moment that I've been waiting for since 1994! 

My New Year's Eve buck along side my first buck taken with my bow in '94.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Late Season Motivational Video!

Here's an oldie but a goodie: October bow hunt in Pike County, IL and I'm shooting does...go figure!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

She's Tough as Nails!

I just received this email from lifelong friend, Brad Shivers.  Seems that he and I along with most of the crew we run with are in a similar stage in our lives where are kids are getting old enough to join us in the woods. gonna have to pull the reins back on Meredith, we can't have her showing up these boys!  

Just had to share one of my most favorite and best hunts I have ever been on. My oldest daughter Meredith is 5 and has hunted with me before but never wanted to stay long. Well today she showed me just how tough she is and I honestly feel that I have a future deer hunter coming up !!!!  35 deg weather and this girl sat with me from 2:30 till 5:30 in a box blind without a buddy heater ( cause Daddy forgot it). I took a set of ear phones for my phone thinking she would play on it to keep from getting bored. Maybe 10 mins top she played a game then she put it up and said Daddy I can't see no deer if I'm playing this game. Boy u talk about a BIG smile on my face !!!! So about 4:00 we had a small buck chasing a doe behind us. She never could see it good so I broke out the grunt and can and hit it. We lost him for about 15 mins then he appeared over my left shoulder on the wood line. I hit the grunt and Meredith hit the can and here HE COMES !!!! He came to 20yds from the blind. As I'm getting a good look at him to see if he meets what we were looking for I hear Mere say " Daddy shoot that sucker " !!! At that point I said I got to shoot this deer. Well he eagled eyed us and turned and ran back to the wood line where I saw BIG BOY standing and watching all that had been going on !!! I told Mere to be still and that girl froze and was ready for me to shoot. Well, the buck never presented a shot but he prolly would have been my biggest buck to kill !!! Just to have her there with me was an AWESOME experience. She was smiling and was excited. I know all of you have kids and some of you have experienced the same feeling but I just had to share this with y'all !!! It definitely made this Daddy smile to see her enjoy what we all have grown up enjoying !!!!!!!!! Hope all of you have had a Merry Christmas. Check out some pics below. Maybe next time it will be of us sitting behind a big buck !!!!

Windy Day Buck

Christmas Day in Mississippi was anything but typical as far as the weather is concerned.  It's safe to say that it literally rained all day.  Rich Nichols and I talked around 8:00 pm that night about weather or not to hunt the next morning.  The approaching cold front had the wind howling out of the west. 
Since it rained all day, we both agreed that the bucks should be cruising pretty heavy that night which should result in a mature buck hanging out longer than usual on the 80 acres we had permission to hunt. 
We met before daylight at the gate and decided that Rich would hunt a stand he and I hung back in early November.  The stand had never been hunted.  It's a tight spot, the kind bow hunters love this time of year.  The normal route to this stand puts the hunter approaching it from down wind.  Since Rich had a bottle of Tinks 69 in his pocket, he decided to walk a little further up the each of the drain until he pasted the stand location.  His reasoning was simple: if a buck approached from upwind, he should cut Rich's trail of Tinks and cruise right into bow range.
With winds gusting up to 25 mph, Rich waited for the first lull before doing some aggressive grunting.  Within minutes, Rich caught movement in the pines.  Immediately he glimpsed a rack!  The buck eased in to investigate the grunting and wouldn't you know it, he walked right into the scent path that Rich had just laid.  "He followed my boot tracks like a hound dog", Rich explained.  With his nose to the ground, the buck walked to 17 steps where Rich stopped him and put a perfectly placed arrow in his vitals.  The buck simply jumped a drain full of water and trotted to 40 yards.  He stood there a few seconds and then started swaying and staggering.  Soon the buck crashed back into the drain and expired. 

If there's one thing I love, its sharing hunts with guys or appreciate the details of the hunt as much as I and Rich definitely fits that description.  We literally retraced the bucks trail and you could see his tracks and Rich's boot tracks together where he initially approached from.  What a strategy....what a hunt!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Fall 2012 Highlights - From the Rocky Mtns to the Piney Woods!

Dad and I made a trip out to Colorado back in September.  He drew a limited muzzleloader tag for a public unit.  The fourth day into our hunt, we had a significant weather system to sweet across the mountain and it had the bulls on their feet.  Dad and I caught this bull in some open aspens looking for cows.  More to come on this hunt once I finish writing a more detailed account for The Buff Pad!

My cousin, Les Dungan and friend, Lee Mock made it out to Colorado for a week of rifle hunting.  Lee busted this fine 6x6.  My uncle, Herman Dungan, also shot a nice 6x6 bull on this trip. 

Back home in Mississippi, Rich Nichols drew an early season archery hunt on Cane Mount Plantation.  This newly acquired wildlife management area in south MS has been known to hold some big, old bucks.  In the first 30 minutes of Rich's hunt, this old, sad rascal strolled through the hollow below him feeding on White Oak acorns.  Rich made a well placed shot and 4 hours later got this bruiser out from the bottom of one of those mean Claiborne county canyons!  The buck was a basic 7 point and had 25" main beams!!!

Meet "The Big 6".  Brad Shivers and a couple of his club members found the Big 6 early this year on their new lease.  Work kept Brad and others out of the woods for most of October, so when November rolled around alot of the hunts were dual purpose - hunting & scouting.  On one such trip, Brad found a considerable amount of sign in a relatively secluded area of the club.  That evening, with rifle and climber, Brad headed back to see what might show up.  Around 4:30 a doe emerged from a thicket and not long after Brad distinctly heard a deer grunting!  Everything after that happened fast according to Shiver.  Soon, Brad caught movement in the thicket and guess who stepped out - BIG 6!

The first week of November, a group of guys I know from south MS headed up to southern IL.  Right out the gate, guys were seeing bucks on their feet but it seemed that with each passing day, the activity decreased.  Mr. Bruce Brady, shown above, was the only hunter in camp who had been seeing deer consistently.  With the exception of a close encounter at first light one morning, he hadn't seen a deer.  That's pretty hard to swallow when you're sitting a stand from daylight to dark for 6 days.  Well on the next to last day of their hunt, Bruce returned to the ground blind he had the close call in, and at noon this buck followed a doe to within just a few yards of Bruce's blind.  That's some serious perseverence!

Michael Penn, of Penn's Catfish, traveled to IL with a muzzleloader tag burning a hole in his pocket.  It didn't take him long to catch a nice mid-west buck on his feet and within range of his Thompson Center.

Good friend, Clay Snider shot me an email the other day.  He harvested this unique buck on the bank of the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa, AL.  Clay said the buck simply stepped out in his food plot, put his head down and started eating.

Kallum Herrington is the hunter in the photo above and below.  Kallum and I grew up together and trust me when I say, this fellow can get it done in the woods or on the water!  Kallum has been hunting some ground around Bayou Pierre for several years now and has taken some fine bucks.  He shot me these photos the other day. 

You've heard that even a blind hog will find an acorn from time to time, well....oink, oink!  I was fortunate to have this buck come in to my first rattling sequence on December 23rd.  He caught me WAY off guard and as a result I rushed my shot.  Realizing I had hit him low and back, I stayed off the trail until the next morning.  Fortunately for me, I had Rich Nichols and his dog, Chase, helping with the trail.  Rich and I followed blood about 250 yards until finally we decided to get Chase.  Chase cruised around for a while and then drifted off to our east.  Rich decided to go see what he was into over there and found him standing over my buck.