Mississippi bow hunter downs monster buck
Probable state record fell to 56-yard shot; rack scored at 193 2/8
Michael Burkley downed the potential state-record archery buck in Mississippi during early October with a 56-yard shot in a harvested bean field.
That’s precisely how long the Natchez, Miss., resident had to wait to have a crack at a buck that haunted his dreams.
“This deer had me so wound up, I couldn’t sleep at night for two weeks,” Burkley said.
It was around the middle of September when Burkley, 27, first saw a buck that made his eyes bulge and his heart race.
“I got a game-cam shot of him (on Sept. 18), and also saw him several times with a spotting scope from about a thousand yards away,” he said.
As Burkley would soon discover, the behemoth sported a tangle of antlers that would greenscore 193 2/8.
Prior to the opening of the season, Burkley used the spotting scope every evening to track the patterns of the big buck, which was using a beanfield on a 2,000-acre tract of family land in Jefferson County, Miss., just across the Mississippi River from Tensas Parish.
When opening day finally arrived, Burkley set up for an afternoon hunt in an appropriate stand, but the buck stayed out of bow range.
The same pattern held true for the next two hunts.
“I’d see him around 6 o’clock every afternoon,” Burkley said. “There were always other deer with him, and I could have shot other deer — nice deer in the 150s — but the big one never got in bow range.”
But that changed on Oct. 4. Burkley and his dad, Louis, got on stand at around 5 p.m. that evening. For the first 20 minutes, they watched the barren beanfield, looking for any sign of deer movement on the edges. Then, it happened.
“He was the first deer to come out,” Burkley said. “He came running out in the field from a trail about 100 yards away, but he was angling toward me.”
The deer kept moving at a fairly brisk clip, so Burkley readied his bow.
“I grunted once, but he didn’t hear me, so I grunted again, and this time, he stopped,” Burkley said.
The deer was about 56 yards away, but Burkley had painstakingly prepared himself for this situation.
“I had ranged several spots in the field, so I had a good idea of the distance he was away from me,” he said. “I had one of my pins set for 40 yards, so I held it about 10 inches over his back, and let the arrow go.”
When it connected, Burkley could tell he had made a good shot.
“I knew I had whacked him, but I was a little unsure of the penetration at that distance,” he said.
The deer wheeled and ran into the woods. For the next hour and 10 minutes, Burkley’s emotions toggled between overwhelming joy and crippling anxiety as he pondered how the rest of his evening might turn out.
“Finally, at 6:30, I got down, and I saw where he spun around,” he said. “Then I found some specks of blood in the dirt.”
He walked the trail, and found more positive sign.
“The arrow had buried in him — there was no exit — but even still, he was bleeding pretty bad,” Burkley said.
With the sun still above the horizon, tracking the deer was easy. Finally, 150 yards from where the deer had been struck, Burkley’s fantasies from those sleepless nights were fulfilled. He saw the brute on its side, motionless.
“I started hollering,” he said. “This was the biggest deer I’d ever put my hands on. I’d killed deer in the mid-150s, but this was by far the biggest.”
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