JACKSON, Miss. — When a giant buck that will likely become the Mississippi record for typical archery walked under an Oxford hunter's stand, it wasn't a chance encounter. Earl Stubblefield had been watching the deer grow for years.
"I have known of the deer for three years," Stubblefield said. "When I saw the pictures of him (the first two years) he was a 10-point each year.
"He had a really pretty rack. It was weird he had such a perfect rack."
Stubblefield also found one side of the buck's shed antlers after the past two deer seasons. Knowing the buck was very symmetrical, he scored one side of the shed antlers, doubled it and gave him an imaginary spread. The first year, the young 10-point was estimated to measure 117 inches. The second year, the growing buck blossomed into a respectable 140-inch class deer.
This year, Stubblefield expected the buck to reach the 150s, which would make him roughly 10 inches larger than the county record.
"That would be a giant for this area," Stubblefield said. "They don't get that big up here."
In preparation for archery season, Stubblefield began surveying the herd with cameras. A week after, he checked a camera set up on the edge of a bean field. It only had 15 pictures on the memory card, but some of them were of the buck he'd been watching and he'd grown more than expected.
"That deer walked right in front of the camera," Stubblefield said. "I was like, 'Oh, my gosh! This deer's a 12-point.'
"After I got the first pictures, I put out every camera I had in the area to find out where he was coming out and into the bean field. After I figured out his pattern I hung stands there in the first week of September. I didn't go back at all. I just left it alone."
When archery season arrived, Stubblefield sat and watched the field twice. Both times, he saw plenty of deer, but no sign of the buck he was after. That was no surprise, however. Stubblefield had never seen or even gotten pictures of him in daylight hours. That would change at 6:55 p.m. on Oct. 8.
"I went out there that evening," Stubblefield said. "When the deer came out, there were about 10 deer in the field.
"I was sitting there and a four-point came out and walked right underneath me and went in the bean field. About a minute later, he came out and walked right underneath my stand."
Stubblefield drew and waited for a clear shot and the deer gave it to him at 27 yards. With the buck quartering away, Stubblefield smacked him and the buck high-tailed it into the dry, dusty bean field.
"He ran about 80 yards and just dropped," Stubblefield said. "It was so dry, when he took off it looked like a smoke trail.
"He ran right out in the bean field and crashed. It looked like a bomb went off it was so dusty."
Stubblefield recovered the deer and it was everything he had hoped for and more. How much more? He wasn't sure.
"It wasn't until I put a tape on him and started getting these crazy numbers that I realized how big he was. I thought he would be the biggest deer killed in Lafayette County archery, but it never crossed my mind he would be a state record."
Certified scorer Ronnie Cannon of Oxford confirmed the numbers. The monster buck grossed 180⅞ inches and netted 179⅛ inches. It bested the state record by 5 ⅞ inches.
"It being a 12-point, which is a bit of a rarity, and being as symmetrical as he is is even more rare," Cannon said. "The symmetry of the rack is exceptional."
The symmetry isn't the only thing that puts the buck over the top. The buck sported matching 27¼-inch main beams with G3s and G4s measuring over 9 inches. His bases measured 5⅛ inches and the spread was 17⅜ inches.
To be officially confirmed as the new state record, the antlers must go through a 60-day drying period. Cannon said the rack will lose little during that time.
"I'm going to say shrinkage is going to be minimal," Cannon said. "The horns are hard.
"The skull plate may have a little shrinkage, but it will be minimal. From what I know right now, unless someone comes out of the woodwork, it's going to be the state record."