On October 22, Fletcher Culpepper shot a massive 260-pound buck in Worth County, Ga. The whitetail shattered the county’s existing record, and will likely become the third largest non-typical ever harvested in the state. Here’s how Culpepper’s incredible hunt unfolded. -All Photos By Amanda Gray
The private land Culpepper hunted this season gives up big bucks every year, so he and his family agreed to shoot only mature bucks. “We weren’t shooting any small management bucks, or anything like that,” Culpepper said, referring to his dad and his brother. “Unless it was going on the wall, we weren’t going to shoot it.”
Georgia’s firearm season began October 20, and Culpepper hunted opening weekend without success. He recently underwent surgery on his right shoulder, and consequently chose a treestand that would allow him to shoot left-handed. But the night before Culpepper’s third day hunting the stand, his younger brother, Trevor Culpepper, tipped him off about two fighting bucks.
For 20 minutes Trevor listened to what sounded like two huge bucks fighting, about 300 yards away from their dad’s treestand. “He said they were tearing down trees and snorting and wheezing,” Culpepper said. “It just sounded terrible. And he was almost scared to get down out of his stand.”
Trevor’s friend planned to hunt that stand the next day, but Trevor thought Culpepper should use his stand, where he had seen plenty of deer. Culpepper took his advice, and climbed into his brother’s stand the next morning at 6:30 a.m. He learned shortly after that Trevor’s friend wouldn’t be hunting after all, so the treestand close to the buck brawl was free. He stayed where he was and saw a small eight-pointer. But he let it walk past, and relocated to his dad’s stand at 9 a.m. That’s when things got interesting.
As Culpepper crept toward the stand, he caught a glimpse of a deer walking into a thicket. He suspected more deer were browsing in the food plots nearby, and quietly began to climb the lean-to ladder. Halfway up he looked around and spotted a doe and a yearling 70 yards away, staring right at him. Culpepper froze, not wanting to spook them. He hung on the rungs for about two minutes, unable to move up or down. And that’s when his big buck walked out. “And of course, I started shaking and breathing really hard and didn’t know what to do, and he’s just down there casually taking a bite of corn and looking up the hill,” Culpepper said. “It looked like he was looking at me, but really I think he was looking at [the doe]. Obviously he didn’t have a clue I was there.”
Luckily, the doe and yearling finally turned away to walk down the hill and past the buck. The buck followed. All three deer were facing away from Culpepper, which allowed him to finish climbing and situate himself. But by the time he turned around they were gone. He tried to move them out with the Buck Roar grunt dangling at his wrist. He hit it twice, and thirty seconds later the yearling crossed back over the path. Then the doe. Culpepper flicked his safety off, expecting the buck to follow. When the bruiser finally stuck its head out, Culpepper put his eye down to his scope, but couldn’t see anything. “I’d been breathing so hard I fogged my scope up,” he said. He cleaned the scope and waited a full minute for the buck to step forward and expose its vitals. Culpepper could only see its neck and was reluctant to pull the trigger. “And finally he stepped out to where I could take the shot, and I shot and he dropped,” Culpepper said. “He didn’t run anywhere, he dropped right in his tracks.”
Culpepper took the monster buck with his Remington 30.06. It’s his lucky gun, and he already has three 10-points on his wall to prove it. When he set up the shot, it didn’t occur to him to try with his left hand. “I ended up shooting right handed,” Culpepper said. “I didn’t even think about my shoulder when I saw that deer down there.” Culpepper’s dad reached the buck first. He had driven to the property to camouflage his treestand, but checked in with Culpepper and learned he’d just bagged a buck. “He hollered up [at me] that I might have a state record, and I laughed at him, I thought he was joking,” Culpepper said. “And I got down there, and I couldn’t believe what I saw to be honest with you. It was crazy, I had no idea what I shot when I pulled the trigger.” When they realized they were dealing with a potential record-breaker, the Culpeppers called the game warden. They wanted to ensure they followed protocol and avoided any suspicion of an illegal harvest. When the warden arrived on site he called a second game warden, and the four tagged and moved the deer together.
Culpepper took the buck to a processor and the head to a taxidermist. He is planning a behind-the-shoulder mount for the buck, but isn’t sure he can keep such an incredible deer in the same room as his current three 10-point mounts. The taxidermist aged the deer at 4.5 years, and asked Culpepper to look after the antlers; he didn’t want responsibility for keeping the rack in his shop. Bill Cooper, an official measurer for Boone and Crockett Club, drove over from Tifton to score the antlers. The buck’s non-typical net green score measured 233 2/8 inches. The current Worth County non-typical record is 211 4/8, taken by Wade Patterson in 1988. When Cooper measures the buck’s official score after the mandatory 60-day drying period, it should sweep the county record and become the third largest non-typical ever shot in Georgia. The current first, second and third place records are 248, 240, and 231 respectively. Unless the Culpepper buck shrinks several inches in the next two months, it should edge out the third record. “I knew that it was a huge deer,” Culpepper said. “I obviously had no idea it was that big.”
Fletcher Culpepper took this incredible 233-inch buck which is a county record and could go down as the third largest Georgia buck of all time.