Clay Toms has visited deer camp for many years. He grew up in northern Louisiana, where he still lives today, but his family and friends had a deer camp across the border in Arkansas. His father first took Clay to hunt deer at this rustic camp, which has no electricity and no running water, when he was 6 years old.
Clay's dad would not be in camp this year. He passed away over the summer. But his management legacy would live on and Clay's incredible buck would serve as a testament to that fact.
Neighbors had seen the giant buck and had trailcam photos as well. In fact, one young lady on the neighboring property had an encounter with the deer the previous year, but it didn't unfold in her favor. She named the deer “Moose” because of the palmation of its antlers. A trail camera photo showed that on Sunday, the deer was more than a mile away from where Clay shot it on Tuesday morning.
Clay was sitting in a box blind being annoyed by mosquitoes that hot morning, not expecting much activity. But he could hear deer behind him in a pine thicket.
“They were making a racket back there, and I could just get a glimpse of the deer now and then,” he said. “I could tell from the big body and dark rack that it was a big buck, but I couldn’t see him. I just knew he was chasing does back there.”
There are three shooting lanes in that pine thicket, and a doe stepped out into one of them 80 yards away, fed for a moment, and then ran off.
“It happened really fast,” Clay said. “He stepped out behind the doe and just looked my way for a moment. He just gave me time to get the sights on him and shoot.”
The buck dropped at the shot, but quickly got back to its feet before disappearing the way it had come.
“I went down there and found no sign of him at all. So I went back to the stand and sat down to think about it for a moment,” Clay said.
Clay was sure that everything about the shot felt good, so he went to look once more and found some scuffed-up ground where the buck may have gone.
“I followed the marks for 20 yards and found one small speck of blood, so I kept following the scuffed-up pine needles until I found another spot of blood. I stepped through some thick cover and there he was at my feet, not 40 yards from the shot,” he said. “The feeling of walking up on that buck was indescribable. My family had a tough year, losing both my father and my brother-in-law. When I found the buck I just looked up and said, ‘Thanks Dad!’”
One of the guys in camp scored the buck and taped it out at 180 inches, but the deer has not yet been scored officially.
Regardless of the final tally, some bucks are far more impressive than a score would indicate. This Arkansas "Moose Buck" is one of them.