When an Iuka man pulled the trigger on what appeared to be a good buck, what followed left him in disbelief.
“I mean it’s crazy,” Josh Clark said. “It took me two or three days to understand what I shot.
“I killed him on Wednesday and the whole way home I kept looking back in the truck saying, ‘Man, I didn’t kill that.’”
But he did and what he killed was a monster — a main-frame 11-point with a total of 18 points. It’s a potential state record for typical bucks harvested with a firearm. It was also a hunt that almost went wrong on multiple levels.
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Clark had applied to hunt at Canemount Wildlife Management Area in Claiborne County and received a permit to hunt Zone 3. Clark said he has hunted at Canemount previously but was unfamiliar with the zone he was assigned. So, on the advice of the owner of the cabin where he was staying, he went to an area near a creek to hunt and look for signs of deer.
“Monday morning I hunted about two hours,” Clark said. “It was crazy the rubs I saw.
“The trees were the size of power poles, and the rubs were three and four feet high. I knew there was a big deer there.”
Clark hung a tree stand nearby but no big bucks appeared. Clark returned on Tuesday, but the day came and went and still no big deer. With only one day left, Clark felt he should relocate. He offered his stand to his hunting partner but his partner declined. So, at the last minute, Clark gave the area one final chance.
“When I got off the four-wheeler, I started spraying Buck Bombs (deer attractant),” Clark said. “I ran out of one can and got another and sprayed all the way to the stand.”
Once in the stand, Clark pulled a few more things from his bag of tricks. He rattled antlers. He used his grunt call. He rattled and grunted more but with no response. He gave up.
“I didn’t feel confident where I was at,” Clark said. “I lowered my gun down to the ground.
“When I stood up to turn around, I saw a main beam. I said, ‘Oh, my goodness.’”
So there he was — standing in a tree stand, his rifle dangling from a rope and a huge buck was coming. The situation was less than ideal. Clark pulled his rifle back up, picked out an opening ahead of the deer and when the buck’s shoulder came into view, he fired.
That caused another problem. The recoil from his .35 Whelen rifle hit Clark so hard he didn’t see if he’d hit the deer. In fact, the gun knocked his hat down over his eyes. When he pulled his hat up, Clark saw the deer running and thought he’d missed. But just as it went out of sight, he noticed the buck was limping.
Clark climbed down and walked to the rise in the land where he last saw the deer. When he topped the hill, he saw the deer was down and got his first good look at the antlers.
“When I came over the hill I saw a main beam,” Clark said. “By this time, I’m freaking out.”
The buck had 18 points, main beams in the 25-inch range, a 19-inch spread and 7-inch bases. One unofficial score put the deer at 205 inches, which would make it the highest gross-scoring typical on record in Mississippi. Subsequent scores were closer to 200 inches.
“When we gross-scored him at 205, he was in the back of the truck,” Clark said. “I think we’re in the 199 to 202 bracket.”
The antlers are required to dry for 60 days before it can be officially scored. It will need a net score higher than 184 ¾ inches to become the next state record.
Canemount WMA was acquired by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks with the intent of offering hunters opportunities to harvest trophy deer. Chad Dacus, MDWFP Wildlife Bureau director said Clark’s deer shows what the WMA is capable of producing.
“It’s going to be one of the largest deer ever killed on public land,” Dacus said. “This is one of the reasons we wanted to purchase property like this.
“The property had been managed for trophy deer before we purchased it. All that hard work is paying off. Being able to give an opportunity to take a deer like this makes it all worth it.”
From Clark’s point of view, it was worth it, too.
“It’s what you dream of growing up,” Clark said. “What made it even better was that I killed it on public land.
“Not too many people can say they shot a 200-inch deer on public land.”