Fainting dead away might’ve been the only thing Joshua Bruce didn’t do during the last day of his 2012 hunt at Giles Island.
He shook, probably squeaked, banged his rifle on the shooting house window, lost the use of his fingers and fell down twice. If he’d had any nerve pills, he might’ve chipmunked a handful.
He was as rattled as a mouse in cage full of cats, and with good reason.
“It took me awhile to realize I’d actually shot this buck,” he said of the nearly 270-inch (gross) whitetail that was his ungluing. “I then spiked my hat, like a football player, and started dancing around inside the shooting house. It was not exactly my best moment as a sportsman.
“Later, when T-Bird and I were going to look at it, nothing on my body was working properly,” the 32-year-old disabled veteran continued. “My fingers couldn’t hit the right buttons on my phone, and my legs wouldn’t work. I fell down twice while walking to the deer.”
T-Bird — real name Tony Klingler — was his guide that morning, the man who told Joshua he could shoot, the man who knew that waiting increased the odds of the deer’s being hit only by an echo. Before the bullet left the gun, both men knew exactly which buck was in the crosshairs: a deer everyone at Giles Island called The Rock.
“He was named The Rock after the first bowhunter, Roc Dickey, who had to pass him up (in 2011),” said Jimmy Riley, who manages the hunting operation. The deer was off-limits then because it had broken off the right side of its rack.
Jimmy knew the buck’s rack, intact, would easily top 200 inches. It was no doubt the largest anyone had ever seen roaming the palmetto-laced lowland.
“The Rock kept showing up pretty regularly in 2011, at least two or three times a week,” Jimmy added. There’s even footage of the deer on the Giles Island website.
Joshua saw the buck four or five times during a hunt there in 2011, specifically the second leg of his maiden hunt at Giles.
Driven by the desire to shoot a big buck and weary of hunting club politics, Joshua researched outfitters on the Internet and liked what he saw and read about the Mississippi River island — technically in Mississippi, but on the Louisiana side.
Joshua bowhunted Giles Island in October that year, when he saw a grand total of four deer.
“It was 90-something degrees,” he said. “Some kind of hot cell had settled over the area.”
Conditions were better when he returned with his rifle in December.
Anyone who books two three-day hunts at Giles Island is allowed to shoot two trophy bucks. Clients may shoot one on each hunt, two on the first hunt, or two on the second hunt.
“Shoot them while the hunting is good,” Jimmy Riley tells his clients.
On the second day of Joshua’s rifle hunt, he saw the buck the Giles crew had nicknamed The Rock. He wound up shooting a 120-something-inch 8-pointer.
Joshua took advantage of the two-hunt deal in 2012 as well, and he arrowed a doe in October, his first-ever bowkill. He returned on Dec. 17, a Monday, for his three-day rifle hunt.
He shot a 120-inch “management” 8-pointer on Tuesday, which was one of his two allotted bucks for having booked the two-fer hunt.
On Thursday morning (Monday and Thursday were half-days), he drew the Boogooloo stand, a 15- to 20-foot-high shooting house overlooking a food plot — about 300 yards from where he saw The Rock almost one year earlier (but exactly where it was first seen and nicknamed in 2011).
He and his camera-toting guide, T-Bird, sat in side-by-side swivel chairs.
One of Joshua’s buddies had hunted from that stand a couple of times and seen no shooters. And with the temperature in the 50s and up to 40-mph wind gusts predicted, Joshua was pretty sure his last sit in a stand was going to be unproductive.
Joshua and T-Bird were in the shooting house when dawn broke. T-Bird eventually spotted a 6-pointer and then a pretty big 4x4, but the latter slipped behind a knoll before becoming even a potential target. About 8:05, Joshua saw an alert doe in the food plot.
“My dad, Keith, has always told me that if I see a doe in a food plot by herself, and she’s not eating, then I’d better look for a buck nearby,” he said. “That’s exactly what I did, and I saw this huge deer walking out at 175 yards.”
The buck was 100 yards into the adjacent hardwood bottom. Joshua could’ve easily missed seeing it because it was right in the stand’s corner blind spot, between the front and side windows — totally out of view of T-Bird and the camera lens, at first.
Joshua realized almost immediately that the buck was far from ordinary.
“It’s the Rock! It’s the Rock!” he whispered loudly.
“I was dealing with a serious case of buck fever,” he admitted. “I first tried sticking my .30-06 out one window, and then I changed my mind. I bumped the second window with the rifle, and the deer looked at me.
“Then T-Bird, who finally saw him, gave me the okay to take the quartering-away shot,” he continued. “We got only a second of video footage.”
When they reached the deer, a coup de grace was required. Afterward, Joshua eventually mastered the phone buttons and called his father, who was hunting a wildlife management area that morning. T-Bird sent Jimmy Riley a text message.
Jimmy put a tape to the antlers after sending photographs via telephone to a Mississippi state biologist and to Cecil Reddick, the BTR’s regional director for Louisiana and Mississippi.
Since the BTR has no drying period, Cecil measured the deer a few days later.
Among Mississippi bucks, The Rock is second only to the world-record Tony Fulton Buck shot in 1995.
Hunter: Joshua Bruce
BTR Score: 268 7/8
– Photos Courtesy Joshua Bruce
This article was published in the Winter 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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