Rack Magazine

Georgia Buck Gets Its Due

Georgia Buck Gets Its Due

By Lisa Price

The hypothetical becomes a reality, thanks to a deer hunter’s last will and testament.

Cooper’s Creek Wildlife Management Area is one of Georgia’s largest, spanning about 30,000 acres. Nestled in the northeast, it’s part of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

One of the local towns is Dahlonega, where many scenes from the movie “Deliverance” were filmed, drawing on the area’s water and awesome mountain scenery.

By a quirk of fate, two men met one morning while fishing a remote stretch of Cooper’s Creek.

Pat Star was fishing with his grandchildren, but not having much luck. They couldn’t help but notice a young man (Howard Montgomery) catching trout with a seemingly effortless regularity.

“I was camping near the creek, and I’d brought about 200 crickets with me to use for bait,” Howard said. “I was happy to share them with Pat and his grandkids, and we all had a great morning catching lots of fish.”

Thus began a wonderful friendship between kindred spirits, despite their age difference.

“We did some fishing together, and hunting for bear and deer,” Howard said. “We stayed at each other’s houses. We got to be really good friends.”

As the two got to know each other, Howard learned that Pat’s father had started a company called Star’s Electric in Atlanta. His new friend was a millionaire, but the difference in their net worths was never a factor in their friendship.

“To look at him, you’d never know he might have a lot of money,” Howard said. “He just wanted to be a regular person, and hunting and fishing were the things he most liked to do in his free time.”

While visiting Pat one day, Howard couldn’t help but notice the giant deer rack hanging on the wall inside one of the outbuildings.

“Man, that’s an awesome rack!” he exclaimed.

“What would you do if you had it?” Pat asked.

“Well,” Howard said, “I’d get a big cape and have it mounted, and I’d hang it in my living room.”

Pat shot the buck in the 1950s while hunting the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in central Georgia. He was in his 20s then.

He never had the rack measured, and he kept it in the outbuilding because his wife didn’t want game mounts inside their home — something Pat never begrudged her, Howard said.

Georgia Buck Gets Its DuePat told him the story.

On an extremely cold morning, he’d seen the deer coming through very thick cover. He got only glimpses of its velvet-covered rack.

After he shot the gnarly-racked 25-pointer, he discovered it had only one testicle.

Pat and Howard hunted and fished all over Georgia. When they weren’t afield, they were planning their next outing. They wet their lines in creeks and rivers, mostly in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

Countless mornings and afternoons during hunting season, they met, walked to separate stands, and rejoined hours later to talk about all they’d seen.

“I hope I die in a deer stand while I’m hunting with you,” Pat said to Howard one day.

Two days after making that statement, Pat got his wish.

Howard said when he left his vantage point and walked over to Pat’s, he could see his friend slumped over and lifeless. Rescue personnel worked for hours to get him down from the stand.

Pat suffered a massive heart attack, they said.

Although Howard knew his friend had expressed his wish to have his ticket punched that way, it didn’t make bearing the loss any easier.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through,” Howard said, choking up. “He was just like a daddy to me.”

Pat’s last will and testament specified that the huge deer rack be given to Howard.

The next hunting season, Howard saw a large buck coming into shooting range and really didn’t focus on its rack. He just wanted to make sure the buck was big and old, of proper stature and girth to provide a fitting cape for Pat’s special rack.

“I saw that a buck was coming my way, and I could tell it was a big ol’ deer,” he said. “When it turned, I saw that one side of the rack was broken off, and it just stopped and stood there, looking at me.

“I remember thinking right then it was supposed to happen that way … that the buck came my way with only one side of the rack so I’d know for certain it was the one for the cape,” Howard said. “I just about cried like a baby while I was shooting that deer, because I knew it was for Pat’s rack.”

Howard took the cape and rack to a taxidermist, and word soon spread.

“Buckmasters found out about it, and Ed Jones came over to see the antlers,” Howard said. “He said the rack needed to be scored and put in the book.”

Ed told Howard about an Ohio deer Buckmasters had dubbed “The Barnacle Buck of the North.”

“Not many deer have a rack like that,” Ed told him. “This buck could be called The Barnacle Buck of the South.”

About 60 years after Pat shot the buck, it was finally scored. And, yes, Howard hung the mount in his living room.

And there’s a little more to the story: If the antlers hadn’t been willed to Howard, they might well have been forever lost. Not long after Pat died, the Star’s house, barn and shed were leveled by fire.

Of course, Howard can’t help but think of Pat when he sits in his living room, in the company of the massive buck’s mount. But the memories of all the fun and kinship they shared also flood his mind nearly all the time, especially when he’s outdoors hunting and fishing.

“Me and him thought alike,” Howard said. “He was a wonderful person, and there’s not a day that goes by that some memory of him doesn’t come to mind.”

This article was published in the March 2018 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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