A Hunter's Trophy
“Trophy buck.” The term is tossed around loosely in the deer hunting community all the time. Except, what is a trophy buck? There is a great deal of misconception when it comes to this term. To one person, a trophy may qualify as a buck over 150 inches, or three years of age or older. To another, it may be a spike buck. At the end of it all — it is said that a trophy is in the eye of the beholder.
For so many of us here in South Georgia, hunting was introduced to us at a young age. We more than likely grew up waking up at the crack of dawn during the fall and winter months to slip into our camouflage, riding in the passenger seat out to the hunting property. When arriving, you gently close the truck door so you do not spook any animals that might be around. Then quietly making your way to the deer stand to sit in the cold breezy wind, waiting on that big buck to make his appearance.
Many wonder and ask the question – what is it that draws you into the woods? Some will be surprised to learn what drives a person to hunt. Hunting is much more than showing off your latest trophy. Hunting is a way to build character, integrity, and stewardship. It is enjoying the solitude of being in the outdoors. A place where you can think and calm your mind, to step out of the always on-the-go pace of life that so many of us get caught in.
Relationship Manager, Billy Billings is an avid hunter. His passion for the outdoors is contagious. “Hunting for me is an avenue for getting out into God’s great creation. There is nothing like sitting in the pitch-black darkness and watching the world come alive around you,” said Billings.
From Vision to Reality
Buying a piece of rural property is a dream for many people. For some, it’s the prospect of starting a hobby farm. Others envision the perfect hunting property where they can bring their family on the weekends to hunt. There then comes a time in their life where they are determined to make the dreamy vision turn into a reality.
For the Mitchell and Demott family, that is exactly what they were after. Somewhere they could escape to and have an ongoing project to work on. Bucky and Donna Mitchell reached out to their nephew and niece, John Hunter and Jodie DeMott, about purchasing adjoining tracts to what they will inherit one day.
In 2021, Mr. Mitchell reached out to Billings to gather some more information about a piece of property they were interested in purchasing. It was 111 acres with established planted pines on the property. Bucky calls this land the ‘total package.’ It has an abundance of wildlife, which makes it excellent hunting for in all seasons.
One evening the family went to scope out the property one last time. “We sat on the pond dam to watch the sunset and right then and there we fell in love,” said Bucky Mitchell. Within 30 days, it was a done deal with papers in hand and the land was now all theirs.
“That is what I enjoy most about being a Relationship Manager - helping individuals find their dream property. It is important to be knowledgeable of all the properties available to assist my customer with their search. You know that your customer is going to make so many memories on their property and it just feels good to play a small role in that,’ said Billings.
In many ways, stewardship is the most rewarding part of doing something positive for wildlife because it requires becoming involved with your land, as well as understanding it. Getting your hands in the soil and your feet in the water often helps in appreciating the fact that it is there.
Land stewardship is a journey that lasts as long as you own the property, regardless of whether you make a living off the property, live there, or only visit it occasionally. Stewardship is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do, and it is something that your grandchildren and their children will appreciate and thank you for.
Good land stewardship is built day by day while spending time on your land observing the various events in the natural world. Together, the Mitchells and Demotts do prescribed burns and work on clearing out the unwanted vegetation in the pond. Prescribed burns are a vital key to good land management. It’s crucial to do so in South Georgia. The fire will destroy ticks, redbugs, and other pests short term but in the long run, it creates space for more efficient cruising and harvesting of timber and develops areas for hunting.
The property is a 30-minute drive for John Hunter and Jodie from their house and only a 5-minute drive from Bucky and Donna’s. It takes dedication and lots of hard work from both families to keep up the property. After a full day of work from their primary jobs is, when they will ride out to the property to make sure everything is in order. From making sure, the food plots are not becoming overgrown, battling gnats, and of course always being mindful of where they step. They don’t consider this a job or work, they look at it like a lifestyle.
An Outdoorsman Dream
Throughout the year, Bucky and John Hunter are keeping up with the trail cameras they have set up on the property, constantly having to change out the batteries to make sure they don’t miss any great pictures of the wildlife they see through the pictures. Of course, sometimes all they catch on camera are raccoons or foxes, but when they get that notification that the camera has caught movement and see that mature buck - it shoots a wave of excitement through their bones.
It was the late evening of Wednesday, November 16th in 2022, when John Hunter made his way to his deer stand to sit still in the cold November air waiting on the buck, he had only seen on his trail camera to make an appearance. On their property, they hunt the perimeter of a 45-acre “safe space” of planted longleaf pines. Close to the deer stand is where they plant long and narrow food plots.
After waiting for a little over an hour, out of the left side of the property walk out the 9-point whitetail buck he has patiently waited for. Getting into position slowly to be sure not to spook the buck, John Hunter takes a deep breath, gets his sight in his scope right, and pulls the trigger. That feeling of the adrenaline running through your body never gets old. With each deer you shoot, you still hold that excitement in your heart. John Hunter immediately calls his Uncle Bucky to tell him about his amazing shot. As soon as Bucky answers the phone he hears, “I think I am about to have a heart attack, I got him!” Making his way out of the deer stand to go find his trophy. After loading the deer in the back of his pickup truck, they headed home to get the buck ready to go to the local deer processor and the taxidermist.
Everyone’s answer is always different when asked, “Why did you decide to mount your buck?” The response of Mr. Mitchell was, “Some are worth mounting, especially the ones you know you’ll never surpass.” Behind every mount, there is always a story to be told. A flashback of an exciting time in your life that will be passed down to the next generation.
Pictured left to right: Bucky Mitchell, Donna Mitchell, Jodie DeMott and John Hunter DeMott
John Hunter with his 9-point whitetail buck