Second-Best Buck Taken Off Public Land

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While hunting with his father, 17-year-old Casey Phillips, of Bay Lake, harvested the second-highest-scoring deer on record ever taken from Florida’s nearly 6 million acres of public hunting lands.

Phillips, a junior at South Lake High School in Groveland, took the 16-point, non-typical buck Nov. 21 on Richloam Wildlife Management Area (WMA) during the general gun season. Tim Farley, a senior wildlife technician for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) took the official measurements and gave the deer’s antlers a gross Boone and Crockett score of 163 6/8 and a net score of 156 5/8.

James Stovall currently holds the top spot for his monster 25-point buck that he took on nearby Green Swamp West WMA in 1999, which scored a whopping 206.

According to the Florida Buck Registry, Phillips’ deer is the highest-scoring non-typical deer taken on public or private land since 2000, when Lee Crews took a 16-pointer from Alachua County with a net score of 179. The registry, established in 1982, provides an opportunity for hunters to register antler scores and other information about white-tailed deer taken in Florida.

Casey was prodded by his father, Brian Phillips, to go hunting that afternoon.

“It was a very cold and windy day, and a storm front had just moved through the area. Casey wasn’t feeling much up to getting out in it either,” Brian said.

After a little convincing, father and son made it out to Richloam WMA, within sight of their home in Lake County. Even though the entire management area allows deer-dog hunting, the Phillips practiced still-hunting and were set up in two different ladder-stands near each other along a stretch of a hardwood hammock.

The trophy buck came into Casey’s view at around 5:15 p.m., and Casey took the time to line up his shot and downed the 195-pounder with his 7mm ultra magnum rifle.

“I heard the shot and knew it was Casey, so I climbed down from my stand and started making my way toward him,” Brian said. “As I was walking, I actually jumped a 172-pound six-point and took him with one shot. I thought I’d done real good until I saw what my son had.”

“I’m real excited,” Casey said. “I’ve taken a buck almost every year out of Richloam since I was 8 – but nothing like this one. I never put one in the registry before, and now I find out I’ve got the second-best buck taken off public land.”

“I’ve hunted Richloam since 1974 and never came close to taking a deer like that. My wife and I are real proud of him,” Brian said.

Thus far, Phillips' buck is certainly in the running for this season's highest-scoring deer.

“Richloam is 58,146 acres of palmetto and pine flatwoods and is popular with the dog hunters,” FWC regional public hunting areas biologist Jason Burton said. “After the first nine days of the general gun season, all one needs to hunt deer and hogs on Richloam is a hunting license and WMA permit.”

The minimum antler score needed to qualify for Florida's Buck Registry is 100 Boone and Crockett points for typical antlers and 125 for non-typical. Typical antlers have points growing off the top side of the main beam only. Non-typical antlers are rarer and have points either growing off the underside of the main beam or branching off other points.

If you think you may have harvested such a deer, get it registered by contacting your regional FWC office or visiting MyFWC.com/hunting.

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