Georgia Boy Takes Monster Buck

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Cody Thomas of Savannah, Ga. had no idea he would be harvesting Florida's 10th-highest-scoring deer when he accepted an offer to go hunting with his girlfriend's brother, but that is exactly what happened.

Thomas took the trophy buck Nov. 20 on private land in Leon County at the beginning of the general gun season. He then anxiously awaited the official score of the buck’s antlers to come back from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to learn how his deer would stack-up against the biggest deer ever taken in the state as listed in the Florida Buck Registry. The registry, established in 1982, provides an opportunity for hunters to register antler scores and other information about white-tailed deer taken in Florida.

Thomas was invited to Monticello, Fla. for a weekend of deer hunting by Brad Benners of Tallahassee.

Benners, who is listed twice in last year's Florida Buck Registry for taking two monster deer off the property the year before, knows the tract has superb genetics and offered his sister's boyfriend a great opportunity to take his first quality whitetail.

The previous weekend, Benners set Thomas up in a box stand, overlooking a one-acre field planted in oats, where Thomas took his first buck ever – a nice nine-point. Then, on that memorable afternoon, Thomas was again sitting in the same stand where he contemplated harvesting another huge deer that had appeared around 5:15 p.m. With the use of a two-way radio, Thomas described to Benners the 10-point buck he was looking at, and Benners said, “It’s still early,” and suggested he wait and see if something bigger came out.

Just a half-hour later, around 5:45 p.m., Thomas’ trophy deer stepped into the field. With just one shot, Thomas had his second deer within a week, second buck of his lifetime and the second-best deer on record ever to come out of Leon County. The 235-pound deer even dwarfed the 215-pound Thomas, a football player at Valdosta State University. The deer's antlers had 13 scorable points with the inside spread measuring 19.5 inches.

Don Francis, FWC biologist at Joe Budd Wildlife Management Area took the official measurements and gave the deer a gross Boone and Crockett score of 165 4/8 and a net score of 154 6/8. The net score earns Thomas a tie for the state's 10th highest-scoring, typical white-tailed deer on record. Jesse Roberts, who took a 12-pointer from Jefferson County in 2002, shares that record.

“That hunting trip gave me a much-needed break and was a great reward for all the hard work I had put in at football practice and with my studies. I’m very grateful for what Brad has done for me,” Thomas said.

So far, Thomas' buck is the front-runner for this hunting season's highest-scoring deer. Needless to say, Thomas enjoyed a great Thanksgiving as his finest Christmas present ever, came early.

Dr. Robert Vanderhoof, biologist and leader of the FWC’s Deer Management Program, said the northern-tier counties like Leon produce the majority of Florida’s record deer.

“It starts with the soil,” Vanderhoof said. “Many of Florida’s northern counties share the same fertile clay soils found throughout Alabama and Georgia.”

These fertile soils produce more nutritious deer forage than the sandier soils of central and south Florida.

“The second factor,” Vanderhoof said, “is abundant and consistent rainfall. North Florida’s average annual rainfall is significantly higher and more evenly distributed throughout the year than in the rest of the state.”

Consistent rainfall generates a better food supply than in areas where prolonged dry spells are more common. Fertile soils, plus consistent frequent rainfall equals abundant nutritious forage, the fundamental precursors to growing larger deer.

The minimum antler score eligible for Florida's Buck Registry is 100 Boone and Crockett points for typical antlers and 125 for non-typical. Hunters who may have harvested such a deer can get it registered by contacting an FWC regional office or visiting Florida Buck