Thomas of Savannah, Georgia 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
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
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
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