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story.lead_photo.caption Hunter Davis of Wynne won the Arkansas Big Buck Classic with a typical rack that scored 172 0/8 Boone and Crockett on Sunday at Barton Coliseum. - Photo by Bryan Hendricks

Hunter Davis, 20, of Wynne has killed two antlered bucks in his life, but his latest won the Arkansas Big Buck Classic on Sunday with a typical rack that scored 172 0/8 on the Boone and Crockett scale.

Davis, a student at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, killed the buck Nov. 25 on public land in northeast Arkansas. The rack had 10 typical points with a "kicker" tine on the right antler. Its net score of 172 earned it permanent recognition in Boone and Crockett's all-time awards book.

For winning the Big Buck Classic, Davis received a silver trophy, a Can-Am Defender HD5 all-terrain vehicle from Bradford Marine and a commemorative jacket.

The day began inauspiciously. Davis walked about 2 miles to reach his spot at about 5:30 a.m. No deer were moving; the temperature was about 35 degrees. Davis got bored, and then he got cold. That was no fun, so he got up to leave. On the walk out about 8:30 a.m., fortune smiled.

"It got cold, man, and I said, 'forget this,'" Davis said. "As I was walking out, a deer walked across the path. I couldn't see its head. It was down hidden under grass. I pulled up, and it raised its head. I seen the horns and I shot it one time, and I hit it. I seen how big it was running across the field, and I shot at it four more times, but I missed all of them."

Davis said he found the buck after tracking blood nearly 400 yards into the middle a big thicket.

Living in Monticello, Davis did not have time to scout the area before the season, so he didn't know where to hang a stand. He hunted on the ground in a place he knew by memory.

He missed a doe a couple of days earlier, Davis said. While searching for that deer, he found a long line of trees that a big buck had rubbed with its antlers.

"I knew there was a big one in there," Davis said. "I figure he was going back to his bed. I think I caught it in the rut, and it slipped up. I got really lucky."

Davis called his father and told him he'd killed the biggest deer ever.

"I told him it was every bit of 25 inches wide," Davis said. "That was an exaggeration. It was only 20 and a half."

There was a lot of heritage in the hunt. Davis said his grandfather had hunted that spot since he was in his 20s, as had his father. In fact, Davis shot the buck with his father's shotgun, a vintage, Belgian-made Browning Auto-5 Light Twelve with a slug barrel.

Coincidentally, Davis' buck won another category at the Big Buck Classic. Caleb Jones of Palestine won the "shed antler" category with an antler he found in 2017 that measured 87 1/8 B&C.

Dave Corley, owner of Fin and Feather Taxidermy of Jacksonville and emcee of the Big Buck Classic for 29 years, said the antler matched perfectly with an antler from Davis' buck. Jones found it on land adjacent to the public area where Davis killed the buck.

Whitetailed deer shed their antlers every winter and grow a new set in the spring and summer.

Davis said he is grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to take such an exemplary buck.

"It's just such a majestic animal," Davis said. "When it threw its head up, I was just thinking 'Buck!' I was just really thankful to partake of the animal. I've got its meat in the freezer, and it's going help me to eat through the rest of this semester in college, so I couldn't be more thankful."

Sports on 01/29/2018

Print Headline: Public land trophy takes top prize; hunter makes most of opportunity to bag state's biggest buck

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