That’s a big deer!Published 7:34pm Thursday, December 19, 2013
Walter Dowdle, 68, was about to pack up his gun and call it a day.
The Coosa County resident arrived to the shooting house at Tri-County Hunting Club in Goodwater around 4 p.m. As he looked out in the distance across the greenfield some 250 yards away, all he could see was a small buck meandering through the grass.
“I was about to leave the stand, and I saw this dee
r come out from a creek,” Dowdle said. “I saw the antlers. I didn’t know how good it was, but I knew it was good enough to shoot.”
As he waited for a clear shot, he decided to switch bullets to something with a little more stopping power.
“I had to work a little bit to get on him,” Dowdle said. “I knew I needed to make the shot count – I needed to down him.”
The seasoned hunter reached for a 165 grain .300 Winchester Short Magnum, the bullet he “thought would do the most damage.” He lined up his scope and squeezed the trigger on his custom-built Remington .300 rifle.
“I dropped him through both shoulders, but I still didn’t have any idea how big he was,” Dowdle said. “I called a friend of mine that was hunting with me and told him, ‘I think I may need some help.’”
As he approached the deer, Dowdle said he could only see one side of the antlers sticking up.
“When I got up closer, I was just shocked,” Dowdle said. “I lifted the head, and I just started jumping and hollering. I knew it was better than anything I had ever shot. Matter of fact, it is the biggest we have ever killed at the hunting club.”
Dowdle said the deer weighed “220 pounds on the hoof and 185 pounds field dressed.” As far as points, it depends on how you count them.
“If you count points by those that you can hang a ring on, it had 22,” Dowdle said. “It basically is a 12-point buck, with branches off the 12 points.”
Dowdle has been an avid hunter for 38 years.
“I went hunting in ’75 with Steve Gilliland – he talked me into going one day, and I have been addicted ever since,” Dowdle said. “I am not much of a bird or turkey hunter, but I love deer. When I see ‘horns’ coming out, my heart starts pumping steel.”
He says he intends to get the deer mounted, and for the first time in his hunting career, he is going to get the buck professionally scored.
“I have killed a lot of deer and had a lot of them mounted, but this is the only one that got me excited enough to score and hang in a special place,” Dowdle said.
The deer will be put up in his farmhouse, across from the first big 8-point buck his son shot at the hunting camp.
The state’s Records of Whitetail Deer program uses the Boone and Crockett scoring method to determine the quality of the antler spread of deer harvested statewide.
“Many people are guilty of counting and measuring projections that do not count as points in most measuring systems,” Chris Cook, a wildlife biologist and the Deer Studies Project Leader at the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, said. “Being able to ‘hang a ring’ on a projection doesn’t cut it. For most scoring systems, a projection has to be at least 1-inch long to qualify as a point, but not all projections that are at least one inch long are measurable points.”
But before the scoring can even begin, Dowdle will need to wait a couple of months.
Antlers must air-dry for a period of at least 60 days after the deer is killed before an official score can be taken, he added, because antlers shrink slightly as they dry.
Regardless of the deer’s final score, to Dowdle, it was the most memorable kill of the past 38 years.
“A few of us get to kill a deer of a lifetime,” Dowdle said. “At my age, I had decided this might never happen. I am very fortunate it did.”
David Goodwin contributed to this report.