When Jeff Goins headed to his favorite public land hunting spot back on Veteran’s Day 2016, he never imagined he’d later be dragging out the biggest typical public land buck killed in Georgia that season. It also turned out to be the 7th largest typical buck ever killed in Putnam County.
The Dekalb County Fire and Rescue Captain had spent all of his two-week hunting vacation on his Walton County lease just four miles from his home. With just one day left before returning to work at the firehouse, Goins decided to hunt a tract of Oconee National Forest that he holds dear.
“I went down there the last day of my two-week hunting vacation just to say I hunted it,” said Goins. “This place is real special to me. I’ve hunted it off and on for the last 20 years; sort of a sacred spot for me and my son.”
Years back, Goins and his son had built a natural blind in the area and both had killed deer in it over the years. And while he knew the location held big deer, that really wasn’t on his mind the morning of November 11.
“I really just went down there to watch nature that day,” admitted Goins. “I really wasn’t expecting to kill a deer.”
In fact, the morning didn’t exactly start off as planned for Goins and his fiancé, Erica Maxwell, who agreed to tag along.
“When we walked into the woods that morning, I have a little secret trail I cut through that everyone else overlooks, and we missed it,” said Goins. “So we made all kinds of noise getting in there and I’m thinking to myself ‘we aren’t going to see anything.’”
Goins’ main-frame 10-pointer sports 16 scoreable points and a gross score of 174 5/8 inches with a net score of 156 7/8. Georgia DNR biologist Charlie Killmaster aged the 203 pound buck at 4½ years old.
It seemed Goins fears were confirmed when by 9 a.m. the couple hadn’t seen so much as a squirrel. He had pretty much given up any hope he had of filling a deer tag that morning.
“I usually don’t see anything past nine o’clock in this spot,” said Goins. “But since I got Erica up so early, I promised her we’d stay until 10.”
Sometime after 9:20, Goins heard the distinct sound of a deer making it’s way through the dry leaves.
“It was so dry due to the drought, it sounded like a horse or a man walking through the woods,” said Goins. “But I knew it was a deer coming from the next ridge.”
It wasn’t long before Goins spotted the source of the sound.
“The first time I saw him, he was about 100 yards away,” said Goins. “I tapped Erica on the shoulder and told her a deer was coming and I got my gun up and ready. When he got down to the bottom of the ridge, I finally saw antlers.”
It wasn’t until the buck turned at 80 yards that Goins realized just how good of a buck it was.
“I knew at that point he was a shooter,” said Goins.
Unfortunately, the hunter couldn’t get a clear shot because of all the branches between himself and the big buck. He knew with a little patience, however, that the deer would eventually present a shot.
The buck continued on a straight path towards Goins, but because of the way the ridge broke, the deer had dropped out of view. Fearing the swirling winds may cost him a shot at the buck, Goins eased to a standing position behind a white oak tree that made up part of the natural blind. He slowly turned his Savage .308 towards the approaching buck and just as he got the crosshairs where he wanted, the buck stopped.
“I pulled the trigger and he dropped right there in his tracks,” Goins exclaimed. “It was a 21-yard shot.”
The recovery and celebration that followed were surreal for Goins. Not only had he killed the buck of a lifetime, but he had done so in a place that held so many special memories for him and his son. Goins’ main-frame 10-pointer sports 16 scoreable points and a gross score of 174 5/8 inches with a net score of 156 7/8. Georgia DNR biologist Charlie Killmaster aged the 203 pound buck at 4½ years old.
Goins buck was featured in Realtree’s Rack Reports for Georgia, and was recently crowned the largest public land buck of 2016 at GON’s Outdoor Blast.