Thomas Woods of Moro had about 45 minutes to hunt with his crossbow after work on Oct. 26, and he made the best of it, killing the buck that won Best of Show at the Arkansas Big Buck Classic Sunday at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock.
Woods, who only recently began hunting with archery equipment, arrowed a buck in Lee County that had a gross Boone and Crockett score of 171 1/8. Its net score after a mandatory 60-day drying out period was 167 6/8.
"I've never killed a deer like this before," Woods said. "It's my personal best ever. People hunt their whole life and never kill a deer like this."
Woods, a mechanic at a chemical company, got permission from a friend to hunt on his mother's farm. He hung a stand in a small thicket on one of the few trees big enough to support a person's weight.
"It's going to be a real short story," Woods said. "I got off work and went and climbed on the stand about 4:30 p.m., and 45 minutes later, here that dude comes walking out."
Two young bucks accompanied the big buck, which Woods said was about five years old.
"They're not in the rut that time of year, they're not chasing," Woods said. "I don't know what they were doing coming through there, but I was sure glad I happened to be at the right place at the right time. My friend wasn't too mad at me!"
The thicket was near a large creek whose bottoms shelter a lot of deer.
"They just live there," Woods said.
Sometimes, a hunter has a feeling that a day will be special. Woods said he had that feeling. The weather was beautiful, and he felt inexplicably optimistic.
"It was nice," Woods said. "It wasn't cold. It wasn't too hot. It was just perfect, really. I couldn't have asked for it to be no better."
When the buck arrived, it stopped about 15 yards away. Woods said he had to struggle to keep his composure.
"I was telling myself, 'Don't panic! Don't panic! I always shoot too early or something, you know? All I could see was imagining him bouncing on out. I've never had a deer like this walk up on me before."
Woods said he didn't give himself time to overthink and make a mistake. He acted instinctively and took care of business.
"I didn't waste any time," Woods said. "I'm sure if I'd have wasted any time I would have panicked, made some noise or something, and he would have bounced on out. The young deer that were around him were bouncing around, you know, just being young deer, but he was still as all get out. He didn't make a move. I made my move and I didn't waste any time."
After the shot, Woods waited about 15 minutes before searching for it.
"They say don't jump them after you shoot them," Woods said. "I got down and saw good blood. I tracked him about 15 minutes. When I saw him, he was still alive. He was about 40 yards away, but he was still alive and standing. It was too dark to see. I had my light. He was in my light, but then I couldn't see his eyes. I heard a big crash when he fell over."
Woods said his biggest buck before Oct. 26 was a six-point. He said he shot two deer with one arrow in 2021, and that inspired him to devote more time hunting.
That really fired me up and got me going," Woods said. "Since then, start taking more and more time. I don't have cameras. I don't use any of the technology that people do use. I just enjoy the hunt."
Woods said this was his first time to attend the Big Buck Classic. He won a Tracker Can-Am UTV, a personalized commemorative jacket, a trophy and other prizes.
"I seen a lot of big deer here today," Woods said. "I seen a lot of guys that deserve awards like I'm winning today."
Woods said he won't hold out for an equal or bigger buck in the future.
"I hunt for meat," Woods said. "That's what feeds my family. Horns? You can chew on them all day long, but it don't get your belly full."