No one ever forgets their first buck, but Bryce Spillers is incredibly memorable. First, the 21-year-old hunter got his icebreaker buck earlier this month with a bow, which is an added challenge. Second, his whitetail happens to be one of the largest ever taken in Georgia by an archer. Spillers’ buck has 18 points and clocked in at a non-typical 198 2/8 inches. The current Georgia Pope and Young atypical is a 213 4/8-inch giant killed in 2007 by Jay Maxwell, but the No. 2 buck, scored by Kevin Carnes in 2015, scored 195-2/8. So the Spillers dollar has a solid shot at second place.
Regardless of its placement in the record books, Spillers’ buck is excellent and comes with a nice hunting history as well. “I first encountered this back in 2018, which was my first year of bowhunting, when I was 17,” Spillers told F&S. “I set up a blind on the ground in hardwood overlooking the bottom of the swamp. I was in the blind and saw this beautiful 8 point buck standing up. I noticed that he had some kind of irregular ear, and one had a slit in it. So I put on a camera and started photographing it; I could always identify him by that tear in his ear.”
Over the next two seasons, busy with school and then working the night shift after graduation, Spillers didn’t have much time to hunt. But he used cameras and surveillance to keep track of the money. “It grew to 10 points the following fall and, based on the photos I was taking, I moved my stand to a cut that bordered that bog. After the season, I put in protein pellets to see if it would help him and the other deer grow better. But that year and the next year (2020), I really didn’t have time to hunt, so I just stayed out, except to check the trail cameras. It was kind of rare to get photos of that buck in daylight, but it was starting to happen now and then.”
By the time the 2021 season arrived, the dollar had blown up to a monster 16 points. “In mid-August of that year, I took a picture of him at dusk, and he was just huge,” Spillers said. “I still had some time for hunting, so I told my brother to go after him. He didn’t have much time to hunt either, so the buck made it another year. I didn’t know it at the time, but the surrounding neighbors were taking pictures of the deer. However, I think he knew that the marsh on my uncle’s property was a safe place.”
This fall, Spillers knew it was time to make some serious money efforts. “It had exploded into an 18-point monster and was appearing in the light sometime between 1pm and 4pm,” he said. “I saw it again when I was checking the cameras. I noticed the body of a deer and when it raised its head, I saw Oh boy! When he looked away, I sneaked out of there.” On opening day, Spillers decided to sit all day and I saw him around 10am. “He was in bow range, but I wasn’t comfortable with the shot, so I passed; I wasn’t risking anything with that much money.”
Finally, on October 8, it all came together for Spillers. “I decided to be aggressive and moved the stand near his bed area,” he said. “I had found a good path that led into the bog and made a mock scratch on it, then hung a stand. That morning, I got on the stand and about 7:30. I heard the rustling of leaves and looked to see him coming down that very path. He stopped to work the scratch and gave me a 30 yard shot. I watched it stack up and it was kind of amazing; he died almost exactly where I first saw him rise from that bed in 2018. When I went to him, it was like all my dreams about him had come true. When word of the buck spread, I started getting texts and photos from what seemed like everyone within a 5 mile radius who had photos of the buck and were hunting him. It was pretty cool, but kind of bittersweet at the same time. The chase was everything to me and it was a little sad that it ended so suddenly. But he is a great buck and I was lucky enough to hunt and harvest.”