This is the story of the Matt Bingham Buck, in the words of the hunter – Matt Bingham.
My name is Matt Bingham and I live in Memphis, TN. While I may be viewed by some Arkansas natives as a “darned out-of-stater”, I truly love hunting in the great State of Arkansas and contribute liberally to the state’s conservation efforts through non-resident license fees.
I am an avid Mississippi River catfisherman most of the year, but during the months of September thru December, I box up the fishing gear and break out my hunting gear. This is deer hunting season!
A few years ago, my fishing partner, Josh Doyle of Marion, AR, invited me to hunt with him in St. Francis County. He has harvested many great deer and has profound appreciation for trophy whitetail management.
He has harvested a number of 160 and 170-inch class trophy deer, but has also frequently passed on 150 inch plus deer, knowing they would mature to true trophy status. He is a true sportsman, and one that I owe much of my success to.
We have had cameras out for several years and had one buck in particular that gave us true drive! First noticed in 2014, he was a beast. He had tall tines, was very symmetrical, and both G3’s were split. Lacking creativity, we nicknamed him “Split G3”.
However, we only got night photos of Split G3. The next year, 2015, we thankfully found that he was still around, but remained very elusive. The whole year we had several night photos, but only had 2 daytime pics.
The 2016 season rolled around and we wondered if Split G3 made it. We were excited when we started getting a few pics, but all were again at night. We could not figure out his home territory. We also heard that adjoining landowners were aware of his presence. He was now on the “most wanted” list.
On Friday October, 29 2016, I made my way to a lock-on stand at a pinch-point with a couple large oaks. This year, the oaks were dropping lots of acorns. It was a warm morning and as I climbed into the stand, a little sweat was rolling down my face. As I tried to get settled in the stand, a couple mosquitoes began buzzing my ears. Knowing that I couldn’t stay still swatting at the pesky mosquitoes, I decided to try and quietly to fire up my Thermacell.
Seconds after I fired it up, I heard a couple steps in the leaves directly beneath me. Having heard some raccoons earlier, I thought it was probably just a raccoon. Looking straight down through the branches, still loaded with leaves, trying to figure out the source of the sound, I thought I saw a tine through a tiny hole. Your mind can play many tricks on you at this point… could be a spike… could be a two year old eight, or it could be a really good buck. So I focused hard, but I could only see a piece of an antler here and there.
I was not prepared for a shot, sitting in the lock-on with my bow on a hanger. With him directly below me, I knew any movement might cause a creak in the stand and give me away. But he was in no hurry, just a step now and then. I kept looking, searching through the branches, trying to get a view of the deer beneath me. He was so close that I could hear him eating acorns and actually licking his lips. But he just stayed right there, hardly moving.
After several minutes, I heard him take a few steps, so I took the opportunity to try to ease myself up to stand and ease my shaking hand out to grab my bow. For all I knew, it could have been a spike at that point, but I get shaky none the less.
I heard him take a few steps to the right, but still couldn’t see him. Being a right hand shooter, that put him on my off-side position and I would have to swivel around for a tough shot. But he stopped, and I froze and hoped with all my might that he would change directions. After several more seconds, which felt like hours, I heard him take a few steps again, and it sounded like he was moving back to the left. I had a clear shot to the left, and as he very slowly ambled left, there was enough space between the limbs and leaves that I first saw he was a good wide racked buck.
He had his head down and I was looking almost straight down on him, but at that point I decided he was a shooter. I came to full draw. When he hit my opening, he was only seven yards from the base of my tree. Trying to control my shaking, I put my only pin just below his upper back, hoping the downward angle would penetrate his vitals… and released. The arrow hit with a deep thump. He bucked hard, and ran into the thicket behind me. I listened intently and thought I heard him crash. Then I thought I heard his last few breaths. But it happened so fast and my mind was pretty ramped up.
As I sat there waiting, I thought to myself, “Man, did I see a split G3 when I released?” Maybe. I decided to sit and wait a solid thirty minutes. Many thoughts were going through my head. The worst was… “If I can’t find him, I am telling no one”. And then, “Maybe it wasn’t that great of a hit”. Thirty minutes is a lot of time to think of what could go wrong. I was eager to get down, but also very apprehensive of what I might NOT find. So, after thirty minutes, I descended slowly, then kept my bow with arrow nocked and ready.
I looked into the thicket in the direction he ran, and only twenty yards from my stand I saw a white belly. As I eased toward him, wondering if he may jump and run, I saw his rack and thought he had come to rest on a log, propping up his antlers. But as I got to him, I saw that he was not propped up by a log… he was propped up only by his antlers. Then I saw that he had the two split G3’s. This was the deer we had been watching!
I texted my buddy, Josh, to let him know what had transpired, and he immediately drove over to help celebrate. I think that he was more excited for me than I was! He asked if I planned to enter it into the Arkansas Big Buck Classic. While I knew that he was a very good deer, and by far the biggest that I had taken, I had no idea at the time, that he would gross 194 6/8 inches and would be the biggest bow-kill entered into the 2017 competition.
Bottom line, I am not a great hunter. I am just lucky enough to be able to hunt in a great state with good whitetail genetics and surrounded by other sportsman who appreciate and make a concerted effort to produce trophy deer. I am very grateful that I was able to harvest such a magnificent deer in a humane way. But the true heroes, are my buddies, and the other adjoining landowners who manage their hunting to allow trophies like this to mature. This is a real trophy that all Arkansas sportsmen should take great pride in.