Chelsea Hunter needed some peace, quiet and the fresh air, a combination she knew she’d find in the solitude of a deer stand.
Little did she know she’d find something else.
Hunter’s spur-of-the moment hunting trip on family land in Macon County ended with the 24-year-old Tallasee resident harvesting a 242-pound, 13-point buck that’s “by far” the biggest deer she’s ever bagged and one she’d been tracking for about a year.
“I was so surprised when I finally caught up to him,” she said.
The photo of Hunter smiling after harvesting the trophy-sized deer won the 10th annual Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Big Buck Photo Contest, which drew more than 100 entries and garnered thousands of online votes. Hunter harvested the big buck in Macon County on Jan. 4.
As the winner of this year’s Big Buck Photo Contest, Hunter wins a $500 gift card donated by Jonathan Goode and Southeastern Land Group.
“We are so appreciative that so many deer hunters chose to enter our contest this year,” Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Director Pam Swanner said. “The Black Belt Region definitely lived up to its reputation for producing trophy-sized deer again this year, and we received entries from just about every county in the region.
“What’s truly gratifying is knowing that so many of these photos were taken after family hunting outings or young hunters harvesting their first deer. Those memories truly live forever.”
Hunter harvested a 9-point during the 2020-21 deer season and “about five minutes” after killing that buck, she saw this one.
“I was just amazed at how beautiful he was,” Chelsea said. “I hunted him hard last year. I was in the woods every opportunity I got.”
While the big buck drew her into the woods on 1,000 acres of family-owned property in Macon County near the site of the filming of the final scene of the movie “Big Fish,” she didn’t see him again.
Until Jan. 4.
“I told my family I wanted to go out and get some fresh air,” she said. “I didn’t have high hopes.”
Things changed as she sat in her deer stand that afternoon.
“He was chasing two does,” she remembered. “I never dreamed I’d see him that day. He was coming toward me. He stopped and turned. I took the shot.”
Chelsea’s mother snapped the photo of her with the big buck and entered it in the ABBAA Big Buck Photo Contest.
Hunter said she started hunting with her grandfather before her 10th birthday and began solo hunting “by the time I was 14 or 15.” She said she has one piece of advice for every hunter, regardless of experience.
“Learn to have some patience,” she said. “Let some small bucks walk, and they’ll end up a trophy.”
That’s precisely the type of wise deer management that the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association promotes. ABBAA created the Big Buck Photo Contest to further educate the public on the abundance of natural resources found in Alabama’s Black Belt region, an extension of the group’s encouragement of ethical hunting and fishing practices.
Chelsea and her family process their own deer and this particular deer became a one of her grandfather’s favorite meals – venison and collard greens. “We’ve grown up eating that meal,” she said.
All entries in this year’s Big Buck Photo Contest are available for viewing online.