After month-long wait, Laird’s buck shatters state record

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; This wasn’t as carefree a ride as a ferris wheel spin like Tracy Laird thought it might be. Nope, this was more like those dizzying teacups at Disneyworld.

The long strange trip came to a merciful but exhilarating end for the Columbus transplant and Natchez Community Hospital emergency room director on Christmas Eve afternoon when he got an early present.

The 27-point, non-typical buck he harvested with a bow more than two months ago registered a Pope and Young net score of 236 1/8, shattering the previous state record of 204.

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Reality certainly fulfilled the hype that flowed through the Miss-Lou in the days following Laird’s weekday morning adventure.

Laird, according to Pope and Young &045; recognized as the grand pubah of bow-harvested North American big game &045; guidelines, had to wait 60 days to allow for any shrinkage.

When St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge manager Randy Breland delivered the good news Wednesday, Laird was relieved.

&8220;I was kind of surprised. I thought he’d score high, but not this high,&8221; Laird said of the buck, which had a gross score of 252 3/8 before deductions for the rack’s asymmetry. &8220;It was absolutely insane. Randy (Breland) said to tell whomever I wanted because that score wasn’t going to change.&8221;

The first call went to Laird’s proud papa Burlon, who asked his son to repeat the net score three separate times in order to get the score precise so he could pop buttons to all his hunting buddies &045; &8220;He said he was proud and happy for me.&8221;

The next went to friend Bill Thomas.

&8220;He didn’t stay on the phone long,&8221; Laird said. &8220;He made me repeat the number and said he had to go real quick. I think he went to call some of our buddies.&8221;

No one &045; even Laird himself &045; will dispute that this whole process has been surreal; however, to say it has been like a dream filled with sugar plums would be a gross overstatement.

In fact, if it was not for the delivery of newborn son John Patrick, the trash talking could have easily driven Laird to the brink of regretting he ever harvested the buck.

&8220;It was real frustrating for me when people that don’t know me said things,&8221; he said. &8220;I let it get to me. My dad had the same advice my wife gave me: &8216;You know you took it fairly and don’t worry about what others say.’&8221;

In the weeks prior and the subsequent two weeks after wife Susie gave birth to John Patrick, Tracy Laird was able to lose himself through the circle of life and the daily grind at Natchez Community, which is planning an expansion of its ER.

&8220;I really had no time to focus a lot on what the score might or might not be,&8221; Laird said. &8220;The closer it got to Susie’s due date, I couldn’t think at all. I think that was a good thing because I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy (either the birth of the record) as much. Now is the time to enjoy (both).&8221;

However, as much as he tried to ignore the grapevine, the tall tales Laird heard about how he harvested the anomaly were whoppers.

One rumor suggested Laird shot the buck at night; another implied corn &045; both are illegal according to state law; and others said he had downed the beast with a rifle instead of a bow.

However, one in particular took the cake and came back for seconds.

&8220;I heard somebody said I paid $14,000 to hunt in an enclosed area. I told the guy who told me this, &8216;Have you seen my truck?’&8221; Laird related. &8220;It frustrated me to be so new in town, and all these people who were talking didn’t know me. I felt if I would’ve done this (in Columbus), there wouldn’t have been nearly the kind of stuff that has gone on because people know me.&8221;

Breland said that’s common due to jealousy and others not being dedicated to the sport as Laird.

Laird also received a pep talk from Winston County’s Tony Fulton, who shot the greatest whitetail buck ever taken by a hunter. Fulton’s non-typical deer, which graded out 295 6/8 under Boone and Crockett &045; the scoring system for harvests with rifles &045; was taken Jan. 5, 1995, but did not receive an official score until 1998 after much debate.

&8220;He heard the same kind of stuff,&8221; Laird said of Fulton. &8220;People can’t stand it because somebody else got it. He said don’t worry about it, which made me feel better to know he went through this too.&8221;

Breland had an estimate of what the buck might score after performing a rough tally before the drying period ended.

When the first set of numbers was totaled, Breland had Laird’s buck at 226 &045; still plenty enough to break the record. Breland said he knew the number would be greater because he always scores conservatively on appraisals in order to level expectations.

&8220;I’m of the opinion this is a record that will stand a long time,&8221; Breland said. &8220;Like Tracy said, there are probably bigger deer out there, but the chance of killing it with a bow is unlikely. You can’t even say this is a once in a lifetime because 95 percent of the hunters out there won’t get to kill one like this.&8221;

Laird has taken daughter Emily, 6, hunting several times during gun season. This is Emily’s first season to actually sight and fire the trigger.

For the past three years Emily has tagged along with her dad, but only as a faithful sidekick. Tracy Laird believes she’s ready for her first harvest.

&8220;We’ve seen some, but I haven’t let her shoot yet. She thinks we’re supposed to get one every time we go,&8221; Laird said. &8220;It’s like fishing. If she doesn’t get a bite in the first five minutes she’s ready to go. I’m having trouble explaining to her it doesn’t work that way.&8221;