Ed Spurgeon is proud to share the snapshot of the 11-point, 140-class trophy buck he took in November while hunting at Fort Gordon.
He is sitting on a tailgate, smiling broadly with his buck and holding a small cardboard sign that with a hand-letter proclamation: "Finally."
The Augusta man's previous trophy, also from Fort Gordon, was tagged in November 1993. He's been hard after another monster ever since.
And so have lots of others.
With 45,000 huntable acres, a capably managed timber and wildlife program, and super genetics to supplement a healthy deer herd, the military base is emerging as one of the best places in the region for record bucks.
"This past season we had three or four 12-points, some 11's, a whole mess of eights and plenty of others," said Fort Gordon Wildlife biologist Ken Boyd, whose office manages the hunting program.
In fact, the majority of the top 10 record bucks ever taken in Richmond County are from Fort Gordon. Several taken this season are potential candidates for the record book - and possibly a new No. 1.
Although most hunting permits are earmarked for enlistees or those with ties to the military there are opportunities for the public - and those opportunities are being expanded this spring.
"In the past we've had drawings for the public for 150 permits, but we're expanding it this year to 200 permits," Boyd said.
The window of opportunity to apply for those permits is March 1-15, and applications - and the drawings - are conducted on Fort Gordon's behalf by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
"March 1-15 is the window," said Vic VanSant, a regional DNR wildlife biologist. "We get a lot of interest. It runs, over the years, between 300 and 600, with the last couple of years being around 500."
The rules for applying are listed in the state hunting regulations handbooks, VanSant said.
Applicants must apply by letter, between March 1-15, sent to WRD-Game Management, 142 Bob Kirk Road NW, Thomson, GA, 30824. The letter must include full name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and phone number.
No more than three applications can be contained within one letter, and all hunters must possess of hunter safety certificate.
Post rules allow shotgun hunting with rifled slugs only - no rifles or buckshot. Archery and muzzleloading opportunities are available, too. There are about 5,000 acres set aside for archery only and a quality buck area encompassing almost 7,500 acres.
"Even outside the trophy area, a lot of hunters trophy manage themselves," said Jack Baker, the proud holder of two record-book bucks - by bow and gun - from the area. "Fifteen inches or better is a good place to start."
Wildlife biologist Steve Camp said some of the best deer are found in and around a 7,500-acre block that was off limits to all hunting for nine years. "It was re-opened in 1998, and has produced well," he said.
* Huntable acres: 45,000
* Archery Only: 5,000 acres
* Trophy Managed: 7,500 acres
* Permits issued: 1,500
* Public permits: 200
* Application period: March 1-15
* Avg. annual harvest: 325 deer
* Buck/Doe percent: 60/40
* Shotgun harvest: 70 percent
* Muzzleloader: 20 percent
* Archery kills: 10 percent
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