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BASS' Scott also has buck fever

8/18/2010

Editor's note: To accompany Deer Camp '09, we've asked athletes, prominent figures and outdoorsmen to relate their first deer kill .

Though Ray Scott's name will be forever associated with bass fishing, he's just as at home in a deer stand as he is in a boat.

His fondness for deer hunting was the catalyst that led him to form the Whitetail Institute in 1988 and to begin sales of Imperial Whitetail Clover, the first seed blend developed expressly for deer food plots and marketed nationwide.

Scott has hunted throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, but it was an "old, scrawny Alabama buck" that he took in 1979 that ignited his love for deer hunting. Like most baby-boomer Southerners, Scott didn't grow up in an era when deer and wild turkeys were abundant, or even available to hunters.

"When I was a kid, if you wanted to kill a buck in Alabama," said Scott, who was born and reared in Montgomery, "you had to go to the area north of Mobile and along the Tombigbee River and put out some dogs.

"The credit for really getting deer back in Alabama goes to Charles Kelley, who was the head of the Game and Fish Division for many years. He'd have his people bring in whitetails from all over the country, and they'd stock a few here and there. Within a few years deer had multiplied to the tens of thousands. The state is covered up with deer now."

When Alabama deer hunting was starting to become wildly popular in the 70s, Scott was preoccupied with building the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. Consequently, he didn't become an avid deer hunter until his company's future was secured.

In 1979, however, Scott and Montgomery buddy John Nichols leased 300 acres of rolling hill country in Marengo County south of Demopolis and took up hunting in earnest.

"I didn't know anything about deer except what they looked like, and didn't have any idea about how to hunt them," Scott said. "At the time, I owned a sporting goods business called The Outhouse, so I could grab any rifle I wanted and go hunting.

"That particular weekend in 1979, I was using a bolt-action .30-06. I don't remember what make it was. One Saturday morning I just walked out to the edge of a clear-cut that was about 150 yards wide, sat against a tree and waited. The buck I shot came out on the opposite side and when he wasn't looking my way, I raised the rifle to my shoulder, aimed and shot."

The 4x2 whitetail "wasn't much to look at," as Scott remembered, but it weighed 190 pounds, which was heavy for an Alabama whitetail at the time. Nichols killed his first buck that same afternoon and, a week later, Scott's son Steve, a high school freshman, downed his first buck.

"I was so full of anticipation, and I felt the same feeling every time I went hunting from then on," Scott said. "There's just something about that first buck. I don't remember my second and third bucks, and so on, but I'll never forget the first one. I don't care how old you are when it happens, getting that first buck is like getting a tattoo on the soul — it just doesn't go away."