Just before last Thanksgiving, Jay Maxwell was driving between two scheduled client meetings when he received a message that changed his agenda ... and his life.
Mr. Maxwell has been an avid hunter since he was three years old. And on that particular November day, he broke a 35-year-old state hunting record.
"Jay's obsession with deer hunting comes from a long line of hunters in his family," said his mother, Saundra Maxwell, who teaches at Thomson Elementary School. "Both of Jay's (late) grandfathers, E.J. Maxwell and Roy Perdue, were avid hunters. And both were natives of McDuffie County."
Mr. Maxwell said he is always on the lookout for potential hunting sites. Earlier last fall he scouted a Fulton County tract of woods and thickets and received hunting permission from the property owners. But he didn't find time to go back to the location until Nov. 20, when one of the landowners sent him a message that he'd spotted several deer behind his house and one of them was a big buck.
"The landowner is not a deer hunter, so he had no idea what he was looking at," Mr. Maxwell said in a telephone interview. "He thought it was just a big deer."
Because he knew the rut was at its height, Mr. Maxwell said he decided to take the afternoon off from work as a sales rep for Arrow Exterminators and check out the report. Always on the ready, Mr. Maxwell's bow and hunting equipment stays packed in his truck during deer season. Stalking on the ground and walking into the wind, Mr. Maxwell said he spotted a doe with three smaller bucks and one large buck following her.
Every few minutes, one of the smaller bucks would attempt to approach the doe and the big one would run him off. Mr. Maxwell said he took advantage of these confrontations to maneuver a few yards closer and eventually take a position within 40 yards of the deer.
"When I first decided to go, I really didn't expect to kill him that afternoon, but it panned out perfect," Mr. Maxwell said. "I was just in the right place at the right time."
Mr. Maxwell said when he saw the Muzzy broadhead arrow had penetrated up to the fletching, "I knew I was watching a dead deer." He didn't comprehend the size of the large rack, though, until he stood over the deer and looked down at it.
"At that time, I honestly struggled to fully comprehend the entire experience," Mr. Maxwell is quoted saying in a North American Whitetail story. "After thanking God for allowing me to take such a great animal, I sat there for several minutes just holding and examining the rack."
According to Pope and Young records, the 18-point non-typical rack netted a 213 4/8 score. Georgia's previous non-typical bow record of 185 7/8 had been listed in the P&Y records since 1973.
"I started hunting 26 years ago, and I killed my first deer when I was 6-years-old," Mr. Maxwell said. "So, it was a long time coming, but I'm glad it happened to me."
And life did not slow down for Mr. Maxwell after he became the record holder. He said he has been busy every week, "always something dealing with the deer," whether it be magazine and newspaper interviews, displaying at vendor shows or participating in shoot-outs.
The companies of the different products he was wearing or using when he killed the deer have had six exact-replicas of the deer handmade to be used at vendor shows.
"If you take the deer's rack and hold it in your hand and look at all the little bumps and all the colors, they are exactly the same," he said. "It's really, really neat and very, very expensive. ... I love it. I've always wanted publicity in the hunting business."
Mr. Maxwell attended Thom-son High School from 1993 until 1996 and then graduated from Briarwood Academy in 1997. He now lives with his wife, Kyla, and son, Jayden in Bethlehem, Ga. His parents still live in Thomson.
The new record holder and former Thomson resident is featured in the December 2007 cover issue of Rack Magazine by Buck Masters, in the July 2008 edition of North American Whitetail and Georgia Sportsman magazines, on the cover of the August 2008 issue of Georgia Outdoor News and will be featured again in the September issue of that same magazine.
The size of his deer also made him eligible to participate in several competitions, including the infamous Truck-Buck Shoot-Out. But his biggest claim to fame is one he thought was only a dream. Mr. Maxwell became the 13th person in the nation to be inducted into the Muzzy 200 Club. According to the muzzy.com website, less than 2 percent of all the bucks in the Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett record books score 200 net inches or better. Most people have never seen a 200 class whitetail buck, so the Muzzy 200 Club truly is an elite group of bowhunters. To qualify, members must be everyday hunters that do not make their living as a professional hunter and the deer must have been taken legally, by archery only, in a fair chase harvest.
Mr. Maxwell's deer now travels with the others in the 200 Club Display to big shows at festivals and businesses such as Bass Pro Shops.
"That's probably the highlight to me so far is getting to be a Muzzy lifetime member," he said.
Even though he's reached the top, the experience has only whetted Mr. Maxwell's appetite.
"People tell me that I might as well quit hunting in Georgia because I'll never top that one," he said. "But you never, ever know. I could go the opening day of this year and kill one bigger than that. I've seen some. You never know. I live by that. That's what keeps me going back every time."