FORT STEWART, GA -- It was venison, not beef, that Soldiers, retirees, Family Members and members of the Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield community enjoyed for dinner at Club StewartAca,!a,,cs main ballroom, Jan. 31, during the first Big Buck Gala and Venison Cook-Off.

Competitors provided attendees with many opportunities to show their appreciation or develop a taste for venison with three categories of competition that included steak, sausage or venison chili.

Staff Sgt. James Hicks, Company E, 3rd Brigade Support Battalion, entered two recipes for the cook-off, steak with bacon wrapped venison tenderloins and chili with a zesty chili recipe.

HickAca,!a,,cs steak entry brought him a third place win, but his chili was a favorite, winning first place.

Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cve been hunting since I was about 9 years old,Aca,!A? said the Camden County, Ga. native whose 18-year career with the Army has kept him here at Stewart since 1991 except for three tours to Korea and two deployments to Iraq.

Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cve been on some managed game hunts here on Fort Stewart, but I prefer to still hunt. IAca,!a,,cd like to see another category for venison next year, and thatAca,!a,,cs barbeque. When I cook barbecue, I usually use a whole ham or shoulder that I soak inAca,!A|.Aca,!A?

He stopped himself short of revealing his recipe for venison barbecue, just in case itAca,!a,,cs part of next yearAca,!a,,cs cook-off.

Other winners in the Venison Cook-Off were Ted Eby, first place for sausage; Marion Van Ryswyk, second place for sausage; Cindy Lee, third place for sausage; Rodney West, first place for steak; Timothy Lee, second place for steak; Katherine Blair, second place for chili; and Hans Van Ryswyk, third place for chili.

The eveningAca,!a,,cs focal point was the awarding of the winners of the Big Buck contest, those hunters who had taken the largest buck on Fort Stewart during the 2008 deer season. The bucksAca,!a,,c antlers were scored using the Boone and Crockett scale, which measures the number of points on each antler, the width between points on that antler, the distance between points from one antler to the other and the circumference of the antler at various positions.

Sgt. 1st Class Tommy Kennedy, with the Georgia National Guard, took 4th place overall, but also won the award for the Soldier with the largest buck, which earned him the $200 prize.

Kennedy also will have his trophy buckAca,!a,,cs head mounted for free by Critters and More Taxidermy, a major sponsor for the Big Buck Gala. KennedyAca,!a,,cs 8-point buck got 42.875 points on the Boone and Crockett scale. The third place buck, taken by Allen Murray, got 43.875 points. Second place was taken by Andrew Gonzales with 45.875 points. But the grand prize ($500) went to Greg HarveyAca,!a,,cs 10-point buck, which earned 50.875 points.

No hunt is complete without the hunting story. Morale, Welfare and RecreationAca,!a,,cs Facility Manager, Willie Inman, and Outdoor Recreation Director, Susan Chipple ensured two of the best local hunter/story tellers were on-hand to entertain and teach the art of deer hunting.

Stan Kane, a retired Fort Stewart Soldier, took everyone to the woods with stories of hunting with his daughter, Sabrina, now 16; he related her learning experiences in becoming a deer hunter.

Another local hunter/story teller was Reggie Sage, also a retired Fort Stewart Soldier. Kana and SageAca,!a,,cs story telling skills succeeded in taking everyone hunting with them.

Fort Stewart MWR is planning a Big Gobbler and Big Bass competition for later this year. Be sure to read The Frontline newspaper and the Quality Time magazine to learn more about these competitions.