Lee County Buck Of A Lifetime

The story of a bowhunter's quest for what turned out to be one of the best bucks taken with a bow in Georgia last season.

Matt Lane | September 6, 2014

I started hunting this buck when I got my first picture of him on Oct. 22 close to my favorite stand. This particular area I am hunting is deep in the hardwoods and about a quarter mile from the next closest deer stand. It lies between two large beaver ponds where deer and big bucks like to funnel through.

Last year I believe I may have seen this buck once, but I did not get any photos of him from any of my trail cameras. I still remember vividly the day I first got pictures. For the last few years, I had been waiting for a stud buck that I could hunt really hard with my bow. Since I had put my cameras out in August, the largest mature buck I had was a 130-class 8-point.

After I had gotten the first pictures of him, I moved all my other cameras in the area, so I could try to get him patterned. I also began keeping plenty of corn on the ground. A few weeks passed, and I did not get any more photos of him. I started to wonder if he had just been moving through when I got the first photos.

Then, one morning in early November, I saw the buck out of my stand.

I had gone in with a climber on the first Saturday in November to sit at the tip of the bottom overlooking the area where I usually hunted. I wanted to have a larger viewing area to see what might be moving through that I could not see from my other stands. That morning I watched the buck walk right in front of my favorite stand and then run a doe past me at about 80 yards. At that point I started wondering if it was time to put the bow back in the closet and bring out the ol’ smoke pole (rifle).

Later, when I checked my camera, the buck had been by my stand twice in the last three days, and what was even better; it was during daylight hours. I also took note that we had a north to northeast wind during those few days. I started taking a little time off from work and hunting the buck really hard. I had multiple days in November where I sat from sun up to sun down.

I finally got my first chance at the buck on Thanksgiving morning. The rut was getting into full swing, although for most of November, bucks and does had been showing signs of rut.

I had started using a new scent this year from Buckmaker called Game Changer. Since the first time using it, I had seen the results as bucks seem to always make their way to it. Also, I had not had a deer pick up my scent from where I walked in since I started spraying it on the bottom of my boots. Actually, more than once I had deer come up the trail I walked in on all the way to my stand.

That morning, I had a perfect wind out of the north—the same wind I had the last time I had seen the buck. The wind was blowing so that it carried the Game Changer scent right to a large bedding area in the direction that the buck seemed to be coming from.

That morning it was 21 degrees. By 9:30 I had already seen a lot of deer including some really good bucks chasing does. I had just stood up in my lock-on stand to try and warm up a bit.

I had a really nice 8-point and a few does out in front of me when I looked over to my right and saw the monster coming through the woods. I grabbed my bow off the hanger. He walked out at 28 yards, angled slightly away from me.

My heart started pounding, and I began to start shaking. I squared up and began to pull back my bow, but there was a problem. I could not pull it back. No matter how hard I tried, it felt as if someone had wire tied my strings. All I could do was watch as the buck of a lifetime stood perfectly broadside and showed off his rack until a doe bleated, and he took off after her. As I calmed down, I checked my bow because I really thought something was wrong with it. I then pulled it back without any trouble at all and realized he had just got me. As you can imagine, I was not the most talkative at the table during Thanksgiving dinner later that day.

As the weeks past, I continued to hunt the buck really hard. I was really upset about choking when I had the opportunity to take down the buck of a lifetime. I took both my rifle and my bow a few times, but it never seemed right. I felt like I was cheating since I had promised myself earlier in the season I would kill the deer with my bow.

Toward the end of December, I learned that the deer was crossing the property line and was being hunted hard by some other hunters, particularly an avid hunter who was known for killing big bucks. I started to pull my rifle out again until I started getting good pictures of him right in front of my favorite stand. Actually, on Dec. 31 I had decided to hunt another stand nearby because I had not seen the deer for a few weeks, and when I checked the camera the next day, he had been 20 yards right in front of my stand at 5:30 that evening. Again there had been a northeast wind.

I had begun to feel as though I was not going to get him this year. I had blown a great opportunity and made some bad decisions on where and when to hunt. He had given me opportunities that I was never able to take advantage of. I was just waiting on the call to hear that someone else had shot him. My brother-in-law came really close when he had the buck at 60 yards during the last week of December.

On New Year’s Day, I looked at the weather forecast and moon phase for the coming days and noticed that it was going to be almost identical to the same conditions when I had seen him before as well when I had gotten daytime photos. I began to get very confident for the hunt in the coming days. I planned on leaving work early and hunting that Thursday and Friday evening as well as hunting him all day on Saturday.

On Thursday, the wind shifted after I got in the stand and started blowing out of the northwest, the direction where the deer usually walked in. I had two different groups of deer come in and wind me, so I got out earlier so I wouldn’t mess up the hunt for the coming days.

On Friday, the temperatures really began to drop. The wind was finally going to lie that afternoon. I left work to go get in the stand at around 2:30. I was so confident that I grabbed my camera and threw it in the truck. I also told the guys at the office I would call them shortly with good news.

By 4:30, it had gotten pretty cold for a south Georgia afternoon. I still had not seen a deer yet when finally a doe and spike came out and started feeding on some corn. Not long after they had been there, the doe spooked and ran off, and then the spike left. I looked to my right, and two does and a real nice 8-point came in to feed on the corn pile. Another doe that was acting very skittish came in and left. As I watched the other deer, I saw the doe that had just left coming back in. By the way she was acting, I knew there was a buck behind her. While I was watching her, I saw horns moving in behind her. My heart started racing as I realized it was him, the monster I had been chasing all year. Every 5 yards he would stop and scope out the area for about five minutes. It took him about 20 minutes to finally get to the shooting lane where I could take a clean shot. While he was coming in, I had been taking my time to get my bow off the hanger and square up without spooking any of the other deer.

He finally stepped out in the clear, and I closed my eyes and drew back my bow. When I opened my eyes and prepared to take the shot, he turned to face away from me. It seemed like 10 minutes went by as I held the draw back on my bow. My heart started racing faster as I started to get weak. I finally closed my eyes and said a prayer asking Jesus to help, telling him I knew I could not do this on my own. When I opened my eyes, I felt a calm come over me and the deer turned back broadside. I sighted in on the monster. Under my breath I said, “Gotcha,” and I released my arrow. The arrow sailed a little high, but I knew I had just placed a kill shot.

My emotions started exploding. I sat down and tried to calm down. I started calling my wife and then one of my buddies, Danny, to tell them I had just stuck the buck of a lifetime. When Danny finally got there got to my stand, I got down and went over to find my arrow. It was covered with good dark blood. We decided to go ahead and locate the blood trail. As we began to look, we could not find any blood. I told Danny to go ahead and find a dog—I wasn’t taking any chances.

As Danny was on the phone talking with the tracker, he looked down and saw a large splatter of blood right on the edge water of the swamp 50 yards from where I had shot him. We looked around, and that was all we could find, so we called in the dog. We started tracking the deer around 9:30. The dog was having a hard time picking up the trail. We tracked till midnight and called it off till the next morning.

Jonathan, my future brother-in-law, and I arrived the next morning and picked up the blood trail, but there was so much water he was hard to follow. I decided we needed a better dog, so I called another friend out at Nilo Plantation who was an avid bowhunter. He said they were actually tracking a deer he had shot, but he would send the tracker, Randy Vick, and his dog, Annie, my way when they got done.

Randy and Annie showed up around 12:30, and we got started. With the blood trail being almost 20 hours old, I knew we were asking a lot from Annie, but she picked right up on the trail. She worked slow but took us about 300 yards through the swamp, but the problem was we were not finding any new blood.

We decided to walk over to a road that traveled around the swamp to see if we could find where the deer may have crossed it. We took the dog with us. Jonathan decided to stay around the swamp and look for blood.

An hour passed, and we had not found anything to give us new hope. Depression started to set in, and all I could do was pray, when finally I got a call from Jonathan saying he had just found good blood. We all went running in his direction. He was about 10 yards past where we had just pulled Annie off the trail. We began marking blood, and Annie started tracking again when all the sudden Jonathan yelled out, “Here he is, boys! Here he is!”

We all started going nuts. I could not believe it. We found it. I jumped on top of the buck. What a roller coaster of emotions. We found him. He was bigger than I could have ever dreamed.

I was so thankful for the opportunity to hunt such a deer and now to finally have him in possession was just simply amazing. It was an experience that I will always cherish and never forget. This is what hunting is all about.

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