Terrell County 170-inch Buck

Christmas comes early for 73-year-old deer hunter.

Reader Contributed | December 24, 2022

Don Cheek with a Terrell County buck from Nov. 21, 2021.

By Don Cheek

I am 73 years old now and I’ve been a hunter since I was 8 years old, but I had the hunting thrill of a lifetime on Nov. 21, 2021. My regular hunting partner of more than 40 years, John Patton, and I had been seeing a massive-racked buck that looked to be an 11-point on a couple of our trail cams all in the same area. We are pretty sure we had some pictures of him from 2020, as well. As most old mature bucks do, he had never appeared on any of the cameras during daylight hours. No surprise there, after all that’s how they become old, mature bucks!

We hunt a 150-acre lease that I have been hunting for more than 20 years. The rut had been running pretty good for a couple of weeks, and we had seen some smaller bucks chasing does, but not the “Long Pond Buck.” We joked and teased about who would see him first. All the camera sightings had been in the same area at the southwest area that we call Long Pond.

The hunting charts for the afternoon of Nov. 21 predicted excellent movement for late afternoon, even though it was a pretty warm afternoon. We decided to try to be in our stands by 3 p.m. to give it a try. I went to our land around noon to work on the tractor at another stand on the opposite side of the property and had done a good bit clearing and cutting before John got there. I was pretty sweaty by the time we met at the spot we park the trucks, so I changed shirts, and we geared up to head to the stands. 

John and I have built some completely enclosed wooden blinds that only sit about 5 feet off the ground. We had even built regular steps up to the door because at our age, we don’t do ladders anymore. I got into my blind a few minutes after 3 and settled in. I was hopeful for a great afternoon, and as it turned out, I was NOT disappointed! 

This stand sits in heavy hardwoods and volunteer mature pines. I have two main shooting lanes that are woods roads that run at 90-degree angles away from the blind. I did some rattling using an old set of heavy, 8-point antlers and a few grunts. About 4:30, 10 minutes after what the lunar chart showed as the peak time, a medium-sized doe came into the west woods road about 65 yards up a slight hill. She acted a bit nervous and kept looking back over her shoulder just past the crest of the hill. She sure acted like there might be a buck trailing her. As I put my binoculars up, I thought I saw the tips of antlers just over the rise, and they looked huge, but I couldn’t see the body yet.

I eased my 60-year-old Browning 300 Win Mag up. I don’t know how I was able to get steady because I was some kind of excited as the buck of my dreams stepped out into the woods road about 20 yards past the doe. He was the biggest buck I had ever seen, and I knew I was looking at our Long Pond Buck!

The only problem, besides my shaking and heart pounding, was that he came out facing straight toward me and looked like he was looking straight at me. The doe began to get really nervous, twitching her ears, and I was afraid she would bolt and run. In my mind that left me only one option. I was afraid if she ran, my dream buck would bolt, too, and he was only a few yards from the woods. His head was up facing straight at me in a truly majestic pose. I aimed straight into the center of his chest and squeezed as smoothly as I could, praying my 190-grain Barnes Vor-Tx would do the job. He lunged and disappeared over the top of the rise, and my heart dropped. 

I sat for as long as I could stand and eased up to the top of the hill where I had last seen the buck. I was pretty sure there would be no blood because of the shot placement, but I decided to look for any signs he had been hit. It didn’t take me but a few minutes of walking when I saw him on the ground about 30 yards from where I hit him. He was down, and he was every bit as awesome as I thought he would be.

My trophy buck ended up not being an 11-pointer. He turned out to be a 13-pointer with seven points on the right and six on the left. He weighed in at 210 pounds, had main beams  25 and  26 inches long and a 20-inch inside spread. A couple of his beam diameter scores were more than 6 inches. My processor and taxidermist estimated him at 6 1/2 years old, and he scored at 170.

Christmas definitely came early for this hunter!

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