For three years, Kentucky bowhunter Ryan Cox and his cousin, Rex "Doodle" Crouch, have been chasing the same ghostly monster buck in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
“Doodle first got him on a trail camera pic two seasons ago,” Cox says. “We figured he was 3 years old then. He was a typical 11-pointer, and we had a bunch of pics of him in velvet. We hunted him all season, but never spotted him.”
Last season came and went with a similar story: “I had a few shots of him on my trail camera early in the season, but he was one nocturnal deer,” Cox says. “I saw him once in the daylight last October when I was just driving around looking. He was standing in a picked cornfield with a doe. But that was it.”
Late this past summer, the buck seemed to have just disappeared altogether. “We never got a single picture of him over the summer; not one,” Cox says. “We thought he’d been hit by a car, or poached. But we’ve been hunting the same little family farm and adjoining neighbor farms for years, and had a couple of other nice bucks on our cameras. They began logging our usual hunting spot, so we decided to focus on another area, at least during the early season. Of course, the big one was always in the back of my mind.”
The Kentucky season opened over Labor Day weekend with little action. But Crouch hunted the morning of the second Saturday, the 10th, and had a bachelor group of four bucks stroll by his stand. The biggest one, a tall-tined 8-pointer, was the only one that didn’t offer a shot, so Crouch passed on them. Cox joined him that afternoon with his climbing stand in tow, hoping for another chance at them. The same four bucks appeared, but again, neither hunter got a shot.
“I had a family reunion Sunday morning, but that evening, we were back in the stand,” Cox says. “I moved my stand about 20 yards, hoping the bachelor group would do the same thing they’d done the day before. I’d no more than climbed in and pulled up my bow when I looked up and saw this monster buck 40 yards away, headed straight to my tree. By the time I drew on him, he was at 10 yards.”
With the buck so close, the shooting rail of Cox’s climbing stand was resting against his bow’s lower cam. “I had to lean out and squat down to take the shot,” he says, “and by then, the buck was almost directly under me. I put the pin between his shoulder blades and let it go. The arrow hit his spine, and he dropped in his tracks. I immediately nocked another arrow and finished him off. Once I knew he was down, I got pretty torn up.”
Cox and Crouch had planned to get one another should one of them shoot a deer. “I heard you shoot,” says Crouch, who’d only been hunting a couple hundred yards away. “You get that big 8?”
Cox grinned at him. “No,” he said. “I got the really big one.”
The buck, a main-frame 12-pointer with three kickers, sported a near 20-inch inside spread, and has been rough-scored at 191 5/8 inches gross. Will it be Kentucky’s biggest bowkill of the season? There’s a lot of time left between now and the end of January—but that’s a lot of antler to beat.