Kentucky hunter Landon Smith was 10 years old the first time he saw the buck. It was the early youth season and Landon and his grandfather, Gary, known as “Hay” to Smith, had just settled into the stand. The hunters happened to look back along the trail they had just walked in on and witnessed a massive buck following their footsteps. The buck caught their scent and disappeared into thick cover before they could get him positioned for a shot.
The pair hunted the rest of the season without ever seeing the big buck again. Luckily, trail-camera photos let the pair know the buck was still around. Like many older deer, the buck was almost entirely nocturnal. No matter what stand the pair chose, the deer never came by during shooting hours.
Smith named the deer Stickers, and excitedly checked his trail cameras to see when and where the big buck traveled. Just like their time in the stand, Stickers was absent from daylight photos on the trail cams as well.
Landon and Hay were ready by the time the next firearm season rolled around. Again, the big buck was showing on trail camera, but like before, he never seemed to move during the day. The season wore on and Smith began to worry he’d never see the big buck again.
Frustrated by the lack of sightings of Stickers, a nice buck tempted him late in the Kentucky firearm season. Smith settled in for the shot with his Browning .270 and squeezed the trigger. He missed the mark and the buck sprinted away unharmed.
Luckily for Smith, his home state of Kentucky offers two special firearms weekend seasons for youth hunters to pursue deer. Smith and his grandfather again headed out in hopes of seeing Stickers in daylight.
“I was a little bummed out after the miss earlier in the season,” Smith said. “I started to not even go on the last evening, but my Grandma told me this might just be the day Stickers comes back out and asked if I wanted to take a chance on not being there.”
The pep talk helped, and Landon and Hay headed back to the stand. Soon, a small buck entered the field in front of the hunters. Knowing his season was winding down, Smith decided to try to take the smaller buck.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but Grandpa told me he was hoping the little buck would leave before I could get a shot,” Smith said.
It worked. The smaller buck exited the field before Smith could get on him. As darkness neared, he and his grandfather spotted another buck entering the field. It was Stickers. The buck was only visible for a moment before disappearing over the ridge. A few seconds later, the buck popped back up in sight of the hunters.
As Stickers made his way closer, Smith prepared for the shot. When the buck stopped at 50 yards, he squeezed the trigger. The buck went down within sight and Smith’s long quest was over.
Stickers ended up with 13 scorable points for a total of 181 inches, definitely a buck worth waiting for.