July 01, 2022
By Jacob Carnine
BREAKING NEWS BUCK
I had an incredible year in 2021, from my dad and I taking trophy-class mule deer on a DIY public land hunt in Wyoming, to killing a buck of a lifetime near home. My dad, Luke (my brother) and I enjoy hunting public land all over the country. Land Between the Lakes National Recreation area is about 20 minutes from our hometown of Benton, Kentucky. So, we hunt it hard.
My dad has been hunting, fishing and camping there for over 30 years, and my brother and I have joined him all our lives. Land Between the Lakes (LBL) is a 170,000-acre peninsula between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, with 110,000 of those acres being in Kentucky.
Most of those acres are open hardwoods, with many hills, hollows and some crop fields scattered around. There are very few thickets, which makes it challenging to figure out where deer bed. Many deer end up bedding on the end of big ridges, which are everywhere, and this makes it difficult to pattern them.
Almost anyone can hunt LBL, all you need is your statewide hunting license, tags and an LBL user permit. This makes for heavy hunting pressure and many deer become nocturnal at an early age. LBL is also home to a wide variety of recreational activities. Hiking, biking, fishing and small game hunting are all very popular. And there are several roads throughout the area, so many areas are easily accessible.
Needless to say, LBL is not for the faint of heart. You can scout and hunt hard and not see a deer for days. Dad always says, “Hunt harder, go deeper, stay longer and when you want to quit, you’re almost there.” LBL does offer a three-day rifle quota hunt in November that you must apply for and draw a permit.
So, now that you have a brief history of LBL, here is the story of the buck we named “Sasquatch.”
Discovering A Giant
It started with a friend of ours getting one trail camera picture of him in December 2017. He was an impressive 160-inch 12-pointer. The buck had a huge body, and we guessed him to be 4 or 5 years old.
We found one of his sheds in late January and looked for the other side all spring with no luck. We put out cameras that summer covering the best spots over a 1000-acre area. We finally got a picture of him, and he blew up that year into a 180-inch 15-point.
When hunting season came around, we never got another picture of him. We hunted and ran cameras all fall and never saw him. We looked for his sheds and never found those either. His elusiveness led to us joking about him even being real, which is where he got the name Sasquatch. We also figured out if he saw or smelled your trail camera, he wouldn’t use that area again. He was by far the smartest deer we have ever pursued.
During the summer of 2019 we started getting pictures of him, but we never received pictures in the daylight. He grew again and was a 200-incher with some serious mass. Sasquatch continued to pass by our trail cameras until he lost his velvet, and then he disappeared.
After several weeks of scouting, hunting and running cameras, we finally got a picture of him about a mile and a half from his summer location. We ended the season with very few pictures, still none in daylight, and no sight of him while hunting.
After seeing those few trail camera pictures of him, we became obsessed with finding Sasquatch’s sheds. My dad, Luke, family friend Jason Divita and I covered miles almost every day, and we found one of his sheds in late January. We finally found the other side in mid-March. This was a great accomplishment considering how many other people hunt sheds in LBL.
That summer, Dad ordered a topo map of Sasquatch’s core area, which was about 3,000 acres. We know he traveled further than that, but he spent most of his time in this area. My dad had been marking every scrape, rub, trail, shed and trail camera picture using the Hunt Stand app, so he transferred all that info to the topo map to hopefully figure this deer out.
My dad and Jason talked daily about Sasquatch, diving into different topo maps, aerial views and theories of what the deer might do next. By summer 2020, we had several more pictures of him, and Sasquatch continued to grow. He was now a 200- plus-inch 17-point giant.
When bow season rolled around, we seldom got pictures of Sasquatch; and when we did, they were never during daylight. By mid-October, he was gone.
In January we got one picture of him, nearly two miles from where we’d found his previous year’s sheds. We began looking for sheds daily again, grid searching the 3000-plus acres. We found one side, and it was a mile and a half from the trail camera picture. We continued looking for the other side but never found it.
A Glimmer of Hope
During the summer of 2021, we had several pictures of Sasquatch, and he was still impressive. He had 15 scorable points, and he would still score over 200 inches. That was also when we finally had a daylight picture of him, making us think this could be the year.
Hunting season started and we still received random pictures of him, but we never had an actual sighting. By mid-October he was gone again, so we started scouting the area with cameras trying to find him. On our way back to the truck one day, we came across a scrape at the bottom of a really steep drainage. We had one camera left, so we decided to put it up by the scrape.
A week later we went back to check the cameras and there he was: Sasquatch in daylight. We hunted the area every chance we could, trying not to bump him.
One afternoon Dad hunted a nasty thicket, and right at dusk a big buck came in to hit the scrape. I got a phone call that evening from Dad telling me he had just shot Sasquatch! He climbed down to look for blood and his arrow but couldn’t find any sign that the buck had been hit. He decided to come back the next morning.
The next morning Dad called me broken-hearted; he found the deer, but it wasn’t Sasquatch. It was Dad’s biggest LBL deer ever, a 170-inch buck that we had two years of sheds from, but it wasn’t the deer he was after. He only wanted Sasquatch.
The Final Encounter
We continued to run cameras to prepare for the quota hunt. While checking one of the cameras, Dad saw a mature deer cross a saddle. He knew it was a big buck, but he wasn’t certain that it was Sasquatch. The sighting wasn’t far from where we had some trail camera pictures of the giant, so we decided this was where we would go for the quota hunt.
On Saturday, Dad and Luke hunted together with me and Jason in other trees within the same area. But on Sunday morning it was just me and Dad. He asked where I wanted to hunt, and I told him the same place as yesterday, because I had a good feeling about that spot.
We got there well before daylight to keep from spooking any deer. We climbed the same tree with our Summit climbers, and Dad was about six feet higher than me. The sun came up and we finally saw a deer around 7:00 a.m. Three does passed through, and then I heard Dad say, “Big buck, big buck.”
I looked up at Dad to see what direction he was pointing, but I couldn’t see anything with my eyes or with the scope. I then heard Dad say, “That was Sasquatch.” We were devastated knowing that could be the only time we would ever see him, and we didn’t get a shot.
About an hour later a small buck chased a doe from the same direction Dad had seen Sasquatch. I immediately had my gun up and the safety off. Within 10 seconds we saw Sasquatch running wide open in our direction. Dad tried grunting to stop him, but he was not stopping. I waited until I found a small opening and squeezed the trigger. Sasquatch went down in his tracks!
I looked up at Dad and with tears in our eyes we went crazy, and we said a prayer thanking God for this opportunity. Dad told me to climb down and make sure he was dead. I got out of the tree and slowly walked over to Sasquatch. I turned to Dad and threw my hands in the air, and I promise you have never seen a man climb out of a tree faster than Dad did that day.
Dad ran to me and we hugged and thanked God again for an unforgettable hunt that we got to experience together. We knew Sasquatch was big, but to have our hands on his rack was a completely different story. I immediately facetimed my girlfriend, who was at home with my mom and Luke, to tell them we just killed Sasquatch. We told them to grab all his sheds off the mantle and meet us in LBL to drag him out.
It was amazing to have this experience with my family; it was a day I will never forget. We loaded him up and took him to the Golden Pond check-in station. There were several other hunters there, and all were in disbelief at the sight and story of this deer. We then went to the entrance of LBL to get a picture with the Land Between the Lakes sign and Sasquatch. Ever since we started hunting Sasquatch, my dad would say, “If we ever kill him, we are getting a picture in front of that sign.”
Word got out fast, and we had people calling and wanting to come see the deer. We even had a friend drive three hours to come see Sasquatch in person. We had kept Sasquatch a secret from almost everyone; even our closest friends had no idea we were hunting this buck. It was so bad that my dad would take his sheds off the mantle and hide them if we had company. We didn’t want anyone to know about him.
Closing the Chapter
Word continued to spread, and once social media got ahold of the story it went viral. We started receiving messages from people all over the country. One of the best messages we received was from a local woman saying she may have found three of Sasquatch’s sheds while squirrel hunting. I initially didn’t believe it, but she sent me a picture and sure enough they were his.
Sasquatch officially has 15 scorable points that make his gross score 193 0/8 inches. If he had hadn’t broken a couple kickers and tines, he would have gone over 200. He is one of the biggest bucks ever taken out of LBL.
At our best estimate, Sasquatch was at least 8 1/2 but likely 9 1/2 years old (we are in the process of having him officially aged). It takes an equal mixture of intelligence and luck for a buck to reach that age, especially on public land. He is truly special.
We thank God for giving us the perseverance and dedication to always press on no matter how frustrating it got. Imagine hunting a buck for four years without ever seeing him in person. The number of times I thought Dad was going crazy over this deer was countless. However, his obsession and hard work were ultimately what put us on Sasquatch.
We are still blown away that we killed Sasquatch. It’s a moment that will be very hard to top and a memory that will last a lifetime. I thank God that I got to experience the hunt with my dad and to celebrate it with my wonderful family.