January 02, 2023
By Dan Cole
Holding his bow at full draw, Corey Smith tried to keep himself as still as possible. A monstrous 10-point had stepped into the picked cornfield he was hunting near. He was sitting in a self-made grass blind on the edge of a ditch parallel to the cornfield. Corey watched as the buck smelled the boot prints he left when he had walked to the blind along the field edge that morning. Then, surprisingly, the buck began following his boot prints straight towards the ground blind!
Within seconds the buck was standing broadside, a mere five yards away and directly in front of the blind! Corey knew this was an opportunity of a hunter’s lifetime. So rarely is a chip-shot offered on a world-class whitetail. But Corey couldn’t release his arrow! The wind was blowing so hard that the weeds used to obscure the blind were whipping back and forth through his sight window. There was no chance of threading an arrow cleanly through the whirling weeds.
Suddenly, the buck fl inched, turned and trotted away, stopping 25 yards straight in front of the blind. The wind may have swirled scent from the blind to the buck, causing its reaction. Unfortunately, there was no shot opportunity; the giant 10-point had stopped while facing directly away from Corey’s position. He could only watch as the buck trotted away and, within a moment, crossed the ditch onto the neighboring property. Although feeling defeated, Corey had no idea that failed encounter would allow him to have the most significant moment of his hunting life. Little did he know, the best was yet to come.
Far North To Midwest
Growing up in Alaska, one might assume that outdoor opportunities would be abundant. But that wasn’t the case for Corey. “My dad hunted moose when he could, and I went with him a few times,” Corey remembers. “I shot my first rabbit when I was eight but moved out of Alaska before I was old enough to do any real hunting.” That time in Alaska lit a fire within a kid who grew into an adult obsessed with the outdoors. Despite that obsession, it took several years before Corey began hunting again. “I didn’t hunt again until after Nicole and I had been married, then I hunted my father-in-law’s property in Boone County, Kentucky. I had to borrow a rifle from my brother-in-law in order to go.”
His first year hunting was quite a success. The property had plenty of deer, and the first time Corey hunted for deer there he shot a nice doe. Two days later, he killed his first buck. “I was hooked after that,” Corey says. “Then I wanted to hunt for the bigger bucks that frequented the area. So, I decided to start bowhunting to get more hunting time.”
Before the 2020 season, Corey and Nicole bought their property in Robertson County. Corey then invited his friend, Dustin, to come down and bowhunt the new land. Dustin’s invitation came at the perfect time; he had just notched his Ohio resident archery tag on a good buck and was looking for another hunting adventure. Before Dustin arrived at the Smith residence, Corey arrowed his biggest buck to that point, a 300-pound, 130-class 4x4. Unfortunately, Dustin never filled a tag on that Kentucky hunt. But before he left for Ohio, Dustin invited Corey and Nicole to hunt in Ohio the following season.
It didn’t take long before Dustin contacted the Smiths, telling them he had found five different properties for them to hunt. Then he went to work, and by early July, all the properties had trail cameras placed in strategic locations.
When the cards were pulled in August, the hunters’ expectations were let down; there were nice bucks in the area, but none were the Ohio giant everyone had hoped to find. Instead, the big question was, “Where is the 200-inch deer?” There was still one more camera to be checked. If a big buck wasn’t on that last card, they would conclude there was not the type of buck they had hoped for living within the area. But, that last card did not disappoint.
The camera they called “Big Boy” showed that, between August 18-20, a giant, non-typical buck was photo-captured several times during those three days. It was the kind of deer that every hunter hopes to find, a world-class whitetail. So, naturally, the buck had everyone’s attention. Of course, there were other bucks in the area, too. Some of them would be tempting if given the opportunity.
Trial And Error
The 2021 Kentucky archery opener found the trio of hunters on the Smith’s Richland County property. That week Nicole killed her target buck. “It was her first buck ever, and with it being her target buck, that just made it all the better. We were all excited for her. I was so proud of her; I think I was more excited than she was,” Corey says.
The trio got back together for the Ohio archery opener two weeks later. To start the hunt, they decided to draw straws for stand sites. Corey pulled a straw for the Raspberry Area, the location where the big non-typical was seen most often. Four days earlier, Dustin checked a trail camera near a raspberry patch within the Big Boy camera area. During his exit, he noticed what he thought was a large weed sticking out of the bean fi eld. But, when he was about 80 yards away from the “weed,” he realized it was the giant non-typical! So, Dustin had to crawl nearly 200 yards to get past the buck without disturbing him. Due to his location, the big non-typical became known as “Raspberry.”
Despite their new intel of Raspberry’s whereabouts, the first week of archery season passed without incident. And Corey and Nicole returned home and went back to work.
As the fall progressed, Corey and Nicole made several three- and four-day trips to Ohio to bowhunt, and Corey had made a few solo trips, too. As a result, the travel and long days took their toll. “By the end of November, I was pretty burnt out,” says Corey. “I had encounters with big deer, but it just wasn’t my time yet. I was worn out, and I decided to go home. So, I didn’t hunt again until January.”
In the meantime, Dustin continued hunting for Raspberry. Several other hunters knew about the buck, so Dustin worried outside influences could scare the deer off. Despite many attempts at the deer, Dustin never capitalized. The food sources going into the New Year were scarce, and what was out there was being utilized by the local deer. Because of the picked cornfield, Raspberry was still in the area, as he was seen on several daytime trail camera photos.
One Last Hunt
On Jan. 18, Dustin sent Corey a single trail camera photo; it was a picture of Raspberry with big 8-point and 9-point bucks. Corey wasn’t sure he was up for it, but after getting an enthusiastic “yes” from his kids and Nicole reminding him that work was slow anyway, he found himself packing for another trip to Ohio.
Deer were now in a winter feeding pattern, so the hunters felt the deer should stick around as long as the food source remained. However, Corey wanted to ensure the deer would stick to the area, so he put out some Cherry Bomb attractant. The attractant had been key to his and Nicole’s recent success in Kentucky.
Once in Ohio, Corey and Dustin decided to set up a ground blind near the cornfield. It was the only food source nearby, so they figured the deer should be there. After spreading some Cherry Bomb around the area, Corey hunted until dark without seeing a deer. There were no deer sightings on Saturday, either; but a storm was coming in on Sunday, so Corey spread more Cherry Bomb in anticipation of Sunday’s temperature change.
Corey figured with the timing of the incoming storm he should be in his stand by 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. However, Dustin called him at noon on Sunday and said, “We need to be there now!” There was an early break coming in the weather, and Dustin thought it would be a good idea to be in the blind during this break. So, by 2:00 p.m., the pair had nestled into the ground blind.
“Because of the shape of the ground blind, with two people in there, I couldn’t draw my bow cleanly. Because of this, I decided to hunt that afternoon with a crossbow,” Corey says.
It was cold and very windy, so Dustin brought a buddy heater along in hopes of fighting off the cold. At one point, the wind lifted the ground blind entirely off the ground, causing the two hunters to think fast and quickly grab the floating dome. “Deer Cast said the best deer movement would occur at 3:00 p.m., and at 3:05, we had our first deer in the field, so things were looking good,” Corey remembers. Suddenly, a big 8-point stepped out of the cornfield and into the open. Corey decided he would take the buck if given the opportunity.
But when a spike-antlered yearling buck decided to spook and run from the blind, he cleared the field with him. About 30 minutes later, they had several does and yearling bucks in the field. Finally, at 4:15, Dustin broke the silence with, “Get ready, a shooter is coming.” Corey recognized the buck as a big 9-point that lived in the area. He also saw Raspberry following the 9-point!
But it wasn’t meant to be, either. As the 9-point approached the blind, he suddenly whirled around and spooked away. Corey and Dustin watched as Raspberry followed the fleeing 9-point back through the corn and out of sight.
The two hunters couldn’t figure out what may have spooked the bucks. They both wore scent-free clothing, taken directly from a Scent Crusher bag moments before entering the blind. The wind was also in their favor, so their scent shouldn’t have been a problem.
At 5:00 p.m., four does and fawns entered the field, and Corey thought, Great, live decoys. He hardly had time to finish the thought when Dustin spoke again, “Get ready, shooter coming. It’s the big eight!” Corey readied himself, and while shifting his chair, he looked to the right and saw that Raspberry was following the 8-point. “Raspberry is right behind him!” Corey said through an excited whisper. In an instant, the buck was standing broadside at 25 yards!
“Am I clear of the blind?” Corey asked Dustin. Upon confirmation, Corey released the bolt. There was no thought or deep breath. Everything worked as rehearsed, and the two hunters listened to the “pop” of the bolt striking the buck. The buck jumped roughly three feet into the air, then ran and jumped the fence onto the neighbor’s property.
“I was pretty excited at this point. That was the first time I had shot a crossbow, and I wasn’t sure how that would turn out. It looked like it was a good hit, but I was still apprehensive because the buck had run off. I did manage to call Nicole and told her I had just killed Raspberry. Naturally, she didn’t believe me at first,” Corey says.
There wasn’t much time for celebrating, however, as it began to snow heavily, and the guys still had to find the deer. Following the trail from Raspberry’s last run was relatively simple, and it wasn’t long before they trailed the deer to the neighbor’s fence. While Corey stayed at the buck’s trail, Dustin drove over and let the landowner know what was happening. Corey soon found the buck dead; he was piled up 15 yards over the property line in a low spot.
The antlers of Raspberry are nothing short of stunning. The rack will get your attention with 30 scoreable points and a 30-inch outside spread. Its 180-class typical frame supports more than 85 inches of non-typical antler! The antlers should gross in the mid-260s and net somewhere in the mid-250s. The right antler is very impressive at 108 inches, but the left antler is truly special; it scores in the mid-130s. Any way you look at the Smith buck, it will look big!
“This has been one of the greatest moments in my life,” Corey claims. “I was pretty humbled and surprised by the attention. I’m just happy to shoot something like this.”
Coming Full Circle
A few months after the season closed, Dustin held a barbecue for the neighboring landowners whose land he had permission to hunt. Corey had the antlers of Raspberry there, and most of the landowners recognized and knew of the deer. One farmer brought in a shed antler from Raspberry, the only shed known to be from the deer.
Another set of antlers brought that day was from the giant 10-point Corey encountered at the beginning of this story. One of the neighboring farmers took that deer during the Ohio firearms season, and it had a gross score of over 184 inches!
For Corey Smith, Alaska may be in the rear-view mirror, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t adventures found elsewhere. Living and hunting in Kentucky and Ohio have landed Corey Smith in the middle of some of the greatest whitetail habitat in North America. With his newfound passion for hunting mature bucks, his hunting adventures are just starting.