May 14, 2022
By Josh Honeycutt
Once a deer hunter, always a deer hunter, right? That proved true for B.J. Davis, despite a 20-year hiatus from the sport. Introduced to the outdoors by his father, B.J. went hunting for the first time when he was 5 years old. At that time, dog hunting was the preferred method of most locals.
They’d load the trucks up with canines and kick off the party. Men would turn the dogs loose, and then let them drive deer past the hunters. That was a way of life for decades. Then, around the late 80s and early 90s, tree stand hunting became more popular. B.J. and his father enjoyed spending time together hunting, regardless of the method, though.
Back in the Game
When B.J. was in his early 20s, his dad suddenly passed away from cancer. Hunting had always been the thing they did together, and much of its meaning faded when B.J.’s dad was gone. Unfortunately, the young man just no longer had the drive.
Nearly two decades later, B.J. started getting the itch to go again. Then a friend invited him and his son to hunt on a well-managed property. B.J. got a big 12-pointer, and that rekindled a 20-year flicker into a full-blown flame. After that hunt, B.J.’s friends wanted him to join their hunting club. But due to a busy work schedule, plus a wife and five kids, B.J. couldn’t justify the 2 1/2-hour drive.
Around the same time, B.J. was introduced to the Seek One hunting group, which focuses on urban and suburban deer hunting. The hunters in the group inspired B.J. to start knocking on doors to get hunting permission. So, he started approaching landowners and gaining access. “If you have a good bowhunter on your land, they can help you get rid of poachers, trespassers, clean up trash, maintain the property, etc.,” B.J. explains. “All I ask is that I can archery hunt.”
Discovering a Giant
The strategy has worked for B.J., and he’s received permission to hunt numerous properties. Some of them are good, too. On one of those properties, near the suburbs of Birmingham, he discovered a giant whitetail. Another hunter in the area sent B.J. a game camera photo of it. “The photo looked like it was photoshopped, especially for Alabama,” laughs B.J. “It looked fake! I mean, a 150-inch deer here is a giant. This deer was probably 170 inches in 2018.”
At the very end of the 2019 season, B.J. scouted a thick bedding area and learned that the buck was living there. Trail cameras revealed that the buck appeared frail and weak. It was at the end of the rut, though, and the deer was likely run down. Nonetheless, B.J. had proof that the buck had survived the hunting season.
The next summer, B.J. ran cameras on the property in hopes of finding the buck once again. Soon the buck reappeared, and he was bigger than ever. Three years of trail camera photos and no sightings meant one thing — this deer would be hard to hunt. That would soon change, though.
On Saturday evening, November 28, B.J. decided he’d go hunting the next morning. “We go to church, so Sunday morning hunts are usually out for me,” B.J. explains. “But my wife wanted to go to late church, which was an 11:30 a.m. service. So, I told her I was going to go jump in a tree stand for a couple hours before church.”
The next morning, on November 29, fairer winds blew. It was slightly warm and overcast, and the weatherman predicted rain later in the day. Perhaps that would spur some early deer movement, B.J. thought.
The bowhunter knew the buck was likely in the area, but the deer hadn’t been on his cameras in 30 days. His confidence was low. Still, B.J. wanted to enjoy some time in the outdoors. He had two stands in mind, one of which the buck was more regular on. “I used a flip-a-coin app to decide what stand to go to, and it kept telling me to go to the one I didn’t want to go to,” says B.J. “So, finally, I just decided to go there and see what would happen.”
Unfortunately, upon arrival, B.J. busted a deer under the stand. His confidence fell even further. At this point, he really was just there to enjoy nature. He certainly didn’t anticipate seeing the giant non-typical. Despite the disappointments, B.J. settled into the stand and waited for daylight. He listened to the bubbling water from the small stream down below. As the sun came up, he began scanning his surroundings. Nothing stirred amidst the oak ridge to his left, mature pines to the front and rear, or the thicket to the right. Not even a squirrel walked the old roadbed that snaked through the timber.
Then, around 7:30 a.m., B.J. spotted some feet in the underbrush about 80 yards away. “I figured it was a doe,” B.J. says. “But I threw up the binoculars and saw his rack! I’d seen it so many times on game camera pictures and in my mind that I knew it was him.”
Self-filming his hunt, B.J. readied the cameras, got them in focus and walked through his pre-shot routine. Everything was ready. The buck kept coming, and he kept filming. B.J. reminded himself to breathe. After several minutes, the giant buck walked in and stopped behind a tree at 15 yards. B.J. drew his bow, but the buck stayed behind the tree for about 45 seconds, forcing the hunter to let down his draw. A few seconds later, the buck took three more steps, exposing its vitals. B.J. drew back once again, and then he took the broadside, 12-yard shot.
The massive buck ran back the way it came and traveled the old logging road up to the oak ridge. The buck fell to the ground within seconds, and there was no doubt of a double lung hit. “I captured the hunt and the shot on film, which was really cool,” says B.J. “And I cried for about 20 minutes before calling my wife, my buddy and some other people.” One of those B.J. called was his friend Jason Wallace, who was a major part of the hunt.
B.J.’s buck scored 199 4/8 non-typical and 186 6/8 typical. The buck has been aged at 7 1/2 years old. It wasn’t until later that B.J. realized just what he’d accomplished, having taken a whitetail that now ranks among the top five typical and non-typical bucks ever harvested by Alabama bowhunters. “It was life-changing,” says B.J. “It was fun, and it was crazy. I give the glory to God.”