May 29, 2023
The hills of eastern Kentucky are known for their coal mines and big bull elk, but not often do you hear of the whitetail deer in the area. This area is full of reclaimed coal mine land, which most would look at as unusable. What most people don’t see is that this is perfect habitat for deer. This reclaimed land provides year-round nutrition for the deer at easy browsing height, while also providing close cover for them to disappear in. Pikeville resident Brett Salyers used all this to his advantage during his 2022 deer season.
In January of 2022, Brett was fortunate to lease a 2,500-acre farm not far from his house. Not knowing the property, Brett did his best to do some quick scouting and get a game plan together for optimal camera and food plot locations. Focusing on the three large ridges that make up this property and only checking cameras during a light rain, Brett was able to consistently get pictures of several deer in the 150s and 160s. But none of the deer looked mature. “I continued to move my cameras around the farm until I got pictures of a really nice deer,” Brett says.
With season a month away and finally having pictures of a nice deer, Brett started focusing his efforts on harvesting this buck, spending hours going through trail camera photos while comparing times, weather, wind, direction of movement, and what deer the buck was traveling with. As the number of pictures and information began to grow, Brett’s confidence in harvesting this buck increased.
As November neared, Brett noticed that the buck was starting to close the gap between dark and daylight. As fate would have it, Brett received his first daylight photo of the buck on Nov. 5, just two days before his 21-day “rut cation” began.
On the morning of Nov. 7, Brett woke up and checked his cell camera to see that his target buck had stood in front of his blind at 2:00 a.m. Excited for what the day would bring, Brett headed to his blind. Once settling into the blind, Brett used nose jammer to help with his scent control.
“In this part of the state, you have to keep your eye out for bears when using nose jammer. The bears seem to love the smell and will come in and get in the blind with you,” says Brett.
Right at daylight, a 150-class 8-point made his way past the blind on the trail of a hot doe. Though tempting, this was not the deer Brett was after, so he let him walk by. Just 40 minutes after daylight, Brett decided to do a short rattling and grunt sequence.
Shortly after, Brett opened a pack of peanut butter crackers to eat a small snack before doing another rattling sequence. As he ate, he heard the sound of footsteps and what sounded like a growling sound coming from behind him.
“Not expecting the deer to come from this way, the nose jammer in the blind and the smell of peanut butter crackers blowing downwind towards this sound, I expected that I was fixing to have company in the blind with one of our bear friends. To my surprise, when I turned to look, it was the buck I was after. And he was standing three feet from the blind I was sitting in,” says Brett.
Listening and watching as the buck continually checked the wind, Brett waited patiently for the buck to take a few steps so he could get the shot. “The buck was so close I couldn’t see his rack,” Brett says. “I could just see from his nose to his chest. Of course, his vitals were behind the corner of the blind, and he stood there for what felt like forever.”
As soon as Brett was able to draw, he quickly drew and focused his sights on the deer. The only problem was Brett had never practiced with his bow at this close of range, and when getting his site on the deer, Brett was in a small panic as all his pins were on the deer at one time. Taking an educated guess, Brett chose to put his 20-yard pin on the top of the heart and let the arrow go.
Brett watched as the buck ran off and could see blood pouring out from what looked to be a perfect heart shot. The buck ran 40 yards and fell into the thick kudzu. Brett’s Kentucky buck nets 201 5/8.