December 28, 2023
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Kentucky deer hunter Cody Payton had two years of history with this big whitetail. In 2023, the buck blossomed into a massive 4 1/2-year-old deer. Cody has hunted this area for quite a few years now, and he’s familiar with how the local deer use the land.
Last year, the buck left the property the week before archery season began. His neighbors got him on camera during the season, and the deer returned after it ended. Cody’s father even thought about hunting the buck, but he didn’t because he knew how much the deer meant to his son.
“It means a lot,” Cody says. “My dad bought a bow this year. He told me that he went and sat in the stand for 15 minutes but left because he didn’t want that buck to walk up.”
It was still a family adventure, though. “My brother bought two cameras, and he asked where to put one of them,” Cody says. “I told him to put it on a hill on a Saturday, and the next morning, this buck and two others were on it.”
On Sept. 24, Cody saw the buck from the stand, but it was too far. He didn’t get a shot. Even so, it built confidence that he’d see the buck again.
A couple days later, on Sept. 26, 2023, Cody hunted the buck for about the tenth time of the season. That day skies were overcast. During the afternoon hunt, it even started to storm in the distance. Eventually, Cody could see the rain clouds moving toward him.
His stand location was positioned in a hay field. Sitting in his tree stand, he had the hay field in front of him, timber to his rear and woods surrounding the open field. The terrain allowed Cody to access his stand without alerting any deer.
The hunt started slower than expected, though. He hadn’t seen many deer, which was odd. Usually, he sees quite a few. With all the inactivity, he started to get sleepy, and almost nodded off into a nap.
“When I was sitting there, I was getting worried with the storm,” Cody says. “But something kept telling me to wait it out.”
About that time, two does walked out. Then, a spike. They were all at the corn pile. A few minutes later, he looked up and spotted a huge rack bobbing through the field.
“I woke up completely,” Cody claims. “I couldn’t believe it; it was him!”
The big deer kept walking in slowly. According to Cody, he didn’t like moving during daylight, and even acted skittish around trail cameras. In retrospect, he thinks the other deer being in the field brough the buck in sooner.
“If those other deer weren’t there, I don’t think he would have come in,” Cody explains. “He was really skittish.”
Several minutes of waiting passed. Then, with the buck at 25 yards, Cody took the broadside shot. The arrow hit the buck’s vitals perfectly!
“When I shot him, he stumbled, and I could see I hit him good,” Cody says. “I don’t even remember getting out of the stand because I was so torn up. I called my dad, and he couldn’t believe it either.”
After leaving, he drove to meet his dad. Just as he got to the house to pick him up, the came like a monsoon. They decided to go ahead and start tracking due to the rain. However, once they arrived at the spot they elected to wait under a tree instead. It was just raining too hard.
“We were pouring water out of our boots as fast as they filled up,” Cody remembers. “Our phones were wet; wallets were wet.” The deer had only gone 40 yards before falling, and they recovered it quite easily. Considering the 196 inches of antler that will now hang on Cody’s wall, the rain was all worth it!