March 01, 2023
By Hunter Schmittou
During the 2019 season while hunting a 150-inch 11-point on his family’s 790-acre farm, Jake Fleming received news that the deer he was hunting was hanging in the local taxidermist shop. Disappointed at all the time he had wasted hunting a deer that had already been harvested, Jake set out to find another big deer.
Shortly after getting the news about the 150-inch deer he was chasing, Jake started receiving trail camera pictures of another great up-and-comer that was frequenting his farm. Little did Jake know, this up-and-comer would become Jake’s obsession.
During the summer of 2020, the new up-and-comer started to show up on every camera Jake had. Being a mature deer now, Jake turned his attention to the deer and named it “16,” because of the 16 countable points he had. Though getting pictures of this deer every day in numerous locations around his farm, Jake would never have a daylight encounter with the buck during the 2020 season.
Following the 2020 season, Jake started getting pictures of 16 during the summer of 2021. With pictures from all over his farm, Jake had high hopes of harvesting this deer opening weekend. As opening weekend came and went with no sightings of 16, Jake continued to hunt hard for the next few months. When Jake was hunting the north side of the farm, 16 would be on the south side. When he was hunting the south side, 16 would be on the north side. It always seemed that 16 was one step ahead.
Jake also faced a new responsibility in 2021. His son, Jacob, was now old enough to start hunting and eager to get his hands on a big buck. Jake new if 16 walked out in front of his son during the youth hunt, he was going to tell his son to take the shot. “When telling my son that he would have to be the one to harvest the deer if given the opportunity, my son replied, ‘No, Dad. That’s your deer,’” Jake recalls.
Determined to get his chance at 16, Jake continued to hunt hard with no luck, ending his 2021 season with the same outcome as his 2020 season. Though Jake was unable to fill his tag, his son would go on to harvest a beautiful 8-point during the youth hunt.
Approaching the 2022 season, Jake started keying-in on the day-to-day habits of 16. Through scouting and trail camera pictures, Jake was able to pinpoint a small, 3-acre patch of timbered swamp right off the edge of a crop field. The buck was starting to develop a pattern by only showing his face on one camera every so many days. However, when 16 would show up, he would be there for two to three days at a time before disappearing for a week or so. Knowing this pattern and receiving a picture of this deer one morning, Jake decided he was going to slip into his spot that afternoon.
With the wind wrong for his normal setup, Jake decided to hunt from the ground. After a few hours of sitting and it starting to get dark, Jake decided to begin gathering his gear. Just as he was about to stand up, Jake spotted 16 walking out of the timber 80 yards away. Armed with a crossbow, Jake felt comfortable making that shot.
As he squeezed the trigger, Jake watched his bolt dive directly under 16. Unaware of what happened, 16 stood there looking around, which gave Jake the opportunity to close the distance. Jake crawled as fast as he could directly at the deer until he was 62 yards away, and he took the shot. This time the bolt connected, and Jake watched as 16 ran just over 40 yards before falling over. Jake’s incredible buck scores 195 4/8.