July 19, 2023
The surprising appearance of a giant whitetail on his game camera sent Jesse Donahoo on an unexpected chase. He hunts family land in a part of Mississippi not known for producing giant antlers, so when the 180-class buck showed up it was game-on!
As it often happens, the big buck did not make it easy. Jesse got his first trail camera photos of the deer in late summer of 2022. Once the hunting season opened, he chased the buck throughout the early archery season and well into gun season. Yet, he never laid eyes on him.
Other deer tempted Jesse while he sat there patiently; he even had to pass a solid 140-inch 8-point. “That took extraordinary effort,” Jesse remembers. “But I was after the giant. He was like a ghost! I was hunting hard and trying to be smart, but he just never showed up when I was on my stand.”
By late December, Jesse was nearly obsessed with the magnum buck that he couldn’t locate. Then the rut kicked in.
Jesse was hunting the deer in a big hardwood bottom. The wind had to be just right to hunt there, or he knew he wouldn’t stand a chance. On Dec. 21, 2022, everything lined up; it was time to try again. Before he slipped into the bottom, Jesse decided to check his cell camera. Unfortunately, the buck had beat him into the bottom.
He decided to slip in regardless, moving slowly with the wind in his face to see if he could spot the deer. As he eased along, he was thinking about the 90 hours he had invested up to that point in pursuit of the monster buck.
“I knew he was in there, and I was hoping to get my eyes on him,” Jesse says. “Then I spotted movement on the opposite ridge!” The problem was the deer saw him moving, too, and the buck stopped and stared for 10 long minutes.
“I just knew the hunt was over,” Jesse remembers. “Then he turned and headed back up the ridge. I sat there shaking my head.” With nothing else to lose, Jesse eased further in. Once again, he spotted movement. The buck was out in the open one more time.
“He was still about 200 yards away, and I thought he had seen me that time for sure,” Jesse says.
But the giant buck was with a doe. And when she brought him out a little further, Jesse was ready. He shouldered his rifle and sent one through the boiler room at 115 yards. The monster buck took off, making it out of sight.
“I wasn’t too confident until I found some blood,” Jesse explains. “Then I decided to call in a friend with tracking dogs.” The tracking team was on another call, so he had to wait. Two long hours later, the dogs found the giant buck only 50 yards away.
“He was stone dead,” Jesse says. “And I knew that I had just experienced the biggest thrill you can have in Mississippi! But I also hated to see him go.”
Jesse’s Mississippi trophy gross scores 182. The eye-catching rack features G3s at 11 and 12 4/8 inches and heavy beading. A beast of a Southern buck for sure!