September 27, 2023
Kentucky native Jonathan Stuart has perfected the art of patterning large whitetails during the early season. He proved this last season with an incredible Kentucky buck we covered in a Breaking News Bucks story, and he's done it again with yet another early-season giant.
During the 2021 season, Jonathan was hunting a 160-class 9-point when he started to get pictures of a young buck with bladed brows and a few kickers off several of his tines. As many serious hunters do, Jonathan would always keep track of any deer that showed potential after they reached three years of age. This allowed him to create a portfolio of the next few years’ prospects.
Unlike a few of the other young deer that were showing potential, this buck was showing up on several different cameras and was very consistent throughout the season. This gave Jonathan a small sense of excitement knowing that this buck, as well as a few others, made it through the 2021 season.
Starting in July of 2022, Jonathan started running cameras on this same piece of property that he harvested his buck the year prior. As the pictures started rolling in, Jonathan had several good deer to hunt. One deer that caught his eye was a deer that looked to be a 4-year-old. This buck supported a heavy left antler, but his right looked damaged.
“I decided to give this buck another year instead of culling him,” Jonathan recalls. “I had high hopes of him getting bigger during the 2023 season.”
After reviewing the countless photos of the lop-sided buck and location these photos were taken, it started to become apparent who this frequent face was. It was the young up-and-comer that Jonathan was watching during the 2021 season. “This buck was all over the farm. He was walking past several of my cameras a day and holding tight in the timber,” Jonathan says.
After ending the 2022 season with a 165-inch mainframe 11-point, Jonathan knew that 2023 could be something special. “After harvesting two great bucks two years in a row, and having several more good bucks for next year, I was starting to see just how much potential this farm had. So, I decided moving into the summer of 2023 that I was going to start being more selective than years prior,” Jonathan says.
As usual, Jonathan started setting out cameras in July, hoping to catch a glimpse of a good deer; and to his surprise, a giant appeared. Jonathan instantly knew who the deer was. It was the lop-sided buck from the year before. “I am glad I did not harvest him during the 2022 season. I’m not a big believer in culling bucks. I have seen on many occasions where the bucks turn out to be great deer,” Jonathan says.
Camera check after camera check, the big deer continued to show up, following the same pattern as the years before. But a few weeks before the season, the deer decided to change it up. He became very spotty and inconsistent. He would be on the cameras for a few days, then disappear for a few days. So Jonathan decided to observe the deer feeding in the beans and started glassing the field during the afternoon. After 10 sits and no sightings of the buck due to the beans being taller than the deer’s head, Jonathan decided that he was going to hang a few stands around the field edge.
The opening weekend was slow with no sightings, so Jonathan decided to sit in an observation stand so that he could see most of the field. Getting in the stand at 2:45 p.m., Jonathan settled in. Shortly after he heard a deer blow just 20 yards behind him. Scared it was the buck he was after, Jonathan was hesitant to see which deer it was. Turning slowly, Jonathan saw it was just a doe. Thinking his hunt was over just 15 minutes after getting in the stand, Jonathan contemplated getting down and heading home. But with a perfect wind and being right in the middle of a cold front, he stayed.
For the next few hours Jonathan glassed the field, watching the deer feed in the beans. Around 5:00 p.m. he caught a glimpse of a buck to his left. Ranging him at 150 yards, it didn’t take long to see which buck it was. It was the lop-sided buck! The buck slowly fed his way through the beans and bedded down just 100 yards from Jonathan. After a long 45 minutes of trying to cut holes through the beans with his eyes, Jonathan started thinking of what he could do to get the buck on his feet.
“I was looking around the base of the tree for rocks, sticks or acorns that I could throw in his direction to try to get him on his feet, hoping he would feed my way,” Jonathan says.
Then two small bucks spooked, causing the big buck to jump to his feet and bound off. Now 120 yards away and only 30 minutes until dark, Jonathan was losing hope. However, the buck turned and started working his way back in Jonathan’s direction. The buck closed the distance but always stood behind branches, not giving Jonathan an opportunity until he was standing under the tree at just eight yards.
Jonathan slowly drew his bow and let the arrow fly, and the arrow found its mark. Jonathan watched the deer run out to 60 yards before falling over and disappearing in the beans.
Jonathan’s buck scores an astonishing 192 inches and was aged at 5 1/2 years old.