October 04, 2022
By Clifford Neames and Josh Honeycutt
Kelsey Rutledge, Kentucky
Sitting in a tree stand from daylight to dark wasn’t enough to stop Kelsey Rutledge from hunting her best buck ever. She also has a job. So, she worked all night and hunted all day for the first five days of Kentucky’s bow season! This endeavor was driven by an unreal determination to fill her tag on the bruiser buck that showed up suddenly on a trail camera in late August.
Kelsey knew this buck was much larger than the other bucks frequenting the area, with a wide frame and extremely long points. Kelsey thought she might have gotten a quick look at him late in the 2021 gun season, but he didn’t hang around long. When he showed again his visits were irregular. He would just randomly appear. When opening day arrived, she only had received three new pictures of the buck.
But that was enough to lock her in! She was after the giant and nothing else!
Kelsey has a ladder stand in a strip of woods between crop fields that offered the best opportunity to hunt the deer. Since there was no guarantee of when he would show up, her plan was to grind it out and wait as long as she needed to.
So, she worked her shift at night and sat in the woods each day. The hours were long, filled with a lot of dead time as other deer would drift in and out of the small clearing she was watching. This grueling waiting period took a toll, and on the sixth day of not receiving a glimpse of her target, she had to take a break.
She decided to sleep in, waking up late in the day. Her dad advised her that the wind was probably wrong for the hunt, but she replied, “You have to risk it to get the biscuit!” And she made the long walk into her stand for the final time.
At 6:30 p.m. she heard a limb snap, and she spotted velvet hanging off the huge rack just to her right. The monster buck was only 10 yards away, and the big payoff was about to happen!
Kelsey grabbed her Bear bow and eased around to let the arrow fly. The arrow hit the buck’s chest, a perfect pass-through shot! The beast dropped, then jumped up and crashed again only 20 yards away. This one was in the books!
The huge, mainframe 8-point has a split G3 on the right side, heavy mass and super tine length pushing the tape over 170 inches. Truly a trophy of a lifetime, and a testament to what sheer determination can produce!
Jamie Rogers, Kentucky
A whitetail that shows up and poses like clockwork deserves a great name. So, Jamie Rogers thought “Hollywood” suited the buck he watched for four years perfectly. During that period, he learned his ways and gathered hundreds of pictures. He had the buck dialed in!
At the beginning, Hollywood was a good deer. Then he began showing potential to become a real slammer, and Jamie decided to keep an even closer eye on him. With thermals in his favor and using a little caution, he was able to slip in tight to where the deer bedded and keep tabs on Hollywood as he grew into a fully mature whitetail.
The buck was locked into a bed-to-feed pattern year after year. His route brought him down a ridge to a pinch point between the end of a ditch and a fenceline. Jamie observed him multiple times, passing shot opportunities and taking pics from the stand on several occasions. Then, just at the 2022 Kentucky bow season was about to open and the buck had reached true trophy status, the routine behavior ended. He shifted his course and began a series of random movements, converting the once “sure thing” into a whole new ballgame!
Jamie has been a bow-only hunter for years, and he knows that patience is required. He reasoned the buck would not completely abandon an area where he felt secure. Bowhunting is close-range work, and the ridge where Hollywood bedded is extremely thick. He knew better than to crowd the mature deer, understanding that he would react badly to a sudden intrusion into the heart of his core area. So, he opted to stick with his saddle down low on the slope in hopes the buck would revert to his old path.
This was rolling the dice, but it could pay off.
On opening day, a storm had everything in the state stirred up and the wind was wrong, too. The combination made hunting Hollywood a total no go. On Sunday morning, Jamie attended church. After worship, he was ready to hit the woods. Then, another huge rainstorm blew in. After dumping 1 1/2 inches of rain, it moved out; and Jamie was hunting by 4:30 p.m.
Two hours later, he heard some commotion up the ridge and spotted Hollywood and two other bucks coming down the edge of the ditch. Jamie said a short prayer and readied his bow. The shot was perfect, and unbelievably his trail camera captured it!
As the buck ran back up the hill, Jamie could see the lighted nock just a few yards away. Success at last!
The giant typical, sporting a wall of tines on each beam, was still in full velvet when recovered. And to make things even better, Jamie found both sides of his 2021 sheds while making his way out of the woods.
Jamie is a long-time reader and a great, Christian man. He says he was blessed to get such a great deer, and to be featured by North American Whitetail!
Eli Hampton, Kansas
Doug Hampton is a known name in the world of deer hunting. He’s spent a lot of time filming and being filmed for hunts that appeared on several hunting shows, such as Dream Season and Adrenaline. He’s tagged a lot of great bucks during his hunting career, and in recent years, he’s been passing on the hunting heritage to his son, Eli.
Eli has tagged some great deer of his own, but on Sept. 3, 2022, Eli shot a huge 6 1/2-year-old Kansas buck. With an 83-degree temperature, an overhead moon and a north wind, Eli and his father were excited for the hunt. They eased into a spot they’d picked out — a thicket that led to a soybean field. It was full of cedars and brush with a drainage leading into the field.
After settling in for the afternoon, they couldn’t help but think about the hundreds of trail camera photos they had of this buck. It wasn’t long before deer started moving, and anticipation built. First, some does. Then, a yearling buck and another small buck. A few minutes passed, and a 4-year-old 8-pointer walked through, followed by another small buck. Right behind it was the monster buck they were after.
The old buck surveyed the scene, watched the younger deer and eventually walked into the field. Eli settled in for the shot and slowly squeezed the trigger. The buck ran 60 yards and died along the edge of the timber. Eli’s biggest buck was on the ground, and his father captured it all on film!
“Deer hunting is a way to get away from everything,” Doug says. “It’s just us and God out there.”
That’s very true, and hunters oftentimes feel that closeness while enjoying the great outdoors. The outdoors is a place of greatness for Doug, Eli and their family and friends. The hunt for this buck is a memory that will last a lifetime.