Makayla Hay Buck: 205-Inch Texas Non-Typical

makayla_hay_1Anyone who likes a good deer story should love this one. I know I do. My hunting spirit holds a special affinity for youth hunters and whopper bucks, especially when the hunter is a girl — and the buck is one for the ages, with a colorful story that sounds like something straight out of a Texas fairy tale.

Now, before you get the wrong idea, let's set this straight. The story I'm about to pass along isn't built around a package hunt in which a kid shoots a buck and Daddy writes a fat check to pay the kill fee. Far from it. Makayla Hay of New Waverly, Texas, takes her hunting more seriously than most other kids, male or female. At 15, she's likely shot and skinned more deer than have many grown men.

Makayla and her dad, Jim, hunt on a 1,600-acre low-fenced lease that borders the Trinity River near Madisonville. But she tends to her deer- hunting business alone — and has for several years now.

The high school sophomore knows her way around a rifle, and she knows her deer well enough that the thought of killing an 18-inch 8-pointer doesn't excite her any more. In fact, as gun season opened last Nov. 2, she was watching a handsome buck of that caliber and a young 6-pointer. And then, a monster emerged from a distant brush line and postured his way toward the feeder where those bucks and a couple does were snacking on corn.

"He came straight out of the brush, facing right at me," Makayla remembers. "Most of the time when you see a buck at that angle it's hard to tell exactly what he is, because all you can see is a row of tines."

makayla_hay_3That wasn't the case with this deer. He was wearing a rack that resembled nothing she'd ever seen in real life. The gnarly, thick antlers sported a bounty of tines and kickers poking in odd directions, and in numbers too high to count in the dim light.

Makayla went into action. She chambered a round into her 7mm-08 Rem. and clicked the safety off.

"I never chamber a bullet in my rifle until I know I'm going to shoot, and it took me all of two seconds to jack one in there once this buck walked out," she says. "As soon as he turned broadside and I could see his shoulder, I took him. I didn't worry about trying to count points. I knew that would just give me more time to get nervous."

Makayla's shot was well placed at a distance of 145 yards. The buck dropped in his tracks but then started trying to regain his footing. The hunter quickly disposed of the deer with a second shot.

"I wasn't taking any chances," she notes. "When I saw him trying to get up, I jacked another shot into him real quick."

Makayla's dad, who was in a stand a few hundred yards away, says he could tell from the sound of the shots that she'd been on target both times.

"She didn't waste any time, either," Jim recalls. "If I hadn't known better, I'd have thought she was shooting an automatic."

No sooner had the woods settled than Jim felt his cell phone vibrating in his pocket. It was a call from Makayla, which was somewhat out of character.

"She usually sends me texts," Jim says. "When I answered, all she said was, 'Dad, come here.' Then she hung up. I thought that was sort of strange. My first thought was that she had shot a deer and it had jumped the fence onto the property next to ours."

Dad learned differently when he arrived at his daughter's box blind a few minutes later.

"Makayla was standing outside the blind, and she was highly excited," he says. "She told me she had shot a big buck. When I asked her how big, she just put her thumbs to the sides of her head with her fingers going in all different directions. She said, 'He's big, Dad.'"

It wasn't until father and daughter closed the gap to the deer that they realized the true majesty of the animal before them. Fairy tales apparently can be true in deer hunting, because one had just unfolded before them along the Trinity River bottom.

The Buck in the Photo

While this 23-pointer is an incredible deer in every respect, what makes the story behind him truly unique is a photo that had showed up on the Internet in mid-October, just weeks before the gun opener.

makayla_hay_2The photo depicted a huge non-typical buck swimming alongside a much smaller 6-pointer in off-colored water. Jim says the owner of the property he and Makayla hunt had e-mailed him the photo, along with an interesting notation.

The note indicated the picture was taken in the Trinity River in close proximity to their lease, reportedly by a fellow named Chuck Kelly. According to the story, Chuck had been fishing on the river at the time he snapped the rare image.

As that picture made the rounds on the Internet, questions as to its authenticity began to circulate. I first saw it on, where some naysayers claimed it was a doctored version of an image that had surfaced in the early 2000s. That photo, which showed six bucks swimming side by side, reportedly had been taken farther downriver, much closer to Lake Livingston.

Jim wasn't sure if the photo he'd been sent was real or not. Regardless, he showed it to Makayla as a way of getting her even more pumped up about the approaching season.

"I didn't know if it was in the Trinity River or in a stock tank," he says, "but Makayla believed it, and she really got excited about it. That's all that mattered to me. She went hunting opening morning with full intentions of killing the deer in that picture. Never in my life would I have believed she'd do it, but she did.

"The moment we walked up on the buck, I knew it was him," Jim says. "I still had the picture on my cell phone, so I pulled it up so we could compare it. There was no mistaking that deer. Makayla had killed the buck in the picture everyone was talking about."

The Guy With the Camera

To learn more about the origin of the photo and the story behind it, I did a quick Internet search for Charles Kelly. A phone call later I was talking to his father, a soft-spoken gentleman who was quick to vouch for the photo's authenticity.

"My son, Chuck, took the picture," he said. "Everybody in town was talking about that deer and that picture. We've heard a young girl killed it. Is that true?"

The man offered me a phone number so I could contact his son for more details. Soon I was getting the photo's story from the 25-year-old man who'd taken it.

Chuck told me he was fishing with his younger brother, Cole, and two friends when their boat rounded a bend on the Trinity near the Hays' hunting lease. The anglers noticed a small group of bucks in the water.

"It was about two weeks before the beginning of gun season," Chuck told me. "We were moving up the river to try another spot when we came through a curve and saw a buck that was almost across the river. Then I looked to the right and there were three more bucks together, and one of them was really big. When we stopped the boat, one of the smaller bucks split up from the big one and a little 6-pointer."

Chuck said he moved his boat to within a few feet of the big buck and the men took several photos with their cell phones. They also captured a short video of the deer swimming. Although the footage was taken from a distance, one of the bucks in the group was clearly a giant.

"When I started showing the pictures around, nobody believed us," Chuck said. "Nobody around here had ever seen a buck like that. Then she (Makayla) goes out and shoots it on opening weekend."

Tale of the Tape

The deer was officially scored for Boone & Crockett by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologist Billy Lambert of Hearne. The gross score for the 5 1/2-year-old giant is 215 4/8 inches, with a net of 205 0/8. That makes the Hay buck Madison County's biggest in 46 years!

The wild rack, which is adorned with 48 5/8 inches of abnormal points, has a number of unique features. These include split brow tines (one with an easy-to-identify crab claw), clusters of points protruding upward and outward and a club-shaped drop tine off the left main beam. Billy had seen the picture of the buck swimming the river, and once he had the rack in his hands, he knew it was from that deer.

As if all of this weren't amazing enough, there was more icing to add to Makayla's cake. According to Justin Dreibelbis, Texas Big Game Awards Hunting Heritage program director, this giant whitetail is the biggest low-fenced buck ever recorded by a youth hunter in the state. Yes, some fairy tales are true!

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