September 23, 2019
By Riley Emery
Kentucky is well known for its highly prized racehorses and bourbon, but it also is home to some secrets. One of those is the number of mature whitetails hiding out in the state’s hills and agricultural land. Sept. 15, I got to experience how big some of those deer actually are.
Going into the hunt, I was skeptical. I’d had been on several other guided deer hunts in Kentucky over the past three to four years, without much to show for them. Whether due to overhunted camps with multiple people sitting in the same stands over and over or guides not knowing the properties well enough, I’d learned to be apprehensive about going again.
But then, last spring, through Facebook I met Luke Carswell. He’s the owner of 7 Bar Outfitters in Morehead, which is in northeastern Kentucky. I liked what I was seeing in the operation’s pictures and videos, so I sent Luke a message. I told him what I’d experienced with other outfits, and he assured me his place was different. He takes only four hunters per camp, so there’s not as much pressure on the deer.
Scrolling through pictures Luke posted on Facebook in July and August, I saw a deer that caught my eye. He wasn’t like the rest. This deer was an old warrior as you could tell right away from the body size. His body wasn’t the coolest part, though — it was the four points on his head. Yes, he was only a 4-pointer, but unlike any I’d ever seen. This deer was one of a kind: the type of trophy people will look at before turning to a 180-inch rack on the same wall.
Hunting in September had its advantages and also some disadvantages. The good news is that deer are very patternable then. The negative is that it’s scorching hot, and the acorns are in full drop. When I arrived, Luke told me we’d be grinding it out because of those two factors. But that didn’t stop me from climbing into my stand with high hopes for the first evening.
For an hour or so, things were slow. Then, at 5:30, the first doe came through the hardwood timber in front of me. She came and went, but by 6:30 or so, six more does and a 2 ½-year-old 8-pointer had taken her place. The hunt ended with no shot at a mature deer.
The second day was a bit warmer. Nonetheless, I had high hopes. The wind was wrong for the set I’d been in the day before, so we moved to a corner ridgetop beside a several-acre soybean field. This was where Luke had been getting consistent photos of the giant 4-pointer, which we decided to nickname “Slingshot.”
I got into the stand and settled in. Time passed, and as it got later I finally felt I wasn’t going to see a single deer. But then a doe stepped out to my right.
After she’d fed for about five minutes, she suddenly snapped her head up and looked to my left. I could hear something moving in the thick cover — and then, there he stood: Slingshot!
I couldn’t believe my eyes. The deer I didn’t think would come out was 40 yards from me and closing in on the corn pile. He chased off the other deer and started feeding. Meanwhile, I turned on my video camera and got my bow ready.
By this point, I had several pairs of eyes to deal with. The buck stiffened up and chased the other deer off again, and in the process, he ended up standing perfectly broadside at 30 yards. I drew my bow and took my time, burying the pin behind his shoulder.
Thwack! I heart-shot him, and blood began to pour out immediately. I know he wouldn’t go far with that hit, and I heard him crash right after he entered the woods to my right.
I turned the video camera around, not yet comprehending that I’d just killed the biggest 4-point buck I’d ever seen. I called Zack, my guide, and told him what I’d done, and he came to pick me up.
After I got all my stuff out of the tree, we started the search. It wasn’t hard finding blood; Slingshot had sprayed it all the trees he’d gone past on his way to his final resting place, which wasn’t 50 yards from where I’d shot him.
More adrenaline hit me as I walked up on the giant lying on the hillside. He was much bigger than I’d expected, and I was in shock. We managed to get a few pictures of him there, then loaded him up and took him to the lodge to get more pictures the next morning.
When daylight came, I packed everything and headed out to get some “hero” pictures before the deer was caped. Of course, right after we began to post pictures, Facebook started blowing up. Everyone was raving about how cool a deer this was. Who knew a 4-pointer could get more recognition than a lot of 200-inch whitetails do? It’s amazing how crazy the whitetail world can be.
Understandably, everyone has been asking questions about my deer. Why didn’t he have more points? What will the rack score? Is he a new world record for 4-pointers?
Honestly, all these answers have yet to be determined. We don’t know how old Slingshot was, though, based on live photos over the years, the feeling Luke and his staff have is that he’s at least 5 ½ years old. (He was a big 3x3 in 2018 but for whatever reason only grew a huge fork on each antler this year.)
As for antler score, I’m just now starting to reach out to folks who know how to measure a rack of this configuration. It’s so unusual that few evidently have ever tried to score one.
I want to offer big thanks to the guides at 7 Bar, as well as to Luke, for the unique opportunity I was given to take this amazing buck. I certainly couldn’t have done it without them.