And then the 169-inch buck stepped out in front of the elder Cox brother last Wednesday (Oct. 5), and now there is a slight controversy in the family.
"I had to sling an arrow, that's for sure," Jake Cox said of the kill.
That decision has left his younger brother with mixed feelings.
"I feel like my dog died," Joseph Cox said.
In Jake Cox's defense, he tried to get his little bro to hunt the stand that evening – but Joseph Cox wanted to go eat with his girlfriend.
Also, it really was Jake who saw the buck first.
The story began when Jake Cox texted a photo of the big deer to his younger sibling while Joseph Cox was finishing up his schooling at Mississippi State this summer.
"I saw this deer in a thicket near (his parent's house), and I went back to my house to get my binoculars," Jake Cox said. "I couldn't find my binoculars, so I took my rifle with a scope on it and went back."
The buck was still in the thicket. Although the deer's antlers were still forming, Jake Cox couldn't believe how big it was.
He used his cell phone to snap a photo of the deer through the scope.
"He was so big that I was shaking taking a picture of him," Jake Cox said.
The brothers put out a trail cam, and got a couple of photos of the deer near a gravity protein feeder several hundred yards from their parents' house.
And that's when Joseph Cox, who has changed his MS-Sportsman.com alias from "madison-slayer" to "Joseph Cox," became obsessed.
"I saw him out in the field with a pair of binoculars," the younger Cox said. "Every evening for about two months, I walked outside (of his parents' house) and looked for him.
"I feel like I've been hunting him for two months because I've been out here looking for him."
The buck made six or seven appearances, and Joseph Cox was just geeked out at the size of the animal's rack.
Meanwhile, trail cam photos stacked up – and about 10 of them were during daylight hours.
They even entered one of the photos in the MS-Sportsman.com Trail Cam Photo Contest.
When the brothers finally saw a photo of the deer without velvet covering the calcified crown, they thought they might have misjudged it.
"Joseph and I were kind of disappointed," Jake Cox said. "He just didn't look that huge."
As opening day approached, Jake Cox ceded the right to kill the deer because of his younger brother's obsession.
"Jake said he wanted me to kill it," Joseph Cox said. "He let me hunt (opening weekend).
The second day of the season, he shot – not at the huge buck but at a 130-inch 9-point it was running with.
"I hit a poison ivy vine, and I told Jake about it and he went in and cleaned it up," Joseph Cox said.
On Wednesday, Jake Cox asked his brother if he was going to hunt the spot. When Joseph Cox said he wasn't, the elder brother headed out.
"I got in the stand a little late," Jake Cox said. "It was kind of warm, and the wind was blowing from the east-southeast, which isn't the best direction for that stand.
"It just wasn't optimal."
But he settled into the tree stand between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m.
"I got out there and sat down, and I didn't see anything," Jake Cox said.
Until about 7 p.m., when two bucks stepped out as the light quickly faded.
The hunter began shaking with anticipation when he realized one of the deer was the big buck – and that it was truly a trophy.
"I knew how big he was when he walked out; all you could see was rack, rack, rack," Jake Cox said.
He managed to get his bow drawn as the deer moved toward the hunter's position.
"I drew back on him, waiting for him to walk to a 30-yard spot," Jake Cox said.
And then some nearby noise caused a problem.
"Joseph and his girlfriend drove out, and it spooked the other buck with this (big) buck," Jake Cox said.
The smaller buck danced away, and the bigger deer started to follow. But it quickly reversed course and stepped into the open a second time.
A few minutes remained of the day's shooting hours, but Jake Cox said it was difficult to see his pin because his bow is older and the site isn't lighted with fiber optics.
"It was so dark I couldn't see my pin, which wasn't glowing anymore," he explained. "The deer was silhouetted, so I had to move my pin into the food plot (in front of the deer) and then move it back onto the deer."
When he felt confident the pin was on the deer's vitals, Jake Cox sent an arrow flying at the deer standing about 40 yards out.
He heard the impact, and his heart sank.
"I knew by the sound that I hit him," Jake Cox said. "It had that gut-shot sound."
The deer disappeared, and the hunter pulled out his phone and called Joseph Cox for help.
The younger Cox hurried home and soon was in the food plot to help locate the deer.
But not a drop of blood was found. On the positive side, however, the arrow was missing.
The brothers expanded their search into some extremely high grass surrounding the food plot, with Joseph Cox pushing through the grass along a well-worn game trail.
"I stepped on a stick and it cracked, and Jake yelled to see if I was OK," he said. "I turned, and when I did I saw the smallest spot of blood."
Jake Cox said he yelled a second time, but the reply sounded funny.
"I said, 'Did you find something?'" Jake Cox said. "He said, 'I've got blood.'"
The brothers hurried down the good blood trail, and soon was standing over the dead animal. It had run about 150 yards before falling.
The shot was, indeed, a bit too far back but the poison capsule on Jake Cox's arrow put the animal down before it could go too far.
"A lot of people are hating on me for using poison, but I wouldn't have found that deer if I hadn't used it," he said. "It would have died somewhere, and I would have been lucky to find it rotting."
Massive antlers sprouted from the deer's head, and the brothers just stood a minute staring before sharing some high-fives.
It was everything the Cox boys hoped for.
The main beams surrounded more than 17 inches of air, sported 12 long points – including an 11-inch eye guard.
It was roughed out at 169 5/8 inches Pope & Young by Ellis Solomon Taxidermy.
Joseph Cox entered a photo of the buck in the MS-Sportsman.com Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest.
The problem was that Joseph Cox hadn't been the one to kill it.
"I ain't heard the end of that story," Jake Cox admitted.
It hasn't helped that the elder brother has a reputation for killing bigger bucks.
"He keeps telling people I soul my soul to the devil," Jake Cox laughed.
Indeed, Joseph Cox gets his digs in, but he is happy for his older brother.
"I'm glad one of us killed it," he said.
And he's already turned his attention to a big 10-point that's running the same area. Joseph Cox ran a trail-cam photo of that deer through the Deerscore software and came up with 157 inches.
"Maybe I'll get that 10-point," Joseph Cox said.
His brother probably will leave that deer alone.
"I might have a little brother slinging an arrow at me if I shot it," Jake Cox chuckled.
See the entire Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest photo gallery, and enter photos of any buck you kill to be eligible for monthly prizes. Also, every entrant into the contest will be eligible for a pair of Nikon binoculars to be given away after the season in a random draw.