"Around 8:15, a nice buck came toward me cold-trailing a doe with his nose to the ground," Hawkins said. "I grunted at him just as he went out of sight, but he never stopped or paid any attention."
About 15 minutes later, Hawkins spotted the deer coming down the trail and closing fast.
"He came within 5 yards of me and looked up toward me, and then turned and ran off a few yards, and stopped and looked back at the wrong tree," Hawkins said. "I had pulled to full draw, and as soon as he stopped I found my spot and released the arrow."
The arrow found its mark and plunged into the vitals of the buck, and it ran a scant 15 yards before expiring.
The veteran hunter from Senatobia made the perfect shot when the opportunity presented itself, and he harvested the buck of his lifetime.
The 10-point main-frame buck gross scored 173 4/8 inches Pope and Young.
And the buck was the result of intensive management using all the resources at Hawkins' disposal, as well as expert woodsmanship and hunting skills.
Only a few years ago, Hawkins couldn't have dreamed of killing a trophy buck such as this. How times have changed, as new technology such as game cameras and mineral mixes have evened the playing field.
Hawkins has also become a more-selective hunter, preferring to harvest bucks at least 5 ½ years of age.
Part of the equation of harvesting mature bucks is letting them walk until they reach at least 4½ years old.
Proper management of the habitat and the deer herd are key components, as well, but another key ingredient to Hawkins' success is the use of mineral licks and game cameras to find and keep watch on potential trophies.
"With the use of mineral licks and game cameras, we know exactly how many bucks we have and can keep up with them through the summer and fall," Hawkins said. "If they make it through a couple hunting seasons, we are usually able keep track of them over a period of years."
After looking for a good product to attract deer, local bow shop owner Ricky Kennon decided to make his own blend that would be good for the general health of the herd and also attract deer.
Kennon formulated a blend he named Red Spot Plus, which is distributed through Primos and Kennon's store.
Hawkins gave the product a field test.
"Ricky told me about it, and kind of challenged me to use it and try it for myself," said Hawkins. "I tried it, and it looked like a pig pen around the mineral site.
"Then I introduced it to several landowners and everybody had good results with it. It sold me on the benefits, that's for sure."
Within the first month of monitoring the mineral sites via game cameras in 2011, Hawkins spotted one deer that stood out from the rest - a 10-point that looked to be mature.
"I kept track of that buck throughout the summer of 2011, and then lost him in October," Hawkins said. "He showed back up for one picture in late January, and I was pretty sure he would survive the hunting season."
Hawkins had some doubts about the deer's survival, but was pleasantly surprised when the buck showed up again on a mineral site on the west side of the property in August 2012.
"In September, he was more centrally located on the property, probably due to the crops being harvested on the west side," Hawkins said. "In October, he had moved back to the far east side of the property where I had first spotted him on my game camera in 2011.
"He was using three different mineral sites throughout the property now."
In November, the buck created a scrape about 20 feet from a mineral lick, and he was captured on several photos.
"By December he continued to visit the scrape each week, but always after dark, and he appeared to be headed toward a large food plot a couple hundred yards away," Hawkins said. "I never got pictures of him at the food plot, but felt sure he was using it, so I told my hunting partner I thought he could be killed there if he would show up in the daylight hours."
Stacy Walker and her 10-year-old son Cort were hunting from an elevated box stand overlooking that food plot late one afternoon in January, just hoping for a chance to catch a glimpse of the trophy buck.
"They were watching several deer feed in the plot when Stacy noticed a deer coming out of the woods," said Hawkins.
It only took a quick glance at the buck with her binoculars for her to realize he was a shooter buck.
"Cort, shoot that deer," Stacy Walker told her son.
Before she could give him further instructions on making the shot Cort pulled the trigger, the rifle roared and the bullet struck the buck's vitals.
"The buck made a short dash and piled up in the field," said Hawkins.
The youngster had harvested a 153-inch 10-point.
That only added to the evidence that combining mineral licks and cameras is a formula for success.
"Finding and monitoring this deer right up until he was harvested with the use of mineral sites made a believer out of me," Hawkins said
The veteran hunter has since used mineral licks to inventory the deer that live on their property and the surrounding area.
"I look forward to hunting some of the other bucks that I know live there, and it's only because I have become aware of the benefits of mineral use," Hawkins said. "By managing my property and by being a good steward of the land and animals, and by using minerals, I'm adding to the health and wellbeing of the herd where I hunt as well."