As 8-point bucks go, the one killed by Brett Lackey on Dec. 7 in Southwest Hinds County is a monster — and at 164 inches it certainly qualifies as a nice Christmas present.
“Sure does, and I’ll take it,” said Lackey, 37, of Raymond. “When I got the buck back to the house, my wife Missy told me, ‘Merry Christmas, getting that mounted is all you’re getting.’”
Not a bad reaction, since Lackey dodged an “invitation” to help his wife hang Christmas decorations to go hunting that Sunday afternoon.
“I had hunted that morning, but quit early because my back was hurting and I wasn’t feeling good,” Lackey said. “I went home, took a nap, rested up a good bit and, when I woke up in the middle of the afternoon, I felt better.”
When he told his wife how his condition had improved, she brought up the decorating duties.
“I told her, ‘I feel good enough to go hunting’ and she let me go,” Lackey said. “I don’t know why she let me, but she did, without arguing. I guess the good Lord was smiling down on me.”
If so, he kept smiling the rest of the afternoon.
At 2:45 p.m., Lackey climbed into a 12-year-old tripod stand at the end of a long lane cut through the middle of a 40-acre CRP field.
“I cut the strip through it for a shooting lane, and it’s about 100 yards from a food plot where I had been getting pictures of this buck nearly every other night since late October,” he said. “I bowhunted him and (hunted the deer) during gun season, too, but he was a smart buck. I’d climb out of the stand at dark, like at 6 o’clock, and 30 to 45 minutes later the camera would get a photo of him.
“It was like he would hear me climb down, and then figure it was safe to walk out and head to the food plot. But, at least I had established that I had found his hot zone, his home territory. I figured that he wouldn’t leave unless he got behind a hot doe and she took him three or four miles away. That’s why I thought I had to get him before the rut.”
Lackey was careful, only hunting the stand with bow or gun when the wind was absolutely perfect.
“I wasn’t hunting him every day, but when I got the right conditions I was in there,” he said.
This was a buck Lackey had gotten to know pretty well for nearly three years.
“I first saw him two seasons ago; actually it was between deer and turkey season when I was out scouting for turkeys,” he said. “I was out there looking, and he jumped a fence in front of me and went into a pasture. He had not dropped his antlers yet, and he was a good 8-point then.
“Then last deer season, I had him on cam until the rut; then he disappeared. I figured somebody had shot him or he got run over. I just figured something had happened to him because he was not camera shy and all of a sudden he stopped showing up on my cams.”
Lackey said he got a hint that the buck was still around when a neighboring farmer reported a big buck in his soy beans this past summer.
“He told me it was a big buck, looked like a big 8, and as well as my neighbor knows the land out here, I felt pretty good when he said ‘as soon as I cut my beans, he’ll be headed over to your place looking for a bedding spot,’” Lackey said. “There’s really nowhere else between his farm and us for the buck to go, and my neighbor cut his beans in early October.”
A few weeks later, the trail cam overlooking one of Lackey’s food plots started catching the buck, and it never stopped. Lackey started getting photos regularly, some showing the buck chasing small bucks out of the field, and the hunter recognized the antlers and had his targeted trophy for this year.
“Once you see an 8-point like this, you never forget him,” he said.
But, late on Dec. 7, when a buck appeared in the far end of the lane, Lackey wasn’t sure.
“When I first saw him in the lane, he was skinning a gum tree up,” he said. “I watched him rub it for a few minutes. I knew it was a buck, but at the far end of the lane, I couldn’t really see how big it was. I just figured it was a small buck I had seen earlier down that way.
“At 5:15, I was running out of time; it was getting dark on me. He finished what he was doing and started walking toward me down the lane. When he turned, and I saw those antlers at a different angle, I knew it was him.”
Did he get nervous?
“You bet I did,” Lackey said. “If I didn’t, I’d quit deer hunting.”
Adding to the anxiety was that at 200 yards, the buck turned and started leaving the open lane.
“He turned away from the food plot, and that really made me nervous, thinking he wasn’t going to the food plot, which was 100 yards to my right,” Lackey said. “I knew I had to take a shot.
“He was quartering to me, with his left side to me. I put the scope on the front of his shoulder, so the shot would angle through and catch both lungs. He stopped and looked dead at me.”
But, it was too late for the buck.
He was in range and couldn’t see Lackey anyway. The tripod is 17 feet tall, with its top covered in burlap, nearly enveloped in a cedar tree that over the past 12 years had grown around the stand.
“I could do jumping jacks and a deer couldn’t see me,” he said.
Lackey didn’t need to move that much. He cocked the hammer on his Thompson Center .308 and pulled the trigger. Though it was primitive weapon season in Mississippi, the new regulation allowing firearm of choice on private lands put the .308 in Lackey’s hands.
“The buck didn’t fall down, rather he turned into the shot, turning toward me and then bounding one time out of the lane,” Lackey said. “I figured he was right there, in the CRP.
“I sent a text my dad to bring me a light. I didn’t take one with me because I don’t need a light since I grew up there and know that land. Dad brought the golf car back and a light.”
What the Lackeys found was troubling.
“When you get out in the brush, there’s a lot more growth in that lane I cut that you can’t see,” lackey said. “A lot of little saplings and stuff, some of it big enough to affect a shot. I started worrying about the shot and when we walked to the spot where he was standing, I heard the deer get up.
“I told Dad we needed to stop and back out and let the buck have time to do what it’s going to do.”
Lackey decided to turn the retrieve over to a “professional,” a friend who trains Labrador retrievers to blood trail deer.
“I have a friend named John Ainsworth who has the best dog in the state,” Lackey said. “He and two friends have Southern Track’N, where they offer their dogs for tracking. John brought his dog, Cash, and put his GPS collar and bell on him and put him on the buck’s trail at 7:30.”
The dog did his job, not only finding the buck alive, but running it back toward the hunting party.
“We could hear the dog barking, then we could hear the deer coming at us, right towards us,” Lackey said. “My sister’s fiancé, Brandon Lamar, put a light on him, and the buck was coming right at us. John had only gun, which is one of the rules of using his dogs. The buck ran within 15 yards of us but John couldn’t get his pistol on him.
“Cash stayed on him, though. We made a halfmile loop through neighbor’s property, and every time he had to jump a fence it would pour blood. I was worried, but John wasn’t. He kept telling me, ‘Cash will find it; he’s found them with less blood.’”
The chase was relentless, wearing down the big buck. At least once, the dog had gotten close enough to the resting deer that the buck had kicked him.
“Cash got hooved once, and seemed a little leery about it,” Lackey said. “He’d go off and come back. John told us that Cash kept coming back because he wanted him to come with him. John walked about 100 yards and called us, telling us he needed one person to come down to hold the dog so he could finish the buck. Brandon went because I was wore out. When Brandon got there, John was on one knee in the middle of the food plot where I had all those pictures of him on trail cam. He circled back to his home territory.”
It was where he went to die.
“He had bled out, and had gone as far as he was going,” Lackey said. “He gave up. John finished him.”
The bullet had struck the buck further back, high in the left hind quarter, nicking an artery. The hunter said he feels the bullet had hit one of the saplings in the lane and had thrown it off course.
“It was a fatal shot, he just needed time to bleed out,” he said.
Lackey had his Christmas present, and it was a pretty sight.
Scored by taxidermist Dan Heasley of Raymond, the buck totaled 164 inches, massive for an 8-point.
It had a 20 2/8 inside spread, 27-inch main beams and bases that measured 5.5 inches. The mass carried out to the end, with a smallest circumference of 4 4/8 inches. The G2s were 13 2/8 and 12 7/8 inches in length, and the G3s 11 7/8 and 11 3/8 inches.
“His brow tines were just 3 5/8 and 3 7/8 inches,” Lackey said. “If they had matched the other points, he’d have been 170. But he’s pretty, very symmetrical.”