“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” This is one of my favorite quotes by Thomas A. Edison. And while I am certain that Mr. Edison was not a deer hunter, his words certainly reflect the persistence of one Madison County deer hunter.
It took Paul Hopper, owner of Hopper Properties in Brandon, almost a full year to score on a monster 140-class 12-point he had never seen other than on images captured by his trail camera.
“I first got daylight pictures of the big buck on three separate mornings during the week of Christmas in 2013,” said Hopper. “Although I hunted him hard, I never saw him from the stand the rest of the season.”
Although Hopper placed trail cameras in strategic locations all summer and fall, he never captured another image of the elusive buck. Hopper began to fear that the giant buck had not made it through the previous hunting season. Nonetheless, he continued hunting the area in hopes of encountering the monster.
Until his buddy sent him pictures of a massive 12-pointer that he had taken the first week of archery season on property only a half mile away from where Hopper had last captured images of the big buck.
“The buck in the pictures had decent tines and was a wide 12-point,” said Hopper. “I just knew it was him. He looked identical to the buck on my trail camera pictures from last season, except that he had gained some mass.
“With the big buck dead, I figured it was time to move on to another target buck.”
After a fruitless morning hunt on Dec. 14 and still no trail camera images of a big buck, Hopper decided to climb down and scout for fresh sign. Two hours later, Hopper’s efforts proved productive when he discovered almost two dozen scrapes within an area about the size of a football field.
“I knew the way the deer were traveling through this particular area, so I hung my Summit climber and hunted the scrape line that afternoon with no luck,” Hopper recalled.
But the lack of success only made Hopper more determined to encounter the buck making all those scrapes. So on the evening of Dec. 16, Hopper made the mile-long trek from his truck to his stand overlooking the scrape line. Almost three hours passed with no movement in the area.
“I’m a land broker and sell real estate, so I was working on a deal from my iPhone when I glanced up to scan the area — and there he was, just standing there 75 yards away in the hardwood flat,” said Hopper. “I carefully raised my rifle to my shoulder. But when I found him in the scope, he was staring me down.”
With no clear shot, Hopper waited for what seemed an eternity but was actually only a few minutes. Finally, the big buck decided he had seen enough and turned to leave.
“I yelled at him to get him to stop,” Hopper said. “And he did, giving me enough of a small window to pull off a quick free-handed shot.”
Hopper’s .308 found its mark right behind the big buck’s shoulder. The monster ran less than 50 yards before falling off the edge of a deep creek bank. Hopper hurriedly climbed down and made his way to his prize lying in the bottom of the creek bed.
“When I got down to him and lifted his head up, I couldn’t believe it: It was the big 12-point I had been after for so long,” said Hopper. “After eluding hunters and cameras for an entire year, the big 12-pointer had just appeared out of nowhere and nearly a mile away from the last picture I had of him back in 2013.”
On a side-note, Hopper later pulled the card on his trail camera placed near the stand where he shot the big buck and was surprised by what he found. The image showed the big buck moving past Hopper’s stand at 5:58 a.m. of the same day he harvested the trophy.
The 220-pound main-frame 12-point buck sported a 20-inch inside spread with 24-inch main beams. The rack includes 6-inch G2s, 7 ½-inch G3s, 6 ½-inch G4s and bases measuring 5 inches in circumference.
The initial green-score of Hopper’s buck measured out at 141 ¼-inches due to a broken brow tine and grossed 145-inches of bone.