Joey Daugherty scheduled time off to hunt for a trophy buck on his Jan. 15 birthday, but Mother Nature decided to push that plan forward.

The avid hunter from Quitman had spotted a promising young buck in Clarke County about 4 years earlier, but he’d only seen him on cameras the last couple of years. And with a cold blast coming in early January and bucks hitting pay dirt around the state, Daugherty knew it was time to go to the woods

“When it turned off so cold and buck harvest pictures started showing up from everywhere I knew I needed to bump my vacation, so I sent out an email at work (Jan. 7) and told them that I would be taking off that afternoon and the next two days for tree stand therapy,” Daugherty said. “I’ve kept a feed trough out on my property for several years and put protein pellets and rice bran in there, primarily. I kept track of this unique buck through my game cameras on the spot but (had) never hunted that area.”

Daugherty knew the buck was nearing its peak by the photos he’d been viewing over the summer and fall, so the hunter knew it might be now or never.

“I was just hoping that he didn’t venture off during the rut,” said Daugherty. “I feel I got lucky last year because he stayed right there most of the season and didn’t start leaving a lot until February after the season.”

Daugherty and his son Lane went to the woods on that Wednesday afternoon and enjoyed a lot of action.

“We literally saw more does that day than I have ever seen on this property, so I knew timing was right,” Daugherty said. “But we only saw a couple of small bucks.”

The following day was also action-packed, with lots of doe movement and young bucks chasing them, but the results were the same — the monster buck was a no-show. 

“I pulled my camera card after the morning hunt on Friday, and I hadn’t seen the buck in a couple days so I thought he’d left the area chasing does,” Daugherty said. “I almost hunted another stand Friday afternoon, but I just decided to give it another chance.”

That Jan. 9 afternoon, Daugherty was back in the stand again; however, he didn’t see any deer until 5 p.m. 

“A few does came out and grazed in the grass patch, but it wasn’t long until they got nervous and started running around,” said Daugherty. 

And then a large deer burst out of the woods and made a mad dash toward the does.

“I saw a buck bolt across the patch with his head down, charging a running doe,” Daugherty said. “It all happened so fast I just raised my .35 Whelen and fired a shot as he ran across the patch.

“When he fell at the end of the patch I knew it was the buck I was after.”

The 13-point buck weighed 185 pounds and scored 169 inches Boone and Crockett.

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Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.