There was an absolute monster easing through the thicket, and the sight sent Travis Murray's heart into palpitations. The Crosby hunter had been chasing the 11-point all bow season, beginning by climbing high into trees with spurs, and finally settling into the pop-up blind in which now he sat.

All that work and time afield had finally paid off, and the deer was a mere 10 yards away.

"A long spike walked out, and that giant deer was right behind him," Murray said. "He came out on the heels of that spike."

Murray quietly nocked an arrow, and eased his bow to point out the small shooting window.

"In those situations, it feels like he's going to hear your heart beat," the die-hard hunter said.

The two deer eased farther through the edge of the thicket, and soon the spike had crossed in front of the hidden hunter. Murray drew back, anchoring with the string tucked against his cheek.

"The deer stepped into a hole (in the brush), and I released," he said.

The buck hunched and bolted.

"I stuck my head out the blind so I could hear him," Murray said. "He went right back into the core (bedding area)."

And then he heard the big boy crashing only about 75 yards or so away.

The deer was a dandy, with 11 sweeping points and enough mass to push his gross Boone & Crockett score to 150 inches.

But the story of the deer began long before Murray's arrow struck true. In fact, the kill was the culmination of a lot of trial and error, and heralded the beginning of a strategy that has netted Murray numbers of big-racked animals.

His trick? Trail cameras.

No, no. Don't quit reading. Sure, these pieces of equipment are no secret, with hunters putting cameras in woods all over the country in hopes of spying out monster bucks.

And they are effective. Photos taken of big bucks are shared, with hunters salivating at the chances that they might be the one who gets a shot.

Of course, most of the images are taken at night, and those huge racks are rarely ever seen on the hoof and even more rarely killed.

That's where Murray's use of these now-common-place tools diverges from the pack: His office is lined with racks proving he's figured out the best way to use trail cameras.

"In the past five years, I've killed six deer that scored at least 150 (inches)," he said. "The 30 years before that, I might have killed five.

"Cameras have really rocked my world."

And he's killed his deer on small patches of woods all over Wilkinson County instead of hunting clubs.

"If you don't want to kill a giant deer, go join a hunting club," Murray said. "What I'm exploiting are areas that people have forgotten and deer can get old.

"You just don't find that on hunting clubs."

Learning how to effectively target big bucks with cameras took several years, however.

"I experimented at first, but now I've got a good system," Murray said.

Knocking down the 11-point was the turning point.

"That was the first deer I absolutely would not have killed without a camera," Murray said.

His basic strategy is pretty simple: Set up cameras to determine where bucks are bedding, and then setting up an ambush.

"None of those (trophy) deer would have been killed if I didn't hunt bedding areas," Murray said.

That's a tactic worth the effort, according to a telemetry study showing deer spend inordinate amounts of time in very defined "core areas."

"He's got a pretty good idea," said researcher and now state biologist Justin Thayer, who conducted the study for his Louisiana State University thesis. "Bucks spend more than 50 percent of their time in their core areas."

It takes some work, however, to find these core areas, and that's why Murray has numbers of cameras.

"My goal is to inventory the deer," he said.

Those nighttime photos that send most hunters into a tizzy are simply the first step for this hunter.

"When I get an image of a big buck, I'm going to move that camera until I start getting pictures in daylight hours," Murray said.

Some hunters might not recognize exactly how important those images are; after all, it might seem that a few nighttime images would provide good odds for hunters.

Murray, however, said those daytime photos are critical.

"When you start getting pictures of a deer in daylight hours, that deer's half dead," he said.

He actually begins at the end of a particular season.

"That's when you find out where deer are living," Murray said.

And that's why it's so important to employ more than a camera or two.

"I've got 10 cameras all over Wilkinson County," he said. "The more cameras you put out, the better chances are you'll find a big deer."

His trophy wall, along with a line of antlers he dubs "the wall of shame" filled with racks many hunters would treasure, attests to the effectiveness of the tactic.

But it's not without cost, with Murray investing in many hundreds of dollars in cameras and spending untold hours in the woods moving cameras around even before the season begins.

"It is hard work, it's time consuming and it's expensive," he said.

But it's undoubtedly a labor of love.