Christopher Lunsford first saw this big buck four seasons ago, when he walked out with a big, old buck that he was targeting on some family property in his home county, Franklin.
“I was trying to kill this big old buck that was on the decline, when this buck walked out with him. If he had been on public land, I’d have shot him,” Lunsford said. “The first time I saw him, I figured he was 3 ½, maybe 4 ½, but his body wasn’t big enough.”
That first encounter was on opening day of archery season in 2019. It was the only time he saw the buck in person or on one of his trail cameras for almost a year. He showed back up in the summer of 2020, and Lunsford got photos of him through the summer of 2023. He was bigger in 2020, bigger even then in 2021, down just a bit in 2022, and at close to his peak on Oct. 5 when Lunsford finally killed him with a shot through the shoulder at about 25 yards just before dark.
The buck has been green-scored a handful of times at between 187 ⅜ and 194 ⅛ inches Boone & Crockett gross. With 16 scoreable points on a 5×6 frame, it’s a coin flip whether the buck will score higher as a typical or non-typical.
“He’s going to have 12 or 13 inches of non-typical deductions,” Lunsford said. “If he stays a typical, he could be close to the state record (Earl Stubblefield’s Lafayette County buck from 2016 that scored 181 2/8.) He could easily go 178 or 179. He’s got so much mass. He carries it all the way out.”
The buck’s impressive rack
The buck has sticker points on two tines on its right beam, a split brow tine on the right side, a 4-inch drop tine on the right base and a couple of inch-long stickers coming off the left side. In addition, it has nubs on the bottom of each beam where it had sported drop tines up until its 2022 rack.
The tremendous bases are 7 ¼ and 6 ¾ inches in circumferences, with brow tines measuring 6 ¾ and 7 inches, an inside spread of 17 ¼ inches and tall tines measuring 12, 12 ¾, 10 ½ and 9 ½ inches long.
Lunsford said the buck played hide-and-seek with him for 4 years. He would show up on trail cameras during the summer, hang around for the first 5 or 10 days of archery season, then disappear until the next summer. He got his first daylight photo on the Wednesday before the early archery season opened for 3 days on Sept. 15. He hunted that opening day, and when a big buck – not the one he really wanted – stepped out in an area he had staked out where deer were feeding on acorns and persimmons, he shot him. The deer green-scored 132.
“I about didn’t shoot him because I didn’t want to mess up the other deer, but I’d never killed one in full velvet,” Lunsford said. “But the big buck showed up on the trail camera about 30 minutes after I’d gotten the first deer out of the woods.”
The day arrives
The buck didn’t pose for the cameras the week before the regular archery season opened in Franklin County, Saturday, Sept. 30. Lunsford took his wife, an LSU alumnus, to LSU’s home football game that Saturday, and on Monday, he put out a couple more trail cameras a little closer to where he thought the buck might be bedding. He got photos for about 2 hours starting at about 7:30, eating pin oak acorns after working his way up an old 4-wheeler road.
“I got no pictures Tuesday, then when I went and hunted on Wednesday, I didn’t see him,” Lunsford said. “I got no pictures of him Wednesday, but I got a picture of another nice buck. Thursday, we got our first rain in about 3 weeks, and we had a little cold front – it was down into the upper 70s. It drizzled from before daylight until I got off work at about 3. I went home, took a shower and was in the tree by 5.”
Lunsford, who bow-hunts out of a saddle-style stand, was 15 feet up in a white oak, looking out at the 4-wheeler trail. Deer started showing up around 6:15, after the rain quit and the wind settled down. He had does in front of him, then a small, 6-point buck and a small, 8-point buck showed up.
“Then, the two little bucks turned around 180 degrees, facing straight away from me at another deer back in the brush,” he said. “He took a few steps, and I could see the top of his (rack) over the top of the brush. I knew it was him. I was thinking, ‘Is this really going to happen?’”
Time to take the shot
The deer fed around back in the timber for 10 or 15 minutes before working their way closer.
“I had ranged a bunch of different places, but I couldn’t get a shot for 20 minutes,” Lunsford said. “I actually drew on him three times, but he kept moving. He finally stepped out in the road, but he was getting agitated. There was a doe with two fawns, and the two fawns were bothering him.
“He was quartering to me, and I knew I had to take the shot, had to tuck it in behind the shoulder. I shoot one pin, and I had it at 22 or 23 yards. I knew I had to make it count, and I shot. Then, I saw the arrow sticking out of him, and I saw my lumenok. He ran about 100 yards. I never heard him fall, but I could tell he was trying to get up this ridge but couldn’t make it. The two fawns ran right up the road past me, and the doe started blowing. I got down after about 10 minutes and went to where I shot him, but there was no blood, no sign. There were two (deer) trails going off the road, one to a field about 45 yards away and one to this bottom. I didn’t see anything, and I was using a lumenok with a green strobe.
“I went home and told my wife that I’d shot him, I’d shot a once-in-a-lifetime deer. I let him lay there for about an hour before I went back, around 8. I loaded up my oldest dog, a 6 ½-year-old yellow Lab named Mack, and I put the GPS collar on him. Before we got even half-way down the road, he struck out through the timber, back the way the deer went. I was watching him on the GPS, looking for blood on the ground to ease my mind. He wasn’t hunting face, just going at a steady pace, about 50 to 60 yards in front of me, then, he got 100 yards in front of me. He was following the deer up and down the ridge, and I realized the buck couldn’t get up the hill, and I thought maybe I’d hit him good. Then, I found a big pool of blood, and up ahead, I saw the Lumenok flashing, and I could tell (the arrow) was sticking straight up. About 60 yards before I got to him, the dog went on point. The buck was down by a log, with his head in a tree, the arrow still in him.”
Lunsford discovered that the arrow had gone exactly where he’d aimed it, right across and behind the left shoulder, breaking the scapula in the process. The Full Metal Jacket arrow, tipped with a mechanical Muzzy broadhead with a TroCar tip fired from his Mathews bow, had gotten 10 inches of penetration, and during the buck’s escape, the arrow had wallowed out a hole several inches wide behind the shoulder, sticking out of his heart. The buck had gone 300 yards.
“It turns out, I had made a perfect shot,” Lunsford said. “I could fit a baseball in the hole it had wallowed out.”