Landon Dowden’s girlfriend opted to get some early holiday shopping done in Lake Charles on Sunday morning, but he ventured out to Peason Ridge WMA and got a big Christmas present of his own when he blasted a beautiful 13-point public lands buck from 150 yards.

Ironically, Dowden was in the exact tree that his girlfriend Bailey LeBato had hunted from the day before when the big buck cruised through about 8:20 Sunday morning.

“She got out of the stand Saturday evening, and I told her to leave the climber on the tree because I was going to hunt it Sunday morning. She saw two does Saturday morning, but couldn’t get a shot because of the scattered trees,” said Dowden, 18, of Leesville, who’s a senior at Pickering High School. “There’s only a few spots you can get a shot on, so they got through.

“I figured I’d go and kill me a doe because Bailey wanted to go Christmas shopping early. She wanted to go ahead and get it out of the way.”

Dowden was positioned 25-feet up in a climber overlooking an oak thicket on a ridge by 6:30 that morning, Oct. 30.

“It’s one of the spots my neighbor James Goodwin took me hunting at last year,” Dowden said. “He was working offshore, and he told me I could go hunt it. He knew there’s a big rub line through there with some big bucks, but we’ve never seen that deer in there.”

He had just finished texting LeBato and putting his phone away around 8:20 when he noticed movement through some scattered oaks on his left.

“When I saw him, I couldn’t really tell what it was. I knew it was a deer, and took another look at him and knew it was a buck and then I threw my gun up,” he said. “When I did, he kind of stopped and heard the noise, so he looked around — but he was behind a tree then.”

The buck was cruising out of the oak thicket walking through with its head up — but didn’t show any signs of stopping any time soon.

“I had one little open area, and he came through that and I had my scope up, and when his head came through the scope I realized he was a big buck,” he said. “So I squeezed off when his shoulders got in the crosshairs.”

The buck was about 150 yards away, and Dowden was ready with his .30-06.

“I shot and he dropped — he didn’t move,” Dowden said. “I didn’t shake or anything before the shot, but after, I looked back in my scope and saw horns sticking out of the grass and realized it was a good, good, good buck. 

“That’s when I started getting pumped.”

He called LeBato before ratcheting down, and told her he’d send her a picture of the buck with his phone. But he was shocked when he saw the deer — which dropped where it stood — up close and in person.

“I didn’t really know what to do then,” Dowden said with a chuckle. “I just started counting.”

What he ended up with was a mainframe 11-pointer with two 1-inch kickers coming off the eye guards for an awesome 13-point Vernon Parish buck that grossed 169 inches. Its inside spread was 19 inches, with 3 ¾-inch bases. The big deer weighed 175 pounds, and was aged at 4 ½ years old with a jawbone. 

After cleaning it and caping it out, Dowden’s biggest deer ever went straight to the taxidermist.

“He’s definitely going on the wall,” he said. “I’ve already got a spot picked out for him.”

Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the random drawing for Nikon optics at the end of the contest.

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