Hayden Cassels spent most of last season and all of this year bowhunting for a big, heavy-horned Concordia Parish buck he’d seen in trail cam footage on the 1,000 acres of private land he hunts near Monterey.
“I got some pretty good pictures of him during the day last year when he was a tall 10-point, but I couldn’t catch up with him going back and forth to school,” said Cassels, a 20-year-old junior majoring in construction management at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. “This year, I caught a glimpse of him on a camera back in September when he was in velvet, and I hadn’t seen him since ….”
That all changed on Saturday, Nov. 19, when Cassels ditched his bow for a Remington Model 700 .270 rifle and headed for a stand overlooking three shooting lanes that nobody had hunted yet this year.
“I like that stand a lot — I killed a nice buck there a few years ago,” he said. “The wind wasn’t right for bowhunting, but the stand was nasty. There were dirt dauber nests and ladybugs everywhere.
“It didn’t smell too good, either.”
He had dropped his girlfriend’s sister off at a nearby stand earlier that afternoon around 3, and decided to try the unused stand on a whim.
“I was like, ‘I’ll just sit here and wing it,’” Cassels said. “We had just started feeding the day before at that stand.”
About 5:15, Cassels was watching a doe and yearling in his right-hand lane when he saw movement out of the front window.
“I happened to look out and saw him come out and go right for the corn,” Cassels said. “I knew it was a big-bodied deer and I glanced at his horns to make sure he was a shooter. I knew he was about 4 years old just by body size.
“I didn’t want to glance at his horns too long because I didn’t want to get too nervous. It just caught me off guard, something that big coming out. I wasn’t expecting to see anything like that on that day.”
Cassels put his crosshairs on the buck’s right shoulder and squeezed off a shot from 95 yards — and the deer dropped in its tracks.
“I knew it was a good deer. I was just hoping he’d maybe score 140 or 150 by what I’d seen,” he said. “I wasn’t convinced completely that this was the buck I had been after.”
Cassels gave the big deer a few minutes, then headed down into the twilight to see exactly what he’d shot.
“When I got there and realized it was him, I just fell to my knees,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything but thank the good Lord.”
The buck was a beast, sporting an inside spread of 18 ⅞ inches, with circumference at the bases approaching 6 inches and tall brow tines measuring more than 5 ½ inches long. Estimated to be 4 ½ years old, the deer weighed 226 pounds and was green-scored at both 190 6/8 and 186 ⅞ inches — a true buck of a lifetime for Cassels.
“When I got down to him, I called my best friend, and I was ecstatic. He actually thought I had gotten into a wreck or something because I was so happy,” he said. “He was like, ‘Calm down. What’s wrong, what’s wrong?’
“Then halfway through the conversation my phone died. I didn’t get to take any pictures of him until I loaded him and got back.”
Eventually the big buck will go up on Cassels’ wall to commemorate a hunt he’ll never forget. The deer is currently in 1st place in both the Men’s and Largest Louisiana categories at Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop.
“I told my buddy about a week before I shot him, ‘I just want to see him, whether somebody else shot him or just got a picture of him.
“I just wanted to see what he looked like this year based off what he looked like last year. But I never thought I’d catch 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.