Until a heavy-horned Natchitoches Parish buck stepped out into a shooting lane on his 1,500-acre lease near Ajax, Chris Ebarb never knew the deer even existed.

The 42-year-old Natchitoches hunter had lots of trail cam pictures of other bucks on the property, but not a single one of this mature 16-pointer with a palmated rack.

“It was a complete surprise,” said Ebarb, who works as an industrial maintenance contractor. “I never had a trail cam picture of it, but I found out my neighbor on the adjoining property has had pictures of it for about five years.

“He told me he’s only ever had pictures of him at night. He felt like the deer lived on our place, and would just come over to feed and then come back home.”

Ebarb had gotten into his box stand overlooking three shooting lanes about 5:30 on the morning of Nov. 6, and saw the tail-end of a deer moving from right to left in his right-hand lane as dawn broke over the thicket about 6:15.

“I suspect now it was him. He had made it far enough across to where everything was exposed but his head, but I didn’t take a shot because I didn’t know what it was,” Ebarb said. 

He stayed focused on that lane, though, and about 15 minutes later the big buck attempted to cross back again.

“Initially, he had his head down. I saw the deer, and when he picked his head up I could see it was a buck,” he said. “When he turned his head to look toward me, I could see the big masses on each side, so I knew it was something out of the ordinary. It was out passed his ears.”

The deer was broadside in the lane at 150 yards, and Ebarb put the crosshairs of his .30-06 just behind the buck’s right shoulder.

“I actually hit him a little high,” he said. “He fell in his tracks, but he did some kicking and struggling so I went down to finish him off.”

That was when he got a closer look at the buck’s awesome rack: It featured heavy palmation, 16 points and an impressive 16-inch inside spread. 

The deer — estimated to be 6 ½ years old — weighed-in at 200 pounds and green-scored 169 ⅝ inches at Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop.

Ebarb found out after killing the buck that his neighbor plants 40 acres of sunflowers and peas every spring, and attributed some of the deer’s mass to his efforts.

“We met because of this deer. We had mutual friends, but he and I had not talked. His wife actually contacted me on Facebook when she saw the picture,” he said. “She messaged me and said, ‘Look, we’ve got five sons and they’ve been hunting that deer for years, and we recognized him from the trail cam pictures.’

“She asked if I minded bringing him by to let her boys see him.”

So Ebarb went to his taxidermist, and brought the buck’s horns over for his neighbors to check out. 

There was no ill will because he shot the deer — in fact, the neighbor gave him a pair of the buck's sheds from three years ago, and they’re now making plans to team up to try to grow more big deer on their properties.

“They’re very nice people. They were happy for me,” Ebarb said. “We’re talking now about planting spring plots at the same time together, so he can show me what he’s been doing.”

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.