On the day after Thanksgiving, Carlton Brodnax was definitely counting his blessings — including one that had 11 massive points, an almost 20-inch inside spread and heavy-horned antlers that carried almost 5 inches of mass out to the tips.

The 41-year-old hunter from Collinston took down the buck of a lifetime on the afternoon of Nov. 25 near Bastrop when he nailed a big rut-crazed Morehouse Parish buck that wound up stretching the tape to more than 160 inches B&C. 

He had just finished up a Thanksgiving celebration with his in-laws when he decided to head out  to his hunting club and get set up in a box stand overlooking several shooting lanes in the northwestern section of the parish.

Brodnax got situated about 3:45, and things were quiet until the big buck appeared a few minutes after 5.

“That box has been pretty good to me over the years,” he said, noting that he shot a 140-inch buck there in 2005 along with several 120-class deer. “Believe it or not, that was the first time I’d been in it all year.

“It was pretty slow, and I was just looking down my lanes and I looked out to 9 o’clock and he was coming straight up the lane trotting pretty fast. Buck fever kicked in at that moment. He was just over 300 yards at that point, and I’m like, ‘Oh, man. Carlton, calm down. Don’t make a bad shot.' All that stuff was going through my mind.”

Brodnax hadn’t seen any other deer, but the big buck’s behavior indicated it was laser-focused on a hot doe.

The buck steadily advanced straight toward the hunter — then suddenly locked up about 150 yards away.

“He stopped, and I almost messed up and tried to take a chest shot or a neck shot,” Brodnax said. “Then he wheels on a dime and took off straight back to where he came from.”

Brodnax figured his chances at the trophy were finished, but that’s when a little Thanksgiving miracle took place.

“When he got almost to the end of the lane — about 290 yards away — he hit the brakes and started looking out in the cutover,” he said. “When he got broadside, I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger.”

It was dead calm that afternoon, and after the concussion of his Browning .270 Short Mag rang out, Brodnax could hear the deer barreling through the woods. 

“I was listening and it sounded like crashing,” he said. “It sounded like he was either down or was hurt — I could tell something had happened.”

That’s also when he noticed the apparent object of the big buck’s desire — a doe was at the feeder in his middle lane.

“She was in heat. You could tell that was the doe he was after,” Brodnax said. “They just don’t get that big and pop out on the right of way. 

“He had one thing on his mind.”

Brodnax quickly headed down the lane, and wound up jumping the big buck twice before reluctantly backing out and giving the deer some time.

“That was so hard to do,” he said with a chuckle. “That was the longest walk back to the stand to gather my gear and walk out to the road. Some guys were saying to come on home, others were saying to go in and get him.

“But we ended up making the right decision.”

About four hours later, a tracking dog located the big buck only about 40 yards from where Brodnax last jumped it.

The wait was worth it: the big Area 2 11-point had a 19 ½-inch inside spread with 4 ¾-inch bases. And even worn down by the rut, the buck tipped the scales at 210 pounds and was aged at 5 years old. 

At Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop, the buck green-scored 160 ⅝, and at Spotted Dog in Columbia the deer scored 163 inches. 

Even now, more than two months removed from the hunt, Brodnax is still fired up from the experience. He hadn’t recognized it at the time, but it turns out the deer was one he had been watching on trail cams for three years. 

“It was amazing — it really was,” he said. “I still get excited and nervous just talking about it.”

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.