For the past 22 years, Brad Martin and three of his friends have leased 600 acres of prime property north of Ruston in Lincoln Parish. A pact the four made not to shoot a buck until it was at least 4 ½ years old paid off in spades for Martin, 53, when he dropped a stud 11-point on the morning of Nov. 11.

“After hunting this land from the outset, land we lease from a private land owner, we weren’t very particular about the bucks we shot. After a few years,” Martin said, “we decided we should begin managing the deer on our lease and would only shoot bucks 2 ½ years or older. For the past ten years, we have upped our game and agreed to let bucks live until they were at least 4 ½ years old. We only shoot maybe two or three a year, but we know when we get a buck, it’s going to be a good one.”

The management plan formulated by the quartet of hunters is quite simple: Other than planting winter food plots and keeping trail cameras out, their focus is learning to estimate the age of bucks and only shooting older mature deer. 

“This works pretty well for us because hunters who lease property around us pass on smaller bucks and let their deer grow and mature like we do ours,” Martin said.

“Our box stands are on rights of way left by the timber company that manages the land. The woods begin growing up pretty thick, which makes for habitat big deer are comfortable with. The company thins the timber every six to seven years, and it starts all over again.

“I was in my stand on a high line right of way that morning when I looked to my right about 150 yards away and saw a deer standing in the edge of the wood line like a mature buck will often do. I could see his shoulder and neck, and could tell it was a good buck — but his rack was behind a bush,” Martin recalled. “I eased my gun around, the deer began trotting across the lane, but stopped just before going into the thicket and looked my way, giving me a good look at his rack. From the size of his rack and body, I felt this was one I wanted to take. I shot and the deer took off into the thicket.”

The buck only ran 40 yards, but it allowed Martin enough time to start wondering if he had made the right decision to take the shot. 

“The first thing that went through my mind was I was hoping he’s not a 3 ½ year old,” Martin noted. “When I got a good look at him as I walked up, I thought, ‘Holy Moley….look at this.’”

The buck sported a massive 11-point rack with an inside spread of only 16 ½ inches — but the truly impressive characteristic was the mass. Bases were 6 ½ inches each, with heavy mass all the way out to the tips. The circumference between the last two antler points exceeded 4 inches on each side, and the heavy-horned buck was green-scored at 167 inches.

“I have killed some big deer, including a 160-inch buck in Kansas, but I wanted to get one that big in Louisiana,” Martin said. “And I finally got it done.”