Hunter McCullough and his father-in-law dished out a hefty chunk of change to make a deer hunt to Illinois earlier this season. But McCullough came home empty-handed and depressed. 

So on Saturday, Dec. 9, he headed to a 28-acre plot of land his family has permission to hunt in East Baton Rouge parish just 20 minutes from his home in Walker.

And his depression quickly turned to ecstasy when he settled his scope on a big 15-point buck.

“I was really down on myself after my hunt in Illinois because I had chances at two nice bucks and didn’t get either one,” he said. “The land we have permission to hunt here is a little skinny piece of property, but it does have some nice features. There are lots of oaks and a ridge situated between two sloughs. I went to hunt there because I was really needing some venison for the freezer and hoped to shoot a doe.”

With snow still on the ground from Friday’s wintry weather, McCullough and his father-in-law decided to pass up a morning hunt and made plans to head for the property that afternoon.

“My father-in-law dropped me off at one of the ladder stands on the property and he went a little further and got in his climbing stand,” McCullough said. “Soon after getting on the ladder, I began to squirm and fidget because it was so uncomfortable. I texted my father-in-law and he suggested I go sit on another ladder stand, so I did.”

After relocating to another spot, a doe walked out, and although he needed some venison, McCullough decided to pass on it because the day was still young and weather conditions were favorable.

“I didn’t want to shoot the first thing I saw, so I waited. It wasn’t long before three spikes walked out and put on a show for me, grunting, fighting and trying to make scrapes,” he said. “They finally left, but then came back and started acting really nervous; I felt like they knew something else was in the area. The spikes left but one came back and stopped right under the tree where I sat on my ladder.”

Hearing something walking in the leaves to his left, McCullough saw a big deer and was able to make out antlers through the thick brush. 

“I could tell it was a good deer and when I counted at least eight points, I knew this was one I was going to take if I could,” he said.

The buck continued slowly on down the slough stopping to feed on acorns. Looking ahead of the deer, McCullough saw one small opening where he would have a chance for a shot. 

“As the buck took his time slowly walking and stopping to pick up acorns, I could see his rack well enough to count 12 points so to keep from losing it, I stopped looking at his rack,” he said. “Finally he stepped into the opening, I moved my gun just a bit when the spike beneath my stand saw or heard me move and started stomping. When he did, the big buck raised his head and I got him in the scope of my Ruger .270 between two trees and hit the trigger. At the shot, the buck took off and I watched him for maybe 30 yards when I didn’t see him any longer and all was quiet.”

Texting his father-in-law about what he had shot, the pair began following the blood trail, finding the buck dead only 50 yards away. 

Once the deer was hauled out of the woods and examined, it had 15 points with a 19-inch inside spread and main beams nearly 22 inches long. The deer, aged at 4 ½ years, weighed 220 pounds and green-scored 160 inches.

“My father-in-law’s comment was priceless,” McCullough said. “He said, ‘You paid all that money to hunt in Illinois — and you come home and shoot a lifetime buck 20 minutes from home.”