A massive St. Landry Parish buck dubbed "The Ghost" had never been seen by a hunter during daylight hours until Friday, Jan. 12.
And Darrin Dawes didn't waste the opportunity when he spotted the mainframe 12-point that could be a state record typical buck.
A biologist and taxidermist grossed the deer out at 190 5/8 non-typical, with a typical greenscore of between 184 and 185 — in line with the current state-record typical buck that measured 184 6/8 inches.
Even though no one had laid eyes on the big deer, The Ghost wasn't all that shy. Trail cam photos of the monster were readily captured.
It’s just that nary a picture of the 6 1/2-year-old buck was captured during hunting hours. That includes images from the 2016-17 season, when the animal first appeared.
"I don't think anybody had any daylight exposures of this deer," Dawes said.
The huge deer, which sported dual split brow tines and one more scorable abnormal point to bring the total count to 15 points, lived on a roughly 400-acre patch of woods.
And it wasn't that big of a secret. In fact, everyone in the area knew of the buck’s existence.
"Between Christmas and New Years, when I say I saw 13 orange shirts back there, that's no lie," Dawes said. "(The property) was full of people."
But the crowds gave up after the holidays, so Dawes and his best friend Kevin Spieer had the woods to themselves.
"Last week, everybody got tired of hunting and feeding," Dawes said.
Even though they had already spent innumerable hours in their stands, Dawes and Spieer never gave up.
"We'd been watching the deer since October," Dawes said. "As soon as we saw it — you just kind of freak out when you see a deer that could be 200 inches.
"We knew he was special."
Dawes and Spieer kept feed sites going. But nothing really changed until Friday.
"We never could get a daylight exposure of this deer," Dawes said.
The hunter knocked off work at 3 p.m. and headed straight for the woods, arriving at his stand about 4 p.m.
His feeding site was clean.
That gave him a hint that the buck could in the immediate area. He texted Spieer the good news.
"I knew the deer had moved up in front of our property," Dawes said.
So he settled into his stand, but he didn't have to wait long.
At 4:45 p.m., something caught his eye in the overgrown high line about 50 yards out from his position.
"The weeds are about 5 feet tall," Dawes said. "The wind was blowing, and there were some cattails in there moving around.
"But I seen what looked like tree branches moving, so I put the binoculars on it."
He quickly realized those "tree branches" were connected to the buck he'd been chasing all season.
"I thought, ‘Oh, my God. This is fixin' to happen,'" Dawes said.
The excited hunter traded his 'nocs for his 7mm rifle, but when he got the scope on the animal he froze.
"He was looking straight at me," Dawes said.
Finally, the deer relaxed again. At that point, things moved quickly.
The buck was with a yearling, which the mature deer pushed out of the weeds into Dawes' shooting lane.
"He stepped out right behind her," Dawes said. "He gave me a perfect broadside shot. I saw his head and neck, and I figured out where his body was in the weeds. I picked a spot and, boom, shot him.
"I hit him right behind the shoulder."
And just like that, the Ghost was finally on the ground.
The 15 scorable points are arrayed around main beams that are incredibly thick.
"It has about 50 inches of mass," Dawes said.
It must receive a final score of more than 180 5/8 inches to rank in the Top 10 typical deer in the state, according the Louisiana Big Game Records.
But no matter how the score officially shakes out, Dawes said he feels blessed to have killed the brute.
"It was my day to shine," he said. "It could have been anybody; it was my turn."