Dan Preaus grew up in a hunting family. He shot his first buck at the age of 10, and for the next 14 years deer season would find Preaus sitting in a tree with his rifle taking quite a few deer.

In 2003, after spending time working in the woods with bow-hunting uncle Mark Preaus, he decided to follow Uncle Mark's advice and give bow hunting a try.

The 31-year-old Ruston insurance agent bought his first bow in 2003 and began the transition from rifle hunter to bow hunter. A year later, things started getting interesting.

"On Oct. 3, 2004, I climbed a tree and arrowed my first buck, a mature deer estimated to be 4 ½ years old," Dan Preaus said. "This big boy sported a 10-point rack and, except for an earlier leg injury that weakened one side of the rack, this buck would have been a 150-class deer," Preaus explained.

Fast forward exactly seven years to Oct. 3, 2011, when Preaus climbed into the same tree and arrowed an impressive 12-point buck – seven years to the day of his first trophy kill.

"I had put out a trail camera around a feeder a month or so before season opened and started getting some photos of some nice deer," he explained. "In several photos, there was a young 8-point and a spike that always showed up together on the camera."

He didn't bow hunt opening morning, deciding instead to go squirrel hunting with his dad. That afternoon, however, he climbed into his stand and saw that 8-point and spike.

"I pulled the card out of my trail camera, put a new one in and drove home," Preaus said. "When I checked the images on the card, I saw something that made me say, 'Whoa!'

"It was the image of a big 12-point buck that showed up several times in the company of the two smaller bucks. What got me excited was that the photos were snapped during daylight."

The buck was so impressive that Preaus broke one of his rules.

"I usually don't hunt on Sundays, but after going to church the next morning, I decided to go back and sit in my stand that afternoon," he said. "Here came the 8-point and spike again, but no big boy."

Preaus went to work Monday morning and had lunch with a deer-hunting buddy. He felt a bit uneasy about going to the same tree three days in a row, afraid that the buck might become suspicious.

"My friend convinced me that I needed to go back since the deer was showing up during daylight hours, it's early in the season with no pressure and it wouldn't probably be long before he changed his pattern, so I went back to the woods after work," Preaus said.

"I had my hunting clothes and bow in the truck, so I changed clothes and headed for the woods, getting on my stand around 5:10 (p.m.)," he said. "About 6:45, I heard a deer coming from my right. I shoot right-handed. so I knew I needed to stand and turn in case I got a shot.

"I saw legs. and then I saw a rack – it was the 8-point but I heard something behind him and as it stepped through an opening, I saw the rack of the big one."

Preaus said there is an old fence line behind his stand and, if the deer continued as they were headed, the hunter would have a 35-yard shot – about 10 yards farther than he is comfortable shooting.

Fortunately, the 8-point took a trail instead of hopping the fence, and that trail led directly to and slightly behind Preaus' lock-on secured to the tree some 20 feet high.

"The two bucks gave the feeder a look but seemed to have their eyes on some white oaks near my stand," he said. "I watched the 8-point move on past me, and when the big one stepped behind a cedar, I drew my bow.

"He stepped out at 7 yards, I softly grunted to stop him and released the arrow."

The shot was true, and Preaus watched the buck take off as if unharmed. But after traveling 40 yards, it slowed to a walk, began staggering and fell.

Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop taped the deer out at 147 4/8 Pope & Young. The animal weighed 175 pounds, and sported a rack that enclosed 17 3/8-inches of air.

"… (I)f  I had to guess, I'd say the deer was only 3 ½ years old," Preaus said.

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