Larry Nixon, one of the world’s best bass anglers, once said big bass couldn’t be forced — they just kind of happen. And they usually happen when they are least expected.
The same can be said for big bucks, whose obituaries are usually full of low expectations and high happenstance.
Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of planning and preparation that goes into killing a big buck, but no matter what we try to do to encourage that fateful crossing of paths, that deer is going to play by its own rules.
That’s why Dakota Kennedy, a 16-year-old 11th grader at Pine High School in Washington Parish, didn’t have the loftiest of expectations when he climbed into a box stand hardly 100 yards from his house after a long day at school on Jan. 15.
“I usually get in the stand about 3:30, as soon as I get home from school,” Kennedy said, “but I didn’t get in until about 4:20. My buddy called me — good thing I had my phone on silent — and told me I wasn’t going to see anything.
“I told him that today was going to be the day.”
Unsure of whether he was just shooting back or really meant it, Kennedy hung up on his buddy. Barely 30 minutes later, Kennedy spotted a deer 300 yards away in the far corner of a corn field.
All he saw was antlers.
Rather than ease his way around the edge of the field, the monster buck made a beeline for a pile of corn still in the shuck.
“He must have been starving to death, because he came right to the corn,” Kennedy said. “While he was working through the standing corn, kind of piking on it, I texted my dad to tell him I thought this was the big deer we had on camera for the last four years.”
Kennedy still wasn’t sure this was THE deer because the body on this aniimal just didn’t match up to what they had been seeing on camera, and they had another good 8-point showing up on their cameras.
“The body didn’t match up with the 200-pound deer we had on camera, so I texted Dad again and told him I thought this was him,” Kennedy said. “He kept asking me if I was sure. I told him I was pretty positive. He told me that I would know if it was him. I texted him back to give me a minute because I was about to find out.”
The buck turned broadside, and Kennedy stopped texting his dad.
Instead, he pulled the trigger of his dad’s .300 that his dad had encouraged him to take rather than his own youth model 7mm-08, and the buck ran only 20 yards before flopping.
“Anything in the woods around me was gone after that because of all the noise I made hitting the stand, and jumping up and down,” Kennedy said. “I called Dad, and he was at the stand before I could even climb down. I told him to go look.”
The resulting whooping and hollering and subsequent football tackle confirmed that Kennedy had, indeed, just killed the buck that had been on so many people’s minds for so long.
“We’ve hunted all over the world,” Dakota’s dad Casey Kennedy said. “We have land on the Bogue Chitto in Clifton. We’re in a big lease at Port Gibson. I have seen big deer, but they never walk out on me.
“And to have this one right here in the middle of of a place where people shoot deer — any deer — man, that was a smart animal.”
The buck had made hundreds of appearances on the Kennedy’s game cameras, but in four years of pictures they had only one daytime shot. And to Casey Kennedy’s knowledge, no one had ever seen the buck outside of a neighbor who believes he might have seen it while putting out corn at 10 a.m. on Christmas day.
Several people had been trying to score the buck based on game-camera photos. Most had it somewhere around 160 before doubts made them drop their guesses to 140.
In the end, two people scored the 11-point buck at 157 3/8 inches.
The buck was run down from chasing does, and weighed 158 pounds rather than the 200 pounds everybody who had it on camera estimated, but the taxidermist who is going to do a full-body mount estimated the buck to be 7 1/2 years old.
Word of Kennedy’s buck traveled quickly, and most of Washington Parish was at his house that night congratulating him.
“Now I can’t even go to the store without somebody wanting to talk to me for 20 minutes,” he laughed.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.