The first time was the charm for Ben Elkins last weekend when he decided to hunt a bottleneck between a ridge and a borrow pit that had been dug to construct the Mississippi River levee in Tensas Parish.
The 38-year-old from Alexandria had discovered the spot where two deer trails covered in tracks converged when he was alligator hunting several weeks ago, but he didn’t have any trail cam footage showing what size bucks might be in the area.
He decided to give it a shot anyway on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 11, and when a heavy-horned 8-point showed up late that afternoon, he was glad he did.
“I didn’t have anything,” said Elkins, who is a member of the Winter Quarters Hunting and Fishing Club. “I had barely been in there. I saw it was a good spot and I went twice to put out rice bran, and I hung my climber at 4:30 that afternoon and climbed the tree for the first time.
“I think there’s something to be said for finding a good spot like that and trying not to mess it up too much.”
With Elkins positioned about 25 feet up in an oak tree, it wasn’t long before two smaller bucks appeared and headed for the rice bran.
“They came out and they were very wary,” he said. “They were checking me out pretty close. I was trying not to move or breathe the whole time because they were looking straight at me.”
The two deer eventually calmed down, and Elkins watched them for more than half an hour as they ate.
“I was enjoying the scenery and letting them do their thing and just waiting to see what else happened. Then I hear something rummaging through the thicket,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a lot of squirrels this time of year, but it sounded like a deer walking, then I saw those two bucks' heads pop up and I said, ‘Oh Lord, that’s something.’
“But they didn’t seem too concerned, so I wasn’t really expecting it to be a monster.”
That’s when he noticed a big horn moving through the thicket.
“I saw an antler come through the brush about as big around as a Coke bottle,” Elkins said. “And I didn’t think I was nervous, but it took about three or four seconds and I started hyperventilating.”
The big-bodied buck stepped out and gave Elkins a perfect broadside shot at 15 yards, but he had two problems: the bucks already in the rice bran were going to bust him if he made a move.
“They were looking eye-to-eye with him, so I was definitely in their peripheral vision. They had been looking at me the whole time, and I knew if they spooked, he would spook,” he said. “So I just figured I’d let them all get to the rice bran and all get their heads down and try to raise my bow.”
It sounded like a good plan, but the big buck was having none of it — the deer quickly moved back into the cover provided by the thicket.
“I could see him kind of stomping around back there trying to make his mind up,” Elkins said. “I tried not to look at him and just pretended he wasn’t there, and kept doing what I was doing to relax and get my heart rate down.
“I didn’t even know if I could pull that bow back.”
After a tense 20 or 30 minute wait — and with two does now feeding on the rice bran — the buck started easing back to the clearing.
“When he got behind some pretty thick stuff, I picked the bow up and when he started to go right back to the same spot where he had given me the first broadside shot, I was at full draw when he stepped out the next time, and he looked right at me,” he said. “I wanted his head to go down because I didn’t want him to jump string, but he was 15 yards and he was wide open.
“So I just aimed at the low side of his heart and let it rip, and it hit him high on the lung.”
Elkins was using a Mathews Icon bow, with a carbon Easton arrow and a 100-grain, 2-inch Grim Reaper mechanical broadhead.
“I knew it was a kill shot when he left,” he said.
The big buck bolted over the ridge and took off, but Elkins and his Catahoula/Lab cur T-Boy got on the blood trail and found the deer piled up in woods about 700 yards away.
“It was relief when I saw him. I was pretty sure I was going to get him, but every second you don’t get him is pretty nerve wracking,” he said. “You don’t want to lose something like that. It was a heck of a deer size-wise. I hadn’t seen too many like him — he was my personal best with a gun or anything.”
The big 8-point green-scored 150 ¾ inches Pope & Young, with a 16 ¾-inch inside spread and 5 ¾-inch circumference at the bases. The deer weighed-in at 259 pounds, and Elkins estimated the buck was 5 ½ to 6 ½ years old.
“I hadn’t decided if I’m going to put him at the camp or in my house,” said Elkins, who owns a trucking company in Alexandria. “He’ll be on the wall for sure.
“I’ll have to see how much room I have, I guess.”
Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the random drawing for Nikon optics at the end of the contest.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.