When it comes to hunting and killing big bucks, everything pretty much hinges on fate.
While you can increase your odds with scouting and putting in countless hours on stand, the deer still have to cooperate and cross your path at exactly the right time.
Chet Slaydon, of DeRidder, recently had fate intervene not once — but several times — during a morning hunt on Oct. 22, and what he brought home because of it is a big buck he’ll never forget.
Slaydon hunts Area 8 in Southwest Louisiana, which is one of those places that gets a jump on the rest of the state hunting-wise. Bow season starts there in late September, and it’s quickly followed up by primitive weapons and modern rifle season in October.
Not only does the hunting start early, but the rut gets going early as well, usually peaking in mid-to-late October. With that in mind, Slaydon focused his attention this season on a spot that he wasn’t been able to hunt much — until recently.
“I’ve been leasing this particular piece of land for about 25 years, but I haven’t been able to hunt it much in the last few years because it was so thick,” he said. “Well, they came in and thinned the timber out, so I finally got to go back and hunt it again.”
The cleared land has a history of holding quality deer, and when the logging equipment moved out, Slaydon moved in. Knowing the area well, he didn’t need to scout much at all — he knew right where his tripod stand would go.
“There really was no need to do much scouting,” Slaydon said. “I figured I’d try something different, and I know this place so well that it made me excited to get back in there.”
Slaydon got into his stand early that morning with a plan to sit until 9 a.m. Like most morning hunts do, things started slowly, but anticipation was high.
“I’d been watching some young bucks chase does around for the last five days, but it wasn’t much serious about it,” he said.
At about 8, he decided to get down and slip over to the area where he’d seen the younger bucks chasing to see what was down there.
As he headed out, fate tapped him on the shoulder and reminded him of his initial plan.
“I got about 150 yards from my stand and thought, ‘You know, I had a plan to sit until 9, so that’s what I need to do,’ and I went and got back into the stand,” he said.
Not too long after he did, at about 8:40, a spike appeared in the area that he had headed to check out, and started to make a scrape. Slaydon eagerly watched the immature buck push the ground debris to the side, the whole time wishing that it was the big buck he was after.
For the last several seasons, he had seen trail camera pictures of a quality deer nearby that he estimated to be almost 6 ½ years old — the prime age for whitetails to obtain the best rack they’ll ever grow.
Ten minutes later, he saw another deer come out — right where he was about to walk not 50 minutes earlier, and check the scrape made by the spike.
This deer, however, was no spike, and Slaydon’s eyes were focused on its rack.
The big buck was standing 276 yards away when he clicked his safety and squeezed off a round from his 7mm, but failed to connect.
Disgusted, he watched as the deer bounded into the woods 25 yards — and then inexplicably stopped.
Granted a second chance, Slaydon made it count — this time his aim was true and the shot proved deadly.
He waited for his wife Angela to join him, and the duo easily followed the blood trail to the deer. The buck’s rack was nearly perfect, with main beams in excess of 24 inches and 8 very symmetrical points. The rack hasn’t been scored, but it’s estimated to be anywhere from 145 to 150 inches Boone and Crockett, and the big buck weighed more than 200 pounds.
But the story gets even better.
After taking the deer to the taxidermist, small talk between the two led to the discussion of age, and when Slaydon said his pictures revealed the deer was around 6 years old, the taxidermist gave him some shocking news.
“He told me that he believes that this deer is 4 ½ years old, max,” Slaydon said — which means he still has the possibility of getting the big deer he was after all along.
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.