This past Nov. 7 was pretty much a day most LSU football fans would rather forget.
The vaunted No. 2-ranked Tigers went into Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa with Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette in tow, and got completely dominated by the one-loss Crimson Tide, 30-16.
The crushing defeat destroyed LSU’s national championship aspirations, kicked off a three-game losing streak and set into motion a wild month in Baton Rouge that nearly culminated with Les Miles unceremoniously being shown the door.
But for Alabama football fan Joe Weaver of DeRidder, the game was just the icing on the cake: Late that afternoon in a driving rain, just hours before kickoff, a buck that he’d been seeing on trail cam since 2008 crossed paths with him for the first time ever.
Nicknamed “Hightower,” the big 9-point had stayed in the same area of the five-member Beauregard Parish lease for seven years, and regularly appeared on Weaver’s cameras, along with those of Mike Hickman, whose stand sits about 1,500 yards away.
“His home was over there by Hickman’s stand, but I got all the does over on my wife’s stand where I was hunting,” Weaver said. “Everybody in Beauregard Parish knows who Hightower is, but all the leases around us, nobody had pictures of him.
“He stayed on that back northwest corner of ours, and roamed all the way to the middle where I’m at.”
The wily old buck had been caught on camera in daylight a grand total of seven times since 2008, when it also sported a 9-point rack. Weaver credited Hickman for putting out protein in 2013, and said they noticed a marked improvement in antler growth at that point.
“He was a cool deer. He just kept getting bigger and taller,” Weaver said. “In 2013, that’s when we noticed he blew up, with mass all the way out to the tips.”
Each year, the deer would show up on camera in velvet in August, and then would disappear like clockwork until October — and Weaver and Hickman would worry every time that poachers or old age would get the buck before they could.
“This time when he disappeared for about a month, we thought for sure somebody killed him, but we’d have heard about it,” Weaver said. “ He was something else.”
Although there was a friendly competition between the two men to see who would finally bring down the buck, they joined forces to make it happen.
"Me and Hickman have been working together trying to get him. Matter of fact, he’s been on my stand when I wasn’t around because he’s got a better chance, I believe, in my wife’s stand when the wind allowed," Weaver said. "But it never happened for him, and it never happened for me until the other day."
That Saturday morning, Weaver headed out in the pouring rain and sat out in his two-man ladder stand, which overlooks a shooting lane and a food plot in the piney woods. He left about 10 a.m. to go home for a snack and a nap, but decided to go back out around 4 that afternoon before the LSU-Alabama football party kicked off at his house.
Trail cams over the years had recorded the buck's almost uncanny timing, heading for home moments before legal shooting time in the morning and coming back to feed shortly after shooting time ended.
“I told my wife, ‘If he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it in this bad weather,’ so I went sat on it again,” he said. “About 10 minutes before dark, I picked that bleat can up and hit it three times, and you could hear him running through the mud.
“It sounded like a cow running through there.”
The buck came in from behind Weaver, but got even with him on his left side at about 60 yards. The hunter was ready and waiting for Hightower with his Browning .270.
“I made a grunt, and he stopped, and I sent it to him,” Weaver said.
The buck ran back the way it had came for about 70 yards, but Weaver found the deer piled up, and the 7-year game of cat-and-mouse was finally over.
Hightower’s main beams measured 22 and 23 ½ inches, with 5 ¼-inch bases on both sides. Its left G2 was 12 inches, its right was 11 ⅜ inches, and the high-racked 9-point green-scored an impressive 142 inches Boone and Crockett.
The deer was estimated to be at least 7 ½ years old, and weighed about 180 pounds.
“I had a pretty good afternoon,” Weaver said with a chuckle. “I got him loaded up and headed to the house for a good gumbo and an Alabama victory. I killed a deer I’d been hunting for years and years and years, and made several hundred dollars on the game.
“I about paid my taxidermy bill.”
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.