Mark Elkins was about to climb down from his stand and help a buddy who’d shot a deer when he spotted the buck he’d been after all season headed his way
|Rack Report Details|
|Time of Year:||October 30, 2023|
|Place:||Greenup County, KY|
Mark Elkins has been on a roll. In the past three seasons, he has taken four bucks in two states that total over 700 inches of antler. This season, he had a particular buck in mind for the Kentucky archery season.
The big buck had been a regular on Elkins’ trail camera for a while. Last year he passed the deer twice as a big main-frame 8. The buck was wide and tall, but didn’t have a ton of mass. This year, the deer showed back up, bigger, heavier, and a main-frame 10 with four additional points emerging from his forehead from individual pedicles. The deer quickly shot to the top of Elkins’ list.
When the wide buck he’d passed the year before showed back up on his trail cameras with extra mass and points, he quickly shot to the top of Mark’s list.
The buck was a regular on trail camera for the entire summer and early fall. “We really pour the minerals to the deer here in the summer and he was on camera all the time,” Elkins said. Then October rolled around and the big buck all but disappeared. Elkins only got three more photos of the deer, but he suspected the buck was still in the area, hitting the abundant white oak acorns that carpeted the ground.
“With this year’s mast crop, a buck could stand up in his bedding area, walk 50 yards in any direction, get his belly full and lay back down,” Elkins said. The hunter picked a white oak ridge in the area where he had gotten the last photos of the buck. “I hunted eight days in a row without seeing a deer, but I knew if I stayed in this spot long enough, he would eventually cruise through,” he said.
One of the extra points growing from the buck’s forehead had caused him to go blind in one eye.
Elkins was in that same tree on that eighth afternoon when his phone buzzed. It was a close friend from Florida who had traveled up to bow hunt with him. “My buddy was calling to tell me that he had just shot a good buck and had watched it go down. I started to climb down immediately to go see his deer, but I debated with myself. That deer was going to be just as dead at dark so I should probably stick it out,” Elkins said.
He went back and forth. Should he stay in the stand or get down and go see what was probably his buddy’s biggest ever buck? He decided to climb down. He was putting his phone back in his pocket when he heard a deer. He looked up to see the big buck he was after cruising through just 50 yards away. The deer circled around Elkins’ stand, passing within 12 yards at one point without a shot opportunity.
The buck was a regular on trail cam throughout the summer and early fall, but disappeared soon after season began.
“It was really impressive just to watch him maneuver that big framed rack through the woods. He was so close that I was shocked, I almost didn’t have time to get shook up.” When the buck’s head went behind a tree, Elkins stood and took his bow down from the hook. He came to full draw and released the arrow when the buck stopped just 25 yards away.
At the shot, the big deer bolted through the cover and ran about 40 yards before Elkins heard him fall. “I heard him go down, then it got quiet, but a big beech tree was blocking my sight so I couldn’t see if he was still there,” Elkins said.
The big buck ended up breaking off nearly 7” of antler just days before Elkins tagged him.
After a few minutes with no sound, Elkins descended part of the way down the tree for a better view. He could see the buck’s white belly and knew he was down for good. Once he got his hands on the rack, Elkins could see that he had recently broken off at least 7 inches of antler on one of the long extra points. He was also surprised to see that one of the odd points growing out of the buck’s forehead had blinded him in one eye.
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The big deer featured 30-inch main beams, an impressive 25-inch inside spread, and broomed tips where the buck had rubbed the velvet rack on the ground while feeding. Elkins said he was blessed to be able to take a buck like this, but it takes work. “We put in a lot of time and effort into these deer. Running cameras, putting out minerals, scouting, it isn’t as easy as just showing up and shooting a big deer.”