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Trail Camera Surprise Leads to the Buck of a Lifetime

White-Tailed Deer


Trail Camera Surprise Leads to the Buck of a Lifetime

Posted 2023-10-03  by  Michael Pendley

After hunting a property for years without a big buck sighting, Cody Payton couldn’t believe his eyes when he checked a new camera

Rack Report Details
Time of Year:September 26, 2023
Place:Trimble County KY
Weapon: Blackout Pursuit Bow 

Kentucky hunter Cody Payton, his brother, and his dad have hunted their family farm in northeast Kentucky for most of their lives. They’ve seen and killed some nice bucks over the years, but nothing they would consider a monster.

Summer before last, Cody’s brother Hunter had an extra cell camera, and Cody suggested he stick it out at the farm in mid-July to see if it might turn up some buck photos before the upcoming season. Hunter hung the camera over some corn on a Friday afternoon and the next day, Cody received a text. It said, “I thought you said there weren’t any big bucks on this farm?” and was quickly followed by photos of a trophy whitetail.

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Even though Cody and his family had hunted the farm for years, they’d never seen a buck of this magnitude until hanging a trail camera two years ago.

The giant buck was a regular on camera the rest of the summer, but it disappeared just before archery season. Cody later heard from a good friend who hunted a nearby property that the buck had relocated to that area, but to the best of Cody’s knowledge, no one killed the buck last fall.

Hoping to see the buck again this year, Cody had his cameras out again this summer. And sure enough, in mid-August, the giant buck showed back up. He’d gained some mass over the previous year, but had a very similar frame. Unfortunately, that one visit was the only sighting of the buck before season.

Image: ImageBy_Cody_Payton_RR_6

The big buck showed back up on camera this summer.

Hoping the deer was still around, Cody decided to hunt pretty hard during the early season in order to get on the buck before it transitioned to his late fall pattern and left the property. During one of those early hunts, Cody sat in his stand until just before dark. He stood and began to gather his gear in preparation for the climb down when he looked out into the open field next to his stand. There stood the buck, nearly 200 yards away.

“It was my first actual sighting of the deer. I couldn’t believe it,” Cody said. When the buck dipped below a rise and out of sight, the hunter quickly climbed down and slipped out the opposite way so he didn’t spook the big deer.

Image: ImageBy_Cody_Payton_RR_4

Cody’s first actual sighting of the buck occurred early this season just at dark when the deer stepped out into the open nearly 200 yards away.

After that, nearly two weeks went by without another sighting. “I was up in the tree that evening and something just felt off in the woods. I was used to seeing 10 to 15 does and small bucks every sit, but that evening had been dead. There was one small buck and a doe in front of me and they were the only deer I’d seen. It was almost dark. I kind of zoned out for a bit because the action had been so slow. Something made me look up. There he stood, then he started walking right at me. I wasn’t sure it was real. It almost felt like a dream,” Cody said.

The buck was cautious. He slipped in slowly, staring at the camera in front of Cody’s stand. “I really feel like if those other two deer hadn’t already been there, he wouldn’t have come in at all,” he said.

The big buck eyeballed the other deer and finally committed to closing the remaining distance. He stopped just 30 yards from Cody’s stand, but the shot angle wasn’t the best. “I was worried about getting a good shot, but I told myself that I had been hunting this buck for 2 years and had never been this close, I had to make the shot count,” Cody said.

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While he didn’t have the best angle, Cody knew sightings of the big buck had been few and far between and that he had to make the shot count.

He drew his bow and settled the pin on the buck’s shoulder. At the release, the buck stumbled and spun, running beside a nearby fencerow until it was out of sight. Cody sat back down and tried to gather himself. “I knew I needed to calm down and climb down, or I was going to shake myself out of the tree,” he said.

As soon as his feet hit the ground, the sky opened up with hard rain. Knowing time was against him for a blood trail, Cody quickly walked to his four-wheeler and went to his dad’s house. After explaining what had just happened, the two returned to the stand to begin the search. “It was raining so hard by that point that our boots were filling up,” Cody said.

Image: ImageBy_Cody_Payton_RR_1

Thankfully, the shot was perfect and the buck only travelled 40 yards after the shot because the heavy rain completely wiped away the trail.

The trail was already washing away. A few watery spots of blood remained, but barely enough to see. Knowing the buck had followed the fence, Payton and his dad did the same, hoping it would keep the buck moving in a straight line.

The track was short. They had barely covered 40 yards when his dad shouted out over the pouring rain that he thought he could see a white belly ahead. Knowing the angle hadn’t been the best and that only a short time had transpired since the shot, Cody crept up on the buck, almost expecting it to jump up and take off. But nothing happened. The shot had been perfect, passing directly through the deer’s heart. The buck was likely dead before Payton could even climb down.


After getting the buck back to the house, Cody and his dad finally had time to admire the almost unbelievable rack. The buck featured a 10-point main frame with six additional scorable points including a split G3 on the left side. A quick measurement by a friend who was an experienced scorer came up with a green gross score in the mid 190’s, the buck of a lifetime for just about any hunter. Cody plans on getting the buck officially scored after the required waiting period has passed. “A good friend of mine, David Waterman, killed a really nice buck earlier this season (Read about Waterman’s buck HERE). We can’t wait to get them together once they are back from the taxidermist and get some photos of the two side by side,” he said.

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