The Athens Review
Cody Beaver of Emory is a banker by trade, but he is a bow hunter at heart. On Oct. 2, he finally unleashed an arrow on an enormous Rains County whitetail he had been courting since August.
According to Beaver, 26, it was a deal that couldn't have been closed a moment too soon.
“I was really beginning to get worried,” he said. “I felt like my chances of killing him were dwindling with every day that passed. I had him patterned pretty well in the area I was hunting, but I knew that was probably about to change.”
One of Beaver's main worries was that rut would set in and cause the whopper whitetail to go on the prowl and leave area in search of does. An even bigger concern was that he might get shot by another hunter and forever spoil his chances.
“From the moment I first saw him I dedicated my season to killing this deer,” Beaver said. “Luckily, it all worked out and I got it done. I've killed some good deer in the past, but it is extremely satisfying to take a deer like this, especially with a bow. A lot of people think it's easy. But it's not. There is so much to contend with out there. One little mistake is all it takes to blow it.”
One look at the gnarly rack and it is easy to grasp Beaver's obsession with the big East Texas buck.
Its 20-point rack is obviously non-typical, yet it almost appears typical in the sense that the odd ball antlers are remarkably similar on both sides. One of Beaver's friends told him the rack closely resembles the antler graphic utilized by the popular Under Armour outdoor sports clothing line, and it does.
Eye see you
Beaver's first encounter with the big whitetail came totally by surprise on a parcel of open range property he gained access to just last year. In August, he was scouting the property of potential stand sites when he came across a hardwood flat dissected by numerous ditches and small creeks. In addition to water, the area offered easy access to food with plenty of dense cover nearby where deer could bed down.
“I got a really good feeling when I found that spot - it was almost like I had a sixth sense about it,” he said. “Something told me it was going to be good.”
The hunter elected not to set a stand right away. Instead, he dumped a dab of corn on the ground and pointed a trail camera towards it to monitor the sweet spot while he wasn't around. When he returned to check the camera a couple of weeks later he was shocked by some of the images he found.
“I could tell he had a lot of points so I went ahead and pulled the card out of the camera and took it home to get a closer look,” he said. “What I saw almost made me fall out of my chair.”
From that point forward Beaver began crafting a plan that would ultimately help him bring down what may be the best buck ever taken in Rains County and most certainly the biggest one ever taken on open range countywide by an archer.
The first order of business was getting a stand hung in the area. Beaver tackled that chore in early September, when he placed a lock-on platform on an oak tree about 18 feet above ground. He described the surroundings as “pretty thick.” The farthest I could have shot was about 30 yards — not that far in some directions,” he said.
Beaver revisited the spot periodically leading up to the Sept. 28 season opener to salt it with corn and check his game cam. He normally put about a 1/4 to 1/2 a bag of corn at a time.
“I felt like I was going to have to keep some corn out to keep him in the area, but I didn't want to put out too much because the hogs are so bad around here,” he said. “If they found it I was afraid they might push him out of the area.”
Beaver's strategy worked like a charm in that helped him nail down a pattern as to when and how often the buck was passing through.
“He wasn't an every day buck by any means,” Beaver said. “He was coming by about every fourth or fifth day. Most of them were daytime pictures from daylight to about 9 a.m.”
Beaver made his final visit to the site a week before the season opened. He dumped out a full bag of corn and vowed not to return until the season opener.
On opening day
What he saw on Saturday morning was somewhat discouraging. Hogs had mangled his corn pile. Plus, the only deer that walked remotely close was a young 8 pointer that never even slowed down.
“I pulled my camera card and confirmed the hogs had been in there, but I didn't have a single picture of the big buck,” he said. “It was frustrating to say the least.
Day 2: Busted!
With a north wind forecast for Sunday, Beaver elected to hang a second stand better suited for that situation. For a second or two he thought his strategy was about to pay off when a pair of bucks approached the area from upwind just after daylight. He recognized one of them as a buck that had been running with the big one in his pictures.
“But I couldn't tell anything about the other one,” he said. “Then, all of they sudden they stopped in the brush about 40 yards out and started acting funny for some reason.”
Beaver learned why when he checked the wind direction with a spray bottle. “The wind was swirling all over the place and blowing right towards them,” he said. “At that point both bucks turned and started walking directly away from me. That's when I was able to tell the second buck was him. There was no mistaking that big wide rack and kicker off his G2. They didn't blow or run, they just left. I was sick about it. I just knew I was never going to see that buck again.”
Beaver knew it would be risky business going back to the sweet spot three consecutive days, so he elected to hold off until Wednesday before trying his luck again. Initially, he felt like he'd made serious mistake.
“It turned out to be the hottest morning of the whole season,” he said. “It was 81 degrees when I got out of my truck and it was extremely humid. I was soaking wet with sweat by the time I made it to my stand.”
Drenched in odor neutralizer, Beaver climbed into his original stand and waited patiently for daylight. He said it was one of most miserable hours of his life. “I've never seen the mosquitos so bad,” he said. “I had three face masks on to keep them off my face, but they wore my ears and out.”
Shortly after 7 a.m. his attention switched from mosquitos to the sounds of rustling leaves over his shoulder. A nice eight pointer had come calling, and he wasn't alone.
“After he walked under me I could still hear something behind me,” Beaver said. “I slowly turned and there was my buck, about 15 yards away.”
Beaver said the deer appeared calm until it was even with his stand. “That's when he got my wind and bolted straight away,” he said. “He ran for about 20 yards and stopped in the brush beside the eight pointer.”
The hunter said the eight pointer eventually stepped into a small opening and the big buck followed suit, offering him a broadside shot at 22 yards. Beaver unleashed his arrow and drilled it with a perfect double lung shot. The deer ran straight away and crashed about 80 yards out.
“I knew he was down, but I decided I was going to wait for 30 minutes before I got down to look,” Beaver said. “I just wanted to be sure.”
Hog eats buck
Roughly 20 minutes into the wait something strange happened. A group of feral hogs passed under Beaver's stand and he elected to shoot one that looked to weigh about 100 pounds. The wounded pig subsequently took off in the same direction as the buck.
“My first thought was I shouldn't have done that, because the pig might spook my buck if it wasn't dead yet,” he said.
Once Beaver exited his stand he caught movement in the woods in the same direction the buck had run.
It was a pig, only bigger than the one he'd just shot. At first it appeared the pig was rooting the ground, but it was Beaver's deer instead.
“As I moved closer I could see the rear legs of my deer flying up in the air — that hog was hitting him that hard,” he said. “I was pretty pumped at that point because I knew he was down and I wasn't going to have to trail him.”
Closer examination showed the hog had actually eaten palm-size chunk of meat out of the buck's hindquarters before it spooked ran off.
Perhaps Beaver wasn't the only one on the big buck's tail after all.
Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches.
He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.