Editor’s Note: The chance to take a buck of a lifetime seldom happens. Kevin Cottrell missed his buck of a lifetime some years ago, and that deer haunted him every time he got in a tree stand. Cottrell of Bonnieville, Kentucky, remembers in great detail the day he finally took his monster buck 11 years ago, as though it was only yesterday.
Cottrell owns a 31-acre farm and spends most of his time hunting there. “I’d been putting-out bait in front of my trail camera before the 2007 bow season arrived. This buck showed up at 7:30 am on Halloween, and I got several trail camera pictures of him. Then my hunting partner, John Clay, and I bowhunted almost every day to try and take that buck. During bow season, John was hunting a knob on top of a hill, while I was close to a pond. Although we hunted those same two spots throughout bow season, we never saw the Halloween buck or got any more pictures of him until gun season’s opening day.”
Cottrell and Clay worked together. Every afternoon after work they’d get in their stands, hoping to spot the big buck. About every three or four days, Cottrell would check his trail cameras, trying to see the Halloween buck. But he had no luck. On the opening day of gun season, Cottrell had to work late and didn’t have an opportunity to freshen-up his bait site or to hunt. “I learned later that the buck had come by my stand three times that night but didn’t eat the corn,” Cottrell explains. “I guess he must have passed by, just so I could get pictures of him.”
The following morning Cottrell and Clay hunted all day long. Although they put forth maximum effort, they didn’t see the Halloween buck. Then the following morning on November 11, 2007, Cottrell and Clay returned to their stands. “A little while after daylight, I decided to come out of my stand and start stalking,” Cottrell says. Cottrell called Clay and told him, “I’m walking from where I am to the far end of the property as slowly as possible. Then I’ll turn around and start walking back to my stand slowly. I may take all day to make that stalk.”
Then when Cottrell reached the top of a hill, he jumped three does. Cottrell knew that where there were does there should be a buck. So, he sat there for a long time, hoping to see a buck. However, when no other deer appeared, he reinitiated his stalk. He followed an old logging road off the hill quietly, until he reached a saddle in the mountain. The road turned south and went down from the saddle. On the right-hand side of the road was some very-thick foliage.
“I heard a noise,” Cottrell explains. “I looked out into the thicket and saw long tines above the brush about 30-yards away. I didn’t know whether this was the Halloween buck or not, but because of the length of his tines, I decided to take the buck as soon as he stepped out of the thicket. I didn’t know why the buck didn’t spot me. I got my rifle up and followed the buck as he came through the brush to the place where he would step out into the road. As soon as that buck stepped out, I knew that more than likely he’d see me. So, I’d only have a fraction of a second to make the shot.
“Once the buck stepped out, I forced myself not to look at his rack, to keep the crosshairs of my rifle on the buck’s neck and shoulders and to be ready to take the shot. Then I squeezed the trigger. When I looked at the buck on the road in front of me, I knew he was the Halloween buck, since I had two videos and two pictures of him from my trail camera. I knew exactly what the Halloween buck looked like. I called my friend John and announced, ‘I got him.’ John asked, ‘What did you shoot? What did you shoot?’ So, I repeated, ‘I got him – the big one.’”
Cottrell was very surprised he’d found the buck on the opposite end of the property from where he’d gotten the trail-camera pictures. Then he remembered, “When I first started putting-out my trail cameras, I found a scrape right near where I took this buck, and the scrape seemed as big as a car hood. It was one of the largest scrapes I’d ever seen in the woods!”
After the word got out that Cottrell had taken the Halloween buck, a property owner 1/2-mile away to the north of Cottrell’s land had trail-camera pictures taken in September when the Halloween buck was still in the velvet. As soon as bow season came in, they started hunting this buck, but then, the buck vanished. Cottrell believed that they had put so much hunting pressure on the deer that he left the area to find sanctuary on Cottrell’s property. “I took the Halloween buck on November 11, 2007, the second day of gun season,” Cottrell mentions. “In 2007, my Halloween buck was ranked as the third biggest buck taken in the Kentucky that season.”
Kevin Cottrell took his typical trophy buck in Hart County, Kentucky, on November 11, 2007 with his rifle.
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