Fletcher Culpepper spotted his buck of a lifetime at about the worst possible moment—when he was halfway up the ladder to his treestand with this big 22-pointer staring straight at him. But Culpepper, 27, managed to keep his wits and put a tag on the 230-inch nontypical, which could be the third largest whitetail ever taken in Georgia.
Culpepper was hunting in Worth County near his Sylvester, Ga., home. He, his brother Trevor, his father Danny and a family friend all hung stands on the 55-acre tract, which they had never hunted before this season. They knew big deer were in the area, and one—a nice 11-pointer—had shown up on their trail cameras.
On Oct. 21, Fletcher had sat in his stand without seeing much. After the hunt, his brother asked if he’d heard a big buck fight.
“He said two bucks were fighting at dark, and it was pretty bad,” Culpepper says. “They were snorting, grunting, mowing down bushes for 15 minutes. They were fighting near my dad’s stand, which is about 400 yards from Trevor’s.”
The brothers decided that the next morning Fletcher would hunt Trevor’s stand while their friend, Zane, would hunt their father’s stand. After Fletcher settled in for his morning sit, he got a text message from Zane saying he’d been called into work and couldn’t hunt. “I’d have rather been over in my dad’s stand, but it was already daylight now,” Culpepper says. “I told myself I’d stay put until 9:00, then move.”
Culpepper, an experienced hunter who has tagged nice bucks before, says he had some reservations about the stand, a small lean-to ladder rig that would put him only about 14 feet off the ground. “It was the only stand on the property that didn’t have camo on it, and Dad put it on a bare pine tree at the edge of a open field,” Culpepper says, chuckling at the ribbing he gave his father over his lack of stealth.
But the report of two bucks engaged in a battle royale just hours earlier seemed too good to pass up. So at 9 a.m., Culpepper left his brother’s stand and, after briefly considering a shortcut through the woods, took the long way around via a road to approach his father’s stand quietly.
Twenty yards from the ladder he spotted a deer crossing a mowed path that led from the stand to a food plot. “I just saw the backside and rib cage of a deer walk past. I couldn’t tell if it was a doe or a buck, but I knew there was a deer in the food plot.”