On the opening Saturday of Kentucky’s early archery season, Brandon Epperson nearly tagged the buck of a lifetime—twice. Epperson was hunting a stand on his family’s farm early that afternoon when a big main-frame 12-pointer he’d been getting daylight trail-cam pictures of since midsummer showed up at 2:45 p.m.—and then again at right before dusk. Unfortunately, the velvet buck didn’t get close enough for a bow shot either time. But that just made Epperson more excited to climb back into the saddle on Sunday.

Prior to this past summer, Epperson had never seen the buck before. He got his trail-cam pick of the deer around July 10 and continued to get pics—including daylight shots—through the summer and right up to opening day. So, when Day 2 of the season, September 3, came, he had every reason to be confident. Well, almost every reason: The temperature gauge did read 95 degrees, which was very hot for deer hunting. But that didn’t slow him down.

trail camera photo of Epperson's big Kentucky buck
A daylight photo of the big velvet bucks, a little more than a week before opening day. Brandon Epperson

His hunting spot was in a bowl along a creek bottom where several open hillsides meet. “I was sitting facing the creek bottom, into the flat, from where I expected the deer to show,” Epperson told F&S. “I was on high alert, as my trail camera pictures indicated he was frequenting the area around the time I was hunting, and, of course, I’d seen him the day before.”

It was a tricky setup, however. His stand was situated only about 100 yards from where he knew the buck was bedded. Epperson knew he’d have to get creative in order to get into his spot without getting busted, and he attributes his success in large part to his stealthy approach.

“My buddy drove me in on a side-by-side, and then he left,” Epperson said. “This allowed the buck to just think it was a normal event of feeding or farm activity. I think it also made him pay less attention to my scent. In the bottoms, the wind swirls, and though I took every precaution and use Ozonics, the wind is important. I think the buck expected there to be some human scent left from the side-by-side, and I believe it played a big role in seeing him three separate times in two days, especially during the middle of the day like I did.”

Day 2 of the season kicked off slowly, with only a few raccoons bouncing around. Hours passed without any deer sightings. Then, later in the afternoon, the giant buck appeared. “He walked into the supplemental feed sight,” Epperson said. “Then, he started to move toward me, eating leaves and branches.” As the the buck got closer and closer, Epperson patiently waiting for the perfect broadside opportunity, which came when the deer was just 6 yards away. The shot connected, and the buck took off. It ran about 45 yards and bedded down. Epperson climbed down, snuck close, and followed up with a 19-yard shot.

photo of hunter with buck, and inset closeup of buck's antler bases
Brandon Epperson

“To kill a deer like that on property my family has owned since 1956; to kill a deer that could be the biggest deer ever killed in this county; and to do it with so many friends and family; I’m incredibly blessed, incredibly thankful, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Epperson green scored the deer at 215 7/8 inches. The buck has a solid 12-point frame, but what really added to it’s score were sever kickers and stickers and a jumble of extra points around the antler bases that Epperson totaled to some 32 extra inches. No matter what the ultimate tally, it’s a buck of lifetime, for sure.