Like many a Kentucky boy before him, 25-year-old Devon Wilson grew up hunting squirrels with a .22 before graduating to whitetail deer. The hunting ethic he learned from his grandfather--one shot, one kill--served him well when this 180-class typical streaked past him in hot pursuit of a doe. Using his grandfather's single-shot .30-06 and a bullet the older man hand-loaded himself, Wilson kept his cool and dropped the almost perfectly symmetrical 10-pointer with a 150-yard shot.
Wilson was hunting a 20-acre farm near his hometown of Cynthiana with two friends on Nov. 17, the sixth day of Kentucky’s firearms season. A morning mishap nearly caused him to call the hunt off.
Wilson, his cousin, Tyler West (left) and Dustin Lewis planned to hunt from the same tree and videotape their outing. Lewis slipped and hurt his ankle on the way up the tree, and the injury was bad enough that he needed to leave. “I started to get pretty upset, because I hadn’t had much time to hunt this year,” Wilson recalls. “About halfway back to the truck I decided I’d walk across the field and sit a little while.” He found a cedar tree at the edge of a cow pasture 150 yards from the truck and sat on the ground, cradling his grandfather’s single-shot Ruger No. 1 in his lap. “It was a spot I’d never have sat in if Dustin hadn’t hurt himself.”
He remembers checking the time at 8:53 a.m. “I told myself I’d sit until 9:00 and then I’d go on and take Dustin home,” Wilson says. At 8:55 he saw a big rack coming through woods far in front of him. “I looked down at my phone to send a text message to Tyler, ‘Monster, 500 yards.’ When I looked back up, the deer was gone.”
“I thought, ‘Well, it was great to see him at least.’ I figured I’d never see that deer again. I didn’t figure he’d be coming back.” But Wilson caught a flash of fur and antler in a nearby ravine and was shocked when he realized exactly what it was. “In the time it took to send that text message, the buck had covered most of the 500 yards and now was chasing a doe up a fence line only 60 yards from me.”
The 10-pointer and a smaller 8-pointer dogged the doe for two minutes as Wilson watched, unable to get a shot. “They stayed out in the cow pasture where I could see them; there were cows out in the field eating while they were running around.” When the deer passed behind his hiding spot, Wilson spun around and tried to get his scope on the biggest buck. “I was shaking horribly and it was amazing how quick they were moving. There was no way I was going to take a running shot.”
Wilson has hunted his whole life, starting in the squirrel woods with his grandfather when he was just a boy. “My grandfather always told me, ‘You’ve got to shoot squirrels in the head if you’re gonna shoot them. You’ve got to wait on that perfect shot.'”
It was his grandfather, Robert Wilson, who took Devon on his first youth hunt for deer when he was 12 years old. “I shot a buck, and I’ve shot a buck every year since then. I’ve always deer-hunted with single-shot rifles. You’re more patient with a single-shot. You wait for the good opportunity, the perfect shot. That’s the way my grandfather raised me.”
So even though the three deer began to put some distance between themselves and Wilson, he held his fire. And then the doe stopped, roughly 150 to 180 yards from where he crouched next to the cedar. Ten yards behind the doe was the 10-pointer, while the 8 stood 30 yards from her.
“I tried to hold my breath so I’d stop shaking,” Wilson recalls. “The buck was standing with his rear end toward me, so I had no shot. Then he turned enough that I could get a shot. I was thinking, ‘Get it right behind his shoulder; take your time and make it count.'”
“I pulled the trigger and he just kind of flinched. He didn’t kick or run off; I’m not sure he even knew he was hit, but I knew I’d made a good shot on him. He kind of trotted off down the hill, the buck and doe with him. They stopped on a tree line, and he started teetering and tottering and finally went down.”
Wilson could see the tall rack sticking straight up above the horizon line of the hill. “I though he was still alive, and I kept trying to look through my scope but couldn’t see anything but antlers.”
After ten minutes Wilson carefully crept in to check on the buck. “He had bedded down and laid his head flat on the ground, with his rack standing straight up in the air. He looked alive, but he was gone.”
The first call went to Wilson’s grandfather. A gun collector, hand-loader and devoted outdoorsman, Robert Wilson had a stroke a few years back and can no longer hunt and shoot. “He loads all my ammo for me,” Devon says. “I’ve never shot a store-bought shell in my life. Before the season starts he calls me up and asks what bullet I want to shoot, and when opening day comes he has me ready to go. Reloading and having me go out is more or less his way of hunting now. To know I got this buck with his rifle and his bullet makes it special for him. And for me as well.”
“Anything in my life that’s special I like to share it with my grandparents,” Wilson says, “because they’ve always been there for me. This was just a really special thing to happen, and I was just grateful that I could take it with his rifle and his bullet. He knows how much it means to me, and I know how much hunting and the outdoors meant to him.”
“It was an emotional experience. I’m a huge hunter. I love to hunt every season. Any game that’s legal around here, I’m hunting it. To put so much time and effort and money into something, and then to get a deer like this, it makes it all worth it.”
Friend Matt Royse admires the cape and head. Wilson plans a striking half-body mount for the buck, which green-scored 181 5/8 typical. “He’ll be walking out of the wall. A plate on the mount is going to say, ‘Perfect 10.’ That’s what I’ve named him. He’s so symmetrical. I don’t think there’s but 3 or 4 inches of deductions. The rack is just about perfect no matter what angle you see it from.”
“I’ve shot a lot of nice deer, but nothing of this quality. That’s a creature of God; it’s an amazing deal how beautiful he is. It’s what I’ve dreamed of for years. I just never thought it would happen.”
“I guess it just shows that anything can happen during the rut,” says Wilson, here with his pit bull Tiny. “This was on a 20-acre farm. The only other farm I have permission to hunt is 40 acres. I don’t have huge places out in Illinois or Kansas or Canada to hunt.”
“When Dustin slipped and fell, we’d messed up that spot, I thought. We had to walk across the farm to the truck. When I decided to stay I was hoping maybe I’d get a doe or just see a deer. I never expected something like this. It seems like an act of God the way the whole thing went down. It was a neat little deal.”
Like many a Kentucky boy before him, 25-year-old Devon Wilson grew up hunting squirrels with a .22 before graduating to whitetail deer. The hunting ethic he learned from his grandfather–one shot, one kill–served him well when this 180-class typical streaked past him in hot pursuit of a doe. Using his grandfather’s single-shot .30-06 and a bullet the older man hand-loaded himself, Wilson kept his cool and dropped the almost perfectly symmetrical 10-pointer with a 150-yard shot.