When trail cameras first hit the market more than two decades ago, Chris Evans of Zachary, Louisiana, was an early adopter. "I had probably one of the first in our area, and that was back when a 35-millimeter trail camera cost $500," Evans says. Ever since, he has used the devices each season to identify and selectively target the biggest deer on his hunting property. On October 7, that tactic--and a huge dose of patience--paid off big time for Evans, who downed a 170-class 15-pointer that should rank among Louisiana's top five typicals.
Evans first encountered the buck last fall on a 1,200-acre property he hunts on the outskirts of Baton Rouge. The deer was a 10-pointer then, and Evans judged its rack at 140. He wanted to target the buck right away, but the landowner had different ideas.
“He thought the deer had a small body and thought maybe we wanted to let him grow another year,” Evans says. “I was a little upset, because the deer hung out at a junction of three properties and I thought, ‘No way he’s going to make it to next year.'”
“At the time he would have been the biggest thing I’d ever killed with a bow, but later that year I killed a big buck in Kansas, so that helped some,” Evans says. He arrowed this 150-class Sunflower State buck after meeting a Kansas landowner on a Louisiana beach during the BP oil spill cleanup.
After the Louisiana deer season ended January 31, Evans wasted no time checking on the deer. “I had trail cameras out the first week of February, and within a couple of days I had pictures of him. So I knew he’d survived.”
After a break for spring turkey season, Evans put the cameras out again. “There are a lot of houses in the area and it’s really close to a main highway,” he says. “You just don’t know if a deer like that is going to get hit by a car. But he was fine, and by July his rack was probably 80-percent developed and I could tell he was gonna be big.”
Evans has hunted the same farm on the outskirts of Baton Rouge for 21 years, longer than anyone outside the property owner’s family. That “seniority” would pay off after another hunter put out a feeder on the property, luring the big buck away from Evans’ feeder. “I had lots of daytime pictures of him,” Evans explains. “Not just morning and evening but middle of the day, too. But when my buddy put out his feeder it lured him away, and I went into panic mode. I had to convince my buddy that I wanted to kill that deer bad.”
They worked it out, but as Louisiana’s October 1 archery opener approached, the big buck–now a 15-point, 170-class bruiser–suddenly changed his pattern. “He was still visiting the feeder but only at night,” Evans says. “For the first week I hunted him, in fact, his pattern was to show up about 20 minutes after I left the stand.”
After decades of using trail cams to target a single buck, Evans learned one thing in particular: Trust your eyes more than the camera. “I’ve had a bunch of bucks I got pictures of and ended up shooting, only to find they had a lot of shrinkage from the pictures,” Evans says. “Over the years I’ve learned to not really believe those pictures until you’ve seen a buck with your own two eyes.” On October 4 he got his first close look at the buck, and he wasn’t disappointed.
Early in an afternoon sit, a pair of does winded Evans. “They blew at me quite a few times, and I thought about getting down. But I figured it was still pretty early, so I went on and sat it out.” “The 15-pointer had two other deer he would run around with most of the time, a wide 8-point and a cull 5-point. They came to the feeder and he wasn’t with them. I got to looking around and saw him 150 yards out with a couple of does. He took his sweet time coming in, and I was concerned that by the time he got there I’d be out of shooting light. But he picked up his pace and made it on in.”
“When he got within 60 yards, that 8-pointer decided he didn’t want to be under that feeder–he took off running, and when he did his horn hooked the feeder leg and made a pretty good bit of commotion. Our deer normally don’t fight this early, but I think that big buck thought the horn hitting the feeder was a sign of aggression.”
The 15-pointer charged in to challenge the 8-pointer. The fight started 25 yards in front of Evans, and at one point the sparring bucks were only 15 yards away. “But there was dust flying and chaos, and I just couldn’t get a shot.”
The fight only lasted a minute, and plenty of shooting light remained after the 8-pointer ran off. “I assumed the 15-point done won, so I guess he’s fixing come on in to the feeder. He came out prancing, like, ‘Look at me,’ and took off after the 8-pointer and they disappeared for the evening.”
Evans saw his chances slipping away. “I kind of had a bad feeling after I had him at 15 yards and couldn’t get a shot,” he says. The moon would be steadily waxing over the next few days, and he was leaving for an out-of-state hunt in two weeks. “I thought somebody might get him during muzzleloader season while I was gone.” But he had gotten his look at the buck–and he liked what he saw. “I knew he was every bit as big as I thought. The next day I added up some score numbers and figured what I thought he’d come to. I thought, ‘I can’t tell nobody what I came up with because they’ll think I’m crazy.’ We just don’t get deer that big around here.”
After a couple more hunts with no sightings, Evans thought October 7 might be his day. “The wind kind of picked up, and I said to myself, ‘This is the kind of day I see a lot of deer come out to the fields.'” Sure enough, before 7 p.m. the big 15’s running buddies–the 5-pointer and the 8-pointer–were heading straight for Evans’ feeder. “When I saw them, I knew it was about to happen and I got really nervous,” he recalls. “So when he came out a couple minutes later, I had calmed down a good bit.”
Evans shot the buck at 20 yards, and the nerves hit him again. “It took me a couple of minutes before I could calm down enough to send my buddy the text message saying I got him,” he says. “This time there wasn’t any shrinkage. I had a pretty good idea what I had before I climbed down from the stand.”
Evans will have to wait for the 60-day drying period to pass before he’ll get an official score, but he feels confident his 15-pointer will rank among the Bayou State’s top five bow kills. The rack tallied a gross green score of 177 inches, but deductions, he says, should drop the net score to around 164–good enough for third place if it holds up after drying. Louisiana’s state-record archery typical is a 175-inch buck killed by Shannon Presley in 1981. The second-biggest, at 170 3/8 inches, was taken in 1998 by David Roselle.