October 26, 2021
Neal Kirkpatrick started hunting deer at the age of 9 and credits his grandfather with getting him into the outdoors at such an early age. Eventually he found waterfowl hunting, which has consumed his time in recent years, but he finds his way back to the deer woods every season.
"It became a yearly tradition for me," he said. "I ventured away from deer hunting because of my passion for waterfowl hunting, but there's nothing like harvesting a buck with a bow. I rarely hunt with a firearm."
While Kirkpatrick loves to hunt whitetail deer, and chasing giants is part of that, he never imagined he’d wrap his tag around a 5-year-old, 200-plus-inch buck this season. He especially didn’t expect it to happen during his first year on a new farm.
211-Inch Bluegrass Giant
Hunter: Neal Kirkpatrick
Date: September 25, 2021
Location: Daviess County, Kentucky
Method: Compound Bow
Score: 211 inches (unofficial gross score)
"This was the first year I had access to this farm," he said. "The farm hasn't been bowhunted for five-plus years. It is my girlfriend's family's farm, and her uncle hunted occasionally, but, sadly, he passed away five years ago. He had a few stands throughout the farm. I found a stand I really liked, cleaned up the area around it and placed a camera two weeks before the hunt. It turned out the deer was on a steady evening routine."
Kirkpatrick scrambled to get ready for deer season.
"I was doing everything I could on short notice with food plots, cameras and cleaning up stands," Kirkpatrick said. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I didn't have high expectations for the hunt. I just wanted to see what it was like in that stand a few hours before dark."
Fortunately for Kirkpatrick, a cold front had recently passed through, spurring deer movement. Kirkpatrick says he rarely hunts in September, though he does when the weather feels like October. He hit the woods on Sept. 25 in hopes of arrowing the big buck he had on camera. Deciding on a particular area, he settled into the stand on a 50-acre soybean field surrounded by woods, with a food plot located between the crops and timber.
The hunt started off slowly, and Kirkpatrick didn't see a deer for the first several hours on stand. Around 5:30 p.m., he decided to call his friend, Kyle Moore, to see if he wanted to come sit the remainder of the evening with him.
"I've got close to an hour and a half before dark," Kirkpatrick said to Moore. "I haven’t seen one sign of a deer. Why don't you come out and sit the rest of the hunt with me?"
Moore got there about 5:45 p.m. in knee-high boots, basketball shorts and a camo top. Around 6:15 p.m., a small, 6-point buck walk through behind them. They watched it feed along as the sun began to dip lower behind the trees. Then, it happened.
"Don't move. Look below you," Moore told him.
"I slowly looked right below our stand and there he was," Kirkpatrick recalled. "When I reached for my bow, the deer jolted about 35 to 40 yards into the bean field and stopped on a dime. I was able to get a perfect shot within a few seconds."
He drew back, anchored, settled the pin and took the 42-yard shot. The arrow struck true, and the deer ran for cover.
"As soon as I made the shot, we heard the thud and the deer took off into the beans," he said. "I stood up and watched him run about 150 yards, falling over just short of a ditch. I couldn't control myself."
Kirkpatrick immediately called his friends: Chase Geary, who shot a 167 4/8-inch deer earlier in the season; Nick Huff, who's shot plenty of mature deer; and Jake Peveler, someone who knew the land well. He shared the good news with them, and then met them at his house nearby.
They waited a few hours before blood trailing and didn't find any blood or the arrow within the first 15 minutes of the search. Then, they spotted a trace of blood on the top of a beanstalk. That started the process, and they followed the trail for about 150 yards before recovering the buck.
"I don't believe I will harvest another one this size," Kirkpatrick said. "It was emotional because this was [my girlfriend's] uncle's old stand. I knew this would mean a lot to him. I know this buck being harvested out of one of his stands would have made his day. It truly felt like I was supposed to be in that stand."