June 18, 2019
By Tracy Breen
When most people open a hunting magazine and see a hunter grinning from ear to ear while holding a big buck, they wonder whether the hunter was lucky, wealthy or both. Lane Bailey from Missouri isn’t wealthy, and he created his own luck last fall and arrowed the buck of a lifetime with his crossbow.
Nope, this isn’t bigger than the 255 6/8-inch buck taken in Missouri a few years ago. But it’s a monster.
This one-of-a-kind has an amazing drop tine and 18 points. In the end, it measured 194 1/8 inches of antler. The Show Me State hunter shot the massive buck during the fall of 2017, but the hunt for him started during the fall of 2015.
On an early fall day in September, Bailey went scouting for big bucks. He was driving around the back roads of his small town when he stopped to chat with a local farmer who was working in a field. “I enjoy talking with farmers and wanted to ask him about hunting his property,” Bailey said. The farmer told him he couldn’t hunt the farm because it was leased. But he told Bailey that he could hunt another farm he owned. “It was great,” said Bailey. “I barely knew the guy and he was letting me hunt his land. I felt very fortunate.”
HUNT THE WIND
Bailey wasted no time figuring out his new hunting spot. “I hung a couple stands for different wind directions and started hunting right away. I trimmed some branches so I could take a decent shot with my crossbow without having to worry about my arrow hitting a limb. I killed a mature 7-point a few days after getting permission. The day after I shot my first buck there, the monster buck showed up for the first time. I didn’t see much of him, but I knew right away he was a great buck. I didn’t kill him in 2015 but started hunting him hard and recovered his sheds that year.”
The sheds indicated the buck would score in the 160s. Bailey wasn’t sure whether the buck was 4 or 5 years old, but he knew he was worth pursuing.
PIECES OF THE PUZZLE
Bailey got a few trail camera pictures of the buck during October of 2015, but toward the end of October the buck disappeared. At first Bailey was concerned he didn’t make it through firearm season, but he spotted the elusive buck in a field during January 2016. Bailey had his sights set on next season.
Shortly after seeing the buck out in a field, Bailey saw the buck again when he was on his way to pull cards out of his scouting camera.
“I saw him with a couple other bucks and he was missing one of his antlers already. I backed out of the area and went back later. On my way to the camera, I found his shed. On the camera I had pictures of him with his antler on and with it missing. Now I just needed to find the other side and I would have his set.”
A GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE
It took awhile before he found the other shed from 2016.
“I had my cameras out on that farm all year. From the moment I found the shed until almost hunting season, I was regularly getting pictures on my camera of the buck. All summer l was getting pictures of him and watched his rack grow. Unfortunately, when early September rolled around, he disappeared. I didn’t get another picture of him until Oct. 8. After that picture, I didn’t get another picture of him until November. During November, I got a couple pictures of him but not many; it was very hit-or-miss.”
Many hunters would get discouraged without seeing a buck they are chasing on camera or under their stand, but Bailey pressed on.
“Even though I wasn’t seeing him, I hunted him every chance I had when the weather was right. If the wind direction was right, I hunted him. Since I was hunting with a crossbow, I knew I had to get in close. My stand was situated perfectly for a good shot so it became a waiting game. To win, I had to spend as much time as possible in the tree.”
Over the course of the 2016 season, Bailey played cat-and-mouse with the buck.
“I hunted a day and took a day or two off. The day I wasn’t hunting, he would show up. He showed up during daylight hours on camera and in the middle of the night, but never while I was hunting!”
Bailey believed the buck was living in a small area around the property where he hunts. As it turns out, the buck traveled all over the place.
“Since I killed him, I have had people reach out who have trail camera pictures of him several miles away. It is amazing to me how far he traveled. His survived an EHD outbreak and regularly traveled blacktop and wasn’t killed!” Bailey exclaimed.
THE LUCKY SHED
In early 2017, Bailey still hoped he could find the sheds from the buck.
“One day in March, I was driving around with a buddy. As he looked out the window of the truck, he noticed a shed in the ditch alongside the road,” Bailey said with a laugh. “He told me he saw a huge shed so we backed up and — sure enough! — there was a shed from the giant buck I had been chasing. The shed was 10 feet from the gate of the property I had been hunting him on.”
Until this point, Bailey hadn’t had a trail camera picture of the buck in weeks, so this was confirmation he was still kicking.
THE ALMOST COLLISION
As the 2017 deer season approached, Bailey hadn’t seen him on camera and thought something might have happened. One day while driving his truck down the road, his worries subsided.
“The big buck ran across the road in front of me. I almost hit him but I had to laugh because every time I turned around, there he was. He was a big part of my life. I was obsessed with the buck, and just when I got frustrated he always showed up. I would see him in a field, crossing the road or I would find one of his sheds.”
THE OTHER SHED
Another amazing piece of this deer hunting puzzle was completed when Bailey was fixing a car for a customer.
“I fix dents and hail damage on cars. One day, I get a call from a guy needing a car repaired. When I showed up to fix his vehicle, there on his radio was a shed from the buck I had been chasing. It was the missing side I didn’t have from the 2015 to 2016 season. I traded the job for the shed that day,” Bailey said.
A couple days later, Bailey heard from the customer’s son. The son had found the shed. They met up and had lunch. Before lunch was over, he gave Bailey permission to hunt their property where they had seen the monster buck. This property was over a mile away from where he had been hunting the deer the last two years.
COINCIDENCE OR FATE
With all of these coincidences, it seemed like fate that Bailey would get a shot at this monster. He and his new buddy went to hang stands not long after having lunch. When they left the property, they saw a nearby property owner moving into a home they had just purchased.
“This house was sitting on about 20 acres of prime bedding area near the property I had just hung stands on. We stopped and asked permission to hunt this small piece of property, and the new landowner said yes. So we went in there and hung another stand. Each stand was hung with the wind direction in mind. This buck didn’t come out during the daylight unless the wind was in his face. This new little piece of property was perfect for a northeast wind,” Bailey said.
THE FINAL PIECE OF THE PUZZLE
The tree stand was hung on the new piece of property on Oct. 7. On Oct. 9, Bailey hunted the stand for the first time.
“That evening was really warm, but I climbed into the stand anyway and hunted because the wind was right. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was sitting in the stand and looked behind me and there the buck was walking towards my stand! He walked in front of me and I shot him at 25 yards with my Stryker 390. He didn’t go very far after the shot, but I didn’t make a good shot on him so I called in a well-known tracker, Tracker John, who found the deer for me with his bloodhounds. I shed a few tears when I realized I finally had him. It has been an amazing journey that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the kindness and generosity of so many people,” Bailey noted.
Over the course of three years, Bailey finally completed his pursuit of the monster buck. It was a twisted tale of sharp curves and a few bumpy spots, but in the end his hard work and dedication paid off.
WHY A CROSSBOW?
One of the main reasons Lane Bailey purchased a crossbow was that he had been chasing this buck so long that he didn’t want to mess up if a shot opportunity presented itself in archery season. He believed using a crossbow made him steadier and more confident. He spent a considerable amount of time practicing with his Stryker Solution LS 390.
He placed every stand with a crossbow shot in mind. Branches were always trimmed, and shooting lanes were created. Bailey knew that just a small twig could be the difference between a grip-and-grin photo and tag soup.