December 21, 2017
The Virginia hunter knew a trophy buck was in the area, because he and his father had seen the deer during 2016.
Lewis Reaves, 32, of Turbeville, Va., and his father, Tony Reaves, believe in trail cameras.
They just don't believe cameras help that much when trying to locate a trophy buck during the rut (mating) season in south-central Virginia.
On November 20, 2017, the younger Reaves climbed into a tree stand at the edge of a harvested Halifax County soybean field and waited patiently with his Remington .270 rifle mounted with a Leupold 4½x14x40-millimeter VXL scope.
He didn't know if he'd see a large deer but felt his chances were above 50 percent because in 2016 from the same perch he dropped a seven-pointer that had a 22-inch-wide antler spread, then a 10-point trophy whose top knot taped 152 inches.
Reaves had reached his stand at 3 p.m. after leaving work as a lawn-care specialist while his dad remained to finish a job.
By 5 p.m. he'd put a .270 round through a buck whose rack has been gross green-scored at 170 1/8 Boone-and-Crockett inches.
"Because I work with my dad I'm lucky because I can get off work when I want to," the younger Reaves said. "I shot the buck at 5:04 p.m., so there probably were 20 or 25 minutes of shooting light left that day."
He knew a buck with a handsome set of headgear was in the area because both men had seen the deer during 2016.
"We had no trail-camera photos of the buck because we both believe you end up hunting a deer that's not there [during the rut] if you see his picture on a trail-cam shot at a certain spot," he said. "There were a few rubs and scrapes around the area, but nothing special, just average stuff.
"I saw the deer myself toward the end of that  season, but it was a situation where I needed just one more second to get the shot I wanted, and I never got it because he went over a hill at the last second.
"I tell you, it was a heart-breakin' situation. Thinking about what happened, I spent a lot of sleepless nights."
One explanation for not putting all their eggs in one basket during the rut was they had seen the buck in 2016 a half-mile from where it was dropped it in 2017.
"Bucks roam around during the rut; they don't sit still when it's goin' hard," Lewis said. "So we knew, unless somebody else had shot him, he was in the area and that was enough without worrying about trail cams."
So Reaves used the next-best tactic — he hunted a food source, figuring does would be coming there to eat, and bucks would check the bean field.
"My stand was on the edge of a big bean field that had approximately 4½ to 5 acres of [uncut] beans left," he said. "He was in the field with two does at about 85 or 90 yards from me."
Reaves said he had four does "right in front of him" when he heard a "shushing" sound to his right in the field.
"It was the noise deer make when their going through dry beans," he said. "I looked to my right and the does were running, and there he was, on a doe. He wasn't running, just walking fast with his neck stretched out, smelling."
In addition to not depending on trail cameras during the rut, Lewis doesn't favor camouflage clothing.
"I like to be comfortable and I like to rabbit hunt, so I was wearing a comfortable pair of [light tan] Carhart work pants, an orange hoodie, a Carhart vest and neon-green ball cap," he said.
Reaves wasn't worried about deer spying him because his ladder stand was 15-feet high, hidden off the field in some pines.
"The way it's in there, it already blends in [with the landscape] so to speak," he said. "I'd already cut some shooting lanes [to see the field]."
With the buck quartering away from him, he centered the scope's crosshairs a little behind the animal's rib cage and squeezed the trigger. The bullet ranged forward and angled internally toward the deer's left foreleg.
"He ran probably 75 yards, and I saw him go down on the [field's] edge near a little clump of briars at the edge of a [cutover] thicket," Reaves said.
After walking to the buck and making sure it wasn't going to jump up, he called his father. Together they put the 172 pounds live-weight animal into his dad's pickup truck.
"He had 12 scoreable points, including a split G2 and a small kicker point," Reaves said.
He credited his avocation as a trapper for putting him at the right spot at the right time.
"Trappin' teaches you so much it ain't even funny," Reaves said. "The beans were there; it was the rut; and I was hoping that deer was still around."
It's always nice when a plan comes together.