Longtime bowhunter Jacob Milton tagged the biggest buck of his life off his family farm on Nov. 18. When he finally took his shot on the nearly 200-inch deer, it was the culmination of 13 days of hard hunting. He’d already had a dozen close encounters with the buck, and he remembers being strangely composed when he released his arrow that evening. If it wasn’t for his neighbor sharing some trail cam pics the month before, however, Milton says he never would have started hunting the buck in the first place.
The fifth-generation Kansas farmer tells Outdoor Life that he didn’t even know the buck was around until two days before Halloween. (He thinks he saw the buck last year, but that was before its rack blew up.) During the early season, he’d placed some trail cams around one of his honey holes on the farm. It was located on the edge of a 50-acre pasture near a half-acre pond—the same spot where he’d tagged a 148-inch buck last season. He’d seen a nice 10-point and some other good bucks, but he wasn’t getting any giants on camera. Out of curiosity, he reached out to his younger neighbor, who’s also a dedicated deer hunter.
“I just Snapchatted the kid one night, and he sent me pictures of this buck, and I was like, ‘Holy shit,’” Milton says. “I was lying in bed, and I texted my dad right away. I said, ‘I don’t care what we have planned tomorrow. I have to move a camera and put out some corn in the morning.”
That next day, on Oct. 30, Milton hunted the same spot near the pond where he’d placed a camera and some corn. He had his first encounter with the buck that night, but it never came closer than 70 yards. Milton hunted there again the following day, and he says he’s still haunted by the close encounter he had with the buck on Halloween.
“He was at 22 yards on the corn pile that evening,” Milton says. “Twenty-two yards and I could not get a shot on him.”
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Milton returned to the same spot eight days in a row, sometimes with a friend, and the deer showed itself nearly every sit. Sometimes the buck would be be chasing a doe, other times it’d check out the corn pile—but it was always headed to the water nearby.
“In total, I probably had 10 or 12 encounters under 70 yards with this deer. Five or six of those were within 40 yards, but it was always an iffy situation,” Milton explains. “My buddy started coming with me after Halloween, and [the buck] came in behind us two nights in a row … I could have shot him one of those nights. He was at 52 yards on my buddy’s rangefinder, but I didn’t want to take that far a shot.”
The two hunters noticed that the deer had shifted its approach to the pond. And since Milton’s buddy had already tagged out for the season, he brought over a second tree stand. They set it up only 50 yards away, where they could better hunt the prevailing south wind.
By Nov. 9, Milton took a break from chasing the buck to hunt elk in Colorado with his dad. During the first day of their hunt, Milton was alerted by the Tactacam app on his cell phone.
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“He showed up that afternoon at 4:30 p.m. standing 15 yards in front of my stand.”
After eating tag soup with his dad in Colorado, Milton headed back to their farm in central Kansas with renewed determination. He’d heard from a group of pheasant hunters that they pushed a giant whitetail off the piece during his time away, and he wasn’t getting many pictures of the buck by the time he was back on Nov. 12. He went out the next day anyway.
“My fiancé, she’s a trooper,” Milton says. “The day after we got back from our elk trip, I was back in the deer stand.”
He keep hunting hard every day until Nov. 18, when the buck came in to his stand again. This time, the shot opportunity was golden. The buck was standing perfectly broadside at 21 yards when Milton released his arrow. He double-lunged the buck, and it ran only 68 yards before falling over dead. Milton says he’ll wait until after the 60-day drying period to get his buck officially scored, but he’s already had the owner of Kansas Trophy Experience take measurements of the rack. He measured it as a nontypical with 18 scoreable points, and gave it a green score of 197 1/4 inches.
In hindsight, Milton chalks up his hard-won success to all the support he got from his hunting buddies, his fiancé Katie Pralle, and, of course, the deer-obsessed kid who lives on the neighboring farm.
“Me and him, we communicate back and forth because we don’t have much pressure in this area and there are some really good deer over here,” Milton says. “I still can’t believe he sent me pictures of that buck, but he did, and he was thrilled when I finally got it. There were no hard feelings or anything. He killed himself a pretty nice one this season, too.”
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