"I think he's here." "Yupp he's here but his butt is to me." "Are you sure? Take your time for a good shot." "I see big rack but he won't turn." "Doe to the left of him I think." "Just wait on the trigger and be ready." "Oh my gosh dad he's huge."
That's not your typical string of texts between teen-aged daughter and dad, but that's the exchange that took place the day after Christmas between Cora Lee Downer and her dad, Billy Downer. Minutes later, the 15-year-old Sumter County hunter fired one shot, then sent another text.
"He's down in the corn," texted Cora Lee Downer, who had just harvested her biggest buck yet, an 8-point, 180-pound deer that is sure to make the state record books.
Cora Lee Downer was perched in a stand attached to an oak tree 80 yards away in a hardwood bottom, and this buck showing up was no chance encounter. She and her father had hunted this buck all year, without ever seeing it in person.
"It showed up all year on our deer camera, but it was always in the dark – late at night, 3 in the morning... but after the rut, it started showing up closer to daylight," said Billy Downer, who had checked the camera on Christmas morning. "He showed up at first light, and I told Cora Lee she needed to hunt that stand the next morning.”
Cora Lee Downer got into her stand early on Dec. 26, and as the sun began to cast light, she noticed two deer eating from the corn pile they have maintained all season. She couldn't tell if it was the deer she was after until she dropped her flashlight, which seemed to hit every rung of the ladder on its way to the ground. The deer raised its head, looking directly away, and that's when she saw the rack and began texting her father.
After a moment, the deer settled down and went back to eating. Cora Lee Downer said she sat for about 15 more minutes looking for a good shot. Once the buck was done eating, it took a step away from the corn pile, presenting her with an easy shot. She pulled the trigger on her Savage 7mm-08, putting a 139-grain Hornady SST in the deer's shoulder. It fell on the spot.
Cora Lee Downer had killed a 10-point buck on Thanksgiving, and it’s headgear was already at Woods and Water Taxidermy in Manning. This buck’s 8-point rack was so much more impressive that she canceled the order for the 10-point, opting to mount this one instead. With 21-inch main beams and 6 ½-inch brow tines, Billy Downer expects the buck will score 130 or better.
Maintaining their corn pile was the key to harvesting this buck, Billy Downer said: "After the rut is over, a lot of people stop maintaining their corn piles. We kept ours up and he kept coming back, finally making the mistake of coming during shooting hours."