Shortly after 6:30 p.m. this past Saturday, Justin Kiker, a dedicated bowhunter from Midland, N.C., had his lifelong dream come true when he arrowed a 12-point buck that measured better than 171 inches on a family friend's farm in rural Mecklenburg County.

Kiker’s buck was a main-frame 5x5 with two kicker points, tall, 25-inch main beams, 10-inch tines on each beam, a 19-inch inside spread and 5½-inch bases, contributing to a tremendous gross Boone and Crockett Club score of 171 3/4 typical inches. 

Kiker’s successful hunt was an unorthodox one; his prized buck arrived abruptly and on full alert minutes after another hunter apparently spooked the deer from his daytime bed.  

This past summer, Kiker began capturing his big buck in trail-camera photos. And for more than four months, the deer showed up on several of his cameras almost entirely after dark.

“For the last few weeks, I have had him on camera every single night, with the exception of one single daytime photo last Wednesday,” Kiker said. “The deer were eating a ton of corn, and I was getting around 4,500 photos per week.”

He knew the buck would eventually show up at some point during daylight hours, especially with the rut starting to crank up in his area. With lots of does around, Kiker was hoping the buck would start making the usual mistakes bucks make during the breeding season. 

On an unseasonably hot Saturday afternoon, Kiker knew that he had to put his time in the stand. He was hunting approximately 50 yards inside the wood line of a large hay field with several heavily used trails between his stand and the field, as well as a corn pile he refreshes weekly. He got into the stand around 4, and 6:30, he caught movement across the hay field, but it wasn’t a deer. It was another hunter who had decided to cut the day short. 

“I watched him walk across the field to his truck and watched him drive off. I was a little aggravated and was starting to wonder if I should just get down, too. But then I heard a ruckus from my left, and I saw him,” Kiker said. 

It was the huge buck trotting through the woods, 65 yards away and closing in. 

“He was coming in hot and on full alert. I immediately ranged him and he was at 40 yards,” Kiker said.

The buck was trotting at a steady pace at about 40 yards from his stand, and Kiker noticed one opening where he could make a shot. He brought his Ben Pearson Recon bow to full draw, holding his 40-yard pin on the buck.

“I shot, and it sounded like he got hit by a 7 Mag. He dropped immediately, and my heart started beating like crazy when I realized that it just really happened,” he said. 

Kiker’s arrow had taken the deer high in the back, clipping its spine. Kiker started to phone his brother, Duke, but he looked up to see the buck trying to stand up. Kiker put down his phone, nocked in another arrow and finished him off.  

“I called my brother to tell him the good news, and I told him the long shots we practiced paid off,” he said. 

Duke Kiker is a competitive archer, and the two brothers practice close and far-away shots all the time.

“You never know when the deer might not come in where you plan them to, so we practice longer shots just in case,” he said.