Adam Revels kills two Johnston County trophy bucks during 2023 season

This season I was able to close the deal on 2 Johnston County bucks that I had been familiar with from 2022. I had never seen either buck in the flesh but had lots of cell cam photos with only a few being in the daytime. When 2023 rolled around I was thrilled to see they were still around and had matured nicely. The only time I got photos of them together was in the springtime when their racks were only half developed. The buck with the high beams became known as TallBoy (I found his left side shed in the spring of ‘23) and I started calling the other one HomeBoy, because he seemed to really stick close to his bedding area and food source and showed up on camera only on one end of the farm. He would seldom roam and apparently not very far at all. While I was excited about both bucks, HomeBoy was the real object of my heart. TallBoy had not shown himself in daylight at any point in 2023 and would often disappear for weeks. I counted it unlikely to even get a chance at him.
I had a spot I liked to use for a stake out during the summer and would watch Homeboy and some smaller bucks come out to feed in the beans in the evening, sometimes less than 100 yards from me. I knew where he was bedding, but it was thick and much of it was not on property I could hunt. After 2 years of history with this deer I really had my heart set on him and he seemed very killable when watching him in the beans. But the one thing I found more interesting about him than the fact that he stayed close to home was that he absolutely HATED A CAMERA! I’ve never seen a deer react to a trail cam the way this buck did. I had pictures of him in the daytime at a distance, staring down a camera that had been there for weeks. Oftentimes, the camera would be triggered by a deer in the foreground and there was HomeBoy, in the distance, out of trigger range or barely within flash range. Video would actually catch him in a plot or a bait pile stepping away from the camera as the ir flood was lighting him up. This continued on into the rut when he would have a doe with him and hang back and shy away from the camera. The other deer in the frame were always unbothered.
When archery season opened, I saw HomeBoy way out of bow range on opening day, still in his summer feeding pattern. The same thing happened during muzzleloader season. Then, when rifle season opened, daytime photos and appearances of HomeBoy completely stopped.
I spent countless hours trying to catch up to HomeBoy with the occasional night photo of TallBoy and the thought that he could show up at some point too. I kept getting night photos of HomeBoy so I knew he was around and even caught a glimpse of him during the rut as he exited the bean field at daybreak from about 300 yards. One evening during bow season I hunted from the ground with a crossbow just outside his bedding area hoping to catch him crossing a logging path before the bean field. It got dark in the woods early and so I went to the truck. As I went to leave with a little daylight left, I saw him in the bean field. Apparently he had snuck by me out of sight. Another night I was walking back to the truck under a full moon and saw a deer standing in the beans close to my truck and I stopped and glassed him and just could tell it was Homeboy, just showing up for his evening feed, watching me. One morning when I arrived way early he was by the road with a doe and they retreated to cover. I stuck to my plan that morning, getting in a stand not far away but never seeing him. I tried hunting close to his bedding area, hoping to catch him on the way back from tending does, or maybe on the way to a food source in the evening. I stayed mindful of the wind, I was careful about which direction I entered and exited from. I moved cameras around and he would spot them once, sometimes 8’ up a tree and never pass by them again. I had nearly decided to pull all my cameras just to take the pressure off of him since I knew he was a homebody, but they were still helpful enough, even though he was hard to pattern. At this point, HomeBoy was giving me fits. My wife and kids and friends were all tired of hearing about him and I couldn’t blame them if they thought I was doing everything wrong. Friends would make suggestions without knowing some of the obstacles posed or that I had already made at least a version of such an attempt. The thing they would give that was so helpful though, was encouragement. I felt like my friends and family were rooting for me and those that knew how hard I had tried really did want me to succeed and they would remind me of the incoming weather or perhaps how a deer’s motivation may have shifted during different parts of the season. I find little things like that to be helpful when you start to get tunnel vision. Wisdom and encouragement from your fellow hunters can sometimes be the thing you need the most.
Late in November, I got photos of TallBoy in a food plot at 8:30am, much to my surprise. A few mornings later I was headed to hunt a hot stand on a creek where I had put no cameras or bait when I realized I had pictures of TallBoy in a food plot over 400 yards from where I would be hunting. The photos were time stamped for 5:37am. At 7:25am I am in the stand on the creek when I hear something coming from over my left shoulder. I look back and it’s TallBoy, with the little buck that was in the photos with him. He was 25 yards away when he stopped to browse. A tree between us allowed me to ready my gun and wait for him to offer a shot. When he cleared the tree, I dropped him at less than 20 yards. I was excited and thankful, but I would continue to think about HomeBoy.
Early December, neighboring timber started to get cut right near where Homeboy had been bedding and I knew that could be an issue. Oddly, he made good on his name and stuck close by, according to cell cams, but still only nighttime photos. I hung on to the thought that the later in the season, and the colder it was, the more desperate a deer would get for food. Food sources would be more scarce but the deer would need more energy. Later in December I went and hunted over a freshened up bait pile and saw nothing. The very next evening, I was at home at dusk when I started getting photos of Homeboy and 4 other bucks at that same bait pile with 10 minutes of daylight left. I was sick with myself that I wasn’t in that stand. That aggravating buck continued to hit the bait all night long until 3:30am. I was there the next morning and didn’t see so much as a button head. I decided with another cold night coming up I’d better be there that night if I could be there in time and hope that he decided to make the same move. I was not overly optimistic, but before I left home, my wife said she would say a prayer for me. As it got closer to sunset, I started getting anxious. It was so late in the season and I don’t normally enjoy deer hunting as much in December anyway. The days are short so the deer don’t have to move during daylight as much, they are wary from hunting pressure, and the rut isn’t there to drive them like it did a month earlier. I prayed. I said a very earnest prayer to The Almighty, The Creator, the one that made me, the one that made the deer and the habitat. It was not the first time I had asked for such a thing. Not even the first time I had asked that week, and I knew that there were others that kept me in prayer. Sometimes it seems silly to pray for such a thing, but it’s just one of many things I pray about while I’m doing so for myself and others, and I’m glad I can go straight to God the Father with anything.
A few more minutes pass. With 15 minutes left to hunt I scanned the field with my binoculars and see Homeboy 300+ yards away with 2 smaller deer. He had come out where I had been seeing him come out all summer. We were right back where it all began. He started toward the backside of the field at a run as if he didn’t want to be seen in the open in daylight. As I eased the rifle up, he slowed to a walk. When he was directly in front of me at about 200 yards, I let out a relaxed bleat. He stopped to look in my direction, quartered to me. I sent a bullet into the front of his shoulder. He ran directly away from me and fell before he could exit the field.
Blessed, excited and relieved are all good words to describe how I felt. Perhaps the most relieved was my 6 year old daughter. She said “FINALLY! Daddy got his buck!”
-Adam Revels
Selma, NC

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