Three years ago, Kevin Ackim of Lexington, S.C., missed a big buck on his Lexington County hunting property. Ever since, he has kept tabs on that missed deer through dozens of trail-camera pictures, all snapped under the protection of dark skies. 

But this year was going to be different. He developed a new plan in February that would eventually result in a 35-yard shot at his 11-point, 150-inch dream deer on Oct. 17, while sitting on the ground next to a large tree — with another bruiser buck dead right beside him.    

When Ackim missed the big buck in 2014, he decided he had to hunt him until he had him on the ground. For two seasons, he never saw the buck in person or on trail-camera photos that weren’t after dark, but this year’s strategy changed all that.

“I cleared out a spot back in February on the edge of his bedding area,” he said. “I figured he was going to feel comfortable moving in and out of there. And it worked. I started getting daylight photos of him moving across my new stand there.”

Ackim had several bucks on camera, including the big 11-pointer and another stud 8-pointer he would be more than happy to get in his sights. Then, on Oct. 17, a chain of events unraveled where he would get a shot at not one, but two trophy bucks. 

That morning, Ackim settled in his Loc-on tree stand at 6:20, awaiting daylight. It was a still morning with very little action until 8 o’clock, when he heard a deer shuffling through the thick brush. 

“I heard a single deer walking through, and I immediately saw mass and lots of horns. I knew it had to be the big 11-point I was after,” he said. “When he stopped, there was a basketball-sized hole in the brush and I let him have it.”

The deer took off running and out of sight. Ackim knew he had made a good shot with his .308, loaded with 168-grain handloads, but he waited for 30 minutes before climbing down and finding the deer 50 yards away, just across a dry creek bottom. Only thing was, it wasn’t the 11-pointer he expected, but the big 8-pointer.

“He was a real stud and I was extremely happy to get him,” he said.  

Ackim called a friend to help drag the deer out, and he sat down next to the creek to wait. He found a big tree and sat down against its base and got comfortable.

For an hour, he had his cell phone in hand, texting and emailing his friends. At 9:45, he decided he’d get up at 10, go back to his truck and see if he could find his friend. But at 9:59, Ackim heard something walking. He was practically lying on the ground, resting on his left elbow. He looked over his right shoulder and was surprised to see a deer coming his way — the big 11-pointer that had eluded him for years.

Lying on the ground, his gun in the leaves, Ackim was completely unprepared, but luckily, the buck walked behind some big trees, giving him just enough time and space to sit up, grab his rifle and get ready.

“I had the safety off and the gun pointed right past a tree in his path. If he steps out, I am going to let him have it,” he said. 

As soon as the deer cleared the tree, Ackim buried a round right in the deer’s heart. 

“He mule-kicked real hard and crashed into the same creek the other deer was lying. I jumped up like I was turkey hunting and shucked in another round and ran up to the deer, but I saw the entry hole and knew I had him,” he said. 

“I wasn’t planning on shooting anything else when I sat down next to that tree. I wasn’t really even paying attention much to anything but the messages from my family and friends on my phone,” said Ackim, who was glad his friend didn’t get to him sooner. 

The two bucks both weighed close to 200 pounds. The 8-point buck’s rack measured 125 1/4 inches, and the 11-pointer measured 150 3/4 inches.