By John E. Phillips and Mike Handley
Searching for a buck, even a live one, sometimes requires widening the perimeter.
Bo Holcombe wasn’t seeking a change of scenery when he varied from his routine on Dec. 13, 2014.
He didn’t throw a dart or a rock.
The Brierfield, Alabama, hunter’s choice to spend the evening in a different shooting house was more ripple than splash. The food plot it overlooked wasn’t among the three favored by the buck he’d been hunting, but it was the next closest.
And since the buck had gone AWOL, proximity was as good a reason as any.
For four years, Bo fantasized about shooting the enormous buck roaming his 850-acre lease in Bibb County, piney woods he shares with his son and son-in-law. He became aware of the studly whitetail through trail camera photographs.
“This buck would show up randomly at different locations on the lease,” he said. “It was unpatternable.”
Bo has been hunting whitetails for 39 years, and has harvested quite a few bucks and does with bow and rifle. He says The Ghost never stepped in front of his cameras during the daytime after its 4th birthday.
“The first photographs I got of this buck were when it was a 31/2-year-old 8-pointer in velvet. Those were the only pictures I had of him in the daylight,” he said, adding that he pursued the deer almost every weekend during bow and gun seasons since learning of its existence.
“In 2014, The Ghost seemed to be alternately visiting three different food plots, but only at night,” Bo said. “I rotated my hunting sites, so as not to put a lot of hunting pressure on him in any one area.
“If I had my grandson, Nathan, or my nephew hunting with me, I’d let them take any legal buck or doe they wanted to harvest, while I held out for The Ghost,” he added.
Bo decided to concentrate his efforts on the three green fields nearest a section he’d declared off-limits to hunting.
“That 100 acres is so thick, I’m not sure a rabbit can get through it,” he said. “It’s bordered by a creek on one side and a highway on the other. Quite a few deer trails go into and out of that thicket, but there’s no way to hunt in there effectively. So, we’ve made it a sanctuary; no hunting allowed except on the outer edges.”
To give the deer yet another reason to emerge from their hiding place, Bo planted a fourth food plot in the vicinity last year.
“I never got a trail camera picture of The Ghost on the new food plot,” he said.
On Dec. 13, Bo decided to give the other three food plots — The Ghost’s favorites — a break, and to try the new one. He climbed into his box stand about 3 p.m., hoping the usual mid-December rut might have the whitetails on their feet early.
“At about 4:50, I heard a couple of shots in the distance,” Bo said. “My son, Chris, who was also hunting the property, texted me: The deer must be moving.”
Soon afterward, a 6-point buck stepped onto the green field Bo was watching. About 10 minutes later, The Ghost strolled in at the opposite end of the plot.
“I thought my heart would jump out of my shirt,” he said. “I was breathing as heavily as if I’d run a 100-yard dash. He was the biggest buck I’d ever seen, about 100 yards away, facing me and feeding.
“The 6-pointer got nervous and ran to the other end of the field. Finally, The Ghost turned toward the 6-pointer across the field, and I kept the crosshairs on him. I hesitated because I wanted to know that when and if I finally squeezed the trigger, he would go down,” Bo said.
When the old buck was within 75 yards, it turned and gave Bo a broadside target. At the boom, the animal ran the length of the 4-acre field and collapsed. Bo says he heard the whump when the 250-pound deer hit the dirt.
Bo was hunting with a single-shot .270 rifle because he says it’s easier to get in and out of a box blind.
“Whenever I’m hunting cutovers, I choose a bolt-action rifle in case I need a second shot. But on a green field, that first shot is most often the only shot you ever get,” he said.
Bo immediately texted Chris, telling him he’d shot the big one. “Yeah, I bet you shot the 6-pointer,” he answered.
Bo says that seeing trail camera photographs of this buck was exciting, but nothing compared to seeing it in person, lying at his feet.
This article was published in the February 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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