Austin Shepherd still remembers the giant 10-point his dad killed when he was just a kid growing up in Carrollton, Ohio. They entered the 175-inch buck into a local contest, and Shepherd bragged about the deer to any schoolmates who would listen.
“I thought it was a huge deal back in the day, and I remember going to school and telling all the kids, ‘My dad killed a monster!’” he tells Outdoor Life. “But I never imagined that I’d actually kill something bigger than his buck.”
On Oct. 21, the 26-year-old bowhunter finally did just that. After chasing his target buck for more than a year, he killed the tall 10-pointer in the same Ohio county where his dad took his 175-inch buck so many years prior. The following day, Shepherd took his buck to a taxidermist, who gave it a green score of 185 inches.
Shepherd says he first caught the buck on camera last July. It was easily the biggest deer he’d seen on the piece of private land he hunts in Carroll County. The buck disappeared just as quickly, however, and Shepherd wouldn’t see it again until near the end of the season in early January.
“The last time I got him on camera was on Jan. 3, and I hunted the last day of muzzleloader season,” he says. “I sat all afternoon and when I heard a shot right before sundown, my heart sank. I thought he was dead.”
By the time spring rolled around, Shepherd still hadn’t seen the buck again. But he kept at it through the summer, resetting his trail cameras at different locations around the property. He finally had a chance to hunt there on Oct. 21, and when he pulled cards early that morning, he saw a picture of the elusive 10 point. It had been taken five days earlier. So, Shepherd repositioned his treestand and climbed into it. He’d already made up his mind that he’d sit there all day if he had to.
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Around 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, Shepherd watched a smaller five-point come into range and let it walk. Roughly 20 minutes later, the big 10 showed itself on the edge of a nearby cornfield. The buck slowly worked along the field edge, stopping every now and again to feed. It made a scrape at 40 yards and then worked even closer to Shepherd’s stand.
The buck was still feeding when it got to 20 yards. Shepherd let an arrow fly, hitting it a little high and behind the shoulder. The buck fell in its tracks.
“I might’ve gotten him in the spine because he died right there in the grass,” Shepherd says. “I climbed out of that tree and took off running back to the house. I knew he wasn’t going anywhere.”
Shepherd came back to recover the buck along with his brother, mom, and fiancé, who brought along their two-year-old son. And while the boy might be too young to ever remember seeing his dad’s buck that night, he’ll surely recognize its antlers on the wall as he grows up. If nothing else, it’ll give the young hunter something to strive for.