Who wouldn't wait an extra five days for a present like this?
By Collier Campbell
After nearly a week of playing musical stands, trying to guess which setup would put 11-year-old Collier Campbell within shooting distance of an enormous whitetail, the song ended.
There was only one problem: Unless bucks could fly, the shooting house's window ledge was too high a rest for the boy's rifle. He might as well have been sitting in a duck blind.
Fortunately for Collier, there was plenty of time for him to crawl upon his father's lap in order to gain a solid rest and aim at the buck he so desperately wanted. When the regal deer hesitated before stepping back into the woods, the .300 Win Mag roared.
Because he was shooting at a dream buck, Collier never felt the stout recoil of his father's magnum.
The whole family knew about the deer. They'd found its 2003 shed and had trail camera photographs of it in 2004. Chris Campbell, Collier's father, had devoted the Thanksgiving holidays to bowhunting the buck.
He encountered it twice, but the animal was at 70 yards both times. By Christmas, he'd all but given up on getting it with his bow.
Young Collier saw the deer in the flesh for the first time on Dec. 26, 2005. He and his dad were sitting side by side in a buddy stand set up along the middle of an 800-yard-long straightaway. Box stands sat at both ends. Chris, sitting to his son's left, spotted the familiar buck first while glassing the far end of the open area. It was milling around with a doe and a yearling.
As soon as Collier got to see it through the binoculars, he was smitten.
"Dad, we're going to hunt this deer until I get it, okay?" he asked, meaning (at least) for the duration of the two-week-long school break. And so began the game of hide and seek.
The next day, father and son split the distance from the buddy stand to the shooting house and took up a position on the ground next to a cypress tree. They saw the buck again, traveling and feeding with the same doe and yearling, in almost the same spot the animals had been the previous day. But that was still a very long shot - and not the only one Collier passed up that day. While the odds might've been against him taking the big buck, he chose to ignore a gimmee at an 8-pointer that would've thrilled most kids his age.
"Dad said, 'Okay, you can shoot it if you want to,' but I didn't want that one," Collier said. "I wanted the big one ... It was hard. But I watch The Outdoor Channel all the time. I know that you have to pass up deer like that to get the one you want. And I knew which one I wanted."
When the big buck and its companions drifted back into the woods, Chris and Collier thought they might be headed for a nearby food plot. So the two ran about 300 yards and cut into the woods to slip up to the field's edge. But they never saw the buck emerge.
They went straight to the food plot on Dec. 28, playing the hunch that the deer might have visited it before coming into the long straightaway. But they saw only a bobcat.
On the 29th, they stopped fooling around and went directly to the box stand, a plywood affair with a tin roof and sliding windows. It sat on a platform between 15 and 20 feet high.
The Campbells had decided to cover all bases that day. Collier's mother and sister were babysitting the food plot. And his brother, Green, and their grandfather (his mother's father) were sitting in the box blind at the opposite end of the lane. Despite having all routes covered, nobody saw the buck.
Dec. 30 found Collier and Chris in the box again. After they'd watched a couple of does, Collier saw the buck step out of the timber at about 150 yards. It crossed the open road and entered a triangle of woods separating the main road from a secondary one. Collier focused on the other road.
Five minutes later, however, the buck still had not stepped into the second road. Instead, it walked back out of the triangle and re-crossed the main one. Right before it stepped into the woods from whence it had come, it hesitated.
Collier confidently squeezed the trigger of his dad's "lefty gun," a .300 Win Mag that he'd never shot before that day. His southpaw father had insisted they carry it because he wanted a rifle that would reach out and touch whatever his son wanted to shoot.
"I'd never shot that one," Collier said, "but I've shot other lefty guns of my dad's."
After the boom, Chris made Collier wait a full hour.
"That was the longest hour of my life," Collier remembers.
When they got to where the buck had been standing, there was neither blood nor hair to signal a hit. They wound up calling the farm's manager and asking him to bring "Raisin," their tracking terrier. The dog picked up the trail, and they followed it for 150 yards to the dead buck.
Hunter: Collier Campbell
Official Score: 157 4/8"
Composite Score: 176 2/8"
-- Reprinted from the November 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.