Cory Anderson and his father were unusually quiet during the drive from Georgia to Christian County, Kentucky, last fall. Instead of excitement over their annual deer hunt, they were profoundly aware of the vehicle’s empty seat.
Missing was Cory’s older brother Raymond, who had died from COVID following a family beach vacation. Everyone present caught it, but Raymond was the only one who didn’t survive.
“I thought I was never going to hunt again,” Cory told Lisa Price, who’s writing about the hunt’s outcome for Rack magazine. “I didn’t even want to go into the woods, to camp, or to the stands Raymond and I had put up together.”
Had it not been for wife Lauren’s encouragement, Cory likely wouldn’t have made the trip. She even accompanied him during a pre-season trip to hang a couple of trail cameras.
Five days in a row, a giant buck was photographed within 30 yards of his stand.
One night while Cory was lying in bed, thinking about his brother, he got the sense that Raymond was sending him a message: I can’t hold him much longer. He admits it sounds more like wishful thinking, but he was unwilling to dismiss it.
Two days later, Cory and his father were in Kentucky.
Neither saw a deer during their first day afield, and few words were exchanged.
“I think we both felt awkward. It was like we didn’t know what to say to each other; we were just going through the motions,” Cory said.
The temperature climbed to 75 degrees on Saturday, which didn’t bode well for deer activity. Plus, the wind was all wrong.
After lunch, without talking about it, the Andersons began packing, and they almost left for home. Only because a last afternoon hunt seemed less awkward than driving did they stay for one more outing.
“I sat in my truck until about 4:00, just feeling so sad and lost about everything. When I finally got out and went to the stand, the wind was (still) blowing the wrong way. Because I was sweaty, I got down at 4:45 and went to another place where the wind would be perfect,” Cory said.
Fifteen minutes later, he returned to his original stand, where the big buck had been photographed. A half-hour after Cory settled in for a second time, the trail cam whitetail showed, and he shot it with his brother’s crossbow.
Cory had no luck finding the deer afterward, however, so he called in a tracking dog. The bloodhound lived up to its reputation.
“I’ll never forget that night,” he said.
Cory considers the 11-pointer, which scores 175 7/8 inches, a gift from his brother.
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