Matt Reed, 45, has hunted whitetails in Hardin County, Kentucky, all his life, but he’s never killed a buck as big as the giant he tagged on September 3, 2022. Around 6 p.m. on the evening of the day opening , Reed put an arrow through a deer he’d been seeing since June, and when he finally found it around midnight, it exceeded all his expectations. With an unofficial Boone and Crockett score that Reed says is 194 1/8 inches, the early September trophy has 18 points with super-wide bases and an 18 1/4-inch inside spread.
“I don’t shoot early in the season every year,” Reed said F&S. “But if I’m hunting a good-sized deer, early season is the best time in my mind to hunt them because you can time your watch for when they’re going to be where they’re going to be.” Reed says he went up to his stand around 1pm that day. Although he had methodically watched the buck all summer and had high expectations for a run, the weather made him uneasy.
“I completely removed the scent as best I could, but it got up to almost 90 degrees,” Reed said. “Odor control is spotty at best in those kinds of temperatures.” With the conditions weighing on his mind, Reed watched a few doe and grubs meander in and out of the thick cover early on his afternoon hunt. A few hours later, a nice 10-pointer showed up and gave him a perfect shot. “He was probably 135 to 140 inches, still in the velvet,” Reed said. “It came out 15 yards or so and it came back wide. But I was like, No, forget it. This is not what I came for.”
As it turned out, the dollar he came for wasn’t far behind. “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a deer move, and out comes this big thing,” Reed said. “He went right under me. Then he positioned himself for that 10-pointer, and when he did, it went wide.” Reed sent a closed arrow into the big buck’s vitals. He said the deer burst into a nearby thicket and left him shaking like a leaf behind him.
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After gathering himself enough to safely descend from his tree base, Mother Nature threw Reed another curveball. “I get halfway down and it absolutely starts to fall,” he said. “I knew I was going to hit it clean, but there’s a flood coming in here and I’ve got to find this deer.” With each drop of rain, Reed knew his blood trail would become harder and harder to follow, and the thought of losing his once-in-a-lifetime money became an increasingly realistic prospect.
“I walked down and found my arrow, and it was covered in bright red lung blood,” he said. “But I found no deer, no trace of blood, and I began to feel a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.” Fortunately, Reed knew a neighbor with a tracking dog service. He had to wait several hours for the dog and his owner to arrive, but once on the scene, the lab sniffed the big white tail in no time. “He only went about 60 or 70 yards from where I shot him,” Reed said. “He was just in such thick cover that if you weren’t 10 or 15 meters away from him, you’d never see him.”
Reed said the tracking dog made all the difference that night. “If you can’t find a deer, go out and get somebody with a dog,” he said. “Would we have found it the next day? Maybe. But the flesh would have been destroyed. It would just have been terrible.”
Instead, Reed found his trophy, celebrated with his son, and will soon put the monster up and hang it on a wall in his home. “Killing a deer like that has always been my ultimate goal,” he said. “I’m still walking around with a goofy grin on my face.”