Jared Kenner says it only took him 18 years of bowhunting to finally kill a giant. The buck he harvested from his property in Kentucky in late September is hands down his biggest deer yet, and Kenner earned every inch of the buck’s 184-inch rack. After watching the buck grow over the past four years, Kenner hunted hard in the early season but never got the right opportunity. It would take a couple more nightmare sits and some help from his wife for him to finally seal the deal.
“My wife doesn’t hunt, she doesn’t really care about it, but she had this vision,” Kenner says. “She said, ‘I just got a feeling that this deer knows when you’re coming and going. I think you need to just lay down in the bed of this other truck and let me take you and drop you off.’ And I’m like, ‘You know what, that’s genius. Let’s do it.’”
About two hours after his wife suggested it, one of his hunting buddies called him up and said almost the exact same thing. He offered to give Kenner a ride to the farm and Kenner took him up on it the following Saturday, Sept. 17.
While waiting for a ride back that night, Kenner called his buddy from the edge of the property. He told him how the big buck had hung back as another buck and two does fed within bow range, only coming in to feed a few minutes after shooting light. Kenner told him how he sat in the tree in the dark for at least 25 minutes until the buck finally left.
A Long History
Kenner first saw the buck in 2018. He bought the property that year and started putting out trail cameras toward the end of summer. Even though the deer was around two years old, he could tell by the pictures that it was the biggest buck on the property. Kenner thinks he would have scored around 125, maybe 130, that year.
“So, I figured I’ll keep running cameras, and I’ll keep some corn out and some mineral, just to see if something changes.”
By the time 2019 rolled around, the buck had put on another 15 inches but was still too young to shoot. Kenner figured that if he stuck around until the following season, he’d give one of his sons a chance to kill him.
“I just wanted to kill a big, clean, typical deer,” he says, “but I’ve got two sons, 16 and 18 now. And for the last six or so years I try to put them on the deer every year and I just put myself on the backburner.”
When one of his sons got a shot opportunity in 2020, Kenner told him to take it. His son missed the buck clean from 150 yards, shooting right underneath him. The deer went nocturnal after that, and over the next two years, Kenner didn’t get a single picture of him during the daytime.
He explains that like most dads, he wanted his son to have an opportunity to harvest a big deer. After he missed that shot though, he told his son that he wanted to hunt the buck from there on out.
“I told him, ‘Hey that’s it. If this deer makes it, I’m gonna hunt him until I kill him or he dies,” Kenner says. “And he said, ‘Okay alright, that’s fair.’”
The 2021 season came and went. Kenner kept up his usual management routine of maintaining a food plot, putting out corn mixed with mineral, and running trail cams. He got plenty more photos of the big buck, but still no pictures in the daylight.
“We started the cams back up that season and right before the rut he showed back up,” Kenner says. “He’d gained about 15 maybe 20 inches, and I’m like, man, this deer is going to be a giant.”
Third Time’s the Charm
On the drive home on Sept. 17, Kenner’s buddy gave him a little pep talk. He told him things would finally come together if he stayed patient and hunted when the wind was good. The wind was right that next Monday, but he attended his younger son’s football game instead of hunting. The wind was still favorable on Tuesday, so Kenner called up his friend and got another ride to the property.
He took all the same precautions that evening, pulling his hunting clothes and boots out of Ziplock bags loaded with scent wafers and coating them with scent-control spray. Carrying his new Matthews V-3, he walked the same route to his tree stand that was hung 24 feet up in a patch of timber. He was good and ready well before sundown—only to get hosed again. This time the buck got within bow range but never offered Kenner a shot, facing him until it was too dark to shoot.
“Time runs out and I had to sit in that tree for 45 or 50 minutes that night while he stayed in there feeding. And then he finally leaves and I’m just sick,” Kenner says. “I go home and I can’t sleep. I’m sick all day Wednesday thinking I’ll never see this deer again.”
The wind was all wrong over the next few days, but on Saturday it shifted once again. Kenner’s wife was now obsessing over the buck almost as much as he was. She told him she’d drive him in that afternoon, saying, “you’re finally gonna kill this deer this time.”
The wind was blowing dead in his face when the buck stepped out around 6 p.m. Only this time, instead of holding back and slowly working his way to the corn pile, the buck cut straight across the bean field like he was in a hurry. When he got to the pile 13 yards from the base of the tree, Kenner prepared to draw.
“Sure enough he comes in facing me, and I’m like, no man, not the same nightmare again. But then something got his attention, and he turns just enough, makes a stomp step, and I’m telling myself, I’m gonna have to take this shot.”
At full draw, Kenner’s shooting window was about the size of a five-gallon bucket lid. Because of the extreme angle, he put his pin high on the buck’s right shoulder, hoping his broadhead would catch the top of the right lung and blow through the left. He let the arrow fly, heard a loud, deep thwack, and then stayed put.
“I was a nervous wreck,” he says, “I felt like I hit him good, but then I thought, when in doubt back out.”
Kenner sat in the tree for another hour, and then he called his wife and buddy. He had been thinking about another buck that had been hanging around the area the last few weeks, and he didn’t want to run the deer off the property. He decided he would come back the following day.
That next morning, Kenner and his buddy walked to where he’d last seen the buck. They found the buck on the ground roughly 70 yards from where he was hit. Then they loaded the deer up and headed back to his house so they could take pictures and keep the location a secret.
“It was a special moment, with all that history, and then my wife dropping me off,” he says, referring to the vision she had earlier that month. “We’re believers, you know, Jesus is our savior. And we believe that sometimes the Holy Spirit will bless you with certain things.”
Kenner later met with a certified Buckmaster scorer at the taxidermist, and he scored the buck at 184 and 4/8 inches. The scorer told Kenner that while it’s not the highest-scoring buck in state history, it’s likely one of the top three whitetails in the “perfect typical” category ever taken with a bow in Kentucky. Kenner’s taxidermist also checked the deer’s teeth and estimated his age around 6 1/2. Blessed is about right.