On Jan. 7, Matthew Puckett and his dad Ed climbed into two different tree stands on their 80-acre hunting lease in Adams County, Ohio. The stands were only 150 yards away from each other, and both men were looking for a cagey, 13-point buck that had gotten away from Matthew twice last deer season. After missing the buck with his bow, he blew a second opportunity during gun season.
“I didn’t have the rifle fully cocked, and it wouldn’t fire when I had a chance at him,” Matthew tells Outdoor Life.
Going into this season, the firefighter from Peebles, Ohio, was determined to get another shot on the buck that he’d been watching on his trail cameras. The only problem? Every other hunter in the area seemed to be after the deer, too.
“He was roaming up to two miles, which we knew from some neighbors who were also targeting the buck,” says Matthew, who spent most of the early season trying to pattern the deer.
This had gotten harder to do by the time Ohio’s muzzleloader season rolled around in early January. Just days before Matthew and his dad split up to hunt the property, Matthew learned that one of his neighbors, a bowhunter, had recently shot at the buck and missed. The broadhead nicked the buck’s front leg, which gave it a limp and made it even cagier.
The limp also made the deer easier to recognize. And when it steeped into Matthew’s field-of-view late in the afternoon on Jan. 7, he had zero doubt about what he was looking at.
“About 4:45 that afternoon a couple of does showed nearby, and I started looking hard for a buck,” Matthew says. “I saw a limping deer way off, and I looked him over with my binoculars and realized it was [him].”
The buck kept walking his direction as it followed the does through the timber. When it stepped between two trees at around 100 yards, Matthew fired his muzzleloader. The buck ran only 50 yards before it fell.
“I immediately yelled, ‘Thank the Lord!’” Matthew says. He yelled so loud that his dad heard him from inside the other tree stand, and by the time Matthew walked up to the buck, Ed was already walking there. The two loaded it up on their ATV and headed home. By the time they got there, the news that the buck had fallen was already going around the area.
“My neighbor who was also hunting the buck sent me a text because he heard me shoot,” Matthew says. “He figured the buck was gone, so he told me he shot a doe that afternoon.”
The 13-point buck received a Buckmasters score of 175 inches. Matthew says it had worn-down teeth and looked beat up from the rut.
“We figured he was at least 5 or 6 years old, because plenty of neighbors in the surrounding area had gotten photos of him during that time,” he says. “I’m just blessed to have been the hunter who got him.”