Tracking Dog Helps Mississippi Freshman Find His Buck, a Possible County Record

“That dog was all business. He knew exactly what he was there to do”
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A teenager sits behind a big 10-point buck.

Kelly with his personal best buck to date, and a new potential county record. Courtesy of Larry Kelly

Luke Kelly was hunting a 300-acre family farm in north-central Mississippi on Oct. 8 when the buck he was hunting stepped out. Luke’s dad, Larry, has three years’ worth of trail camera photos of this buck, whose unmistakable mass and tall tines made him instantly recognizable. Fifteen-year-old Luke normally waits until gun season to fill his deer tag, but this year he decided to start crossbow hunting.

“That buck would disappear every November during gun season, so I knew we had to get him earlier in the year during bow season,” Larry tells Outdoor Life because Luke, a high school freshman, is in class. “We had photos of him coming to the food plot during the day for two weeks before Luke got him. He needed to get into that blind that night for a chance.”

The wind wasn’t ideal and Luke was late getting to the blind, but Larry was positive it was worth the risk. His hunch proved correct.

A young hunter holds the antlers of a big buck.
Cash (left) helped locate Luke's buck shortly after arriving on the scene. Courtesy of Larry Kelly

“The buck walked into the food plot just eight yards from Luke,” Larry says. “The deer was close, but never offered Luke a good shot. Then he started walking away across the field.”

Luke ranged the buck, but his rangefinder crapped out after giving a 50-yard reading. Luke judged the deer had walked another 10 yards and settled his 60-yard reticle on the buck. The deer was quartering away when he pressed the trigger.

“Luke called me right away, but he was so excited he could barely talk about what happened,” Larry says. “I got there fast as I could to help find the buck.”

The Kellys found part of his arrow—broken off below the fletching—and a bit of blood. They searched for 30 minutes until Larry decided they needed a veteran tracking dog, and backed out. After phoning a few friends, he got in touch with Eddie Moorman of Grenada, who arrived 30 minutes later with his experienced blood-tracking dog, Cash.

Hunters and a tracking dog sit behind a deer.
Luke with his crew of trackers—including Cash. Courtesy of Larry Kelly

“That dog was all business,” says Larry. “He knew exactly what he was there to do.”

Cash kept circling the area where the arrow had been found. But he had trouble picking up a good trail and identifying which direction the buck had gone.

Just as Larry started searching in a different direction, he heard hollering and yelling from Moorman. Sure enough, Cash had located the dead buck about two hours after Luke had shot and just 70 yards away from the hit site.

Related: Tracking Dog Secrets That Will Help You Find Your Buck

“The deer didn’t go far,” Larry says. “But there was no blood, no exit hole from the arrow. The broadhead lodged up inside the buck’s chest, so there was almost no blood to trail. But it died very quickly.”

Although Luke has killed plenty of deer for a kid his age, this buck was his biggest to date and the first deer he’d taken with a crossbow. The buck itself is remarkable. While it has 10 points, it could qualify as an 8-pointer if the two short ones measure less than an inch when it’s officially scored.

A teen holds up a nice buck.
The buck green gross-scored just shy of 180 inches. Courtesy of Larry Kelly

An official Boone and Crockett Club measurer taped the rack at green gross score of 179 4/8 inches, and a net score of 170 6/8 inches. It’ll be tight after the mandatory 60-day drying period, but if the buck scores 170 or above, it’ll make the Boone and Crockett All-Time record book (it will still qualify for an award if it scores above 160; you can read more about B&C’s minimum entry scores here.) Interestingly, there is only a single buck on the B&C record books for Grenada County, Mississippi. That buck, a typical taken in 2007, scored 167 3/8 inches. That means Luke could be looking at a county record.

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“Everything just worked out perfectly for Luke,” says Larry. “And thank God for Cash.”