The Three-Year Hunt For One Massive Buck

For deer hunter Shane Mayon, a buck nicknamed “Hightower” has been the one that got away, and not just once. Over the course of three seasons, Mayon and his friends have encountered the enormous creature in person and on game cameras, but no one could ever land a shot.

As outdoor writer Brian Broom details at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Hightower quickly became the stuff of legend in the local area.

He’d grown into a 12-point in 2019 with a wide inside spread and long, heavy main beams. He was always the talk among those that knew about him.

“The buddies I hunt with, he was the topic of conversation,” Mayon said. “Even in the off season it was, ‘Hightower this, Hightower that.’ Who was going to be the lucky one?”

Mayon told Broom that thoughts of Hightower even kept him up at night, to the point that his wife asked what was going on with him.

Buck fever, that’s what. Mayon was obsessed with the deer, which was the biggest he’d ever seen. Throughout the fall, Hightower appeared regularly on the hunter’s game cameras, but Mayon failed to spot him in person. That changed back on December 4, when Shane Mayon and a buddy headed off into the woods a few hours before dark.

As Mayon was approaching his stand, he startled a four-point buck that took off crashing through the woods. The hunter says he was sure that the deer’s loud exit would have spooked Hightower away if he was even in the area, but as the sun was sinking in the western sky, Shane Mayon laid eyes on his elusive prey.

Even though he felt his hunt was doomed, Mayon climbed into his stand. He watched roughly 13 does browse on acorns during the hunt and at 4:25 p.m. he heard another coming.

“I heard a rustling of leaves and it was him coming out of a creek bed,” Mayon said. “When I saw the head I knew it was him.”

Mayon was getting nervous. To complicate things, his scope was set to its highest magnification and he could find the deer in the scope. He adjusted his scope and found an opening where the buck would pass.

“I picked a little spot between two trees about 24 inches wide and as soon as I saw brown I put the crosshairs on him and squeezed the trigger,” Mayon said.

I’m not going to spoil the ending because you should really check out Brian Broom’s original reporting for the rest of the story about Mayon and Hightower, but honestly, the big takeaway for me wasn’t whether or not the hunt for Hightower was successful. No, what stands out to me is the intensity of his pursuit because I’ve never experienced anything like that as a hunter, going after the same animal year after year after year.

Heck, I’ve never encountered a monster buck on my property, and honestly, you’re not going to find any Hightowers in my part of rural Virginia. The closest I’ve come to having that same obsession over a particular animal would be my sporadic attempts over the past two spring turkey seasons to get a good shot at one of the toms who make regular appearances on the edge of one of the pastures. They seem to know exactly where to position themselves so that I can’t get off a safe shot, and I swear their gobbles have taken on a mocking tone as the months have gone on.

Even though I’ve come up empty-handed, however, I’ve still benefited from the experience. Sure, I get to practice both patience and perseverance, but I also get to spend time outdoors focused on nothing but the environment surrounding me. In this day and age of constant connectivity, it’s a genuine blessing to spend time looking at gently sloping fields and the edge of the spring woods instead of a computer screen. I’ve spied my neighbor’s Black Angus calves frolicking across a newly green pasture in the morning sun, heard the dogwoods and the black walnut trees come alive with the sharp tap-tap-tap of red-headed woodpeckers searching for a meal, and a hundred other hum-drum experiences that are anything but banal and ordinary when you’re in the moment.

Most states have just concluded one of the best deer seasons in quite a few years in terms of hunter participation. While few of those who headed out to a tree stand or blind for the very first time (or just the first time in a long time) were able to take a shot at a buck the size of Hightower, they didn’t need to have a Shane Mayon moment to make some lasting memories. Many of them were able to fill their freezer, spend time with family and friends, and spend a few hours a little more engaged with the world around them than the smartphone typically in front of their face. Monster buck or not that seems like a pretty good time to me.

Jun 18, 2021 11:30 AM ET