When Danny Culpepper sent his son, Fletcher, a text message on Oct. 22, 2012, asking if he could carry some material in to camouflage his ladder stand, he had no idea Fletcher was sitting in the stand and had just shot a deer from it. He knew only that his 27-year-old son was hunting the 55 acres, which is why he thought to ask before driving back there.
To learn that Fletcher was actually hunting from his stand was a bit shocking. Kiddo had ribbed him about the poor placement, saying it was too obvious and that he’d stick out like a sore thumb if he sat in it, which is why Danny was bringing the camo.
“It’s funny,” Fletcher said.
“I’d told Dad: ‘You’re NOT going to get a shot at a deer from that stand.’ I’d been nagging him about it being too much in the wide open.”
Fletcher was thrilled over his father’s arrival, even if it meant he’d have to eat a little crow. The timing couldn’t have been better, too, because he didn’t want to get down from the stand and lose sight of the downed deer; he wanted to be able to shoot again if it regained its feet.
So he told Danny to come on in, and he directed him to the still-dead whitetail.
“Why’d you shoot such a small buck?” his father yelled. “It’s half as big as the one on your brother’s camera.”
Fletcher was sure the deer was no slouch, but he couldn’t help second-guessing his estimate until Danny started chuckling.
“No, son, I think you’ve shot a new state record,” he amended.
“I was finding THAT hard to believe,” Fletcher admitted, “but he eventually convinced me that it was, or that it might be.”
Turns out, it’s a close runner-up.
But missing the top rung in a record book doesn’t matter to Fletcher.
“I have won the deer hunting lottery!” he beams.
Fletcher hunted from his own stand on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, but saw only a doe and a yearling. After spending Monday morning in his brother Trevor’s stand, he moved to his father’s, where Trevor had heard two bucks fighting the previous day.
Trevor called him Sunday night. He and a friend, Zane, who had sat in Danny’s stand that day, had both heard the fierce clashing of antlers, but Fletcher hadn’t.
Since Trevor had to work on Monday, Fletcher fought the urge to remain in bed and went to his stand.
Early on, Fletcher texted Zane, who was supposed to be hunting from Danny’s stand, to see if he was situated. The answer didn’t come until 7:30, when Zane told him he wasn’t in the stand; that he had to work.
Fletcher saw a small 8-pointer around 8:15, but he decided to go to Danny’s stand at 9:00.
“I almost took the shortcut through the woods, but I wound up taking the main road,” he said. “If I had taken the shortcut, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Danny’s 12-foot ladder stand is about 70 yards from a food plot. While approaching it, Fletcher saw a doe and a yearling enter the near end of the field. The doe seemed antsy, constantly looking back in the woods.
The buck exited the trees about 30 yards farther away, while Fletcher was scaling the ladder.
“I started shaking, I was hyperventilating, and I couldn’t shoot,” he said. “I couldn’t even move.”
The doe and yearling eventually melted into the opposite tree line, and the buck followed them. By the time Fletcher was aloft, all three deer were gone.
The yearling came back out 30 seconds later and crossed back over, followed by the doe, and then the buck.
When it stopped in the open, Fletcher raised his rifle.
For two very long minutes, the buck’s neck was his only target.
When the deer finally took a couple of steps forward, Fletcher squeezed the trigger.
“I thought I’d shot a buck my brother had on camera. I never tried counting points. I just knew immediately it was a shooter,” he said. “It was a no-brainer.”
Although he’d set out to hunt left-handed because he’d had collarbone surgery on Oct. 9, he forgot all about it when he was shooting at this deer. His arm was in a sling up until the day before the rifle opener.
“I didn’t feel a thing. My shoulder feels great,” he said.
“I got lucky. I was off work that week, which is the only reason I was able to hunt,” he added.
Because Danny was convinced the buck might be a new Georgia record, Fletcher called the conservation officer for Worth County and asked if he’d come out and verify things.
“He didn’t really want to, but he did,” Fletcher said. “He was shocked when he got there. He even called another game warden to come have a look.”
A photograph of the deer was posted on Facebook at noon, and the calls started immediately. The local television station did a segment on it, and that footage was replayed on numerous other affiliates across the Southeast.
“It was crazy,” he said.
Hunter: Fletcher Culpepper
BTR Official Score: 229 7/8
BTR Composite Score: 251 5/8
— Photos by Amanda Gray
This article was published in the August 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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