Written by Aaron Hitchins
Scott White was half-way up to his treestand when he saw the glint of antlers, far too close for comfort. It was the deer they called Lucky.
He was 70 yards away, bedded with a doe and staring right through him. Scott had no choice but to freeze, dangling from the too-far-apart tree steps that characterize a White family treestand. Feeling the eyes of the behemoth, he hung there, not daring to climb higher and too exposed to climb down and wait. 200 yards away, Scott’s brothers Nick and Matt sat with their Dad, David, in his living room and passed a binocular between them as they tried to figure out what had happened.
It is not often you’d find the three men indoors on a cool evening in the rut, but this was no ordinary evening and Lucky was no ordinary deer. He was huge, a giant by even the highest standards that lived on the outskirts of their small Kansas hometown. He’d grown into a local legend, shot once in the shoulder, seen sparingly in velvet, and photographed by Matt and his 5 year old daughter Allie barely a week before. Scott had found his sheds, and the match set had earned him the right to be half way up to the treestand they’d all hung together, waiting for his moment to climb the rest of the way into the stand.
Scott and his brothers were no stranger to big deer. They earned a reputation for consistently killing bucks by obsessing for over a decade, building homemade trail cameras and welding tree stands until the industry caught up with their inventions. As the years passed, success came and went, with some hunts ending with 200” on the wall and others leading to sleepless nights and broken hearts. They had all shot giants, and helped countless friends and family members get involved and succeed in the sport.
Along the way, they learned the most important lesson in deer hunting: You can do everything right, but sometimes you just have to get lucky.
They had gotten lucky, and they knew it. After years of managing thousands of acres of prime habitat for mature bucks, they’d wound up with the biggest one of all literally in their own back-yard. The property was purchased by their grandfather in 1974, back when seeing a deer was rare, and though populations had exploded since, it was still a rare occurence to have a whitetail on the property so close to town. For two years they got photos of the buck long after sunset, but he had evaded them. They caught a break in the third year spent hunting him as a cornfield was planted where there had never been cover in the past, and so they hung a treestand right outside of town limits, where you could hear kids playing, dogs barking, and you could see the living room window of their childhood home.
Having the deer there was luck, but they knew that killing him wouldn’t be. With Scott being the brother that would be hunting him, he had to eschew countless opportunities at other great deer, and instead of enjoying as much time as possible in the stand, he had to wait until the time was right to sit. With the deer being 7.5 years old and only having been seen a handful of times, they knew that if there was to be an opportunity, it would come in the rut when hormones overran his better judgement. With only a tiny sliver of the deer’s vast home range to hunt, the margin for error was non-existent, and he had to fight his desire to sit elsewhere to have a chance at the giant.
Finally, the chance had come. The trail camera told them the buck was near, and it was time to take a chance and hope he was in the area. Scott got halfway up the tree, and confirmed that he was close. He was too close, bedded 70 yards away and had him pinned half way up the tree. Fortunately, he’d seen the deer before they saw him, and Scott prayed for the light to change so he could make his way into the stand. When it finally did, he realized that the rest of the steps would put him back in sight of the deer, so he was left with no choice but to reach for the platform of the stand and pull himself up into it. Thankfully, the gymnastics went unnoticed and he settled in an evening in the company of Kansas royalty.
As the sun set, the deer stood. Almost 230 inches of antler, familiar from thousands of photos seemed even bigger in real life, the massive frame amplifying the movements of the buck. Scott was calm, having spent the past two hours preparing his mind for the moment the doe walked by, leading the buck under him well within bow range. Back in their family home, Nick, Matt and David could see Scott draw, anchor, and shoot. They couldn’t see the deer, but they didn’t need to. They’d known how the story would end from the moment Scott got in the stand.
The next morning the four of them recovered the deer the same way they’d hung the stand, the same way they had strategized, the same way they’d deer hunted since they first picked up a bow. The found the buck together.
As the world of deer hunting becomes increasingly competitive, Scott White and his brothers buck the trend. A solitary pursuit, so often guarded in secrecy and driven by envy, they’ve found a way to hunt, and succeed, as a team. They say good things happen to good people, and it might be time to believe it.
People don’t get kinder than the White family, and whitetail bucks don’t get better than Lucky.