A Stick and String Trophy, and Countless Life Lessons

Written by Nate Skinner | Photos by David Price      

Seventeen-year-old Cade Thomas began pursuing white-tailed deer with archery equipment back in 2017 at age 11.  He started with a crossbow and then progressed to using a compound bow.

This past season, he harvested his personal best whitetail buck on the Horn Ranch & Rancho La Tinaja in Kinney County, Texas where his father, Bobby, leases a spot. The deer was one of the few survivors left after anthrax plagued the property’s deer herd back in 2019, and it scored approximately 171.25 inches.

According to Ranch Manager and landowner, David Price, the ranch lost an estimated 700 deer due to an anthrax outbreak in 2019, and Thomas’s buck was one that survived that event.  

“As a three year old in 2021, the buck was an 8 point that showed signs of kickers and the potential to become a 10 point or better,” Price said.  “Last year, he jumped up to a 150 class 10 pointer with kickers.  This past season as a five year old, the buck looked to be in the 170 class range.”

Cade Thomas harvested this 171.25-inch whitetail buck at age 17 in Kinney County, Texas with his compound bow.
Cade Thomas harvested this 171.25-inch whitetail buck at age 17 in Kinney County, Texas with his compound bow.

Cade said that he and his father sat together at the blind where the buck had been patterning at according to their trail camera photos, during both the first and second weekends of archery season.

“We actually saw the buck in person on opening day, but he never would give me a good shot opportunity,” he said.  “I was feeling confident that his pattern would remain consistent, and I decided it was best to wait for a better opportunity, but not rush the shot.”

Cade and his father returned to the ranch the following weekend, but the buck did not show.  After leaving the ranch without laying eyes on him, they paid careful attention to trail camera photos throughout the days that followed.

“After seeing the buck back on camera after we had come and gone, we felt like he must have been bedding nearby,” said the teenager’s father. “We could have possibly been bumping him on our way into the blind, so we came up with a new plan to try on our next trip to the ranch.”

When Cade and his dad returned to the ranch for the third weekend of the archery season, they split up.  After their arrival, Cade walked into his hunting area for an evening sit from a location about 500 yards away, while his father stayed far away from the area and went to sit in a different blind.

“I tried to be as quiet and as stealthy as I could possibly be,” Cade said.  “I got settled in, and the wait began.”

It was a warm evening, void of any movement until almost sunset.  Finally, the buck that Thomas was after showed up, alongside a smaller buck and some other deer.

“It was obvious that flies were bothering the deer, because they were constantly walking around as the pests swarmed them,” Thomas said.  “My target buck kept moving, making it difficult for me to get a shot.”

Cade Thomas (right) shows off his personal best buck that he harvested with stick and string in Kinney County, Texas, with his dad, Bobby Thomas.
Cade Thomas (right) shows off his personal best buck that he harvested with stick and string in Kinney County, Texas, with his dad, Bobby Thomas.

At this point, Cade had already drawn his bow and then had to come out of full draw, a couple of times, as the buck would not stand still.  Luckily the deer never spooked.

Finally, Thomas predicted the buck’s movement and timed his draw, so that when the deer turned broadside, he was ready.  

“I hovered the pin on my bow sight over his vitals and let my arrow fly,” Cade said.  “The buck ran straight away from me into the brush.  I saw his large rack wobble, right before I lost sight of him, unsure if he had fallen right there or kept going further.”

Cade called his father to tell him that he had shot the buck, but poor cell service prevented them from being able to communicate clearly.

“I was pretty worked up and felt like I was going to have a heart attack, knowing my son had arrowed that deer and that I couldn’t get any more information about what had happened due to poor cell service,” said Bobby. 

By the time the two met up to track the buck, it was dark.  The teenager had a pretty good idea of where the deer went into the brush, and it wasn’t long before they recovered him, just some 70 yards from where he was shot.

As Cade explains it, that experience, along with several others that have taken place while he was hunting over the years, have truly molded him into the young man that he is today.

“Hunting teaches you a number of core values, including patience and the importance of hard work,” he said.  “It also teaches you how to cope with failure, because you aren’t always going to succeed every time you’re in the woods or in the field.  Mother Nature and wildlife are unpredictable, and so is life.  Hunting has helped me handle challenges in my everyday life.”

He said that hunting has also helped him strengthen his faith in God, and that there is something special about the solitude and becoming one with nature and God’s creations.  He intends to hunt for the rest of his life, and to continue to relate the core values associated with hunting to all aspects of his life.

Nate Skinner is an award-winning Outdoor Photographer and Journalist that has earned a reputation for capturing priceless moments in the field and on the water.  His vast knowledge of the outdoor industry and a wide variety of experiences allow him to create the perfect set-up to freeze exciting moments in time. From a duck blind and a goose spread to a deer blind, safari, a field loaded with upland game birds, or a trip to the turkey woods, Skinner knows exactly how to position himself to capture all the action of a hunt. Skinner’s work has appeared in several magazines and newspapers, including Texas Wildlife Magazine, Lone Star Outdoor News, Coast Monthly Magazine, Texas Outdoors Journal, Travel Host Louisiana, the TPWD Outdoor Annual, Gulf Coast Fisherman, and a variety of other publications. Visit his web site at https://www.nateskinnerphotography.com.


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