Rob Jones was hunting in the thick, piney woods of the Four Hole Swamp area of deer-rich Orangeburg County when he caught a glimpse of what wound up being his biggest buck ever.
The 11-point, velvet-covered buck made a fatal mistake, pausing just long enough for Jones to squeeze off a lethal shot. Ricky Inman at Wildlife Taxidermy in Winnsboro scored the buck unofficially (since it was in full velvet) in the neighborhood of 150 inches typical.
Jones killed his deer on one of the smallest deer leases imaginable. Thanks to his friend, Kevin Kirkland, the 20-acre tract was plenty big enough for him to encounter a first-class buck.
"It's a small tract, but there is corn and bean fields all around it, with deer trails cutting all through it," Jones said.
Having hunted in Ohio most of his life, the opportunity for a buck in full velvet had intrigued Jones. He and Kirkland began work a few weeks before the season opened, hanging a new stand and putting out a few bags of corn.
When Jones arrived at the property on Opening Day, he noticed that the adjacent corn field was freshly-harvested and expected that deer would be heading to the field and his corn pile for their evening meal.
He spooked a few does off his corn pile walking in, but they ran off into the pines and brush and disappeared without too much commotion. He had one real shooting lane to his left, but it was on his right side, 100 yards away, that movement captured his attention 30 minutes later.
"I looked up and caught a glimpse of the side of his rack with his head down and it still moving across my line of sight," said Jones, who got a second look, figured that it was a decent 8-pointer, and by the mass he saw, he classified it as a shooter.
The buck took a few more steps, broadside, his head already out of sight. Jones raised his Remington 700 .270 mountain rifle and peered through his Leopold VX-IIII long enough to place a reasonable shot into a vital area.
"After the shot, I didn't see or hear anything, didn't hear him thrashing around or nothing," said Jones, who immediately let his nerves get the best of him.
He waited 15 minutes until he could not sit one more second, then climbed down to take a look, knowing that it was getting dark, and that suitable light would be crucial to finding his trophy buck currently at large.
"I found nothing: no blood, bent-over grass, ruffled leaves or fresh tracts. Then, my heart sank." He said.
After 45 minutes of finding no sign whatsoever, he headed to a thick, hardwood bottom with a dry creek bed for one last look. As soon as he got to the hardwoods, he saw a white belly in the broomstraw.
"When I go to him, I about fell out," Jones said. "I seriously had no idea he was so big!"For the next 40 minutes, Jones dragged the 215-pound trophy to his truck and inspected its rack, which had 5 ½-inch bases, 7-inch brow tines, and four tines in the neighborhood of 9 inches.