On Aug. 20, 12-year-old Tanner Herndon’s life changed dramatically, shortly after his .243 bullet penetrated the vitals of a 240-pound, 147-inch, 9-point buck in Dorchester County.
The buck had spreads of 19 5/8 inches outside and 18 inches inside, with bases that measured as large as 6 7/8 inches.
Just five days into the 2013 season in the Lowcountry, Herndon killed the huge buck in a peanut field, two days after he and his father, Harley Herndon, watched the buck – and several other mature bucks waltz into the peanut field – from a ground blind tucked away in an uncut corn field. Even though there might have been enough light for the Herndons to take a lethal shot, they let the buck walk.
Tanner Herndon told his father he couldn’t keep the crosshairs steady on the buck, and Harley Herndon told his son only to squeeze the trigger if he felt like the shot was good.
And Tanner didn’t hesitate one bit as he lowered his rifle to later watch the bachelor group of trophy bucks – which included a big 10-pointer and several 8-pointers – disappear into the darkness.
Although they’d missed a chance, the Herndons weren’t discouraged, because the bucks had been making regular visits to the same peanut field for several weeks.
Two days later, the Herndons slipped back into the ground blind at 6 o’clock, and 12 does showed up at 6:30. They were scattered across the field, munching on peanuts, some as close as 30 yards. At 7:35, the big 9-pointer they’d been waiting or appeared out of the standing corn at 120 yards.
“This time, we had plenty of good light left. It wasn’t until then that I realized how big this buck actually was,” Harley Herndon said. “I was breathing so hard, my binoculars fogged up.”
Surprisingly, Tanner Herndon kept his composure and watched the buck walk across the field, waiting for the perfect time to shoot. His father had advised him to wait for a comfortable, broadside shot.
At the sound of the shot, the buck headed back into the corn, leaving the Herndons in limbo – but not for long. After a short search, they found him dead in the adjoining corn field, 75 yards away.
“Thank the lord!” were Tanner Herndon’s first words after the discovery.
Dan Pernell of Pernell’s Taxidermy in Summerville will be preserving the trophy buck. For decades, Pernell has mounted literally thousands of deer from across the Southeast, and he believes the Herndon buck will easily be one of the best killed in South Carolina this year, in terms of body weight and the huge mass of antlers – still in full velvet – the buck carried on his skull. He judged that the buck will score in the upper 140s.