With only minutes of daylight remaining on Sept. 3, Charles Byrd of Conway squeezed the trigger on his Browning .270 rifle, the biggest buck of his hunting career in his sights and a 3-day saga in a Horry County swamp finally at an end.
Byrd, a realtor, killed a massive 10-point buck in the last minutes of daylight, overcoming a sea of mosquitoes and summer-like conditions. The buck, which weighed 187 pounds, carried a typical 10-point rack with “crab claws” on both antlers that figures to score in the mid-130s.
Byrd was definitely hunting the correct right piece of real estate when his elusive trophy showed up, surrounded by a testosterone-filled posse. For weeks, his trail-camera images chronicled daily usage by an impressive group of bachelor bucks around his stand, with two big 10-pointers in the mix. Even though there were no images from daylight hours, Byrd planned to hunt every morning and afternoon until he got a look at the deer and hopefully put a bullet in the big buck’s engine room.
“After the second day’s morning hunt, I was getting discouraged; I just wasn’t seeing any deer,” Byrd said. “Something needed to happen to throw off their normal travel pattern, and at around 4:30 p.m., a massive storm rolled across the county bringing rain and wind. It would be just enough to shuffle their cards a little bit and hopefully get these deer moving earlier.”
After the rain moved through, Byrd got into his stand at 5:30. He didn’t see the first deer until around 7:25, when does quietly slipped into the area without much fanfare.
A few minutes later, Byrd saw the does looking back into the swamp.
“The does knew something was on the way from back in the swamp, and almost immediately, I heard something coming at a steady walk right towards the opening leading to my corn pile. I knew it had to be a buck and hopefully the big buck I was after.”
A basket 8-pointer walked up with a 6-pointer first, followed by a cowhorn. Then, Byrd heard movement coming down different trails from the same direction. Unfortunately, daylight was almost gone. To make matters worse, his Thermacell was out of juice, and the mosquitoes were feasting on Byrd, who was prepared for the normal progression of bucks – the smaller ones coming in first, followed by the two big 10-pointers, one decidedly larger than the other.
“The largest 10-point would always bring up the rear and would barely even get in the camera frame, so I knew that the last buck must be the one.”
Moments later, two big bucks slipped barely into view, only giving Byrd a slight opportunity to decide which was his primary target. He watched them mingle around the outskirts of the corn pile until daylight was becoming a scarce commodity. The trailing buck had usually been the biggest one, and he could make out what he thought was the bigger of the two 10-point bucks standing in front of a large tree.
“As it got darker every few seconds, I needed to shoot or go home, but I just wasn’t 100-percent sure which 10-point was standing against the tree. This deer’s head was blocked by a tree right after he showed up, and the other 10-point had just about moved out of view.”
Finally, Byrd finally went with his gut and squeezed off a shot. The muzzle flash blinded him for a few moments, and he could hear deer running in just about every direction. He waited for 10 minutes and visited the spot the deer had been standing when he shot. To his surprise, there was no blood, hair or any sign of a hit, but he did see his bullet lodged in the big tree.
“I said to myself (that) I must have shot underneath him at 55 yards,” Byrd said.
Puzzled and hopeful, Byrd walked to where he last heard the deer, and to his surprise; there he was, draped over a log two feet short of the edge of the swamp. He realized it was the smaller of the two he had on his trail-camera images, and that the bigger of the two was still at-large. Still, Byrd was very pleased with his huge buck – which is being mounted by Stuart Johnson of Wildlife Creations – and he’s ready to spend the rest of the season targeting the bigger 10-pointer.