Anderson County, known for its capacity to produce trophy deer, did exactly that on Thanksgiving Day for Jon Pruitt of Starr in the form a 160-inch buck – but it was a long four days before finished the job.
Pruitt had spied the buck in a pasture behind his house on Sunday, Nov. 24, when he came home from church. He finally brought the buck home the next Thursday.
“After I saw the deer in my pasture, I hunted that evening in a tripod stand that overlooks the pasture,” said Pruitt, who owns Atlantic Environmental Systems, an environmental contracting and consulting business. “About 5:20, the deer came back into the field and was quartering toward me at about 90 yards when I shot him.”
Pruitt waited 40 minutes, until after it was dark, before he went to where the deer had been standing, but he found no blood. He had shot at this same deer last season and missed, but was certain he saw the deer stagger this time so he knew he’d been hit and was carrying a .270 slug.
Not wanting to push the deer, Pruitt left and returned early the next morning but still could not locate the deer and had to go to work. That evening, he returned and found a decent blood trail that he followed for nearly a quarter-mile before again giving up for the night.
“It rained Monday night and all day Tuesday, so I knew the blood trail would be gone, but I couldn’t stand it and went back about 3 p.m. on Tuesday to see if I could locate him,” he said. “I jumped him off a creek bank where he’s been laying, but (I) could not get a shot at him. He seemed to be hit pretty hard, but he just kept going.”
Giving up for the night, Pruitt returned again on Wednesday and decided to stalk him. He spooked a smaller buck at dark that was bedded down in some grass but missed the clue that the smaller deer might not be alone.
“I hunted again Thanksgiving morning until about 8 a.m. and just had to go back and look again,” said Pruitt. “Something was odd about the way the smaller buck had acted, and when I returned to that location, I saw this massive-racked deer lying on the ground. As I approached, he lifted his head very weakly, but I was prepared and finished him off with a shot to the neck.”
Pruitt’s original shot had taken the deer in front of the left shoulder and broken its right leg on the way out. He had no way to explain how the buck, which was estimated at 195 pounds despite being visibly diminished by the ordeal, had survived so long.
Taxidermist/deer processor Chuck Mulkey of Iva, who himself killed an archery buck earlier this season that pushed 155 inches, put a tape measure on Pruitt’s deer and came up with slightly more than 158 inches.