Sometimes the biggest rewards come when we least expect them. Just ask deer hunters Tony Blackwell and Chase Smith. They killed two of the three biggest non-typical deer scored during the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ scoring sessions this past March – and neither was planning to hunt the day their big bucks were taken.
Blackwell was planning to go rabbit hunting with a cousin last Dec. 14 when he decided to hit the woods for a spur-of-the-moment deer hunt that morning in Oconee County.
Smith, despite being up all night with an upset stomach, showed similar devotion to his favored avocation on Nov. 18, 2012, opting to put his abdominal discomfort on hold long enough to join his father for a morning deer hunt in Anderson County.
Both will never regret their decisions as each bagged the biggest bucks of their lives.
Blackwell's buck was the top non-typical rack scored, amassing 167 4/8 points. It ranks 31st all-time on the state's non-typical records list and is the top hunter-killed buck ever from Oconee County.
"I never did go rabbit hunting that day," said Blackwell, 39, of Westminster. "But I guess it worked out pretty good."
It did indeed. Blackwell had just plopped down on his dove-hunting bucket when he saw his first deer of the day around 7:20 a.m. A big buck was close behind, nose to the ground. When the big buck paused, Blackwell squeezed the trigger on his Ruger .270, dropping it with a single 40-yard shot. Ironically, Blackwell found one side of the buck's shed antlers the previous year, so perhaps it was fitting that this impromptu hunt would yield the full rack.
"He had grown a lot," Blackwell said.
Smith's buck, which had 16 scorable points, totaled 155 1/8 points and was the third-best non-typical set of antlers scored last March. It ranks as the No. 5 all-time non-typical from Anderson County.
Smith, 14, got a late start due to his queasy stomach the night before, but his diligence paid off in a big way. He and his father, Chris, had barely settled into their stand when a buck walked out.
"I bumped Chase on the shoulder and whispered, 'There's your deer right there,' " Chris said. "He looked up, put the gun up and 'boom.' "
Chase felled the buck with a single 80-yard shot from his Remington .270 and may be "ruined for life," Chris says, as a deer hunter.
"There's no upstaging that thing," Chris said. "His buck is the mac daddy."
The "mac daddy" of the typical bucks scored last spring belonged to Gary Walls of Orangeburg County. His buck, killed during the 2009 season, scored 162 7/8. Ricky Brooks had the second-best typical score with a buck he killed last October in Laurens County. It scored 159 3/8 and ranks as the No. 2 all-time typical from that county.
A total of 222 racks – 213 typical and nine non-typical – met the minimal Boone & Crockett scores to gain inclusion into the state's all-time record book. Typical sets of antlers must score 125 points to earn record-book status while non-typical racks must score at least 145 points.