Snap, crackle, pop! Cereal noises to many people, but on the afternoon of Nov. 15, to Dalton Smith, a 19-year-old from Chesnee, it was the sound of a big buck – a big, big buck: 16 points and 180 pounds.
Smith, a freshman at Spartanburg Methodist College, was 23 feet up a tree in a Summit Viper climbing stand, close to a creek bank and across the creek from a huge bamboo cane patch. He was waiting for a big cowhorn to move out from under his tree for a clean shot with his bow.
“I had my bow up and was gonna let him pass, then shoot him quartering away,” Smith said. “But then I could hear the cane popping and breaking. I had no clue it was a deer. It quit for a minute, and the spike moved right under my stand. I got the bow up and was gonna let him keep going and then shoot him quartering away.
“I heard the cane popping again and saw the tops of the cane moving. I watched for about 10 seconds, and then he stepped out. I’ve never seen a deer that big in my whole life,” he said. “He walked through the first layer of cane, and I saw a wide rack and all that mass. He was taking cane with him – he had it hung up on his horns.”
Smith had two clear lanes to shoot, and when the big buck crossed the creek, it came straight toward Smith, who realized he’d have to stand up and drew his Mathews LX to shoot the buck. When he did, the big cowhorn spooked from beneath his tree took off.
“The big buck just looked at him,” Smith said. “Then, he turned broadside and was about to step out. He never had any intention of stopping, so when he was in the middle of one of the lanes I had, I grunted, and he stopped and his head popped up, and I shot him.”
Smith’s Easton bloodline arrow, tipped with a Rage X-treme broadhead and touched off at 4:31 p.m., took the buck cleanly through the sweet spot at 15 yards, piercing both lungs and the top of its heart. The buck ran off, and while Smith never heard it crash to the ground, he was confident about his shot.
He had reason to.
After waiting 45 minutes, he climbed down the tree and found an easy-to-follow blood trail. About 150 yards away, he found the buck, across a creek bed, piled up in the edge of a thicket, graveyard dead.
“When I saw him, it just blew my mind how big he was,” Smith said. “I called my dad, and he didn’t believe me, so I started counting the points, and I got to 16.”
Smith’s buck, which weighed 180 pounds, had a basic 5x4 main-frame rack, but that wasn’t the eye-catcher. The buck had a split G2 on its right beam and a horizontal sticker point on the same tine, plus a small sticker near the base. On its left beam, it had horizontal stickers off the G2 and G3, plus small stickers on the front and back of the base.
The buck has 15 scoreable points out of 16 – the 16th is 7/8th of an inch, Smith said. The inside spread is 15 5/8 inches and the outside is 19 7/8. His longest tine is 7 6/8.
Smith carried the buck to Hugh Holliday, a wildlife enforcement officer with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Smith said Holliday was the person “who taught me everything I know about hunting, because my dad doesn’t hunt.” Holliday scored the Spartanburg County buck at 154 2/8 inches.
Smith had no idea the big buck, his first with a bow, was anywhere on the property he was hunting.
“I had never hunted this side of the property before,” Smith said. “The Saturday before, I had seen two bucks moving along the creek bank. The creek runs north-south, so I knew I had to have an east wind to hunt it.”