Andy Efird waited until almost the last minute to make his 2009-10 hunting season a successful one.

He shot a big 9-point buck on Dec. 31, but he didn't find it and finish it off until New Year's Day - just in the nick of time to get it entered in North Carolina Sportsman's final monthly Bag-A-Buck contest.

The buck, shot first at 350 yards with a high-powered rifle and finished off at 50 yards with a shotgun and buckshot, was drawn as the December contest winner.

Efird, a Salisbury resident, will receive a shotgun from Nichols Store in Rock Hill, S.C., a Line-X truck bed liner, a North Carolina Sportsman T-shirt and decal, a Tink's scent kit, Realtree hats and Monster Buck DVDs, a Plano storage box and a copy of Cooking on the Wild Side authored by North Carolina Sportsman Publisher Ty Conti.

Efird remains eligible - along with everyone who enters the contest - for the grand-prize: a two-day deer hunt with Fourth Generation Outfitters, a Leupold rifle scope and a Line-X truck bed liner. The grand-prize winner will be drawn from all entries for presentation at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh in March.

Efird has only about 30 acres to hunt in Rowan County, but he's been trying to manage it for better deer, passing up small bucks. A few neighbors had seen a big buck in the area, but Efird had never laid eyes on it until the afternoon of Dec. 31.

That's when the buck started slipping along the edge of a cutover, a few rows out in a cut soybean field, 350 yards away from Efird's perch in a straw barn.

"I'm pretty confident in my shooting ability," said Efird, who has good reason for his confidence – he's a sniper for the Salisbury police department's SWAT team.

With a couple of bails of straw for a rifle rest, Efird touched off a single shot from his Remington 700 rifle, chambered for a .300 WSM. After the shot, but the buck took off, but Efird had a good-enough look at him through his Leupold 4½x14 Vari-X III scope that he saw the buck stumble.

"That led me to believe that I'd hit him," said Efird, who followed up his shot by finding some bone and hair at the spot the buck had been standing. "I figured I hit him in the leg, in the upper leg."

Efird decided to let the buck bed down, so he returned the next morning with his father, Robert. They picked up the buck's tracks in the mud in the beanfield, found some blood and followed it into the cutover. They followed blood until the buck crossed a creek. A buddy, Rock Stone, joined in the chase, and the two split up following different deer trails. Stone found blood, and they trailed the buck to a beaver pond, where they lost the trail again.

"We drove around to the other side of the beaver pond, looking all around, and Rock walked back across the beaver pond to look around. We had been trailing him for six hours, and we were going to decide whether to keep going or stop and go hunting," Efird said. "I was on my Ranger (ATV), heading around to pick him up, and I heard him yelling my name.

"I cut the Ranger off, and I could hear the deer splashing across the beaver pond. I carry a 12-gauge shotgun with me when I'm tracking, so I jumped off the Ranger, and I saw him coming out of the beaver pond, going up a steep hill."

At 50 yards, the load of 00 buckshot put the deer down for good.

"My first shot hit the buck's upper (front left) leg, below the shoulder, and broke it; then it just opened up the hide on its brisket but didn't cut any meat," Efird said. "We found a couple of pellets of buckshot in the back of his neck."

Efird's buck is a main-frame 8-pointer with a sticker point off one tine on the left antler. With tines as long as 11 inches and good mass, Efird measured the buck at around 135 inches gross Boone & Crockett.

"My buddy and I go to Canada every year, and this deer was the biggest I've ever killed, in terms of how many inches (of antler), even from Canada," he said.