For 21-year-old Collin Howlett of Walnut Cove, his deer hunting aspirations will be tough to match after his mind-boggling mid-day hunt on Nov. 5. Shortly after noon, Howlett drilled a 170 ¾-in bruiser on a friend’s Rockingham County hunting property after only sitting in the stand for 45 minutes.

“Not only is it the biggest deer in my life, it is the first I have hunted with a muzzleloader and in North Carolina since I moved here,” Howlett said. “I have been in shock ever since!”

Howlett moved to North Carolina in 2014 and has been ready to get into the woods. When co-worker Chris Turbyfill found out Howlett wanted to go deer hunting, Turbyfill quickly passed along the invite. And on the second Saturday of the N.C. muzzleloader season, they  hit the woods together.   

A late night outing delayed their hunt start time until 11:45 a.m. But, Turbyfill insisted their chances were still good because of the recent cool weather. 

Howlett climbed into the stand and got settled for the mid-day hunt. 

“After sitting in the stand for 15 minutes a small buck walked out and I didn’t have a clear shot. So, I let him go to see what else would come in,” Howlett said. 

For the next 30 minutes, squirrels were racing all over the place and making tons of noise. Howlett began to wonder if he would see another deer. Then, he looked up and saw a doe coming in and things were starting to pick up again. But, the doe came and went.

About 10 minutes later, Howlett heard something breaking branches and heading his way. 

“I looked up and I saw the big buck coming in at a good pace,” Howlett said. 

With little time to think, Howlett positioned his black powder rifle on a good rest, aimed, and fired. 

“I have never shot muzzleloaders before and it kicked harder than I expected,” he said. 

But, something didn’t feel right. Howlett instantly felt a sharp pain on his forehead. He put his hand on his head and felt a little bit of blood.

“The scope hit me in the forehead,” he said. 

Then, Howlett looked up hoping to see the deer, but it was gone.

“Oh man, I must have missed!” he said. 

Within seconds, his friends texted him to see if it was him that had shot and he told them it was, but said he wasn’t sure if he hit the deer or not. 

His friends came to help him look for the deer, and after a 20-minute search, they found the buck 65 yards away across a ravine with a solid shot to the deer’s vitals. 

“I was in shock when we found him and I am still in shock three days later,” he said. 

With a 19-inch inside spread and 23-inch main beams, Howlett’s 12 pointer has a preliminary score of 170 3/4- inches. It is a buck of a lifetime and a deer that Howlett and his friend, Turbyfill will always remember. 

Turbyfill had been watching this deer for several years, but he thought someone else shot it at the end of the 2015 season. He couldn’t be more excited to see one of his friends take a lifetime trophy on his hunting land.