On a hunting trip last fall, Derin Daniels was perched in a tree stand on his hunting land in Prospect Hill when he heard a shot toward the front side of his property. In time, he realized a poacher had taken that shot while on his land. Even worse, the illegal hunter had killed a trophy deer that Daniels had been hunting for some time.

Daniels was able to recover the deer from the site the poacher and his companions had hidden it, and the deer won the Wake County Wildlife Club’s President’s Award at the 2017 Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh this past weekend in the non-hunting category. The deer scored an impressive 187 0/8, and even though Daniels was cheated out of killing the buck himself, he was glad to get the buck the type of attention he knew it deserved.

At first, Daniels thought the shot may have come from the neighboring property, but he was curious enough to leave his deer stand to investigate. After not seeing anything out of the ordinary right away, he went to lunch in Burlington, returning later for an afternoon hunt. At this time, he noticed suspicious activity.

Noticing a white truck that he didn’t recognize on his hunting property, Daniels saw three men run from the woods, get in the white truck, and speed off. He called his dad, who did not know who the men were. 

Daniels confronted the men, who claimed no wrong-doing and said they were doing some work at the neighboring property and were trying to determine the lay of the land. Daniels’ dad then called the local game warden, who was tied up for the rest of the day, but informed Daniels he would do an investigation as soon as he was free.

At this point, Daniels set up for his afternoon hunt in another stand that also gave him a clear view of the road he’d spotted the trespassers on earlier. With daylight dwindling, he decided to give up hunting for the day and take a closer look at things.

“I got to the area where they had come out of the woods, and I scouted around for foot tracks, and instantly found a path where they had been coming back and forth from the road to the edge of the woods. I followed the path and immediately spotted a deer lying behind an oak tree on the ground. Upon closer inspection, my heart sank. I could not believe what I found to be the 

‘big buck’ we had been watching for three years as part of our farm management,” said Daniels.

Daniels called the game warden again, sent him some photos of the deer, and the game warden  came out shortly thereafter to inspect the area with Daniels. After observing the area and beginning his investigation, the game warden told Daniels to remove the deer, cape it out, and store it in a freezer until further notice. 

Once the investigation was complete, Daniels was finally able to mount the deer and have it officially scored.