Earlier this fall, Joe Wilson was afraid he’d lost an “old friend” — a whitetail buck he’d been watching for several years, in person and in trail-camera photos.

He found out this past Saturday morning, Oct. 21, that his friend was hale and hardy, at least for a couple of minutes.

WIlson’s old friend was a 10-point, 220-pound buck he tagged that was green-scored at 149 inches by a taxidermist in his hometown of Broadway, N.C.

When the buck stepped out just after 7 a.m. on Saturday, Wilson admitted, “I was shocked. I thought somebody on a neighboring property had killed him. 

“I had trail-camera pics of him last year, I had cameras out from October through Dec. 27. I got them back out in late August, but I didn’t have a single picture of him this year. I was sure somebody had killed him.”

Wilson was afraid the deer had been shot in the final few days of the 2016 season or hadn’t made it through the winter, for one reason or another. He had several other deer on trail cameras that he’d called “members of his hit parade” but this particular buck was the last one he expected to see.

Wilson was hunting a swampy creek bottom in Harnett County, N.C., a place he calls a “hunter’s paradise” of ducks, turkeys and bucks. He had a corn pile about 75 yards in front of his tree stand, and it’s there that he met his old friend. The big buck moved across the bottom, not giving him a shot, but followed by a cowhorn buck.

“He came through first and went through an opening, and a cowhorn was following him,” Wilson said. “A minute or two later, the cowhorn turned around and went right back to the corn. The big buck came back two minutes later; he came right to the corn.”

Recognizing the buck, Wilson clicked off the safety on his .270, pulled the trigger and, as he said, “dropped him in his tracks.”

Wilson didn’t get down from his stand for 30 minutes, but not for the usual reasons.

“The cownhorn, when I shot the big buck, he turned around and looked at the big buck on the ground like, ‘What are you doing?’, and then he turned back to the corn pile and ate corn for another 30 minutes.”

Once the cowhorn left, Wilson got down and saw exactly how big his buck was.

“He’s exceptional for this area,” he said. “I’ve been hunting him for three years. I think he’s at least five. Two years ago, I saw him, and he was a 16-inch 8-point, and I let him go. I thought, I’d see what he’d be the next year.

“I was putting out mineral blocks, planting food plots, putting out corn piles, and I got him on trail cameras last year. He really exploded. He blossomed. He was a really big 8-pointer. This year, I had the food plots, the mineral blocks, the corn piles out, but I didn’t have a single trail-camera picture of him.”