Aaron Summitt of Chester is not only an accomplished bowhunter with several whitetail racks easily eligible for the South Carolina Deer Records List, he is now an outspoken advocate for using a safety harness in a tree stand. With good reason.

Summitt, 23, had a dangerous fall before the bow season began in Chester County and he faces a long recovery period before he will be able to walk again. But that did not stop him from taking a big buck with unusual, but impressive antlers that may only miss the list by a few inches.

For this deer, however, he had to use a rifle since he could not climb into a stand. He shot the deer Oct. 20 from the seat of his four-wheeler backed into heavy brush for cover.

The saga of Summitt's 2017 deer season began Sept. 10. He and his girlfriend, Brittney Muto of Clover, were deep in the woods putting up two lock-on stands on the same tree. Both planned to hunt from that tree when archery season opened in Game Zone 2 five days later.

They were after a buck Summitt had watched for the past two years, a big-bodied 6-point with main beams that seemed to reach to the sky, almost like the rack of a caribou.

“I noticed one of my straps had a tear in it, so I got down to get another strap and climbed back up in the stand. I was tightening the new strap when the other strap broke – and I fell 30 feet to the ground,” Summitt said. “You just climb up a tree and don't think about wearing a safety harness. But then you hear that strap break and the clink of the metal. It's a sound you will never forget – and it happens so fast.”

Summitt lay on the ground, Brittney cradling his head in her lap, while the emergency crew literally cut their way through the woods to get to him. His legs from the knees down were shattered, his right ankle broken into a dozen pieces. The L3 vertebra in his back was broken. He is literally being held together with pins, screws and metal rods and both legs are in casts. He faces three months of recovery before starting rehabilitation to try to walk again.

But that big buck with the impressive rack was still out there, so when gun season opened he and Brittney devised a hunt plan using the 4-wheeler and his deer rifle. They drove to the buck's core area, hid in the brush before daylight and waited.

At 8:45 a.m. the buck appeared, following a doe. Summitt brought the rifle up, took careful aim, and shot the buck, which ran off. Brittney found the deer a short distance in the woods.

The buck weighed 185 pounds and a preliminary measurement totaled 123 inches. The main beams are 22 inches long, reaching high upwards, and they are thick. Both are 5 inches in circumference at the base and the inside spread is 17 inches. The outside spread is 19 inches, with 14 inches between the tips. The G2 tines are both 8 inches long.

As impressive as this deer and the others he has taken are, Summitt only has one suggestion for deer hunters – and he is adamant about it.

“I've talked to a bunch of people about what happened and they are getting safety harnesses. Get those harnesses on.”