Derek James didn’t know what he was looking at on Tuesday morning when a buck strolled up before dawn broke — even though he’d seen him before in trail-cam photos.

James, from Inman, S.C., was in a Loc-on stand in a stand of Spartanburg County hardwoods at 7:20 a.m. when he saw the shadowy form of a deer ease into his area. It was light enough that he could tell it was a buck, a pretty good one, but not enough that he could recognize the unique set of antlers he’d seen on two trail-cam photos.

“I knew it was a buck, and it looked like a good one,” James said. “My buddy who was letting me hunt there said he wanted some meat, so I decided to shoot him.”

At 7:22, James squeezed off a shot from his .30-06 rifle. At 40 yards, the buck disappeared.

“I didn’t know if I’d hit him or missed him; it still wasn’t good light,” James admitted.

A few minutes later, once the woods lit up enough for him to see, James saw the buck, lying next to a corn pile, graveyard dead. When he got down to check him out, he realized he was looking at his special buck from the trail-camera pix: a 14-pointer with some one-of-a-kind features.

The buck had split brow tines on both sides, but on the right side, the brow tine seemed to jut from the base of the horn, almost like a second brow tine. One side of the split was 9 inches tall, the other 4 inches tall. The split brow tine on the left beam featured points measuring 3 and 3 1/4 inches. It had a split G-2 on the left beam, plus a couple of other sticker points.

“We haven’t scored it or anything,” James said. “My dad is a taxidermist; he said it would score pretty good gross but not as good net.”

James said the buck weighed 176 pounds. He had two trail-cam photos of it, both the week before he killed it. One was a standard 1 a.m. shot as it visited the corn pile, the other was at 6:49 on a morning when James got to his stand at 6:50.

“I probably spooked him that morning,” he admitted.

After he gave his buck a good going over on Tuesday morning, James noticed a huge scrape right next to the corn pile that hadn’t been there the last time he’d hunted.

“I don’t know if he was coming in to the scrape or to the corn,” he said.