Austin Martin of Apex, N.C., had his heart set on a hit-list buck that just wouldn’t show itself when he was hunting. So to force an encounter, he pulled out his grunt call, and on Halloween, he laid down a Chatham County 12-pointer that green scored 157½ inches.

Martin captured the first picture of the big buck on his trail camera on Oct. 3, eating in a corn pile on the 12-acre parcel of property he hunts. After that, it took over as the area’s dominant buck, running off others in preparation for the rut.  

Despite being continuously photographed, it managed to be absent whenever Martin was in the woods. But when Martin heard bucks fighting during one evening hunt, he got an idea about how to get him to slip up next time.  

“I got in the stand about 3:30 on Oct. 31,” he said. “When 6:30 came along, I hadn’t seen anything. I knew this buck; he’s been in there every day, tricking me. At 6:30, I knew he was going to be in the area somewhere, and I didn't think he was going to come to me unless I did something about it.

“I picked up my Primos grunt call and grunted twice — pretty long grunts so he could hear it. About two minutes after I grunted, he came walking behind me about 35 yards away.  At that point, I was like, ‘That's definitely him, that's probably the biggest deer I'll ever see.’ He stopped and was looking around, trying to find that other buck. He was definitely looking to fight. 

“He looked up at me for about 10 seconds, but he didn't see me. He kept looking around, then, he kind of got spooked. I'm on a big oak ridge, and he ran down into the bottom. He was walking away, and about that time, he was 60 to 65 yards away. It wasn't the shot I wanted; he was quartered away. But I knew I had to take a shot, because I may never see him again.”

Martin got him in the crosshairs of the scope mounted on his .50-caliber Thompson/Center Omega muzzleloader, squeezed the trigger, and let the smoke roll. When it cleared, he saw that the buck had ran only 10 to 15 yards before collapsing into a dry creek bed. Martin had managed to place a shot between the neck and chest, despite the less-than-ideal angle.

“At that point, I started calling my family,” said Martin. “My dad and my cousin came and helped me drag him out.”

Martin’s buck is a mainframe 12-point with an inside spread of 15 3/4 inches. Its longest main beam is 25 inches, while the longest tine is 11 inches. The brow tines measure 4½ inches each.