Cody Beaver of Durham learned the value of patience when he stayed after his biggest buck, a 12-pointer on Nov. 5, and it paid off for him.

“I first saw the deer last year as a decent 9-pointer,” he said. “(His rack) was nice then, but I wanted him to make it just one more season. Then about midway through the season, he disappeared. Thinking he was dead going into this season, I had my eyes on some other decent bucks when he reappeared the first week of September on a trail camera.” 

The deer's 5x5 rack, sporting a unique turn-down at the left main beam's tip, along with three abnormal points and a lot of mass, became a target of an obsessive pursuit. When the 27-year-old and his dad put a tape to the 12-pointer's headgear, the gross score totaled 144 5/8 inches, his family's best buck.

“He definitely became something special,” Beaver said. “This was just like last year when he disappeared Oct. 10 from my trail cameras.”

After the buck pulled its second vanishing act in two years, the hunter moved to the other side of a favorite cutover after scouting uncovered “a ton of scrapes and a giant community scrape.”

“I hoped to get one of the shooters making those scrapes,” he said. “I put the stand where I could see a scrape.”

On Nov. 5, Beaver re-worked the community scrape with some Tink's Hot Shot 69 doe scent and put some on the bottom of his boots to “fool any deer” before walking to his stand at 6:15 a.m.

“The temperature was around 40 degrees, just cool enough to wear a light jacket” he said. “It also was misty.”

At 6:50 a.m. he heard a buck walking behind him – which hadn't happened previously at this spot.

“I tried to grab my Remington ML 700 muzzeloader off the railing but had to freeze because he was looking straight at me,” Beaver said. 

When the buck started walking away, Beaver picked up his gun.

“I clicked the safety off,” he said. “I was looking at a 'hole' and as soon as he walked into it, I put the scope on his shoulder and pulled the trigger.”

A 295-grain PowerBelt slug pushed by 110 grains of Triple X powder bore into the buck's shoulder at 25 yards.

“He ran hard for 60 yards then got behind a tree, and I didn't see him,” Beaver said. “ I reloaded and put a cap on. The worst I figured was he'd laid down.”

After texting his dad, he climbed down from his 25-foot perch and eased toward the tree, then peaked around and saw the buck lying on its side, picking up, then dropping, its head.

“I didn't think he'd last long,” Beaver said. “He did that probably 10 times. Then my dad texted me again, and when my phone went 'ding-ding,' the buck heard it, blew, got up and half-ran, half-staggered into the swamp.”

He went after the deer and got within 70 yards. The buck turned broadside, and Beaver shot another mini-ball into the deer's shoulder, putting it down for the final time.

“I found out later my first shot hit him a little high on the shoulder,” Beaver said.

The buck weighed 180 pounds.