Jeff Ferguson of Liberty, N.C., saw a big buck on Wednesday, Dec. 6, while scouting on a piece of land about 15 minutes from his house for a place to put up a climbing stand. The buck was so big, he almost immediately called his boss and asked what he needed to do to get Thursday off so he could hunt the buck.
“Take vacation? Use a sick day? Quit?” he said.
Quit a job for a buck? Yes, Ferguson admitted, that crossed his mind.
Quite a buck, apparently.
Well, yes. The next time Ferguson saw the buck, on Thursday around 12:30 p.m., he put it on the ground with one shot from his 7mm-08, walked up to it and realized, the buck he thought was big enough to quit a job for was even bigger than he imagined.
“I knew he was big, but I didn’t know how big until I got to him,” he said. “Then, I knew he grossed well over the Boone & Crockett minimum.”
Ferguson’s enormous 15-point buck, a main-frame 6x6 with three sticker points that combined to measure 10 inches, had 172 inches of horn on his head and an inside spread of more than 16 inches for a total of 188 3/8. But deducting the length of the sticker points instead of adding them, plus deductions for symmetry, will put the buck in the 160s after it’s allowed to dry for 60 days before being officially scored.
But Ferguson is certainly not going to trade it in for any other buck he’s ever seen.
“It is like a fog has set in,” he said. “It happened so quickly, I really don’t know what to think. I live and breathe big deer, but seeing one big enough to be a Booner, and then having a chance to kill him, that’s too much to imagine.”
Ferguson’s buck carried a 16 1/2-inch inside spread. Its longest tines were 11 and 10 1/2 inches, and it had four more tines between 8 and 9 1/2 inches long.
The spot where the buck breathed its last was a spot where Ferguson has often gone in December because it gets relatively little hunting pressure. It’s a spot where a stand of 25-year-old pines butts up against a stand of 8-year-old pines — a real thicket where bucks can go to hide.
“I hadn’t been to this spot in a while; it’s a low-pressure spot. I was asking myself, ‘Where can I go where a big deer is gonna go?’ That’s this place, nasty thick,” he said. “I went to a spot about 2:30 with the wind perfect, just to go in and scout without any intrusion to find a tree where I could hang a climber.
“I see big rubs coming and going from this place every year, and I’ve killed some good deer in the past coming out of this thicket. I knew I was in the 20-yard circle I wanted to be in, looking for the right tree, and right there it was, Bam!
“Then, I heard a limb break, and here came a little cowhorn out of the thicket. I saw something behind him, and then this big buck came out. He was completely comfortable; he looked like he’d just woke up from a two or three hours of sleep. They were walking in front of me. The little buck got past me, and I think he saw me. He blew and took off, and the one buck stopped, looked at the other buck for about 30 seconds, then just went to browsing. He went out into the big cutover that’s got acorn trees on the back side, and I just backed out of there.
“That’s when I called my dad, my brother and my buddy — no, I called my boss.”
His boss told Ferguson he could have Thursday off to hunt the buck, and Ferguson was back along his edge, in his climber, 30 feet up a pine, before daylight the next morning. Around 8 o’clock, a small 8-point buck came out of the thicket and strolled past. At 10 o’clock, five does came out of the thicket, browsed around, then walked off about 75 yards and bedded down.
“I watched them bed down, watched them get up and browse around for a few minutes, watched them get back down and just chew their cuds.”
At 12:30, Ferguson was looking in a different direction, and when he turned back to the does, they were gone. Standing in their place was his big buck from the previous day, standing where the does had been, sniffing one of their beds.
“I checked him in the scope just to make sure it wasn’t a different buck, and I looked at him good and thought, ‘Oh my God, he's a typical 12.’ Then, it was just a matter of him giving me a shot. It was pretty thick. Finally, he quartered to me, and I shot him in his front shoulder. He ran about 25 yards and went down. The bullet smashed his shoulder. It did everything it was supposed to do.”