Clay Hall of Stoneville, N.C. has been hunting deer in Rockingham County since the 1980s, and he’s killed plenty of quality deer. But he killed his biggest, a 13-point, 150-class buck, this past Saturday, Oct. 27, when a buck he’s watched on trail cameras for years finally showed up during shooting hours and offered him a good shot with his Thompson Center Omega .50 caliber blackpowder rifle.
Hall was hunting on a stretch of farm land from 30 feet up in a Loc-On stand that evening, and was hoping the wind would die down some if he happened to get a chance at this buck, which has been nocturnal for the most part during the past few years.
“I’ve seen him just a couple of times in daylight on camera, and I’ve seen him briefly once or twice in person but never had a good shot opportunity. These deer are rutting and I thought this would be a good chance to see him before dark,” Hall said.
That thought was strong in his mind when a group of does and an 8-point and 7-point buck showed up during his hunt.
“One of the does was acting real funny, had her tail tucked, and the other does were kind of skittish of her. It was obvious she was in estrous and even though those two bucks weren’t paying her a lot of attention, I thought if the big buck I was hunting didn’t show up, he’d be missing out on a good opportunity,” he said.
But luckily with about 10 minutes of legal shooting time remaining, Hall saw his target buck heading in. It offered him a good, 120-yard shot. But it was still very windy, and Hall didn’t like that. He steadied himself, and took aim through his Nikon scope.
“When you watch a deer like that, let him walk for a few years, and then get a chance at him in his prime, you don’t want to take an uncertain shot. Once I had him in my crosshairs and felt confident, I just told myself to squeeze it off,” he said.
He was sure he had made a good shot as soon as he pulled the trigger, but he found little in the way of a blood trail.
“I use Thompson Center’s Shockwave bullets. I love the accuracy of them, but they don’t create much of a blood trail. It was a cool night and I still felt like I’d made a good shot. I don’t like the thought of spooking an injured deer at that point because they’re likely to get an adrenaline rush and end up where you’ll never find them. So I decided to wait until the next morning. It was a sleepless night,” he said.
Luckily just after daybreak, Hall found the buck about 75 yards from where he’d shot it.
Hall estimated the buck at between 5 1/2 and 6 1/2-years-old, and said the biggest difference between the deer’s rack from last year to this year was the sheer mass of it. He rough-scored it at 154 4/8 inches, and the buck weighed 228 pounds.
“His rack didn't change a lot as far as getting much wider, but the mass of the rack increased. It’s a heavy, thick rack, and I was surprised that nothing was broken off. He either hasn’t been fighting at all, or he’s been the one pushing other bucks around. His neck was heavily swollen. He was obviously rutting, but it didn’t look like he’d been getting any trouble from other bucks in the area,” Hall said.