Bonnie Collier of Henderson had hunted deer only during gun season for three years, so with restrictions on crossbow hunting eliminated, she decided to expand her season, and it paid off almost immediately.

Hunting in Vance County, Collier, a PSNC Energy employee, arrowed a 12-point buck on Sept. 15 that's likely to wind up among North Carolina's widest whitetails this season.

The buck, whose headgear was totally devoid of velvet, sported a 21 1/2-inch inside spread of antlers.


"I only killed a 4-pointer in the past, so this was a thrill for me," she said. "It also was my first time using a crossbow."


Collier said she'd hunted deer "off and on" with a .270 rifle in previous seasons but became more serious about deer hunting "three or four" years ago.


"Everyone in my family is an avid hunter, and I've grown up around hunting and hunters," she said. "So I decided to give (early-season crossbow hunting) a try."


That passion - and knowing a big buck lived on her family's property - led her in early September to purchase a Barnett Quad 400 crossbow and a brace of Barnett Premium arrows fitted with Grim Reaper broadheads.


"To check the scope, I shot it probably five times," said Collier, who zeroed the crossbow at 30 yards. "That's all it took."


That turned out to be a fortunate coincidence.


"I was hunting in a ladder stand I'd put up earlier with help from my dad and brother. (The seat) was about 15 feet off the ground" said Collier, who located an ambush spot in the woods between a bedding area and a pasture where she and many neighbors had seen the buck feeding before the season opened.


 "A lot of people where hunting him, but I was the lucky one," said Collier, who was in her stand at 5 p.m. after seeing no deer that morning.


"About 6:20 p.m., he came from behind me toward a corn feeder," she said. "It was the fifth time I hunted that stand this season."


The buck approached the automated feeder with an 8-pointer in tow, but the smaller buck didn't walk into the clearing where the feeder stood.


"I was afraid if I turned my head or lifted my crossbow, the 8-pointer would bust me," Collier said. "I could see the big one but not the 8-pointer. He never came out."


Collier took a moment, calmed herself, lifted the crossbow and took careful aim.


"It was 30 yards to the feeder, so I put the crosshairs on (the buck's) neck," she said.


Hit by a bolt travelling 345 feet per second, the deer dropped dead in its tracks.


"My dad told me to aim at the neck," Collier said. "He said if I hit a deer in the neck, it'd put him down."

 The buck's rack showed five points on the right antler and seven on the left, and with its incredible spread, its gross score surpassed 130 inches, she said, according to her taxidermist.