North Carolina hunters have harvested some magnificent 8-point bucks during the past few years, particularly in areas known to produce trophy whitetails. But a 27-year-old Sanford fireman downed a huge November 8-pointer in a county that doesn't spit out many tape-stretching racks.

Chris Cox killed a huge 8-pointer on Nov. 1 in eastern Lee County, a buck that has been measured at 163 gross and 154 net inches.

"This was a really unusually big-racked deer for Lee County," said Cox, who killed the buck with a 245-grain PowerBelt bullet powered by two 50-grain Pyrodex pellets fired from a .50-caliber Knight muzzleloader topped by a Simmons scope.

"I had trail-camera photos from a week before, so I definitely was hunting this buck," he said. "But it's very rare that everything works out to kill a deer this big in Lee County. You just don't see them like this here.


"I've had so many people come to see the buck and talk about it. Everyone said they hadn't seen a Lee County deer like this in 15 years. You hear about bucks this large coming from (neighboring) Chatham and Moore (counties), not Lee."


The rack on Cox's buck sported main beams that measured 25 2/8 inches, with the four longest tines measuring 11 3/8, 12 7/8, 10 and 9 4/8 inches and two sticker points measuring 1 3/8 inches each.


Cox didn't get into the woods until 5:30 the afternoon of Nov. 1, having been blowing leaves with a gas blower for 45 minutes.


"I smelled like exhaust," said Cox, who climbed into a metal ladder stand on the border between an open, hardwoods slope and a bedding-area cutover where he'd scattered some corn.


"The wind had been in my favor, but it was absolutely still when I got into the stand," Cox said. "The last trail camera photo of this buck I got was about a week-and-a-half (earlier).


"All the pictures came in the dark -- him eating corn from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. I'd never seen him (in a digital photo) during daylight; this was the first time."


Cox said a 3-point buck wandered out of the cutover and headed for the corn, but stopped short.


"I think he might have smelled me," he said.


After the wind died, an 8-pointer, 6-pointer and cowhorn buck also appeared and began to nibble the corn.


"Then, I saw all three of them look at the big woods," Cox said. "I heard something walking and a grunt, and I knew it was the big boy."


Afraid to move at all for fear of alerting the three smaller bucks, Cox got a break when the big buck got their attention, allowing him to raise the muzzleloader to his shoulder.


"All I could see was a black shape," he said. "Then he ran into the corn pile and put his head down to chase off the other bucks. That's when I shot him at 35 yards; it was a double-lung hit. The bullet went in behind his right shoulder."


The buck fell in its tracks, and after calming his nerves, Cox lowered his rifle to the ground, climbed down, reloaded his gun, walked to the deer – which was still moving – and added a second shot for good measure.


In addition to having a beautiful rack, the Lee County trophy weighed 207 pounds.


"It's a great deer for Lee County," Cox said. "I don't know if I'll ever see one here to match it."