Brian Thomas of Hamilton rarely hunts deer during the morning because of his maintenance job with the Martin County school system. But Nov. 12 was a holiday, so he hit the woods early.

He's glad he did after downing one of the biggest whitetails - a 156 1/8-inch non-typical -taken in the county.

"I woke up at 5:20 a.m. that day, rolled over and almost went back to sleep, but then I said to myself, 'You know, you never hunt in the morning,' so I decided to go to a lease I have and see what happened," he said. "Thank goodness I went."


Thomas carried into a ground blind, a Mossberg 500 12-gauge pump shotgun with a Nikon Buckmaster scope loaded with 2 3/4-inch Hornady SST slugs. He set up the ground blind on the side of an old logging road.


Thomas knew a trophy-sized buck lived in the area because he had several trail-camera photos of the large-racked deer.


"I was actually sitting on another one, a bigger deer, when this one popped out," he said. "I had no pictures of the deer I shot. I guess he might've been just passing through. He was in full rut."


Thomas said he blew into a grunt call at 6:28 a.m., then bleated at 6:31.


"He stepped out into the logging road at 6:34," said Thomas, who didn't hear the buck coming and was caught by surprise.


"When he stepped out into the logging road, he was looking around, probably for the doe he thought was doing the bleating," he said. "I had my gun propped in the corner of my blind."


The deer looked down the logging road in the opposite direction, and by the time he looked back, Thomas had the shotgun at his shoulder. A few seconds later, he squeezed the trigger.


"The (slug) hit him in the shoulder, and he went right down to the ground," Thomas said. "That slug made a violent impact."


When he got the buck out of the woods, he carried it to Paul Rasberry of Life Like Taxidermy in Greene County to have it mounted. He also got Donnie Blizzard, a certified scorer, to put a tape on the rack.


The rack is a main-frame 9-pointer with two sticker points. Three tines are longer than nine inches, both brow tines are longer than six inches and it's got a 3 6/8-inch drop tine.


"It has incredible mass, too," Thomas said.