By the conclusion of the Saturday, March 2, scoring session, it was clear her husband's buck, shot Dec. 15, 2012, would top other entries at the Wake County Wildlife Club's annual Big Buck Contest.
McSwain arrived in Raleigh the next day when winners were announced. With a net score of 168 6/8 Boone-and-Crockett points, his buck was the only typical entry from North Carolina that eclipsed the 160-inch mark. It won awards for Best in Show and Best North Carolina Typical.
McSwain said he made the mistake early last year of sending a trail-camera photo of the buck to a friend. Awareness of the deer spread like wildfire across the community. Soon, McSwain said he couldn't hunt the stand where he'd been seeing the deer, so he chose to hunt his wife's stand for only the second time in 2012.
"I was hoping she'd get a shot at the buck instead of me," said McSwain, a 35-year-old cotton farmer and chicken rancher. "She'd done all the work at that stand, putting up trail cameras, putting out food. She'd even hunted there that morning."
McSwain said a local farmer told him that the big buck was in an adjoining field chasing two 10-pointers, trying to keep them away from a doe, but that Jennifer McSwain couldn't see the buck from her stand.
"But after I got him - and she found him that night when we looked for him in the dark - she was more excited for me than anyone," he said.
McSwain used a Sako .30-06 rifle with a 3x9x50 scope to put a bullet behind the buck's left shoulder at 70 yards, mere minutes before the end of shooting light that day.
"He ran about 150 yards, and I texted Jennifer I'd shot a big deer," McSwain said.
They waited a couple of hours, then using flashlights, searched for the buck. His wife found the deer about 150 yards from the field edge where it had been standing when her husband pulled the trigger.
Other great bucks that won categories included:
- Best Non-Typical by Gun: Brian Keith Davis's Orange County totaled 188 non-typical inches. That buck's rack, a main frame 4x4, had 48 7/8 inches from 29 abnormal points, most of them on or near the brow tines, plus a 3 2/8-inch drop tine off the left main beam.
- Best Non-Typical by Muzzleloader: Donnell Ellis Jr. killed a Guilford County buck that scored 162 7/8 inches.
- Best Non-Typical by Archery: Michael Sprinkle of Rural Hall tagged a 155 2/8-inch Forsyth County monster.
- Best Typical Gun by Female: Melinda Rich of Monroe scored with a 154 4/8-inch buck from Union County.
- Best Non-Typical Gun by Female: Mindy Huffines of Reidsville dropped a 157-2/8-inch Rockingham County monster she nicknamed "Heartbreaker" after missing him three years ago with a bow.
- Best Typical by Muzzleloader: Leasburg's Kaylin Duncan dropped a 10-point Caswell Count ybuck that scored 150 2/8 inches.
- Best Typical by Archery: Michael Herron of Altamahaw arrowed a 148 4/8-inch Alamance County buck.
- Best Typical Archery by Female: Tammy Tucker of Kannapolis killed a 137-inch 8-pointer in Stanly County that was in full velvet.
- Best Typical Muzzleloader by Female: Amanda Gasiorowski of Apex took a 131-2/8-inch 8-pointer to win this category.
- Best Typical by Crossbow: Jason Wilson of Hillsboro killed a 148 2/8-inch buck in Orange County that was in full velvet.
- Best Non-Hunting: John Grant of Snow Hill was hunting in Hertford County when he took possession of a buck with a rack that scored 154 inches. "We were hunting, and this deer was hit by a car, and I finished it off," he said.
- Best Female Youth by Gun: Gretchyn Gragg of Lenoir took a 141 4/8inch buck in Ashe County.
- Best Male Youth by Gun: Hunter Moody took a 133-inch Harnett County buck.
- Best Male Young by Bow: Dale Davis of Conway killed a 121 3/8-inch 8-point buck from Northampton County.
- Best Non-North Carolina: Jeff Beaver of Salisbury killed a 205-inch buck in Adams County, Ohio, that was in full velvet.
- Best Virginia Crossbow: James Wilson's 160 1/8-inch buck had a 32-inch inside spread.
- Best Virginia Muzzleloader: John Konkel dropped a 157 4/8-inch beauty.
- Best Virginia Typical by Gun: Cheria Sturgill killed a 145-inch buck in Grayson County.
- Best Virginia Non-Typical: Al Clary of Mechansville took a 191-inch buck in January 2013 in Sussex County.
- Best South Carolina: Boyd Hodges of Effingham took a 147 1/8-inch buck in Florence County.