Eddie Dunnagan of Durham has managed several central North Carolina properties through his Advantage Outdoors Company to produce trophy bucks for clients. On the afternoon of Sept. 7, opening day of archery season, Dunnagan bagged a 6x5 Durham County buck with an in-velvet rack he’s green-scored at 172 6/8 gross and 163 2/8 net Boone & Crockett inches. 

He used a crossbow, a weapon he didn’t have much confidence in because of his lack of shooting experience.

“An elbow injury forced me to purchase one in 2011,” he said. “I’d been shooting a compound bow for almost 40 years, but I’d only shot one deer (in 2012) with the crossbow.”

Three years ago, Dunnagan, a 47-year-old Orange County native, acquired some property adjoining a cousin’s land; he found signs of a impressive buck this year, including shed horns of a 10-pointer he figured would score in the 150-inch range.

But his trail cameras also snapped shots of a larger buck.

“I forgot about the 10-pointer,” Dunnagan said.

Having obtained trail-camera images of this new buck, which he nicknamed “Bullwinkle,” he placed four trail cameras around his setup to learn more about the buck’s bedding area and travel routes.

Dunnagan could access the property from only one spot, so he restricted his movements to filling corn feeders and checking his trail cameras when he was certain rain would wash away his scent. He soon discovered the buck was coming to his lease from his cousin’s property and got permission from his cousin to come to his stand, set along the edge of a wheat field, from a different direction. He’d also determined that a northeast wind was the only one that would allow him to fool the buck’s nose.

“As luck would have it, everything was perfect Sept. 7,” he said. “I had a northeast wind in my face, and I didn’t break a twig going in,” he said.

Dunnagan was less certain about his crossbow – a Ten Point set to fling a bolt tipped with a 100-grain Spitfire Maxx broadhead at 330 feet per second.

“I knew it was gonna be a long shot, and I’d bought the crossbow at the beginning of (2011) season, but I didn’t feel comfortable with it, even though I could put (a bolt) in a coffee cup at 50 yards,” he said. “I’d been shooting compounds for 40 years, and my Mathews (bow) was pretty quiet, but the crossbow sounded like slamming a car door.”

But fortune smiled, as Bullwinkle was the first deer Dunnagan saw that afternoon, 300 yards from his stand. After the buck cautiously circled the field and a corn feeder – suspended near the edge of the field – he got ready to take a 30-yard shot.

“All of a sudden, a dead tree falls behind me in the woods and scares the hell out of me and Bullwinkle,” Dunnagan said.

The buck ran into the woods, but it reappeared with an 8-pointer whose body blocked Dunnagan’s aim. Then, the 8-pointer bolted, chasing a doe and again spooking Bullwinkle into the woods.

“But he came back and was 44 yards out,” he said. “I put the 40-yard pin on the bottom of his chest and squeezed the trigger, but I didn’t hear the tell-tale smack when a broadhead hits. I began to worry about the shot.”

After seeing little evidence of a vital hit, Dunnagan backed out, went home and called a friend, Marc Gill. They waited four hours and returned at midnight. After a short search, Dunnagan spotted his trophy 80 yards into the woods.

“All the circumference (measurements) of the deer measured greater than 4 1/2 inches, and that’s the most-impressive thing about the rack to me,” he said.

The buck had main beams of 23 4/8 and 25 4/8 inches and tines that measured as long as 9 4/8 and 10 3/8 inches.