A Butner man who suffered serious injuries in a fall from a tree stand last year got a measure of revenge on the buck he was hunting that day. And what revenge it was! The 9-point buck, taken this past Saturday on opening day of North Carolina’s statewide archery season, has been rough-scored at 161 inches in full velvet.

Brad Duke, 31, fell 20 feet from his Granville County tree stand on Oct. 19, 2013, when the strap that secured the top section of his stand’s ladder steps broke. Knocked unconscious for 2 ½ hours, he picked himself up, stumbled to his truck, drove home, and when his wife drove him to a hospital, x-rays revealed he had cracked one vertebrae, compressed five others and broken three ribs.

The buck he was targeting that day made a fatal mistake this past Saturday, when Duke, healed from his injuries, drove a Gold Tip carbon arrow tipped with an expandable, 2-bladed Blood Runner broadhead through the buck’s vitals.

“I had tons of history and pictures of this deer since he was a young up-and-comer,” he said. “I’d watched him so long it almost felt like I shot my dog.

“I had pictures of him since 2011 when he was a 9-pointer,” he said. “He came near me two different times that year and 2012, when I had a rifle. I didn’t shoot him when he was a main-frame 10 with three stickers.”

Duke had a bow in hand lasts October; he had patterned the buck with his trail cams and a spotting scope.

“I was watching him at agriculture fields and had him patterned all the way down to the different trails he used on different winds – and I knew where he bedded,” said Duke. “It got some amazing all-day movements of him and his 11 buddies when it was 95 degrees and 100-percent humidity.”

So he was ready last Oct. 19, but his ladder strap betrayed him and probably should have crippled him. Amazingly, Duke was back in the woods by December. After x-rays revealed his injuries and doctors told him surgery was a possibility, he signed himself out of the emergency room after a 45-minute stay.

“I told (the doctors) I felt like I might die, and if I was, it wasn’t gonna be in a hospital,” said Duke, who went home, stayed in bed for three weeks, “then got in the gym and started lifting weights.”

Duke hunted last December from a ground blind two of his hunting buddies built him, but fully recovered last week, he climbed into a Trophy Line Tree Saddle.

“I placed it in a tree on the side of a water hole in some pines where (the buck) always went after he left a field at 7 p.m.,” Duke said.

That afternoon, a big 8-pointer appeared in the field first at 60 yards, then less than a minute later, the large buck appeared.

When his range finder showed the deer at 45 yards, Duke touched the release on his Whisper Creek bow and sent the arrow flying toward its target.

“He took a step just as I released the arrow, and when it got to 45 yards the bottom fell out, but I got lucky and it clipped his heart,” said Duke, who watched the buck run a large “U” pattern in the field, then dart into the woods to his left. “I looked at my watch and it was 7:22 p.m.”

Duke waited 30 minutes, then carefully climbed down from the stand. He found the buck on its side 40 yards from the field edge, sat down and enjoyed at last his buck of a lifetime.