It’s not often a hunter’s first deer is a trophy animal. It’s even rarer to take a Pope and Young Club buck as a first bow kill. But Sgt. Cody Harris did his homework – and the needed work – and reaped a nice reward Sept. 14 at Fort Bragg.

Harris, a 23-year-old Utah native who is a U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Cavalry scout, used a Bear compound bow to drop a 14-point wall-hanger after a long stalk in an open bean field, losing sight of the deer then finding the buck looking at him from 15 yards.

“I used to go mule deer and elk hunting with my dad when I was young, but I hadn’t hunted at Fort Bragg,” said. “My buddy, Benjamin Rogers, got me fired up about hunting here.”

The base allows military and non-military personnel to hunt on several thousand designated acres. Soldiers have a small advantage: they’re the only ones allowed to hunt at Bragg on Sundays. And although Harris arrowed his big buck on a Sunday, other factors ultimately proved more crucial.

“This year, me and Benjamin said we were going to get a deer with a bow and arrow,” Harris said.

Harris and Rogers decided to practice more frequently and intensely this year.

“I know it’s a light draw weight, but I can shoot and not get tired,” said Harris, whose bow is set at 55 pounds draw weight. “We really got into (shooting) last spring and carried through all summer and this fall. I set my sights from 15 to 50 yards, and we shot targets from the ground and from elevated places.

“I couldn’t shoot that well when I got the bow three years ago, but I’ve improved a lot,” he said.

Harris did some preseason scouting, and he saw a couple of nice bucks in one bean field as he drove past.

“But I didn’t think much about hunting there because I had other places I wanted to go, but something made me decide to hunt there that day,” said Harris, who used a climbing stand to get well up in a pine tree about 10 yards inside the woods, overlooking the field and near a trail chewed up with tracks, at 5:30 a.m.

“Two rubbed trees — 1-inch diameter pines and he’d broken one in half — were right under the stand,” Harris said. “Plus the wind was perfect, in my face all morning.

At 7:15 a.m. he saw a buck about 350 yards across the field but couldn’t tell how big it was, and when the deer bedded down, he couldn’t see it at all.

After a 20-minute wait, Harris decided to try and stalk the deer across the open bean field. The green foliage was higher than his head at places, he said.

“I finally got to where I thought I’d seen him last, but I couldn’t see him,” Harris said. “Then I checked one more time to the right, and I saw his antlers and his neck. He was lookin’ straight at me, and I knew I didn’t have much time.”

In one motion, Harris raised and drew his bow, then released the arrow. He guessed the range at 15 yards.

“He jumped up and turned to his left, hard, and as soon as he did, I turned it loose. I don’t remember looking at the sight pin,” said Harris, whose Gold Tip carbon arrow, tipped with a Muzzy MX IV broadhead, chattered as it zipped through the soybeans before reaching its target.

“I heard him going through the beans about 10 yards, then I saw him go down,” Harris said.

The buck, mortally wounded, was still moving, so Harris provided a coup de grace with two more arrows.

“I eased over to him and got pictures where he’d dropped,” Harris said. “His antlers were sticking up and wrapped up in the beans.”

The buck carried a 5x5 main frame with four abnormal points. If he isn’t deployed before next March,, Harris plans to take the rack to the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh to have it scored.

For more information about Fort Bragg hunting, check out “Fort Bragg Wildlife Branch” at http://www.bragg.army.mil/directorates/dpw/envdiv/wildlife/Pages/Home.aspx.

To enter North Carolina Sportsman’s Bag-A-Buck contest, visit http://www.northcarolinasportsman.com/contest/index.php?event=26