Hunters who don’t think it’s possible for deer to grow trophy racks in a county that gets above-average hunting pressure need to talk to Tim Oakley of Burlington. On Nov. 10, Oakley ended a two-year saga by killing a huge Caswell County buck with a 5x4 main-frame rack and one drop tine that has been green-scored at 157 Boone and Crockett Club points.
“I had plenty of history with this buck. I’d seen and passed on him six times and had hundreds of pictures, including trail-camera and I Pad pictures I took while I was in my stand,” Oakley said. “I even killed him from the same stand where I’d seen him in a field all those times.”
As he watched the buck’s rack increase in size, the deer became so familiar to Oakley that he nicknamed it “High Top.” He talked to several adjoining landowners, convincing them to let smaller bucks survive, hoping one day the tactic would pay off in wall-hangers.
“It’s the only way to have good bucks,” Oakley said. “Most (hunters) around me have a common goal — to grow big bucks — so there’s not a lot of shooting. I’m also not afraid to talk to people and tell them, ‘If you won’t shoot them, I won’t shoot.’
“You get three or four people with a common goal like that, and you can grow some big deer. We call (the area) ‘Deer Day Care.’”
Oakley knew he wanted to take this buck one day. His 2013 trail-camera photos showed the buck as a 9-pointer with a drop tine barely hanging off its right beam, held by a thread of velvet. He passed on the buck last fall, hoping it would produce a similar but bigger rack this season. He worried when none of the four trail cameras he has out on the 250-acre farm he hunts captured the big buck.
“I didn’t see him until Nov. 2,” Oakley said. “By then, I had complained to Craig Hall (a Mebane taxidermist) about what had happened to him.”
After Oakley decided the buck had fallen victim to another hunter or a vehicle, he began focusing on a different, 140-class buck. He was in a familiar stand on Nov. 2, when his drop-tine buck showed up in a field near his box blind along the edge of a cutover.
“I saw five bucks, then (him),” he said. “I saw the drop tine and long G2s (taped later by Hall at 12 1/8 and 11 3/8 inches), so I knew it was him.”
The buck chased a doe until they disappeared from Oakley’s view that evening, but the afternoon of Nov. 10, he popped up at 4:25, 225 yards away.
The buck was walking across the backside of a field when Oakley used a grunt call in an attempt to turn him. After the last grunt, Oakley said the buck “locked on me like radar. So he’s coming toward me, and I’m saying, ‘Please don’t let me mess this up.’”
When the buck stopped at 60 yards, Oakley put the crosshairs of his Tasco scope, seated on a .50-caliber Thompson-Center muzzleloader, on the buck’s chest and pulled the trigger. The buck bolted after the shot.
After 20 minutes, Oakley climbed down and walked to where the buck had been standing but didn’t find any sign of a hit. But when he walked to the edge of the cutover, he found three small spots of blood.
“I walked back to my truck and was trying to think what to do when my friend Wayne Chambers texted and asked if I’d shot, and I said I had shot a beast,” Oakley said.
After Chambers arrived, they decided it might be okay for Oakley to crawl through the cutover, hoping to spot additional blood.
“Five yards into the cutover I found a lot more blood,” he said.
Crawling slowly, Oakley followed red splotches to a creek about 100 yards from the cutover’s edge.
“By then it was hazy twilight, but I thought I saw a sand bar in the middle of the creek,” Oakley said. “The more I looked at it, the more it didn’t look like a sand bar, but a deer. Finally I could see the G2 and G3s on one side sticking up out of the water.”
Oakley and Chambers borrowed an ATV with a winch, plowed through the cutover, then winched the buck up the side of creek bank.
Although the rack’s inside spread of antlers was only 15 5/8 inches, the main beams measured 23 5/8 and 23 1/8 inches. Besides the long G2s and brow tines of 5 2/8 and 5 7/8 inches, the G3s taped 9 6/8 and 8 5/8 inches and the left G4 was 4 2/8 inches. The right drop tine totaled 4 5/8 inches. The buck’s live weight was 180 pounds.