It’s well known that teens often make decisions by relying on their feelings rather than logical thought progressions. Sometimes, that approach works – just ask 16-year-old Joseph Harris. On Nov. 15, opening day of gun season in North Carolina’s Central deer section, Harris, a junior at Northwood H.S., decided to place a chair on an Orange County hillside 10 minutes from his Chatham County home. Forty-five minutes later, he’d shot the buck of a lifetime, a 146-inch whitetail.
The buck came charging through the woods, apparently thinking the noise that Harris was making cutting cedar limbs to camouflage his seat was a fight between two other bucks.
“I’d never hunted this place before,” said Harris, a 152-pound wrestler for Northwood’s Chargers. “I just kinda liked the way (the spot) looked on the side of the hill.”
Harris didn’t use a trail camera, so he had no images of the buck, which sported a 5x4 main-frame rack with several sticker points around its bases.
“I also didn’t put out any corn,” he said. “It was just a good-looking spot with a lot of oak trees and a trail that looked like deer were walking on it pretty regular. But this deer didn’t come up the trail.”
Harris did place an earth-scent wafer behind him and tied a doe-in-estrus wafer to a tree limb 10 yards in front of his chair. The wafers helped mask his scent so the buck never detected the youngster’s presence.
“I was thinkin’ this might be a good rut stand because after I shot (the buck), a spike and an 8-pointer chased a doe around me for a good hour while I waited,” Harris said. “I figure (the deer he’d shot) had been chasin’ her earlier.”
Harris had found his spot on a large, flat rock with a big cedar growing to one side. He positioned his chair at about 3 p.m., and though he hung some camouflage cloth from nearby tree limbs to conceal him, he cut a few more branches to create shooting lands.
“I dragged the limbs beside me to give myself some (more) cover, and I moved some weeds around. I think that’s what the buck heard,” he said.
Harris has barely sat down before he “looked up and saw his antlers coming at me from about 60 or 70 yards. I think he thought I was another buck in his territory there to get his does,” he said. “My heart was pounding through my chest when I saw him, and he came right toward me.”
Shaken, he couldn’t raise his gun, but the buck trotted around the tree and behind Harris.
“Then he came around (the rock), went beside me and in front about 20 to 25 yards,” he said. “I was trying to stop him by whistling (which didn’t work), so I yelled, he stopped, and I shot.”
Armed with a 20-gauge shotgun shooting slugs, Harris peered through the 4-power Thompson-Center scope mounted on the gun pulled the trigger. His slug impacted the deer’s right shoulder.
“The bullet went through and richoted off something and came out his throat,” he said. Still, the buck bolted down the hill.
After the shot, Harris sat for 2 ½ hours, then called his older brother, Jacob, who was at work in Pittsboro. After his brother arrived, they used a flashlight and light from Harris’s I-phone to search for the deer but couldn’t find any blood sign.
“My heart was pounding even more, and I was mad, and that made it pound more when we couldn’t find him,” he said.
The brothers returned the next morning and quickly found the buck 70 or 80 yards from where it had been hit. They carried it to taxidermist Steve Rogers in Chapel Hill, and Rogers scored it at 146 gross inches.