Pittsboro’s Jake Muehlbach didn’t have to wait long to get a deer worthy of entering in this year’s Bag-A-Buck contest. It was just a few minutes after first light of opening day when he downed his Chatham County velvet 8-point buck, and while many folks might write his kill off as a stroke of good fortune, it was anything but luck.

“I’d been checking my trail cams in that area, and I saw this same deer coming back day after day, and always around 6:30 a.m. He showed up here and there in the afternoon, but every morning, he was walking in around 6:30 and staying for about an hour,” Muehlbach said.

This deer continued to show up with three other bucks, so Muehlbach came up with a plan for opening day. “I didn’t know how much I’d be able to hunt after opening day, so I wanted to give myself the best chance possible to take him on that day,” he said. His plan was to arrive well before his buck’s normal arrival time, and his plan came together.

“I got in the stand about 5 a.m. Once I got there and could tell I had not spooked anything, I felt really confident that it was going to work out. The wind was not in my favor, so I worried a little about that, but I took a chance,” said Muehlbach, who was sitting about 30-feet up in a tree stand mounted to a poplar.

“I sat in complete darkness for over an hour, but that’s the only way I knew to get in there without spooking that deer. Just a few minutes after daybreak, two deer came out. One was a 10-point in velvet with a small basket rack, but I was waiting on that 8-point with the bigger rack. Then a doe and fawn came out and stood under my stand. None of these deer left, so I was worried they might see me drawing my bow once the 8-point showed up,” said Muehlbach.

The 8-point came into the clearing with his head low, quartering toward Muehlbach. The deer came within 18 yards, and with his eyes partially on the 8-point and partially on the other deer, Muehlbach managed to come to a full draw on his Matthews MR7 without spooking anything. “Once I realized nothing spooked, I held my draw and took a couple of breaths. I released it smooth and it felt good, like I’d gotten a good shot off. I heard the arrow make solid contact, so I knew I hit the deer,” he said.

Muehlbach found his arrow about 40-yards into the woods with a good bit of blood on it. He called a couple of friends to help search, then with rain on the way, he called another friend with a tracking beagle. Not long after, they found the deer in a briar patch within 200-yards of Muehlbach’s stand.

“I watched that buck all last year, but I let him walk because his rack wasn’t very impressive. It grew a lot in the past year, and I hope the small 10-pointer that was always with him will grow his rack by next year, said Muehlbach, who said this is the first deer he’s ever killed that did not incur ground shrinkage once he put his hands on it.

Muehlbach’s buck, which he estimated would score about 132, is being handled by Andy’s Taxidermy in Troy.