After getting 600 trail-camera photos of does and scrub bucks, Alex Hughes of Elon wasn’t expecting too much action the first week of archery season. With a new bow bought this past Saturday morning, he expected a Sunday afternoon hunt with long-time pal Michael Herring of Elon to be a doe fest. Boy, was he ever wrong, as the buck of a lifetime showed up and gave Hughes a 13-yard shot he didn’t miss.

Hughes took a huge 9-pointer with a 17-inch inside spread and 14-inch tines that measures around 150 total inches – after deciding to pass up a trophy 8-pointer.

The month before the season opened had been a busy one for Hughes, who secured the hunting rights to a tract of land in Alamance County not far from his hometown. The property had just had some timbering done, opening up the forest floor with new greenery and exceptional browse. But nothing of note had shown up on his trail camera, so he figured that during the first week or two of the season, he’d be taking does to fill his freezer.

Then, on Sept. 12, opening day of archery season in North Carolina, Hughes upgraded to a Bowtech RMP 360 he found at Buttermilk Creek Outfitters in Burlington. He christened the new bow less than 24 hours later.

Hughes had found a cluster of hardwoods where he could cover a logging road and he chose one for his climbing stand on Sept. 13. Close to dusk, he spotted a big 8-point buck walking in on the same trail he’d used, heading right toward his stand.

“This buck was nice,” Hughe said. “He was probably around an upper 130-class buck, and I was setting my sights on him.” 

As the buck closed the distance, Hughes prepared to draw on him until something else caught his eye further back down the trail. It was an even bigger 9-pointer. “I had to wait on him,” Hughes said.

The bucks were on the same trail, and as they got closer, the 8-point buck turned broadside a couple of times, tempting Hughes to take a shot because the wind was shifting.

“The wind was blowing right towards them at this point, and I was afraid both of them were going to run off,” he said.

 But Hughes decided to wait in the bigger buck, far bigger than any deer he’d taken in 16 years of bowhunting. With the big 8-pointer directly under his stand, the 9-pointer turned just enough to give Hughes a quartering shot at 13 yards. He took it, and after stumbling away for 175 yards, the buck tumbled to the ground.

 “I didn’t have high expectations that day, but everything fell into place. I was definitely in the right place at the right time,” Hughes said.