The Surry County man at the center of a hoax involving a set of huge deer antlers has been charged with four wildlife violations by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Nick Davis of Elkin, who passed off a deer that was wearing a set of shed horns purchased from a deer farm in Pennsylvania as a potential state-record archery buck last week, was charged on Friday with closed-season deer hunting, unlawful possession of an illegally taken deer and two charges for failure to tag and register a deer.
Sgt. Brian Blankenship of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Enforcement Division said that the first two charges stem from Davis killing a small buck with a rifle during archery season – it was used in the deception – and the other two stem from officers’ discovery that Davis had killed a large buck during the 2014 hunting season and never registered it with the Commission or filled out a deer tag.
Blankenship, from State Road, said Davis has a Jan. 28, 2016, court date in Dobson for the charges.
The Commission began investigating Davis a day or two after he surfaced on Sept. 17, saying that he’d killed a huge Surry County buck with a bow, a deer that would have broken the existing state record by almost 30 inches, the previous afternoon. He contacted Joey Thompson, an official scorer with the N.C. Bowhunters Association, who put his tape measure on the buck’s 27-point, non-typical rack the next night and scored it unofficially at 208 2/8 points, more than 30 points higher than the existing state record for a non-typical buck taken by a bowhunter.
Blankenship said wildlife enforcement officers were besieged with telephone calls by people who didn’t believe Davis’s story because of the enormous size of the antlers and their stark, white coloration. They did some research and found that another trophy buck that Davis said he killed in 2014 had never been tagged or registered with the Commission. Blankenship and enforcement officer Chris Harris met with Davis and interviewed him last Sunday, at which time Blankenship said Davis admitted that he’d killed a small buck earlier that week with a rifle, cut the antlers off that buck and replaced them with a set of shed antlers bought in Pennsylvania.
“This was one of the more interesting investigations I’ve ever been involved with,” said Blankenship, who has been with the Commission more than 20 years. “Chris Harris and Josh Hudson did a great job with the investigation. We spent a long time investigating this. We took all the stuff we had and put it together, and then we went and interviewed (Davis).”
Blankenship said that the shed horns were attached to the smaller buck’s skull plate in a manner that was very difficult to see. He said he understood how Thompson could have missed the deception while he was scoring the antlers.
“Joey Thompson has been catching a lot of flack for something that was not his fault,” Blankenship said. “It would have been very hard for a normal person to ever see what was wrong, how the horns had been attached to the skull cap.
“All of us looked at it, and none of us caught it until (Davis) confessed, then when we knew what we were looking for, we could see it, but it was doctored up really well.”
Blankenship said the charges normally carry a fine and court costs of around $250, but that judges have the option of taking a violator’s hunting license and also charging the violator replacement charges of $604 for a deer that has been taken illegally.