Joe Willard, a 16-year-old Stokesdale man finally got his chance to arrow his biggest bow buck ever right after changing up his stand to a new wind direction and managing soggy conditions. And his trophy wasn’t just any buck. It was a 155-inch monster he and his father had been watching for over four years on film.  

“My father saw him running with another buck four years ago and he was a big buck then too,” said Willard. “We think the buck is somewhere in the ballpark of 8 ½ years old.” 

This year, the old buck had grown a new feature, an eight-inch drop tine to be exact that really got Willard’s juices flowing when the deer started becoming a regular customer to his corn pile. Willard would have taken this buck in previous years if he just had the chance, but the buck grew smarter with age and eluded Willard year after year. 

“Every time I would hunt the stand, he would show up on camera after dark and when I didn’t hunt, he would show up on the corn pile during the day. He was definitely making me look bad,” he said. 

But Willard wasn’t able to hunt much the first few weeks of the season because during his opportunities to hunt, the wind was a northerly wind—an unfavorable wind for his stand set up. He quickly made a last minute change and erected a new stand that would be perfect for the prevailing winds.   

On the afternoon of October 3, Willard headed across the cow pasture to get into his stand after the rain appeared to come to an end. Yet when he arrived at his tree, the rain started again soaking Willard to the bone. He was determined, and a little bit of rain and wet clothes wasn’t going to stop him from hunting that stand on that day because he got a daylight picture of the buck on the afternoon before on this same stand. He was very hopeful. 

While he sat up in the stand cold and wet, the rain finally slowed to a light drizzle. Willard looked up to scan the area and the buck was already on the corn pile at just 30 yards away from his stand. It was him, right there standing broadside at 5:01pm!

Willard quickly drew back his arrow and released it hoping for a fatal hit. As soon as the arrow left the string, the deer dropped and turned, causing the arrow to penetrate through the deer’s body at an angle. But, there was just enough damage in just the right places to bring the deer down 50 yards away from the shot. 

At 155 inches of solid antler, an eight-inch drop tine, and a 21-inch inside spread, Willard’s buck is far superior to any other buck he has ever killed. 

Willard hunts private land in a rural section of Rockingham County. While he and his father only shoot large mature bucks, he believes the two-buck season limit in Rockingham County is making a real difference for everybody in the region. 

“With a two-buck limit, people cannot shoot all of the bucks and many just keep on growing towards maturity allowing us to take some really nice deer,” he said.  

–Read about another teen's big bow kill here.