A move to higher ground was the ticket to success for a Rosewood hunter during the two weeks of wet weather that ushered in the eastern blackpowder season. On October 4, John Mercer overcame a malfunctioning muzzleloader and dropped his biggest buck to date, a 14-point Wayne County beast that carried a gross green-score of 183.88 inches.

It’s not unusual for a hunter to give a buck a nickname when he’s in pursuit of his trophy. Mercer is no different. “I named him ‘black socks’ because in all of the pictures I have of him on my trail camera in July and August, he was covered in black mud from his hooves to his knees,” he said. “I hunted him nonstop last year.”

When Mercer thought he spotted this buck on a trail cam picture near an acorn grove, he moved a stand to the vicinity, and cut a shooting lane in the cutover bordering the area. 

Then it started raining. Ten days later, it was still raining.   

After his normal hotspots became swamps, Mercer made his move up to the acorn grove. “I carried a ground blind and brushed it in underneath my lock-on stand,” he said. “It was raining and the wind was blowing, it was fowl weather. I didn’t want to be out in the stand.”

Mercer sat from around four o’clock until nearly dusk before seeing any activity in the cutover.  “A couple of deer came in first and then the big buck,” said Mercer. “I knew immediately that it was him. I got my shooting stick up and put my gun on it.”

“Just before I was ready to shoot, I tried to cock the hammer,” said Mercer. “The hammer wouldn’t move.” 

Keeping a cool head, he brought the gun back in the blind and went to work. “I had to break the barrel open and slam it back shut,” said Mercer. “It was such nasty weather, I knew there wasn’t a chance for him to hear me. As soon as I slammed it back shut, I saw that it would cock.”

Mercer put the buck back in the sights of his Thompson Center .50 caliber muzzleloader and delivered a 250-grain sabot slug to the sweet spot. The deer dropped in his tracks at 115 yards.

“I sat in the blind for probably 2 or 3 minutes,” said Mercer. “I couldn’t believe it happened. I couldn’t believe I just killed that deer like that. I had to go see him to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.”

Mercer’s buck measured an inside spread of 15 1/4-inches, with the longest tines going 10 ½ and 11-inches. “This buck has a lot of character,” said Mercer. “It has a third main beam that’s 19 inches and a split drop tine.”