On Halloween, Kirk Patterson of Bethany didn’t have to go around the neighborhood in a scary costume to get a treat. His prize was a 161-inch, 12-point, 200-pound Rockingham County buck that answered the door under his tree stand on the first day of blackpowder season.
Patterson was 25 feet up a tree in a Summit climbing stand at 4:30 p.m. when the big buck left its bed to follow a doe that was browsing through a 200-acre clear-cut. A group of fox hunters had jumped the huge buck the week before, and Patterson developed a game plan for tagging him.
“A guy drilling some wheat for me saw the big buck flee across the field and he said it was the biggest buck he had ever seen in his life,” Patterson said. “That sure got my attention, and I had a good idea where the buck could be bedding and traveling.”
Three years earlier, his family had clear-cut 200 acres, with the exception of a few 50-foot buffer zones that surrounded creeks bisecting his property. The clear-cuts were grown up just enough to provide good bedding and browsing habitat, and the creek buffers were filled with mature white and red oaks dropping acorns. The stream buffers gave Patterson the opportunity to hang his tree stand in a strategic vantage point where he could see anything stirring along the buffers and across the clear-cut.
Patterson hunted that Saturday morning from one stand. Over the course of several hours, he saw a lot of deer moving around, but none with any headgear. He was so pleased with the morning activity, he couldn’t wait to get back in the stand that afternoon, but with the wind switching to the south, he knew he had to move his stand.
At 3 o’clock, Patterson grabbed his stand and started walking down another stream buffer that covered a different section of the cutover. He started seeing some promising sign, including a fresh rub on an 8-inch cedar tree, a fresh scrape, and he jumped a young 6-pointer.
“I started to have a bad feeling and got nervous when I saw the 6-pointer. I was hoping that 6-pointer taking off and blowing every breath didn’t hurt me too bad,” said Patterson, who found the best tree he could find, climbed to the top and hoped for the best.
About 45 minutes later, he saw a doe slowly browsing through the cutover, picking at tender vegetation. He was watching her walk across the cutover when he saw a big buck rise up right next to her.
“I was shocked this buck didn’t hear me walking in or climbing up the tree. At that point, the buck was facing me, and I couldn’t tell if it was even a shooter,” he said.
After a few minutes, the buck turned broadside, and Patterson knew it was the buck he was after.
“I looked at him in the scope and realized it was a 6-by-6. My heart was beating pretty good when I saw all of those tines,” said Patterson, who put a slug from his .50-caliber CVA Wolf through the buck’s lungs. The buck dashed away a few steps before crumbling to the ground.
“It was my lucky day for sure, but clear-cuts are now my favorite types of places to hunt — Lots of browse and lots of cover all in the same place,” he said.
According to Keith Knight of Knight Taxidermy, Patterson’s buck is one of the most impressive bucks to come into his shop this year.
“The buck carries amazing mass throughout his rack, from its 5 ½ inch bases to the tips of his points,” said Knight. (336-312-6457) “The last (circumference) measurement was still over 4 inches around. A really impressive deer.”
Patterson’s buck was determined to be 7 ½ years old; the main-frame 12-pointer that had one sticker point earned a green/gross score of 161 3/8 inches.
“I knew there was a big one close by. I am just glad that he stood up when he did,” Patterson said.
Click here to read about other big North Carolina bucks.