Joey Small had been hunting the same Orange County property forever, but neither he nor his friends had seen a buck with headgear to match the 10-pointer he drilled November 7, one week into 2015’s muzzle-loader season.

Mebane taxidermist Craig Hall said it was the closest to a perfectly symmetrical rack he’d ever scored. The 10-pointer’s green gross total was 154 3/8 inches with a net of 153 1/8, a difference of 1 2/8-inches. 

“We lease about 100-acres of land from a retired doctor,” said Small, a 45-year-old machinist for Graham’s P&S Machine Co. “It’s about a mile off the main road, so that means the deer aren’t disturbed much.

“It’s not a farm, just total hardwoods, pines, a beaver pond and bedding thickets, so we have to bait (with corn) to have any success. I had put corn on the ground, but it was the first time I’d hunted this stand. Normally, we kill a few small bucks, not anything like this deer.”

Small placed a 20-foot-tall ladder stand against a big poplar tree during archery season.

“Farms around the property have corn and soybeans, but deer bed down on us, in a thicket on the side of a big beaver pond, then they go and come from the corn and bean fields,” he said. “I’d put my ladder stand on a ridge with a big drop-off next to the pond. It had plenty of (deer) trails.”

To the right of his stand was a 60-foot drop with the beaver pond at the bottom. A grassy field on the pond’s opposite side served as a pathway for deer from the corn and beans.

“It was about 5:15 p.m., so I had maybe 15-minutes of shooting light,” Small said. 

“I’d been in the stand since 1:30 p.m. but only seen a coyote at 4:30 come out of a thicket to get some water, so I thought my day was pretty much ruined,” Small said. “I was getting ready to climb down when I heard a shot, a little before 5 (his brother had killed a seven-pointer about 300 yards away), so I thought ‘Well, maybe (deer) are starting to move.’ Then everything happened quick.”

Small, who first saw the buck at 60 yards, said the animal wasn’t headed for his corn or chasing a doe.

“My heart jumped because I saw one main beam with a G3 that looked like it was 14-inches long,” he said. “A deer like that will make you nervous, but I didn’t have time to get nervous

Later he’d see that beam sticking up in the grassy field – before he got astonished.

The buck was quartering away when Small put the crosshairs of his Konus scope on its shoulder and pulled the trigger on his CVA Accura .50-caliber smoke pole loaded with three 50-grain Pyrodex pellets and a Sabot bullet.

“He did a somersault then ran toward the field,” Small said, “and out of sight.”

The heart-shot buck ran 40 yards then fell in the tall green grass.

“I was praying that’s where he was,” Small said.

Hall’s tape of the rack showed 24 4/8-inch and 23 3/8 inch main beams, right-side G1s of 4, 3 4/8, 10 7/8 and 5 4/8 inches and right-side H (circumference) totals of 4, 3 3/8, 3 5/8 and 3 2/8 inches and left H totals of 4, 3 3/8, 3 4/8 and 3 2/8 inches. A kicker point on the left G2 was the rack’s only odd point. It didn’t measure an inch and didn’t qualify as a deduction.

“(Hall) said it was as nearly perfect a deer of this size he’d ever scored,” Small said.

Click here to read about other big North Carolina bucks.