Patrick Walker, a 20-year-old student at UNC-Greensboro, wasn’t about to set an easy goal for his first archery deer this fall, not after a huge buck showed up in trail-camera photos this summer on his family’s Guilford County land. And aiming for the rafters proved to be right on target when he arrowed a 149-inch trophy this past Saturday afternoon on opening day of North Carolina’s statewide archery season.

Walker didn’t grow up deer hunting; his interest began last December. With help and encouragement from neighbor Chad Thousand, he was ready when Sept. 10 rolled around.

“Patrick asked me to help him learn how to bowhunt,” Thousand said, “and so I did. I introduced him to Jonathan Brown at Boneyard Archery to get his bow tuned up and set up with quality gear to be successful. We practiced in the yard and in the tree stand to get him where he needed to be before the season arrived.” 

Later, Thousand helped Walker set up a stand or two and trail cameras, and it didn’t take long until Walker zeroed in on something special. 

“A huge buck started showing up … and I told him it was a really nice deer and he may be better off trying to shoot a few smaller deer as practice. But Patrick was committed to this huge buck,” Thousand said. 

“That’s the deer I want for my first deer,” Walker said. “I am not shooting anything but that buck!”

But an encounter Saturday morning almost broke his heart and ended an opportunity to take the buck, which had several tines that measured between 12 and 14 inches. Walker was in his stand before daylight, waiting for the buck to show up. But only one doe came in, munching on corn so loudly he could barely hear anything else.

“I thought about shooting that doe, but I really didn’t want to mess up the opportunity at that buck,” Walker said.

A few minutes after the doe finished eating and walked back into a cutover, Walker peaked around the white oak in which he’d hung his stand to make sure nothing had slipped in behind him. There, 15 yards away, was the huge buck, gazing at Walker in the tree.

“He was looking right at me, and my heart was about to beat out of my chest,” said Walker, who feared he had spooked the buck because it was staring at him. “After a few seconds, the deer put his head back down, twitched his tail, and walked back the way he came. I was relieved he didn’t run off, but I was really worried I had messed up my opportunities at this deer.”

After climbing down at the end of his morning hunt, Walker called Thousand, who told him he didn’t think the buck was spooked, and he went home sad and sick — but hopeful.

That afternoon, plenty of does and small bucks visited his corn pile, but Walker waited for his target buck. As darkness grew near, the deer scattered off the corn pile, and Walker turned slowly and looked in the direction the buck had come from in the morning.

“There he was, standing in almost the same place as this morning, and my heart was pounding so hard I could hardly breathe,” Walker said. 

Standing behind a tree, the buck didn’t give Walker an immediate shot, which allowed the hunter to control his nervousness over the next several minutes.

“The first time I saw him I got really nervous, and then I was really nervous again. But the five or six minutes was just enough to allow me to calm down some and make a careful shot when he took a few steps into the clear,” said Walker, who took an 18-yard shot at the buck, which took a tumble to the ground 75 yards away from a double-lung shot.