Aren’t hunters forced to lease massive tracts of land to get access to mature bucks? Not necessarily. While some hunters believe it is critical to secure large 1,000-acre tracts, Kelly Sutton of Morrisville takes a mature buck every year from one of his small 15-acre leases with barely enough real estate available to erect a single stand. And on the opening day of North Carolina’s 2016 archery season, Sutton followed through by bagging and tagging a huge 10 pointer minutes before dark on his Wake County lease. 

As a transplant from the big buck belt in Illinois, Sutton knows a thing or two about what it takes to grow a trophy buck even on a little biddy tract in the middle of Wake County.  

“If you let them walk and feed them well, they will grow to be something you can be proud of. It has been my motto for years and it works,” Sutton said. “We feed them constantly on corn piles and electronic feeders for six months beginning in June through the end of the year.” 

Even though Sutton only hunts a small, 15-acre chunk, his lease is nestled inside a much larger group of land where the adjacent landowners prohibit hunting. 

“I have a self-made refuge for the deer on adjacent tracts and I suck them into my constant supply of food. I make my lease more attractive than theirs. The does pour in and the bucks tend to follow,” Sutton said. 

Last year, Sutton missed the opportunity to take one of the really nice eight and 10-point bucks on his property because of a personal health crisis. A routine doctor’s visit ended up being one of the worst days of his life when he found out he had cancer. But after an aggressive round of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, he returned to the 2016 deer season free of cancer. And as opening day approached, his new lease on life drove him back to the deer stand in hopes of taking one of those fine bucks he let walk last year.   

On opening day, work kept him out of the woods until 3:00 p.m. when he started making plans to get in his stand for the first time since winning his battle with cancer. 

A couple of hours after getting settled in the tree stand, a big eight pointer stepped out of the woods at 7:25 p.m. and walked to Sutton’s corn pile. It was a fine buck he was happy to see and prepared to make the shot with his Parker Buck Buster crossbow. 

“I rose up the crossbow to shoot and something captured my attention to the right,” he said. “It was the huge 10 pointer walking out to the corn with velvet hanging from his left tines.” 

Sutton repositioned his crossbow and released the razor-tipped bolt right into both lungs of the 10 pointer. The buck stumbled a few feet and collapsed. 

“I got a real nice one with lots of mass, several tines over 12 inches long, and one of the biggest-bodied deer I have ever killed in North Carolina,” he said. 

Cancer may have slowed down Sutton during the 2015 deer season, but it was only temporary.  

“The cancer treatment really kicked my butt, but I am 56-years-old and looking forward to hunting and fishing hard again. When my son at the Air Force Academy comes home this fall, hopefully the big eight will still be around for him,” he said.