Jeff Barnhill of Cheraw, S.C., spends most of his life looking at trees as a forester for Edwards Wood Products. Even though he tramples through the woods every day, he always makes time to sit in the deer stand when North Carolina’s gun season arrives. And on the morning of Oct. 20, he made a good decision to head to the woods with his rifle rather than the tape he uses to measure timber. Shortly after daylight, Barnhill shot a massive, 141-inch 10-point buck at 122 yards from his ground blind.
Even though Barnhill hunts frequently in South Carolina, his hunting club just across the state line along the Pee Dee River grows them big and mighty.
“We manage our land primarily by letting the immature deer go to grow up to something special,” Barnhill said. “So far this year, our trail cameras have shown a healthy group of young 8-pointers around until lately, when this huge 10 pointer showed up at 3 o’clock in the morning a few weeks before the season came in.”
Barnhill couldn’t wait to get into the woods when gun season in Richmond County opened Oct. 15, but he was cautious when this huge buck showed up, along with a new scrape line, right behind his corn pile in a young pine plantation. He figured the deer might be using the plantation to bed and feed.
“I was worried about pushing him out of there, but I only had one photo of him and figured he could just be a drifter passing through,” he said.
The scrape line was getting hit on a regular basis, and Barnhill was ready to see what was making use of scrapes so early in the season. He rarely sees any mature deer until the first few weeks of November when the rut is in high gear, but he wasn’t afraid of getting a lucky break, either.
“I will go with luck any day while on the deer stand or in the duck blind,” he said.
Barnhill slipped into his ground blind just before daylight on Oct. 20, and he could make out a deer feeding on his corn pile. As the morning light crept in, Barnhill could make out antlers, but it turned out to be a big 6-pointer eating his morning ration of corn.
Over the next half-hour, the 6-pointer walked over to the scrape line and worked it a few times, returning to the corn pile on several instances. Then, the buck started looking back, and that piqued Barnhill’s interest.
“From my experience, there was another deer back there,” he said. “I kept looking back that way, but nothing ever came out.”
The 6-pointer finally headed into the woods and out of sight, but Barnhill kept waiting, knowing from the buck’s body language that something else was on the way. Just as his anxiety subsided, a huge buck stepped out of the woods, headed across his line of sight at a fast pace. He wasn’t sure it was the big 10-pointer he had seen on camera, but he knew it was a shooter buck.
“I thought this might be the same deer on camera, but I stopped thinking about it so I wouldn’t get buck fever and then he stopped,” he said.
Shooting a Ruger .220 Swift, Barnhill aimed at the deer’s neck, pulled the trigger, and the buck dropped in its tracks. It kicked around for a while, and Barnhill figured a second shot was in order.
“I wasn’t going to let him get up, so I double tapped him. That finished him off,” he said.
The 187-pound buck had an 18-inch inside spread and a collection of long, heavy tines. It wound up measuring 141½ inches gross.