On Oct. 6, the buck of a lifetime gave him not one, but two chances. He made the most of the second, taking a huge 8-pointer that will likely rank among the biggest taken in South Carolina this season.
Williamsburg County has never been known for growing trophy bucks, but it is starting to make headlines, becoming a true jewel in the Lowcountry for its numerous recent additions into the state record book. Providing adequate nutrition and allowing smaller bucks to live longer and grow larger tends to be the right recipe around Kingstree.
Cribb, who has hunted deer for 25 years, spends most of his time on a 200-acre, family-owned tract adjacent to Big Woods Outfitters' extensive trophy management area. Big Woods Outfitters (www.bigwoodsoutfitters.com), run by Hugh McCrae and Jason Brown, is intensely managed for trophy deer, turkey, and wild boar under strict management techniques.
Cribb's farm and McCrae's 2,500-acre wildlife paradise both have a unique and diverse habitat framework, including: swamps, oak ridges, planted pines, agriculture and food plots scattered throughout. Both collectively manage their land using almost-identical quality deer management techniques to produce the best possible bucks.
Williamsburg County's hunters no longer have to talk a big game; the results speak for themselves. Management efforts around the region are producing record-quality whitetails year after year. The use of trail cameras by Cribb, McCrae, and others unveil the crop of bucks frequenting the lands.
Cribb's season was going great with many big bucks on camera - but only on camera. The big bucks were eluding Cribb on his stand, but persistence finally paid off.
On Oct. 6, Cribb slipped into his stand just before daylight to hunt over a soybean field littered with the evidence of heavy deer activity. A true believer in trail cameras, Cribb had multiple pictures of mature bucks working the area, but they were making appearances sporadically, from trail to trail, in several locations. Cribb habitually carries a Mathews Switchback XT bow, but a hazy, hot day called for his Browning 7mm Magnum due to the limitations of the box stand and vast soybean field.
"Big bucks tend to only show themselves on rare occasions during daylight hours, and the gun seemed to be the weapon of choice for the conditions," Cribb said.
Settling in until about 10 a.m., Cribb watched a few does and a 14-inch 8-pointer that morning. When he climbed down, he started walking to his truck to head home for some overdue yard work.
"As I rounded the corner, a huge buck was standing on the edge of my corn pile," Cribb said.
The buck allowed Cribb to study him for a moment before jetting away to the safety of thick cover. To Cribb, the buck appeared to be 18 to 20 inches wide and close to 200 pounds - far bigger than any buck Cribb had ever taken.
"Besides his big rack and body, I noticed that his neck was extremely swollen. There were huge rubs all around this stand, and this buck must have been rutting hard," he said.
Excited, Cribb called his brother, Robbie, telling him all about the monster he had just spooked.
"I have got to go back to that stand and try to find a way to get this big buck to come back, but he was spooked off the corn pile and probably would not come back," he said.
Cribb worked around the house for a few hours, the big buck on his mind almost the entire time. He decided to slip into the stand earlier than usual. Since the buck appeared to be rutting heavily, he might be willing to make a mistake with the right coaxing and the right technique.
At 4 p.m., Cribb slipped down the road towards the corn pile and his stand. He tries to always hunts scent-free by using scent-elimination products and keeping the wind in his favor, but he decided that he needed to go on the offense - trying to attract the deer. He removed the cap from a bottle of Tink's No. 69 Doe-in-Heat and turned the bottle upside down, allowing it to slowly drip out as he walked to his stand.
"If the big buck was rutting like he appeared to be, the Tink's will bring him in," Cribb said.
As the afternoon progressed, he failed to see any movement from his box stand, not even a squirrel.
"I saw nothing, and I was beginning to realize that he wasn't going to show up," Cribb said.
At 6:45, a cowhorn walked out to the corn pile and fed for a few minutes. Cribb raised his rifle and watched the buck through his Leopold scope, wishing the big boy would step out behind him.
"Suddenly, the cowhorn jerked his head up, peered towards my stand, and froze. I knew he couldn't see me or smell me. The wind was perfect, and I was hidden well," he said.
Something told him that the cowhorn was looking at something else. Cribb slowly leaned forward and peeked over the edge of the box stand.
"There he was, directly below my stand, with his nose buried in the Tink's. It was a really big buck and definitely a shooter."
But the shot was almost impossible. Cribb had to wait until the deer moved out from under his stand.
"I eased backwards, got behind the gun, and watched him follow the scent trail. I wanted for him to turn broadside to get a perfect shot, but after 50 yards, I had to stop him. Anything could spook him, and I would be sick forever if I didn't get a shot off."
Cribb gently blew his grunt call, causing the buck to look over his shoulder. Immediately, he squeezed the trigger and dropped the buck in its tracks. Cribb sat for a few minutes, gazing at the buck in absolute amazement.
It took Cribb and two others to get the buck, which weighed 208 pounds, loaded into the bed of his truck.
The buck's massive rack has an 18.5-inch spread, with two tines on each beam measuring at least 10 inches, plus 7-inch brow tines. It rough-scores in the 130s (Boone & Crockett Club) and should easily make the South Carolina record book.
Lynn McRae of Lynn's Taxidermy in Kingstree is mounting the buck for Cribb.