Cody Whittle of Leesville had little idea what was in store for him on his draw hunt at the Webb Wildlife Center.

On the morning of Oct. 30, Whittle cut down a monster 9-point buck with eye-popping mass and palmated antlers.

After taking a doe on an otherwise quiet evening hunt on Oct. 29, Whittle, 18, was back in a blind the next morning, ready for some action when the big buck appeared out for a stroll at 9:30 - his swollen neck a sure sign that he was rutting.

"You couldn't have asked for a better time to be there," said Whittle, alluding to heavy rutting activity.

In fact, Whittle had a hand in the buck being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had just finished five minutes of non-stop grunt-calling when the buck appeared.

Having other things on his mind, the buck didn't notice Whittle in an elevated box blind, about 150 yards distant through a relatively open stand of pines and broomstraw.

It was a fatal mistake.

Whittle drilled him with a single shot from his .270 Browning A-Bolt, taking the buck leanly through the shoulder. The big deer travelled only 10 yards after the shot before falling.

The buck weighed 167 pounds; it will be scored as a typical 9-pointer, with five points on the right antler and four on the left. One sticker point, a fork off the first long tine on its left antler, had been broken off earlier.

The rack had a 17-1/2-inch outside spread and a 16-inch inside spread. Jay Cantrell, a wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, green-scored it at 146-6/8 gross and 136 net. A 60-day drying period must be observed before it can be officially measured, but it looks like it is a sure thing to make the state record book.

A draw hunt at the Webb Wildlife Center, located along the Savannah River in Hampton County, is one of the most memorable hunts that SCDNR offers. Hunters are lodged in the old plantation house, treated to dinner and breakfast and are driven right to their stands.

Whittle was on his first Webb draw hunt with his father, Scott, a veteran of several Webb hunts.

When Whittle brought his buck to the check station, he immediately drew congratulations from other hunters, but Ted Rainwater, the Webb Center's area manager, flashed a knowing grin and confessed that he had a secret. One of Rainwater's technicians had spotted the buck earlier in the year while farming a food plot, and Rainwater had found the buck's shed antlers for two consecutive years in the same field. In addition, Jeff Hunt, who lives nearby, had a trail-camera photo of the buck.

The buck was killed 1-1/2 to 2 miles away from where the trail cam pictures were made, which captured the buck in full velvet.

Rainwater thought the buck might die of old age before a hunter was able to draw a bead on him, but thanks to Whittle, the big buck - judged at 5-1/2 years old by tooth wear on the lower jaw - was harvested.