Slipping out of a hardwood thicket along the edge of a Lee County swamp, a huge 10-point buck got too close to Fitts and his Savage .270 just before dusk.
The buck was the loser; Fitts was the winner, taking home the biggest deer of his hunting career.
Making 3-day excursions almost weekly to one of his hunting club's leases, Fitts puts his time in the woods scouting and hunting trophy bucks. When not perched in a deer stand, he practices general dentistry in northeastern Columbia as: C. Thomas Fitts, III, DMD, FAGD, PA.
Fitts hunts several farms scattered throughout Lee County with family members, including his father, Tom, and cousins Brandon and Will Johnson, as well as a few close friends. They get together and scout leased properties, hunting frequently to keep up with the location and movement of their deer. They don't kill bucks with fewer than eight points.
"If it wasn't for Brandon ... I would have never got a chance at this buck," Fitts said. "He mentioned that this tract had not been hunted all year and would be prime for a big buck. A cold front had moved through the night before, and the deer would be moving."
That particular tract covers approximately 200 acres and is predominantly thick cover. Most of the tract is mature, dense hardwoods, pines, and swamp land. A few permanent stands were in place from previous years, but no active baiting was taking place.
Around 2 p.m. on Nov. 2, Johnson and Fitts arrived at the land. Neither of them had been there, so they had to do some quick scouting before the afternoon hunt. After finding a lot of sign along the edge of a swamp, they decided to hunt in a couple of ladder stands about 200 yards apart; both overlooked the swampy area along an old logging road. They slipped into the stands at 4:30.
As the sun dipped below the trees at 6:45, daylight was deteriorating rapidly, and Fitts had not seen any deer. The dense forest along the swamp loses light earlier than any other place on the property, and a deer would have to make his presence quickly for a productive outcome. A few minutes later, a deer appeared from the thick cover, 75 yards away, and appeared to be alarmed.
"I lifted my gun up and peered through my scope, and I could tell that it was a small 4-point," Fitts said.
The buck seemed to be suspicious and went back into the cover. Daylight was dying fast, but Fitts could hear deer slipping through the cover, just out of sight. At 7 o'clock, he could see a deer in the same place where the first buck had been, but it was so dark that he couldn't see any details without looking into his 56mm Meopta Meostar R-1 scope.
"I lifted my rifle and looked at him in my scope on 4-power, and I could tell that he had a good set of antlers and a big body," Fitts said. "I turned up my scope to 10-power, and I could tell his antlers were outside of his ears, definitely a shooter!
"My heart started pounding through my chest! I couldn't see much, but I picked out his vital region and squeezed the trigger."
The deer dropped in his tracks, but Fitts had no idea how big the buck was. He jumped out of the stand, headed to where the deer was, and put a light on him.
"I couldn't believe how big he was! It was the biggest buck that I have ever killed - by far," he said.
A few minutes later, Johnson walked up and wanted to see what all of the commotion was about.
"I shot a doe," Fitts said, but Johnson knew his cousin wouldn't have shot a doe that late in the day. They dragged the deer out to the road and took him to Lynch's River Processing on Hwy 341. The deer weighed slightly more than 200 pounds and was a main-frame 8-pointer with 9.5-inch brow tines, 11.5-inch tines on each beam, kicker points on each of those longest tines and a 20-inch inside spread.
Kenny Jackson of Sumter will be preserving Fitts' trophy for a lifetime of enjoyment.
Fitts is an accomplished hunter and lends his success to his extensive scouting and scent control. He uses a regiment of scent-controlling techniques, including: attractants, Scent-lock clothing, and rubber boots. Most importantly, he keeps his stands downwind of where the deer are expected to come from.