Charles Ruth, the deer biologist for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, has predicted that some noteworthy bucks would start to show up from public lands across South Carolina.

The lack of hunting pressure and the difficulty accessing the expanse reaches of wilderness provide big bucks with a safe harbor from the common hunter, allowing deer to reach maturity.

It didn't take long to prove Ruth correct. On Nov. 2, Bubba Powers, a seasoned hunter and avid outdoorsman from Marlboro County, took a genuine wall-hanger on the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge.

Powers' 10-point buck was one of the largest ever taken from the 45,348-acre refuge in Chesterfield County. Thanks to the limited access of the public draw program, the sprawling refuge gets relatively light hunting pressure.

Powers has taken advantage of the opportunity, claiming a familiar, sandy campsite with a group of buddies annually for more than 25 years. His persistence has rewarded him with decent bucks on occasion, but this past season produced his all-time best.

Powers and several of his hunting companions have been fortunate enough to be drawn every year for the refuge hunts, and they have found several prime locations they hunt year after year.

Powers concentrates on travel routes to and from bedding areas where he can see long distances, since feeding is widespread within the huge groves of turkey and blackjack oaks.

"Narrow, bottlenecked travel routes are hard to find within the refuge property," said Powers, whose wealth of experience on the refuge property has allowed him to find a few choice areas that produce decent bucks - without much competition from other hunters.

On Nov. 1, the morning before his draw hunt began, Powers slipped into one of his favorite spots to hang a Gorilla tree stand his son had given him for Christmas 2006. This particular spot was one of Powers' favorites - he had missed an opportunity to take a mature buck there in 2006.

A food-born illness overcame Powers and brought him to his knees on the last day of his 2006 hunt. On his hands and knees, Powers was evacuating the contents of his stomach when a large-racked buck curiously walked up the hillside, stopping just a few yards away.

On the morning of Nov. 2, Powers slipped into his stand just before daylight. The wind was blowing like mad, and Powers wound up back in camp without having seen any deer.

But he knew the location was a good one and figured that the afternoon would be better when the wind calmed down.

Powers returned to the stand around 3:30 and swayed back in forth for more than three hours before the wind began to calm. At 6:35, he spotted movement up the hillside 200 yards away. He turned around to get a better view with his binoculars, and he could tell that it was a doe, which continued up the hillside feeding on acorns.

"Just as I began to relax again in the stand, realizing that it was just a doe, horns filled the field of view in my binoculars," said Powers, who quickly traded the binoculars for his Remington Model 700 .30-06 rifle.

"I found his body extending out into the oaks, and I moved the cross hairs on my Simmons scope to the shoulder and squeezed the trigger," Powers said.

The big buck bolted out of sight, spooking other deer in the vicinity. Powers waited a few minutes - to collect himself and to allow the big buck to die off in the distance.

"I eased all the way across the ridge to look for any blood or any ruffled leaves where he was standing, and I found absolutely nothing. I kept on walking upward on the ridge, hoping for something, and all of a sudden, I spotted his white belly laying against a pine."

Powers was speechless. It was the most symmetrical rack he had ever seen - and by far the largest buck he had killed in 30 years of hunting. The 10-point buck weighed 203 pounds and has 20-inch main beams, a 16-inch spread, 11-inch G2's, 10-inch G3's, and 5.75-inch bases.

After drying and deductions, the rack is expected to have a B&C score in the upper 140's. Skinning Pole Deer Processors in Chesterfield processed the buck, and Carlyle Sutton Taxidermy of Pageland is mounting it.