Dillard never had the antlers scored, opting instead to have the broken tine repaired and adding it to his collection of trophy racks. But his payback came in a big way last Oct. 23, while hunting on the same 1,200-acre property.
Dillard, the only one who's allowed to hunt the land, knew that the deer in the immediate area had good genetics on their side, and he and the landowner and practiced quality management practices for several years, essentially thinning a herd that had begun to exact a heavy toll on the landowner's crops.
A trail camera caught a big buck on film last year, adding even more incentive to Dillard's hunt.
"The minute I saw the picture I said, 'I'm going to be hunting that deer.' " Dillard said.
It had been pouring rain for hours when Dillard headed to the woods just after lunchtime on that fateful afternoon last October. He strategically positioned himself on the outskirts of a large bedding area and a nearby scrape line.
"I hadn't been in the area much, because I didn't want to disturb it," Dillard said. "But with all the rain I knew I could slip in there quietly, and my scent wouldn't be as bad. The key, according to guys I've talked to, is to be there (near a scrape line) when the rain stops."
Dillard was perched in a big cedar tree about 50 yards away from the largest scrape in the line, with a clear shooting lane to boot.
About 4:45, the big buck emerged, making his way up a draw and stopping to paw the big scrape and rub his head and antlers on some overhanging branches. Dillard squeezed the trigger on his Remington 700 bolt-action .270, dropping the buck in its tracks.
"He went down – and I passed out," Dillard said.
A veteran of 35 years of deer hunting, Dillard was so excited he could hardly contain himself - both before and after the shot.
"I still get excited every time, even if I'm just shooting a deer for the freezer," Dillard said. "If I ever lose that excitement, it's time for me to quit."
The excitement level ratcheted up a few notches when Dillard scrambled to his kill. The massive buck, which was 5½ years old and weighed 240 pounds, had a 13-point rack - a main-frame 10 pointer with three sticker points.
"When I put my hands around his antlers I knew he was something special," Dillard said, "but I think the thing that surprised me most was the body size."
Dillard, 50, immediately called the landowner and a friend.
"I couldn't budge it," Dillard said. "It took three of us to drag it where we could get it out of there."
Dillard's buck was still at the taxidermist during the statewide antler-scoring sessions this past March, but biologist Richard Morton recently scored the deer at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources' Clemson office.
The antlers netted 172 Boone and Crockett points, making it the No. 3 all-time typical in South Carolina and just the fourth typical set of antlers from the state to qualify for the Boone and Crockett Club's all-time list.
The rack, which had a 19-4/8th-inch inside spread, had towering G2 tines that measured 14 and 13-4/8ths on the left and right side, respectively. Had the three sticker points near the bottoms of the main beams not accounted for four points worth of deductions, Dillard's rack would have tied the South Carolina state-record buck - a 176-inch buck bagged by Bill Wyatt in neighboring Pickens County in 1994.
Dillard capped his remarkable hunting season two months later, bagging a second Boone and Crockett buck while hunting on his first-ever trip to Iowa. That buck, killed with a muzzleloader on Dec. 27, scored 190.
Dillard owns at least two other bucks that would be shoo-ins for the state record book, but said he's never been big on having them scored.
"It's not about what they score with me, it's about their character," Dillard said. "Sometimes I think scores take away from the deer. But don't get me wrong - I'm as happy as I can be with this Boone and Crockett buck. I'm proud that it's Boone and Crockett, and I'm proud for the state of South Carolina."