Austin Morrell of Latta, a 21-year-old student at Francis Marion University, arrowed the bruiser at 18 yards after two months of photo surveillance.
Michael Johnson, an official scorer for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, green-scored the buck at 156 2/8 inches gross and 149-1/8 net – big enough by two-dozen inches to make the state record book and the Pope & Young Club's record book when it's re-scored after a 60-day drying period.
Although it is a couple of inches short of being the biggest buck ever taken in Dillon County (James Tyner's 152 7/8-inch buck killed in November 2000 holds that honor), it will be easily the best archery kill ever from the county just west of the Grand Strand.
Morrell invests several months every off season monitoring the deer population on his hunting tract. Beginning in July, he strategically placed trail cameras across the 200 acres his property covers.
'Our cameras reveal the quality and quantity of bucks on our property to help us recognize any big bucks that may be frequenting the area,' said Morrell, who had plenty of photos of his huge buck in 2009 when it was a big 9-pointer. He never got the chance to tag him. 'Since July of this year, the big 10 showed up on one particular stand two to three times per week during all hours of the day.
'I couldn't wait until the season would open on Sept. 1 to get a chance at him.'
Home for the buck in 2009 and 2010 was a stand of older pines 70 acres off a corn field and adjacent soybean field. Morrell set up his stand and checked the weather forecast religiously for a predicted east wind – the only direction that made hunting the stand suitable.
'This was a buck of a lifetime, and I tried hard not to over-hunt the stand or to hunt the area under poor conditions,' said Morrell, who hunted the stand twice in the first week of the season, seeing several nice deer. But he had tunnel vision for his big trophy.
As Labor Day approached, the wind was predicted to blow out of the east, ideal for another session of playing cat-and-mouse with this massive buck that had appeared so often on his cameras.
At 6:30 p.m. on Labor Day, Morrell slipped into his Millennium tree stand and settled in for another afternoon. While not typical deer-hunting weather, the afternoon was pleasant with a cool breeze blowing in his face.
As light began to fade, Morrell heard movement from the bushes just out of site. Within minutes, a small buck appeared in the clearing and headed directly to Morrell's corn pile. The massive 10-point appeared in the footsteps of the smaller buck and walked into range at 18 yards.
The deer was facing Morrell, however, and didn't present a good kill shot. After a few heart-stopping seconds, the buck took a fatal step to the right and gave Morrell a quartering view of his shoulder and vitals.
Figuring it might be the best shot he would get, Morrell took aim and released the arrow from his Matthews 'Reezen bow. The Rage 2-bladed broadhead pierced the skin just in front of the buck's shoulder. The deer took a step, broke the arrow off, and bolted into the woods with the other buck in tow.
'My heart really began to race as I took several deep breaths and realized what I had just done,' Morrell said.
Knowing the shot was placed as well as possible from that position, Morrell knew he had to give the buck some time to expire. He picked up his lighted arrow knock and found a spattering of blood along the ground.
He stumbled out of the woods, his heart still racing, and headed home to tell the story.
A long 90 minutes later, Morrell returned to the scene with his father, brother, girlfriend and several other friends. After just a few minutes of tracking, the big buck showed up dead, just 50 yards from where it was shot.
Morrell's buck tipped the scales at 160 pounds with 10 typical points - including several tines nearly 12 inches long.
Chase Courtney of Southeastern Taxidermy (843.409.7777) in Sardis caped out buck that night, and will turn what is potentially the biggest buck ever killed in Dillon County with archery equipment into a lasting memory.