North Carolina’s Deer of the Year

Matt Buchanan bagged a 17-point non-typical buck in Orange County that’s green-scored 169 points.

2005 brought a big-buck blizzard.

North Carolina experienced a strange 2005 weather year, especially during deer season.Cold fronts normally begin to sweep through the state during November after the first frosts of late October. And that makes for ideal hunting conditions for white-tailed deer, especially big bucks.

Every deer hunter in the Tar Heel state looks forward to November because its first three weeks are when whitetails basically lose their minds. It’s not very good for automobile drivers as deer seem to be on the roads 24-7, darting in front of vehicles like wind-blown leaves (NCDOT estimated a record 15,509 deer-car collisions during 2004).

Basically what happens is the mating season — bucks chase does, trying to catch them to make little deer.

During daylight hours the remaining 11 months of the year, antlered bucks — especially older specimens — are wary and rarely wander. But during November, a trigger snaps in their heads that says, “Let’s party,” and off they go, wandering across hill and dale for days at a time, without rest, looking for receptive partners.

It’s the best time for hunters to be in the woods because one never knows if a decent four-pointer, a nice eight-, or a heart-stopping buck with headgear that’ll push Boone-and-Crockett margins will appear.

Normally, though, it takes cold weather to really trigger a blizzard of wandering bucks, but that didn’t happen in 2005. It was hot — sweating, mosquitos-still-flying sweltry — during the early part of November, the “peak” rut (mating) period. So experts really weren’t looking for much of a big-buck harvest.

But a funny thing happened on the way to 2006.

Hunters began seeing and shooting big deer everywhere — bucks that pushed the B&C envelope (170 inches for a typical rack, 195 for a non-typical). The weather didn’t seem to matter; whitetails were on the move, and hunters were drilling them right and left.

North Carolina Sportsman received more photos of more trophy deer during November for its Bag-A-Buck 8 contest than any month in its history. Our November Bag-A-Buck collection piled up higher than September and October combined. And we received trophy buck entries from November long into December.

The good news is the experts believe N.C.’s two-buck limit across the central and western portions of the state is actually stock-piling big deer, as they predicted. Plus, many eastern N.C. hunters are being more selective, even in “deer-dogging” counties.

The bad news? There wasn’t any. We didn’t have a blue-tongue outbreak, and the Wildlife Resources Commission’s rules continue to keep Chronic Wasting Disease out of North Carolina.

So we thought you might like to see some of the Tar Heel state’s best bucks of 2005.

Peanut Belt Produces Another Giant
By CRAIG HOLT

Big white-tailed bucks always have been fairly commonplace at northeastern N.C., the “Peanut Belt” counties that annually produce the greatest number of deer for Tar Heel hunters.

During the 2005 hunting season the region surrendered not only lots of deer but shot to the top in terms of trophy animals.

During September, a Roanoke Rapids hunter, Brent Mabrey, downed the state-record non-typical bow-killed buck (green-scored at 182 6/8 inches) in Halifax County. Then Miles Minges of Greenville downed a 165 1/8 (gross) B&C Halifax County eight-pointer, a tremendous buck that may be the No. 1 eight-point typical ever collected in North Carolina.

Not to be outdone, right next door in Northampton County, 64-year-old Joe Sawyer, while taking a stroll Nov. 5 down a woods path at some of his hunt club’s land, knocked down a tremendous buck .

However, Sawyer didn’t seem particularly impressed by his accomplishment, perhaps because Northampton annually sees its share of trophy bucks, many of them never reported to media outlets but only admired among the county’s tight circle of deer-dog hunters.

“My nephew killed a 10-pointer two weeks earlier that had a 19 3/4-inch inside spread and weighed 185 pounds,” said Sawyer, a retired hospital food services administrator. “This one weighed only 175 pounds.”

During November, Sawyer was hunting at Lakeside Hunting Club land near Lake Gaston. He said the club had “25 or 30” permanent stands and “some of the guys use climbers.”

Several club members were still hunting that day, but dogs were on the loose, chasing deer.

“I think this deer had been chased by dogs, but I didn’t hear the dogs when I saw him,” Sawyer said. The leased land is cut by power line rights of way, which are good spots to hunt.

“We’ve got paths connecting the power lines,” the Elizabeth City native said. “I was just slipping along one of those paths, looking in the woods for deer, when this buck popped out in front of me. I don’t think he saw me.”

Sawyer wasted no time in raising his Remington 1187 shotgun and took two shots at the buck standing “25 or 30 yards” away.

“He didn’t act quite right, so I shot him again after the first shot,” he said.

The buck jumped off the path but collapsed 15 yards from the trail, its torso drilled by a dozen buckshot pellets.

Sawyer, who is familiar with the Dixie Deer Classic, and his taxidermist, Earl Thorpe of Virginia, put a tape on the buck’s rack several weeks after Sawyer downed the big buck.

Its greatest inside spread measured 17 4/8 inches, and the right main beam was 20 5/8 inches in length. The right side tines were 4 7/8, 11, 10 5/8, 8 6/8 and 6 3/8 inches long. The circumference measurements of the main beam are 3 6/8, 4, 4 1/8 and 4 2/8 inches.

On the left side, the main beam is 23 6/8 inches with the tines totaling 4 5/8, 10 2/8, 11 2/8, 7 6/8 and 1 4/8 inches. The circumferences are 3 7/8, 3 6/8, 4 4/8 and 4 1/8 inches.

The rack, with 11 4/8 inches of deductions, totals 171 2/8 gross inches and has a net score of 159 6/8.

“Every deer I have on my wall, I started hunting for about Nov. 8 or 9, and I killed them between that time and Nov. 20,” Sawyer said.

He said he had a mounted 10-pointer he killed at the same area in 1984.

And there may be more deer in his future. Sawyer said he’s got a lot of time to hunt.

“I don’t have a whole lot to do, just messing around,” said the former kitchen manager at Halifax Regional Hospital. “I had to retire on disability because of rheumatoid arthritis 10 years ago. It’s sapped my energy, but I find a few days to go deer hunting.”

Timberlake Provides Another Trophy
By CRAIG HOLT

When word comes that a tremendous buck has been killed near the Timberlake area of southern Person County, no whitetail hunter in North Carolina is surprised.

After all, the top two non-typicals on the N.C. list came from Person County, including the state’s all-time No. 1, a 228 4/8 monster taken in 1998 by Hickory’s Don Rockett. The previous No. 1 non-typical, a massive 209 2/8 buck killed by Stuart Gentry in 1996, also fell in Person County, although near Hyco Lake in the northern part of that county.

Rumors of another tremendous buck filtered across central N.C. during late November 2005, a deer killed within 1/2-mile of the Rockett buck. So those genetic big-antler traits happily are still within the Person County deer population.

This buck came from a 500-acre corn, wheat, soybean and tobacco farm that isn’t hunted by its two owners, who allow a hunt club to still hunt or run dogs to hunt deer.

Bruce “Monkey” Chambers, 38, of Timberlake bagged the buck Nov. 22, 2005.

“I got off from work (at Durham’s Comfort Engineers) and drove over (to the farm) to see what was going on,” he said.

Finding no one hunting, he was headed for his home “when I saw a buck in a field” at the farm where the club hunts.

“I had no idea it was a buck of this caliber,” he said.

He turned off the U.S. 501 onto a dirt road, grabbed his Browning .308 rifle with an old Redfield scope and walked toward a strip of woods 50 to 75 yards wide. He eased through the woods, walking across a creek to the edge of a field on the other side where he saw the buck.

“I still thought it was an eight-pointer,” he said. “He had his head down, like he was trailing a doe, although I didn’t see a doe.”

Chambers said the wind favored him, and the deer never sensed his presence.

“He looked at me and didn’t notice me,” he said. “I had on a camouflage jacket. It was right before dark, probably about 5:15 p.m.”

The buck never stopped walking, Chambers said, and he raised the .308 to his shoulder, put the crosshairs of the scope on the buck’s side behind its shoulder, aimed without a rest and squeezed the trigger.

“I hit him good; he fell and kicked a time or two,” the hunter said. “He was maybe 75 yards from me.”

The veteran hunter immediately left the area, driving the 2 miles to his home. He said he was going to call a friend, Tim Blaylock, to help him retrieve the buck, but as soon as Chambers got out of his truck, another buddy, Joe McKenna of Allenville, who helps him field a Friday night race car at Orange County Speedway, pulled into his driveway.

“I asked (McKenna) to come help me, so we drove back to the deer,” he said.

Once at the field, Chambers turned on his flashlight and shined it on the buck. When McKenna reached the deer, he said, “Man, this thing is huge.”

Chambers, who said he hadn’t seen a buck all year but saw 14 does the previous day, was stunned as well.

The buck has an extremely wide rack and many “sticker” points.

“It’s a main-frame 10-pointer and has a kicker on each (main beam) thats 2- to 3-inches long and one brow tine is doubled,” Chambers said. “Its inside spread is something like 18 inches and it’s good real good mass.”

The buck’s rack has 18 “points,” although Chambers said only 14 of them were the required 1-inch to be scored by the Boone-and-Crockett method.

Chambers found out how famous he’d become in the days after he killed the buck.

“It’s been crazy around here,” he said, “people coming by, the phone ringing. It’s been wide open.

“I’m just glad I thought it was an eight(-pointer) and didn’t get a real good look at its rack before I shot.

“If I’d known how big it was, I don’t think I could have hit him.”

WA Catcher Hits Homer
By CRAIG HOLT

Matthew Buchanan, 17, of Burlington is a catcher for the Western Alamance High School baseball team who also likes to hunt white-tailed deer.

His dad, Lawrence Buchanan, also enjoys hunting with his son. They both know the mating season during November is the best time to attract the attention of a trophy buck.

So their Nov. 18 plan was to head for some private land the elder Buchanan had leased in Orange County, a 100-acre farm with big fields of harvested corn and soybeans, where they’d seen some bucks.

“We’d seen some bucks there, but we didn’t know this buck was there,” said Matthew, who, during his nine-year hunting career, had taken just two does and three bucks, including an eight-pointer with a modest 15-inch inside spread.

“My stand was just a little ways into the woods at the edge of a corn field,” he said. “Dad was in the woods behind me about 30 yards.”

Matthew said after he pulled his .270 rifle into his tree stand, he tied some Wildlife doe estrus on a wick to the same rope and lowered the deer lure to the ground.

At about 5:20 p.m., the elder Buchanan began using a grunt call, hoping to attract the attention of a buck that would step into the open.

“The back part of the field is where we usually saw the bucks,” Matthew said. “So dad was grunting, hoping to pull one out of the woods back there and into the field.”

The strategy worked like the proverbial charm.

“I was facing the field and the buck came out to my right, so I was in kind of an awkward position, trying to turn to get my rifle on him,” the youngster said.

The big buck never stopped moving, too, and was coming straight toward Matthew and his dad.

“I had to shoot him straight on,” the WA senior catcher said.

Raising his rifle, fitted with a High Country scope, to his eye, Buchanan found the buck in his crosshairs, fired once and the deer fell in its tracks.

“I hit him in the neck and he went right down,” Matthew said.

“Dad didn’t know what had happened. He didn’t see the deer, so I yelled at him to ‘come on.’

Even after Matthew’s father arrived, he wouldn’t allow his son to descend from the stand, knowing that deer often will rise if someone approaches them shortly after being hit by a bullet or arrow.

“It was so early in the evening, too,” he said, “so he made me sit up there for 15 or 20 minutes. All the time I was trying to convince him that we should go get the deer.”

When they finally walked out into the cornfield about 30 yards from the edge of the woods, father and son were fairly stunned at the size of the buck’s rack and the numerous tines on its headgear.

“He was a pretty big deer, we figure weighing about 170 pounds, but his rack has 17 scoreable points,” Matthew said.

The buck — with an inside spread of 18 1/2 inches, G2s of 10 1/2 and 11 inches, G3s of 10 inches, and two sticker points of 3 and 4 inches off the left G2 — has been green-scored at 169 non-typical inches. Broken Arrow Taxidermy prepared the mount for the Dixie Deer Classic.

Durham Youngster Bags 20-pointer
By CRAIG HOLT

It’s not often a hunter gets a second chance at a trophy buck after a first encounter has spooked the deer.

But 14-year-old Stephen Murray of Durham, a 9th-grade student at Northern Durham High, not only got another try, it happened three years later. And he dropped a main-frame eight-pointer with 20 scoreable tines that may challenge for this year’s Dixie Deer Classic N.C. non-typical gun top prize.

“Three years ago was my first year bow hunting and me and my dad (Jeff Murray) went hunting one Friday afternoon,” he said. “A big buck came out of the woods to my right.

“He came in so fast I
couldn’t stand up, and he came right under me. I was a young hunter, and here he was right in front of me at 5 yards. (The rack) had kickers (abnormal points) off both G2s and kickers off its base. Well, I finally stood up, but he heard me and ran through the corn field in front of me.”

A year later while scouting, the youngster and his dad found a right main beam shed from a buck that had similar “kicker” points near the base. So they believed the buck had survived.

That season passed with no sign of the deer, but Nov. 23, 2005, during the Thanksgiving break, the youngster hunted the same Granville County area.

An accomplished archer (he gave up football to shoot at the world 3-D archery tournament at Columbus, Ga., where he finished fourth and the ASA Nationals at Hersey, Pa., where he was third), Murray was carrying a .243 Model 700 with a Vari-X III scope that day.

“About 3:10 p.m., I got in the tree stand, a box blind me and dad put there the day before,” he said. “It was on the edge of a cut corn field with wheat planted in it. Right beside it is a one-acre clover field.”

At 4 p.m., an eight-pointer came into the clover field, then nine does.

“The eight-pointer started chasing the does, and all but three ran into the woods,” he said. “Then the eight-pointer came back into the field and bedded down.”

At 4:45 p.m., Murray looked at the other end of the clover field, 130 yards away, and saw a buck moving in the woods.

“He came out about 20 yards into the field, then the eight-pointer stood up and started watching him,” the young hunter said.

The big buck was 110 yards away, standing 20 yards into the patch of green.

“He turned his head sideways, and I could see those kicker points on the G2s,” the 5-7, 165-pound former fullback said. “He came about 10 feet closer, then he turned and walked back into the edge of the woods.”

Murray said the experience was nerve-racking.

“I’m really breaking down by then,” he said, “trying to get on him (with the scope), but he’s moving in the woods. All I can see was his (white) rack.”

Then the buck turned and walked back into the field.

“He came out exactly where I saw my first buck of the year during bow season,” Murray said.

The buck walked 10 yards closer, so Murray figured he was approximately 90 yards away. He put the crosshairs on the buck’s chest, pulled the trigger and dropped the buck.

The 180-pound deer was Murray’s 11th buck and his top trophy.

“Overall, the rack scores 171 (Boone-and-Crockett) points, 166 net after deductions,” he said.

The outside spread is 21 inches and the greatest inside spread is 16 2/8. But the right main beam is 22 2/8 inches with tines of 4, 12 2/8 and 7 inches and beam circumferences measure 5 3/8, 4 7/8, 4 and 2 5/8 inches.

The right side sports six abnormal points of 2 4/8, 1 4/8, 2 2/8, 2, 1 1/8, and 2 1/8 inches.

The left main beam totals 24 inches with tines of 5 4/8, 12 1/8, and 8 4/8 inches. Circumference measurements are 5, 4 7/8, 4, and 2 3/8 inches, while abnormal points are 1 2/8, 2, 3, 3 1/8, 1 2/8, and 2 7/8 inches.

Even with those 20 points, the buck’s rack could have measured more — possible 195 inches — if it hadn’t fought other bucks.

“(The rack) had split main beams on both sides and he broke off one (tine) while in velvet, but it healed up, and he broke up another a week or two into the rut,” Murray said. “That one he broke off completely. He also broke off a kicker point at the base.”

Murray entered a 14-pointer two years ago in the Dixie Deer Classic’s Youth Division that scored 139 6/8 to finish third.

“I hope this one will score a little better,” he said.

Halifax Bow Hunter Tags Record Non-typical
By CRAIG HOLT

North Carolina state records for white-tailed bucks usually are broken in small increments.

But that changed Sept. 27 in Halifax County when Brent Mabrey of Roanoke Rapids, a former Halifax County deputy and a Tyco Plastics of Battleboro employee blew away N.C.’s non-typical archery mark that had stood for seven years.

Mabrey shot his record buck at 6:45 a.m.

Using a Jennings Carbon Extreme bow cranked to 65-pounds pull and Easton 2314 XX aluminum arrows tipped 100-grain Satellite broadheads, he arrowed the buck while it was standing 16 yards from his tree stand.

The buck’s antlers — scored officially during early December by N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologists Scott Osborne and Mike Seamster — total 176 7/8 net Boone-and-Crockett inches.

The Mabrey buck eclipses the former non-typical record by 10 6/8 inches. That Forsyth County deer was arrowed by Bill Froelich of Mocksville in 1998 and had 166 1/8 inches.

Mabrey’s deer has 23 total tines, 22 scoreable (1 inch or longer), and what appears to be two main beams on its right side. The 19-inch-long shorter beam was counted as an abnormal point.

A member of the Woodlawn Hunt Club in Ringwood, Mabrey said the buck was the first he’d killed with archery equipment.

The rack has a 22-inch greatest-inside spread, and the deer weighed 175 pounds.

Mabrey hunted out of the same tree stand the previous day and missed a seven-point buck. He placed his API Grand Slam tree stand about 6 yards inside a wooded area near a pasture.

“(The buck) was walking out into a pasture and came up a cow path (that led from a ‘neck’ of woods between two pastures),” he said. “I was aiming at his right shoulder, and the arrow hit him a little behind the knuckle (joint) of his shoulder.”

Mabrey’s arrow passed through the deer’s body and probably hit only one of its lungs.

He waited approximately 25 minutes, then climbed down from his stand. As he walked back to the clubhouse, he called friend, Brad Barnes, via cell phone, and they decided to give the buck at least 3 hours to settle down and expire.

Mabrey and Barnes returned about 10 a.m. and found the buck. Mabrey arrowed the still-alive deer a final time.

Its rack has nine scoreable points on the left main beam and 13 on the right side. It’s outside spread is 24 inches. Tip to tip the rack measures 19 6/8 inches.

The left main beam is 19 7/8 inches with the right side 21 1/8 inches. The G1 on the left side is 6 1/8 inches and 7 inches on the right. The G2s, respectively, totaled 8 and 11 4/8 inches. There is no G3 for the right side, so that antler credit is zero, while the left G3 measures 6 3/8 inches.

Circumference measurements of the 3×4 rack (between the G tines) were 5 1/8 and 5 2/8 (H1s), 4 and 4 2/8 (H2s), 3 7/8 inches for both H3s and 2 6/8 for the left side H4.

“I have three other bucks on the wall at my house, all killed with a gun,” Mabrey said. “I’ve got a 7- and 6-point that both are 18-inches wide, but nothing that compares to this buck.”

Is this Pender County’s No. 1 Whitetail Trophy of all Time?
By CRAIG HOLT

Even though the two-buck season bag limit doesn’t apply in eastern N.C. because of dog hunters’ requests, more hunt clubs and individuals who control land are interested in quality deer management.

Jason Lanier’s 168 3/8 (green-score) buck downed Oct. 29 in Pender County proves that point conclusively.

Lanier, a guest hunter that day at a local club after being invited by two members, said he’d hunted that morning without much success. In fact, the block of woods he watched for a deer to be chased within gun range by dogs had been mostly quiet.

“Most of the action was going on across the road at another section,” he said.

“I would have had a chance to kill a buck, but the dogs chased one toward the highway at a spot where I wasn’t close.”

After lunch, Lanier, who lives at Maple Hill, a nearby small community, decided that he’d move his set-up to the spot where the buck that morning had crossed the road.

“After lunch, I picked a place off the highway near the road that goes to the camp,” he said.

Listening on a CB radio, he heard people “on the other side of the block” (of woods) talking about a buck that had crossed a powerline.

“Greg (Lanier) came on the CB and I said I was a little jealous and maybe we ought to think about going over (where the other hunters were),” Lanier said. “About then, Greg said to hold on … he heard some dogs coming our way.”

Lanier climbed up on the dog box in the back of his truck and carried his Benelli 12-gauge loaded with 00 buckshot.

“About then I heard something in the bushes, then it got quiet,” he said.

The dogs bayed somewhere in the woods behind the deer, and then the buck stepped out into the road.

“The next thing I saw was those horns,” Lanier said, “and he stepped out on the shoulder (of the road) about 40 yards away.”

Lanier said he killed the buck with the first shot, but “I never stopped shooting until the gun was empty.”

He drilled the buck in the neck and heart with buckshot.

When he got down off the truck, he walked over to see “the biggest thing anybody’s ever seen around here.”

The 5×5 main-frame buck with one sticker point had an inside spread of 20 1/4 inches with main beams of 28 1/2 and 27 3/4 inches with longest tines of 11 1/2 inches (both G3s).

“The G2s and G4s are both around 8 inches long,” he said. “The kicker point is off one of the G1s and the other one has a kicker that’s broken off.”

William McLain and Wayne Lanier from Maple Hill scored the rack, along with Elton Tucker, an official scorer from Pender County, Lanier said, and the buck’s antlers totaled 168 3/8 Boone-and-Crockett inches.

“(Wildlife Resources Commission) biologist Vic French pulled the jawbone and said by the teeth and size of the deer, it was between 2 1/2- and 3 1/2 -years old,” said Lanier, 27, a Camp Lejeune civilian inspector. “It weighed 175 pounds.

“I’ve let several bucks walk and never had anything mounted, even though I’ve killed some nice 8-pointers, but you better believe this one is going on the wall.”

Polk Produces Rare Second Trophy
By CRAIG HOLT

Polk County isn’t a spot that N.C. deer hunters normally associate with trophy bucks.

If you scan the Dixie Deer Classic’s Honor Roll of high-scoring deer, you’ll find one entry — Mark McMinn’s 1999 non-typical that scored 177 7/8 Boone-and-Crockett inches.

But Larry Walker’s name might be added to the list this year.

At about 5:10 p.m. Nov. 24, the Tryon native pulled the trigger on a buck that’s been rough-scored at 147 5/8 inches. From its photographs, it might score even higher.

“I hadn’t seen this deer,” he said. “It was a new piece of (private) land where I acquired permission to hunt. It had a few rubs on 3-inch diameter trees.”

Walker placed his tree stand, a climber, in woods with mainly white oak and poplar trees. He went up a tree at 2:30 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

“I hadn’t really scouted that much, but I had found some nice trails going through the woods,” he said. “The area wasn’t all that hilly, just moderate. I don’t like to hunt game lands, so I talked to the (owner) about hunting there.”

Walker, 42, hung some Tink’s 69 deer lure scent on wicks on branches near his tree stand.

“It was windy and cool, the temperature, probably in the mid- to low-40s,” said the sanitation worker for the town of Tryon.

Walker said the buck was the only deer he saw that day.

“He came in by himself, with his head on the ground, which is why I think he was smelling the Tink’s,” he said. “He was about 60 yards away when I saw him coming out of a little thick area.”

Normally, he’d have had his 16-year-old daughter, Ashley, with him, but it was too cool for her that day, so she decided to remain at home.

“When the buck came within 35 yards of Walker, a hunter-education safety instructor for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, he raised his Remington .30-06, fitted with a Nikon scope, and took the shot.

“I hit him in the neck, and he went right down,” he said.

After Walker got the buck out of the woods and returned to his home, a friend came by his house, saw the size of the buck and called (local WRC enforcement officer) Toby (Jenkins). Jenkins took some photographs.

Walker’s buck has 13 points with a 20 6/8-inch inside spread and identical 24 4/8-inch right and left main beams.

“He’s a main-frame eight-pointer with five “kicker” points,” Walker said. “He’s got a 2 1/2-inch kicker coming off the left brow tine and the left main beam is split at the end. It’s got a matching one on the right tip that’s 1 1/2 inches long. The bases (of the main beams) are 5 inches around.”

Walker, who began deer hunting in 1985, also hunts deer in South Carolina and Georgia.

“The nicest buck I killed was probably an eight-pointer,” he said. “I’ve never shot anything of this magnitude.”

He hunts with three brothers who, when first told of the deer, were in disbelief.

“When I told my younger brother, he said, ‘Bro, you’re joking,’ ” Walker said. “But when he came over and saw the buck on the back of my truck, he said, ‘Oh, God, anybody but you shoulda done this.’ ”

Surry County Hunter Nabs Backyard Buck
By Ramon Bell

Tommy Ayers of Surry County loves to deer hunt, but a back injury kept him out of the woods and tree stands during the 2005 season.

He planted a food plot behind his house, so he and his family could watch deer throughout the year, especially during the hunting season. Ayers also knew if he shot a deer he could get help from friends to drag it out of the woods.

The day before Thanksgiving, Ayers needed a little help from his friends.

His daughter, Cassandra, was home from Appalachian State University, and they were in his living room, watching the food plot and deer coming out of the woods. About 5 p.m., several deer walked into the field. Ayers, who spotted four whitetails, asked his daughter if she saw them.

“No, I only see three,” she said.

A minute later, she said she saw a fourth deer.

“He’s just coming out of the woods to the right, and it’s a nice buck,” she said.

Ayers quickly realized she was seeing a fifth whitetail. So he moved to the window she was looking from and immediately knew this was one of two big bucks he and his wife, Debbie, had seen during September.

Before the pair spied the big deer, Ayers had called a friend, Bob Covington, to see if he would help Ayers retrieve and butcher a buck. Ayers had contemplated shooting one of the first four deer, a six-pointer, but he didn’t want to do so if Covington couldn’t help.

But now, when he saw this buck, there was no question about waiting for help. Ayers was going for a shot at this buck.

He scrambled into the next room, where he kept his hunting gear, and began throwing on camouflage pants, jacket, knit cap, gloves and an orange cap. He checked his gun twice to make sure he had a cartridge in the chamber. Then he told his daughter to turn off the TV, phone-ringer and anything else that could make noise and spook the deer.

Then he crept out the side door of his house onto the porch and crawled over to a corner where he slowly eased his .308 Remington 700 rifle onto a railing. He tightly wedged the rifle between the rail and a corner post, thinking this would steady the rifle. Then he squeezed off the shot as the buck was angling slightly away from him at 65 yards.

The first thing he felt was a sharp twinge between his eyes. He had not seated the butt of the rifle snugly enough against his shoulder and it recoiled backward. The eyepiece of his 3×9 Leupold scope stamped his nose just enough to draw first blood.

The buck made a lazy jump, then loped into the woods. Three of the other deer immediately ran, but the six-pointer stood there watching the big buck thrashing in the woods. After a while, it also walked into the woods.

A few minutes later, Covington called, and Ayers told him what had happened.

“I’ve shot a big buck and I’m not asking now; I’m telling you I need you and (your son) Rusty to help me get this monster out of the woods,” he said.

Billy Allen, a taxidermist who lives near Pinnacle, was uncharacteristically excited about the Ayers buck.

“This is the biggest N.C. buck I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Six days after Ayers shot the buck, I green-scored the 15-point non-typical, and it measured 172 2/8 net Boone-and-Crockett inches. The 8×7 rack gross scores 182 7/8 inches before standard deductions.

The inside spread is 17 4/8 inches with right and left main beams of 25 1/8 and 25 7/8 inches. The right and left G1s (brow tines) are 7 3/8 and 7 0/8 inches, respectively, with G-2s of 9 4/8 and 11 3/8, and G3s of 7 7/8 and 8 5/8. The G4 on the right beam is 4 6/8 inches, but is a full deduct because it has no matching G4 on the left side.

The rack has a 6 1/8 drop tine on the right main beam near the tip. There are five other lesser abnormal points — two more on the right and three on the left that measure from 1 1/8 to 1 7/8 inches in length.

Ayers’ buck weighed approximately 250 pounds.

Wayne County Trophy a Result of Scouting
By CRAIG HOLT

One of the tenets of good scouting practices for whitetails is to keep one’s eyes and ears open.

Matthew Phillips of Newton Grove followed that advice when some of his friends told him about a big buck they’d observed in southern Wayne County during archery season — a buck he’d never seen.

The result is one of the top N.C. trophies of 2005.

“Some of my friends had seen the buck in the past, right before bow season came in,” said Phillips, 20, an industrial-systems technology student at Wayne Community College and a part-time Georgia Pacific employee.

So 10 days after the eastern N.C. gun season opened, Phillips moved a 12-foot-tall wooden ladder stand he built the previous year and had placed behind his Newton Grove house.

“I’d also been over there (Wayne County) to scout and had seen where a buck had been scraping pretty good and I’d found a few nice-size rubs on trees maybe 3 or 4 inches in diameter,” he said. “(The buck) had made those rubs along a canal ditch that runs through the woods. That’s what made me want to move my stand.”

Phillips placed the stand about 75 yards to one side of a trail that featured the rubs and scrapes and eventually entered a harvested corn field. The young hunter placed his stand on the woods line, next to the field, so he could view the field and the trail’s entrance.

After his final class at community college ended Oct. 25, he changed clothes, drove to the corn field and climbed into his perch at 3:45 p.m.

“I didn’t put out any deer scent or anything like that, just wore standard camouflage deer ‘breakup’ clothes,” he said.

“It was getting to be about prime time, 5:15 p.m., for deer to move, and I remember looking to my left and seeing nothing, then I looked to the right and saw something come out of the woods and go into the field about 10 or 15 yards,” he said.

He used a railing he built on the stand to steady his Winchester .30-06 Short Magnum with a Simmons 3x9x40 scope.

“(The buck) was winding everything,” he said. “I was scared he might run, so I held aim just above his right shoulder. He was 100 yards out, walking broadside to me and straight out into the field.”

When Phillips pulled the trigger, the buck fell as if pole-axed.

“I don’t know if I pulled off (his aim point), flinched or what, but the bullet caught him behind his right ear,” he said.

A friend, Matt King, helped Phillips load the deer, which weighed a whopping 220 pounds.

The 12-pointer, with 25-inch main beams, has a 19 1/2-inch inside spread and 21 3/4-inch outside spread.

Taxidermist Brian Childress of Whitetail Creations said the overall gross non-typical score is 178 7/8 inches, the gross 10-point typical total is 174 inches, and the net typical score is in the upper 160s.

‘Goob’ gets a Granville Giant
By CRAIG HOLT

Granville County was one of North Carolina’s first big-buck regions, situated almost in the middle of the northern “trophy-belt region that stretches from Northampton to Ashe counties, paralleling the Virginia line.

Once nearly “shot out” of big bucks because so many hunters flocked to the area north of Durham (the Butner National Guard Reservation was “home base” for transplanted deer that eventually spread to all piedmont counties), Granville has the right genetic makeup and soil nutrients to produce outstanding racks.

Gary “Goob” Setzer, a Caldwell County resident of Hudson, proved Nov. 5, opening day of the 2005 central muzzle-loader season, the region still has its share of trophy bucks.

“Some (local) guys took us down there last year,” said the 37-year-old frame-maker for a furniture company. “We hunted the (Butner-Falls of the Neuse) game land. I killed my biggest deer (an eight-pointer).”

Two days before 2005 muzzle-loader season began, Setzer’s brother gave him a new in-line smoke pole, a .50-caliber CVA Optima Pro with a Nikon scope.

“We sighted it in Thursday night at home, then drove down (to Butner) Friday, got a motel room, then got up early to go hunting Saturday,” he said.

Setzer was in his Summit climbing stand by 5:30 a.m.

“I’d forgot to put out three scent “bombs” with Tink’s (69) doe-in-heat lure, so I just threw ’em out (of the stand) in three directions,” he said.

He said he heard something behind him about 7 a.m.

“That (buck) had a doe with him, and she gave him away,” he said. “I was trying to turn to my left, when he grunted, maybe 50 yards above her. I didn’t see all his horns, only that he had a fork in front. But I could see he had a pretty big body.”

Setzer picked up his gun, but the doe saw his movement.

“She didn’t blow (alarm snort) though,” Setzer said. “The buck stopped moving, and I was trying to get on him, but while we were sighting in my gun, I’d put (the scope) on 9 power, so all I could see was the fork (of one of the buck’s main beams).”

The hunter lowered his weapon and reduced the scope’s magnification to 3x.

“By then the buck started walking,” Setzer said, “but I finally found him in the scope.”

With the crosshairs on the buck’s shoulder, Setzer touched the trigger, and the rifle fired, billowing 100 grains of burnt powder and a 245-grain Saboted bullet.

“When the smoke cleared, I saw nothing,” he said. “There was no deer, no running, no crash; I thought I might have missed him.”

Setzer sat for another hour in the stand, then two does came running out of a thicket, trailed a few minutes later by four “mutt” dogs.

“I was talking (with a walkie-talkie) to my buddy, Tim Roberts, who was in a tree stand nearby. After I shot, he wanted to get down, but I said no,” Setzer said. “Thirty minutes later, after the does went by, he shot. He called to say he was gonna get down to look at his buck, so I climbed down too.”

Setzer walked to the sport where he’d shot at his buck, found blood, then he and Roberts trailed the buck through a pine thicket to an old logging road where they spied his deer lying 60 yards away in the road bed.

“His head wasn’t on the ground because his antlers were so wide,” Setzer said. “I killed the eight-pointer last year out of the same tree.”

The deer’s antler measurements are impressive, with an inside spread of 20 6/8 inches, a right main beam of 29 4/8 inches, a G1 of 5 1/8, G2 of 7 2/8, G3 of 8 7/8 and G4 of 5 2/8 inches. Circumference measurements are 4 4/8, 4 1/8, 4 2/8 and 4 2/8 inches. On the left side, its main beam is 28 6/8 inches with a G1 of 5 3/8, G2 of 7 2/8, G3 of 11 5/8 and G4 of 6 4/8 inches. The “H” (circumference) measurements on the left side ares 4 6/8, 4 1/8, 4 2/8 and 4 3/8 inches.

Setzer’s two brothers — including Rob, who killed a four-pointer that day — and Roberts helped him drag the big deer out of the woods.

The 5×5 mainframe 10-pointer has been green-scored at 170 7/8 total Boone-and-Crockett inches and the rack has a net score of 167 5/8 inches.

“He has one little sticker, a burr, next to his head,” Setzer said.

The rack has only 5 3/8 inches of deductions.

Hunter’s Luck Provides Buck at Currituck
By CRAIG HOLT

Nothing’s been as certain in recent years as finding big white-tailed deer at northeastern N.C. counties.

But those counties — Halifax, Edgecombe, Bertie, Martin, Northampton — have one common environmental characteristic: they’re part of the Roanoke River drainage.

Roanoke River counties have rich bottom lands, which mean good minerals for antler production, relatively sparse human populations, plenty of thick cover, and most of all, many large fields of agricultural crops (corn, soybeans, peanuts) for deer to eat.

Go a little further east and you start seeing true coastal-plain habitat — swamps, stunted hardwoods, longleaf pines — land heavily influenced by ocean salt, not a place you’d expect to find trophy deer.

Now that all may change.

Could one deer turn around attitudes? Maybe not, but when Currituck County — more known for its duck and geese than big bucks — produces a head-turning rack, maybe it’s time for a re-evaluation.

“There’s plenty of big deer around here,” said Aaron Mathews, 23, a fourth-generation guide who is reviving the family’s Aydlett business, Fourth Generation Outfitters (252-452-8243). His guide business also specializes in Currituck Sound waterfowl hunting and hunting swamps for woodies and mallards, particularly for fathers and sons.

Funny thing is, Mathews, who is following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Richard Mathews, grandfather Carson “Pop” Mathews and his dad, Jack Mathews, wasn’t supposed to be the hunter who bagged this particular buck, although he certainly knew it was at his property.

“I was at the Outdoor Channel Expo in Raleigh during the summer and did a $1-a-ticket raffle draw for a free hunt,” he said. “This 17- or 18-year-old girl won it, but she called the night before and said she had to cancel.”

With Mathews scheduled to guide several deer hunters the next day, but no one scheduled to sit in the stand where the raffle winner was scheduled to be, the guide decided to go there himself.

Mathews said he’d spent the entire summer cutting shooting lanes with a chainsaw and weed-eater through a big cutover where he places his deer stands.

“(The buck) came out at 6:30 a.m.,” he said. “Best thing about that cutover is it’s got lots of stuff for deer to eat, and they have places to bed down and hide.”

“When he came out where I could see him, all I could see was that big rack. He was chasing a doe.”

Mathews said the size of the buck’s headgear shook him up a little. But he’d also seen the deer’s image taken by trail cameras he set up before the season, so he knew a trophy lived in the area.

“When I finally got up enough nerve to aim at him, he was about 75 yards away from me,” he said. “Then he came about 50 yards and started quartering away from me.”

That’s when Mathews looked through his Leupold scope, put the crosshairs on the buck’s shoulder and pulled the trigger of his .308 Ruger rifle.

“He ran off and didn’t go 50 yards,” he said. “But he fell in the thickest place possible.”

Mathews said the weight of the buck (an estimated 200 pounds) made getting it loaded and transported difficult.

“It took three of us on the four-wheeler with my dad sitting on the front to keep it from rearing up,” he said. “And we had a bag of corn and another person on it, too.”

The rack has a 17 1/2-inch-wide inside spread with main beams of 21 4/8 and 23 1/8 inches. The right beam tines were 2 7/8, 6 6/8, 7 1/8 and 2 7/8 inches with circumference measurements of 4, 3 7/8, 3 6/8, and 3 1/8 inches. The left side tines were 4 2/8, 5 1/8, and 6 5/8, with a missing G4 that hurt the rack’s score. The circumferences are 4, 3 1/8, 3 5/8 and 2 7/8 inches.

The 10-pointer, scored by Tim McMahon, an Elizabeth City taxidermist, totals nearly 130 inches — which isn’t huge but is impressive for an eastern N.C. deer.

“There are bigger deer around here,” Mathews said.

Randolph Buck Pushes B&C Envelope
By CRAIG HOLT

Few deer seasons pass that Randolph County doesn’t produce an eye-popping buck, and 2005 was no exception.

Chuck Harris, 49, a Franklinville roofer and a serious deer hunter (he hunts four farms), bagged a 14-point, 190-pound beauty at 8 a.m., Nov. 25, between Ramseur and Coleridge.

And he killed the buck after his son missed the deer four times, and he thought he’d missed twice the same day.

“I possibly could have seen this deer last year,” he said. “I saw a nice buck at this farm, but I didn’t tell many people. It looked like it had a 20- or 21-inch (inside) spread (of antlers).”

Harris said he and his son also had seen some impressive rubbed trees, “not as big as a gallon coffee can” but not much smaller.

“My son, Jason, had seen him that morning and shot at him four times,” Harris said. “He called me on the (portable) radio, so I was coming to him. We were hunting about 300 yards apart.”

After putting up their climbing stands that morning, Harris said he heard his son shoot twice.

“He saw two does come running through the woods, and he took a shot at one of them because he wanted to get some meat,” he said. “But he missed. A few minutes later, he shot four times at this big buck and called me on the radio. He said, ‘Daddy, daddy, come quick; I shot a monster.’ ”

As Harris was walking towards his son’s tree stand, he got another call from his son who told him not to bother; he’d missed the buck.

“I happened to look over (at a pasture) about 250 yards away and saw a doe jump a fence and this (buck) deer was behind her,” Harris said. “I ran to the fence post, and he’s chasing her down into the pasture.”

Using a Remington .308 rifle with a Nikon scope, Harris fired at the buck. He guessed the shot at 250 yards.

“The doe went into a little thicket, but the buck stopped at the edge, so I shot again and he jumped into a thicket that’s below the level of the pasture,” he said.

After waiting a while and not seeing either deer, Harris decided to get his ATV and ride to the thicket.

“I looked all around, at the edge of the pasture and the thicket,” he said, “and found no signs of a hit. I evidently missed, I figured. So I started to get back on the four-wheeler and go get my son.

“But there’s a trail where a boy goes around (the thicket) to check on cows, so I decided I’d walk around it to see if I cut any sign.”

As Harris walked around a corner, the buck jumped up from underneath a pine lap 20 yards into the thicket.

“He ran into a little ravine and stopped 70 yards from me, and I shot and got him,” Harris said. “He made three jumps then landed in a little brush pile. It was just a matter of being in the right place.”

Harris figures he missed his first shot, then hit “a little far back” the second shot because the buck was “facing directly away from me,” he said. “I hit him right above the spine the third shot, and the bullet angled down into his vital organs.”

The buck, estimated at 190 pounds, totals approximately 166 Boone-and-Crockett points net.

“The inside spread is 24 1/4 inches,” Harris said, “with a left main beam of 27 inches and a right main of 23 6/8 inches. The G1s are 6 and 4 4/8 inches, and the left G2 is 8 inches, but the right G2 is broken off, leaving just 2 inches, so that hurts the net score. The bases are 5 and 4 5/8 inches.

“But it really doesn’t matter what he scores; I was tickled to death with this deer.”

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About Craig Holt 1372 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers, then serving as managing editor for North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.

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