Gastonia hunter scouts trophy buck all season, kills it on last day

Dillon Vaughn killed his season-long target buck in Gaston County on the last day of the 2017-18 deer season.

9-point buck had 21-inch spread

Dillon Vaughn of Gastonia, N.C. had an early encounter with a big Gaston County 9-point buck that was just out of bow range. For the rest of the 2017 season, he scouted for this deer, and finally killed it on the last day of the season. The buck carried a 21-inch spread.

“My first encounter with the buck was around Halloween while walking to my stand. He was chasing a doe across a ridge and I couldn’t pull my bow back quickly enough. I came back to within 70 yards behind some brush, so taking a shot was out of the question,” he said.

Vaughn scouted the deer with his trail camera, but he had to move the camera several times to finally get consistent photos of it, and to get a feel for what he needed to do in order to kill his target.

“I would get pictures of him for a couple of days, and then he would go ghost for a couple of weeks, and all my pictures of him were at night,” said Vaughn.

At this point, Vaughn realized he needed to get more aggressive in his scouting, so he made the decision to move his camera in hopes of getting more photos, preferably during daylight hours. He continued with this strategy throughout the rest of the season.

“I would move a hundred yards and set up a camera, and move another hundred yards, and so on, until I began getting photos of him regularly,” he said.

And once Vaughn knew he was hunting the right spot, he knew it would only be a matter of time before the deer slipped up and made a mistake, but things went down to the wire. On Jan. 1, the hunter had obligations that kept him out of the woods during the morning, so he climbed into his stand around 3 p.m.

“Around 4:30, I heard a deer coming from the thickets crossing the creek. I looked to the left and saw G2s above the thickets. I knew it could only be one deer. He began walking towards me on the side of the ridge, totally unaware I was there. When he closed the gap to 50 yards, I shot him with my Browning .280,” said Vaughn.

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Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at