Rockingham County hunter takes down 142-inch, 12-point trophy

Matt Isley was hunting with his muzzleloader on the Thursday before rifle season opened when he killed this big buck in Rockingham County on Nov. 8, 2018.

Muzzleloader hunter gets big deer before rifle season started

Matt Isley of Rockingham County killed the biggest deer of his life on Nov. 8 when the 12-point buck he’d been observing on trail cameras showed up about 8:30 a.m. The deer has been green-scored at over 142 inches.

Isley works swing shifts, so getting into a regular hunting schedule isn’t easy for him. But the big buck seemed to be on its own schedule too, showing up at odd times for a deer that’s kept himself alive long enough to reach trophy status.

“He showed up on my trail cam at 4:30 in the afternoon one day, 5:30 in the afternoon the next day. One day he came in at 8:30 in the morning. Usually deer like that only show up at 1 or 2 in the morning, but this one was on his own schedule,” said Isley.

Earlier this year, one of Isley’s neighbors told him of a big buck he had on trail cameras, but then that buck disappeared for a while, checking back in only once in late October. They didn’t know it at the time, but the buck is the same one Isley killed on the 8th.

“With my work schedule, I didn’t know if I’d ever get a shot at the deer. My wife also hunts, and I’d told her that if she ever saw that deer to shoot it. I went that Wednesday morning and didn’t see anything, then got into the stand again Thursday morning and it was slow. I wasn’t even seeing any does. Then all of a sudden, I saw a buck coming into the clearing. I looked through my binoculars and said to myself ‘that’s that big deer,’” he said.

Isley was tempted to shoot right away, but held off until the buck closed to within 80 yards. Then he dropped the hammer on it with his Thompson Center muzzleloader.

“I was sure I hit it. It kind of jumped, then ran off. One of my buddies was hunting nearby and heard me shoot. He came over to help me look for it. We found a good blood trail right away and found it about 60 yards from where I’d hit it,” he said.

Isley is having Keith Knight of Knight Taxidermy take care of the taxidermy duties, and said he’s glad he was able to kill the deer that week, since rifle season was opening that weekend.

“Once rifle season came in, and with that deer showing up during daylight hours so much, I don’t think it would have lasted long. I’m glad I was able to get it before that,” he said.

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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