12-point buck had a unique rack
My hometown is Walnut Cove, NC and this deer was harvested in Stokes County, NC.
This was a deer that I first got pictures of in early July and immediately knew that this was going to be a very unique buck. From what I could tell he already had 10 or 11 points including some kickers on his antler base with still a good two months of growing left to do. It became a routine of mine that I would regularly freshen the minerals and bait I was putting out for him each week and pull the card. I was really hopeful after the first several card pulls because it showed that the buck I was after and two others were using my site nearly every single day.
This pattern continued all the way to a few days prior to North Carolina’s opening day of archery season. I knew as much as those bucks were using the area that I would likely get an opportunity at my target deer, but I was hoping he would hold his velvet. I thought that if he was to shed it something different could happen and he could change what he had been doing for so long. September 11th came and I had already made the decision to not hunt the mornings due to the bucks being active on the site around 4-5:00am…the time I would be walking in. A good friend of mine who is a veteran deer hunter advised me there was a good chance of bumping that deer if I tried to morning hunt.
Buck loses its velvet
Opening evening I carefully walked through the woods to my Ameristep ground blind setup 25 yards from my bait. There was a southwest wind that evening which was exactly what I needed to hunt that spot. Despite everything being set up great no deer showed up.
It wasn’t until the next day that I realized what had happened after I put out more bait and checked my camera. The last picture I had of the buck was on sept 10th and he was about to shed velvet. Initially though after looking at the pictures the thought that the buck had been harvested by another hunter slipped in my mind because of how he had shown everyday for so long then no more after opening morning. It definitely was one of those “what-if” moments.
After hunting the 2nd day of the season and only seeing a doe, I settled into my ground blind again on september 13th after pulling the card from my camera. I was scrolling through pictures in my blind then out of nowhere… there he was! He had come back through the previous night at 11pm and then again at 3am. This time he was almost completely clean from his velvet apart from some hanging from his base. It was a great feeling knowing I still had a chance at this deer I had been watching all summer and although he only came through at night the last time he came through at those times he would also show in evening shooting light.
Buck shows up
I felt fortunate the wind had been favorable for me the first several days of the season and with the woods I was sitting in slowly getting darker my eyes caught something coming. The buck slowly made his way directly in front of me and before I knew it I was sitting within 30 yards of this deer. It took some patience before he finally turned his body enough that I could get a clean shot at his vitals. As soon as he was where I felt confident I released my shot aiming right behind his front shoulder. There was an instant loud “Thwack” sound so he had been hit solid.
After giving the deer not quite an hour to expire, a good friend and I tried to go in and track the deer. We were unable to find any blood trail and after searching for nearly an hour we made the tough decision to come back in the morning. It was less than ideal, but sometimes it is just a part of hunting and all you can do is make the best of the situation.
That next morning me and my buddies continued the search for this deer and after recovering the blood-covered arrow we knew this buck was down somewhere. It took us a while as we were trying to cover ground through the thick growed-up woods. Eventually we made our way down to the creekbed where we started walking thinking he may have gone to water. Slowly making our way alongside the creek I thought I noticed something red a good ways up, but I wasn’t positive. Sure enough though as we got closer it became clear it was my buck. The coyotes had found him over the night and had eaten him all the way up to about his front shoulders.
Hunter recovers enough for a mount
While I would have rather found this animal the night I shot him, all I can think is that I am just unbelievably grateful that we recovered this deer and after examining what was left it looked like I had just enough of the bucks cape left to still have a shoulder mount done. Dean Matthews of Dean’s Taxidermy in Pine Hall, NC confirmed this after I got it to his shop that while it was close, I should be ok for the mount. While the buck sported a smaller frame, he had 12 points that were over an inch long and his left antler base was so large I could not get my hand around it.
It was really something special to finally get my hands on this unique buck, it’s what makes all that time, money, and sweat a hunter puts into the deer they pursue all worth it!