Carolina Sportsman’s top 20 stories of 2019

top 20 stories
Here's Carolina Sportsman's top 20 stories from 2019.

Let’s ring in the new year with a look back

As we turn the calendar to a new year, it’s only natural to look back over the previous one. Carolina Sportsman had a great 2019, and we hope all of you did too. As we move into the new year, let’s look back at the top 20 stories from

Big deer stories dominated the top 20, but GIANT tuna, a trophy walleye, and a flying catfish that shattered an SUV’s windshield made it as well. And flounder were a big topic for many reasons, including the closed season in North Carolina. These are all excerpts of the full articles. Click on the individual titles to read each article in its entirety.

And…Happy New Year!

1. Guilford County hunter drills 31-point nontypical buck

Tory Pegg of Kernersville, N.C. isn’t likely to have another opening day of bow season like the one he experienced on Sept. 7. Just before dark in one of Guilford County’s pristine oak forests, Pegg released an arrow dead inside the engine room of a 199 4/8-inch, 31-point buck at only 10 yards away from his stand situated high in the treetops.

Tory Pegg poses with his Guilford County beast from opening day of the 2019 archery season.

Yet, this buck’s arrival wasn’t quite a surprise for Pegg. He had multiple photos of the deer on his farm from last year and the deer’s antler mass increased at an unusual rate since his 2018 appearance.

2. NC hunting/fishing license fees to increase on Jan. 1

Hunters and fishermen in North Carolina will pay a fee increase in 2020 to get in the woods or on the lakes and rivers.

increaseThe N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission announced an increase to license fees a few months ago. They will take effect on Jan. 1.

Most license fees will increase by a few dollars, whether they’re short-term, annual, or lifetime licences.

3. Roseboro huntress kills Sampson County trophy

Katie Robinson Smith of Roseboro, N.C. killed her biggest deer ever last Friday, Oct. 18. The 11-point buck had dual split brow tines and weighed 205 pounds. She killed the brute, which has been green-scored at 163, in Sampson County in the little town of Turkey. It was her first time seeing the deer, either in person or on trail cameras.

Sampson County
Katie Robinson Smith’s 11-point Sampson County buck has been gross green-scored at 163 inches.

And Smith didn’t even plan to sit in that stand. Her original stand was swarming with wasps, so she moved on to the next closest one.

4. N.C. hunter downs giant Anson County buck

Jordan Tucker of Morven N.C. killed his biggest buck in Anson County on Nov. 2. It was a buck he’d seen on trail cameras throughout the past two years. The buck has been green-scored at 167 net inches.

Tucker buck
Jordan Tucker of Morven, N.C. killed this big buck in Anson County on Nov. 2, 2019.

Tucker was hunting on private land that’s loaded with food plots. The big buck started visiting this year in September, and came in regularly. But all his visits were during the dark of night or for only a few minutes of daylight in the early morning.

5. Broadway, N.C. hunter kills trophy, unique-racked buck

On Nov. 3 while hunting on private land in Harnett County, N.C., Josh Kelly of Broadway, N.C. killed a giant buck he’d seen on camera only once earlier this season. With an inside spread of 22 inches, the rack is curved downward at the tips, making for a unique trophy.

Josh Kelly of Broadway, N.C. killed this big buck, Diablo, on Nov. 3, 2019 in Harnett County.

The buck has been green scored at 156 inches gross, and 145 5/8 net.

The hunt for this buck actually started months earlier. On Sept. 23, Kelly was checking one of his trail cameras when he saw six photos of the deer, from all different angles. He was astonished at what he saw.

6. Morven, N.C. hunter kills trophy buck in Chesterfield County, S.C.

Nov. 9 marked seven years since Blake Leviner of Morven, N.C. had killed his last buck. But the spell was broken that day, and Leviner killed the biggest buck of his life while hunting in Chesterfield County, S.C. The 9-point buck had a mainframe 8-point rack with a five-inch tine coming out of the base.

Blake Leviner buck
Blake Leviner killed this trophy buck in Chesterfield County, S.C. on Nov. 9, 2019.

Leviner’s buck has been gross green-scored at just over 156 inches.

Leviner first saw the buck on camera on Oct. 17 after getting in on a new hunting lease. His trail camera sent him the photo, showing the big buck during daylight hours. But Leviner was in Nashville at the time. He made up his mind to hunt that buck every chance he got for the rest of the season.

7. N.C. taxidermist kills massive buck in Person County

Mount Tirzah, N.C. taxidermist Curtis Vaughn  of Curtis’ Taxidermy spends a lot of time preparing mounts of game animals, predominantly whitetail bucks. It’s not often he gets a chance to hunt, but he got out of the office on Nov. 13 and killed a Person County buck that’s been gross green-scored at a whopping 174 1/8 inches.

Curtis Vaughn buck
Curtis Vaughn got out of his taxidermy shop and into the woods long enough to kill this Person County, N.C. beast.

The 17-point buck had double brow tines, and Vaughn dropped to his knees when he put his hands on the deer’s antlers.

8. N.C. hunter kills massive Buncombe County buck

Rodney McDaris of Weaverville, N.C. killed a 12-point giant of a Buncombe County buck on Nov. 26 around 5 p.m. Rough estimates put the deer’s rack in the 170-inch range.

Buncombe County buck
Rodney McDaris killed this Buncombe County brute on Nov. 26, 2019.

McDaris had been observing the deer though trail cam photos since August, but those were all nighttime photos until the last two weeks of November. He uses Covert Scouting Cameras, which send photos to his cell phone throughout the day. This allows him to observe the deer population without scattering human scent throughout the woods while pulling memory cards from the cameras.

9. Teen kills massive buck in Williamsburg County, SC

Youth hunter Lewis Hemingway of Georgetown, S.C. killed a massive, 24-point buck in Williamsburg County on Oct. 22 on the property of Back Woods Quail Club. The deer’s rack has been green-scored at 181 inches. The 15-year-old hunter had a slight history with the deer.

Hemingway buck
Hemingway’s buck is possibly the biggest ever killed in Williamsburg County, S.C.

“We saw pictures of it on our trail cameras for the first time in November 2018. We didn’t see him in person, but we were still getting trail camera pictures of him when I took the cameras down in January. And when I put the cameras back up in July, he was still there,” said Bill Hemingway, the teenager’s dad.

10. Marion hunter kills McDowell County 14-point buck

Ervin Smith of Marion, N.C. killed a McDowell County trophy buck on Thanksgiving morning. The 14-point buck was big in the body too. It’s the biggest deer he’s ever killed.

Smith killed the buck on private land, and was feeling a little bit down about putting in a lot of hours in the stand without success up to that point.

14-point buck
Ervin Smith of Marion, N.C. killed this brute in McDowell County on Thanksgiving morning, 2019.

“I got in the stand real early. Probably a good hour before daylight. I was feeling a little disheartened because I’d had some slow days. I’d seen a photo of that deer on one of my trail cameras a week before, and it was a daylight photo. So that helped motivate me to get in the stand before Thanksgiving dinner,” he said.

11. Lancaster hunter downs 160-class, 20-point buck

Mark Wuori wasn’t really planning to hunt on the evening of Oct. 27, but living within walking distance of his hunting property (and of his parents) paid off big time for the Lancaster, S.C. hunter. He killed the biggest buck of his life from a dove stool on the ground after realizing he had a little bit of free time.

Mark Wuori buck
Mark Wuori was sitting on a dove stool on the ground when he shot this massive Lancaster County, S.C. buck on Oct. 27, 2019.

The buck has been green scored at 162 2/8 inches as a non-typical.

Wuori shot the buck with a .30-06 that his dad gave him as a birthday present some years ago.

12. Catfish shatters car windshield in eastern N.C.

Living in the Carolinas, we all have to watch out for deer while driving. Most of us have either hit a deer, know someone who has hit a deer, or have had plenty of too-close-for-comfort experiences while driving.

catfish shatters windshield
A large bird dropped this catfish, which shattered the windshield of Rhesa Walston’s SUV in eastern North Carolina.

And then there’s Rhesa Walston of Washington, N.C., who hit a catfish while driving home from her mom’s house on the evening of Dec. 18. Or rather, the catfish hit her. And Walston wasn’t driving a boat.

13. Trophy walleye surprises Lake James bass angler

When Bryan Justice felt something 40 feet below the surface of Lake James slam his homemade jigging spoon at daylight on Dec. 7, he didn’t figure it would be a trophy walleye. He thought it was one of the fish he was targeting, a largemouth bass.

trophy walleye
Bryan Justice was bass fishing on Lake James when this trophy walleye slammed his homemade jigging spoon.

“It felt like a largemouth hitting. It immediately shook its head and came right up. When he took it, I said “‘Whoo, be a good one,’” said Justice. The 30-year-old warehouse manager from Arden, N.C. is an avid bass fisherman. “I told the guy who was fishing with me, Tom Wilburn, ‘Get the net. It’s a giant. If it’s a bass, it’s a 10-pounder.’”

14. Yemassee hunter downs huge Hampton County buck

When Brian Barton of Yemassee, S.C., settles down and decides to target a big buck he’s got on a trail camera on one of the properties he hunts, he bestows upon him a nickname.

So at daylight on Oct. 2, when he texted his buddies, “Elvis has left the building,” they all knew things had gone well.

Brian Barton killed this 14-point buck on Oct. 2, 2019 in Hampton County, S.C.

Barton’s “Elvis” was a 14-point, 180-pound buck. The trophy deer first showed up in a trail-camera photo last season, the day after Barton had killed “Big 12,” a nice 12-point buck that was the biggest of his hunting career.

15. Flounder harvest will close for N.C. anglers in August

North Carolina anglers, clear out some room in the freezer, sharpen your hooks, and get on the water. You need to stock up with flounder filets right now. Harvesting of flounder is about to end for the rest of 2019 for North Carolina anglers.

Flounder closure
North Carolina’s flounder harvesting season will close in August for an extended time.

During their upcoming management meeting in August, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will vote on final approval of Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. If approved, which all signs indicate it will be, harvest of flounder will cease on Aug. 23.

Harvesting of flounder will open back up sometime in 2020, probably in late summer or early fall. That season will be open for approximately 10 weeks.

16. Pee Dee Wildlife Refuge gives up massive buck

Jared Troublefield of Stanfield, N.C. killed a buck that had a massive rack in Anson County, N.C on the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge. The thickness of the antlers contributed to its impressive net green score of 175 5/8 inches. It’s a mainframe 10 with a couple of stickers, and Troublefield had no trail camera photos or any history at all with the buck.

Pee Dee Wildlife Refuge buck
Jared Troublefield poses with the big buck he killed on the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge on Nov. 14, 2019.

He killed the buck on Nov. 14 in the early afternoon.

17. Trinity, N.C. huntress drops 9-point trophy buck

Katie Ivey of Trinity, N.C. killed her biggest buck ever in Randolph County on Nov. 4. She killed the 130-class, 9-point buck with a muzzleloader while hunting with her dad. Hunting is a passion for Ivey. She spends plenty of time in the woods, and she’s very selective in what she shoots. She’s let plenty of deer walk, but she wasn’t letting this 195-pound buck with a drop tine get away.

Randolph County buck
Katie Ivey of Trinity, N.C. was hunting with her dad when she killed this 130-class, 9-point buck on Nov. 4, 2019.

“I had the buck on camera one time, but I never saw it while hunting. And I never got another photo of it. So I figured either someone else shot him, or he found another place to go,” she said.

18. N.C. hunter kills Sampson County giant 10-pointer

Tyler Lawhorn of Newton Grove, N.C. killed a Sampson County giant buck on Nov. 23. The 10-point buck has been green-scored at 154 7/8 inches. Even though he knew the buck was a trophy from trail camera photos, he was surprised at the size when he saw it on the ground.

Sampson County giant
Tyler Lawhorn killed this Sampson County giant on Nov. 23, 2019.

“My buddy and I had been hunting this deer for about two years. We never had a daylight picture of him. We went up to Ohio to hunt and we got a daylight picture of him then. I was bummed out because I was all the way in Ohio,” said Lawhorn.

19. N.C. huntress kills Alamance County giant buck

Lacie Layne killed an Alamance County giant buck on Dec. 21. The 10-point buck was green-scored at 166 3/8 inches, and it’s her third buck ever taken. And this is only the second year she’s had a North Carolina hunting license.

Alamance County giant
Lacie Layne killed this Alamance County brute on Dec. 21, 2019.

While somewhat new to hunting, she met Jeremy Evans, an avid hunter who quickly took her under his wing and taught her all the right moves to make her outdoor dreams become realities.

“Jeremy is a wonderful teacher and the best hunting partner ever,” she said. “We can’t argue because you have to be quiet in the woods.”

20. 800-pound bluefin tuna caught out of Atlantic Beach

It’s BIG bluefin tuna time off North Carolina’s coast, and offshore anglers are not disappointed in the action.

Jim Ellis, Adam Clark, and Mickey Patel caught this 800-pound bluefin tuna on Dec. 10.

On Dec. 10, the Pathfinder crew caught an 800-pound bluefin. It’s the largest bluefin to hit the Atlantic Beach docks so far this year. Jim Ellis, Adam Clark, and Mickey Patel teamed up to catch the beast on Baitmasters of South Florida paired up with Blue Water Candy Lures, and rigged up at Chasin’ Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach. It was the Pathfinder team’s first bluefin of the season.

For a look back even further, click here to see our top 10 stories from 2018.

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Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1650 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of 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

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