Deer of the Year

Mark Petrantoni hunted this buck for 4 years, finally killing it at the end of December.

Carolina hunters killed lots of trophies in 2023

The 2023-24 deer hunting season in the Carolinas was a big success for many hunters. Numerous trophy bucks, first bucks, uniquely-colored bucks and meat-in-the-freezer bucks fell to sportsmen in both states. Some of those will make the record books in North and South Carolina, and many will no doubt be entered and displayed at the Dixie Deer Classic and Palmetto Sportsman Classic for official scoring.

Once again, our Bag-A-Buck Contest was our biggest ever, thanks to 500+ hunters submitting their photos. A good many also included some great details of their hunt, and we awarded monthly prizes as well as the grand prize for the contest.

Throughout the season, we continued to receive contest entrants from all across the Carolinas with exciting stories of their hunts. Piebald bucks, white bucks, bucks killed with airguns, bucks killed by grandkids hunting with grandparents, sons hunting with dads, sons hunting with moms, daughters hunting with moms, daughters hunting with dads, brothers hunting with sisters, friends hunting with friends, 85-year-olds hunting with teenagers. The stories we receive every year are all special and all point to the hunting tradition that transcends simply putting a bullet or arrow through a deer’s hide.

As is usually the case, it was a youth hunter that started things off for the 2023 contest. Mallary Ann Matthews of Alcolu, SC was our first contest entrant.

Matthews, 9-years-old, killed a 7-point buck in full velvet on Aug. 12, in South Carolina’s lowcountry on the state’s first youth day of the season. Her buck, which weighed 150 pounds, was a regular visitor on her trail cameras leading up to the season, and presented the young hunter with a clean shot.

That was not the only velvet buck entered, and one hunter, Laura Tucker, a regular at killing trophy bucks, killed her first ever velvet buck in Warren County, NC on opening day of North Carolina’s archery season.

Rosalyn Ballam, hunting in South Carolina’s lowcountry, continued her tradition of killing a buck in velvet in the Palmetto State’s early part of the season. The Charleston County 8-point buck she killed on Aug. 15 marked the fourth consecutive season she’s killed a velvet buck during opening week, and her third on opening day.

Dawson Durham was another “repeat offender,” killing two absolute behemoths. Savannah Banner’s 18-point buck (and 8-point later in the season) marked multiple years she’s had entries in the contest. Numerous others made their second, third, or fourth appearances in our yearly contest.

Many other notable hunters also entered this year’s contest. We appreciate every entry and wish we could show them all in this issue. We encourage readers to see them all at carolinasportsman.com/bag-a-buck-gallery. 

Blackard enters 200+ inch buck

Steven Blackard entered this brute in the Bag-A-Buck Contest.

The biggest buck entered, at least by green-score, in our 2023 Bag-A-Buck Contest was Steven Blackard’s Alamance County monster, which scored 201 4/8 inches.

Blackard was hunting on property that he’d just picked up during this past summer, and began capturing trail cam photos of the big buck in June.

“He was pretty regular on coming to the feeder with a couple of other deer. Opening Day was questionable with the weather and wind conditions, but I decided to go sit anyway,” Blackard said

It was a good decision, because the deer showed up, just like clockwork, and worked its way into giving the hunter a broadside shot from 26 yards away.

This buck is one of many entered in our contest that we hope to see at this spring’s Dixie Deer Classic. 

About Brian Cope 2800 Articles
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 brianc@carolinasportsman.com.

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