Southport hunter kills crazy-racked cactus buck

Cactus buck
Bubba Howard of Southport, N.C. killed this cactus buck in Brunswick County, N.C.

Buck had 27 points on its unique rack

Bubba Howard, of Southport, N.C., killed a cactus buck on Nov. 8 in coastal Brunswick County. He was hoping the first cold night of the year might get the big cactus buck he had been seeing on his trail cam to move before dark. It was a fortunate decision.

“I’ve been watching this big buck with the odd rack for two years on my trail camera. He has never shown himself before dark,” Howard said. “It was the first deer I ever saw on the camera at this location and was the first deer picture on it again this year. He was there during bow season, muzzleloader season, (and) early in gun season.

“I had become a bit addicted to hunting him,” Howard said. “I’d shot a few deer in this spot, but had passed on other nice deer fearing he was nearby and would spook. I moved my stand into the woods several times to watch trails and try to intercept him coming to the field while it was still light. So I guess now I can get back to going deer hunting.”   

Howards said that fateful Friday he slipped into his stand early. The the big buck finally showed itself with a few minutes of daylight remaining. It walked out of a thicket and around a holly bush, then stopped and stood about 40 yards from him. It was standing almost exactly where he had the first picture of it from several years earlier.

Howard almost gave up hope for the big buck

‘I was about to give up and accept that he hadn’t moved before dark again when a doe came out,” Howard said. “The doe looked back into the woods like something was following her. I jumped to full attention hoping it was him. A couple of minutes later he stepped out and I was shocked. He was even more impressive than his pictures. It took him a minute or so to turn and give me a shot. So I got relaxed and counted 17 points before he turned.”

Howard took the first shot with his Remington .308 at 40 yards. The deer bucked up and ran almost under his stand. He tried to shoot it again while it was running, but missed. It ran to about 60 yards from the stand, then stopped and turned. Some bushes shielded Howard’s view. All he could see was its neck. But a shot to the neck dropped it at that point.

“I know you’re supposed to stay in your stand for a few minutes to make sure a deer is down to stay. But I couldn’t make myself wait,” Howard said. “I knew I hit it with the first shot and it dropped like a rock with the neck shot.

Howard said this buck showed no “ground shrinkage”

“He had fallen with his head under some low bushes. I couldn’t see his horns when I first walked up,” Howard said. “I had to pull him out a little and roll his head over. My adrenaline was still going wide open at that time and I didn’t realize how heavy he was. But wow, what a rack. There wasn’t any ground shrinkage with this one. It was the most unusual rack I had ever seen and it was beautiful. It was still in velvet except for the tip of a few points. There were some strong feelings seeing this big guy finally on the ground.”

Howard said he plans to have the 27-point buck at the Dixie Deer Classic to be officially scored. He has a place on his wall picked out for a mount of the unique deer.

This is the first Brunswick County buck anyone can remember with Cactus Buck Syndrome. It had huge malformed antlers that were still almost fully covered in velvet in November. It had a testicle sack, but the testicles were missing or had not descended. Howard said it was following a doe, but its neck wasn’t swollen and it didn’t pay any attention to her once it left the woods. He felt like it was using the doe to check safety, but wasn’t in rut and didn’t have the instincts to breed. 


About Jerry Dilsaver 1171 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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