Youth hunter kills big 9-point buck with an air rifle

Nicholas Thomas of Heath Springs, S.C. shot this 9-point buck with a Benjamin Bulldog air rifle on Nov. 16, 2019 in Lancaster County.

He killed the deer with a Benjamin Bulldog .357

Youth hunter Nicholas Thomas of Heath Springs, S.C. killed his biggest buck on Nov. 16 in Lancaster County. And he shot it with an airgun. It’s the third deer he’s killed with the gun this season.

The 17-year-old spent a lot of time over the past year or so helping an 18-wheel truck driver keep his vehicle clean and serviced, and saved up his own money to purchase the rifle, which is a far cry from what pops into most people’s heads when they hear the word “airgun.”

Thomas’ airgun is no Red Ryder. He shot the 9-point buck with a Benjamin Bulldog .357, a powerful, lightweight air rifle made in the bullpup configuration, which places the magazine and action behind the trigger rather than in front of it like traditional rifles have.

“When I first started hunting, I was using a .22 air rifle for squirrels. I still love hunting them with that gun. And I just progressed into wanting to hunt deer. I started watching a lot of YouTube videos on the Benjamin Bulldog, and decided I wanted to get one for deer,” he said.

Even though he’d seen some pretty convincing videos and read all the specs on the Bulldog, he was a little apprehensive about shooting a deer with an airgun at first.

Thomas took a couple of warmup hunts before encountering the 9-pointer

“I shot a spike with it first. I killed it clean, and then I went hunting for a small 6-point buck with a messed up rack that some friends wanted me to cull off their land. And I had no problem taking down that deer either,” he said.

But Thomas had his eye on a buck he’d spotted on trail cameras on his dad’s property. On the morning of Nov. 16, he was in a stand overlooking an oak grove with a thicket below it. He anticipated seeing the buck come out of that thicket and into the oaks to eat acorns. That’s pretty much what happened, except it was a different buck.

The Benjamin Bulldog .357 is a powerful air rifle made on the bullpup platform.

“The one on our trail camera was smaller than this one. The morning I shot this one, I was sitting in the stand and looked to my left and saw this one. He was standing there looking at me. Then he dropped his head to eat and I just started shaking,” Thomas said.

He pulled the trigger, heard the pellet connect, then said he had to get out of the ladder stand.

“When I shot him, I had to get out the stand I was shaking so much,” he said.

Lack of a blood trail turns into lots of a blood trail

The deer had run off, and at first, Thomas didn’t find any blood. He started to get a little worried.

“I started tracking him and got nervous. I wasn’t seeing any blood at all. Then when I got about 30 yards from where I’d shot him, there was blood everywhere,” he said.

And 20 yards away from the site with all the blood, Thomas found the buck. He was shooting a 145-grain ballistic tip pellet, and said each deer has reacted the same way to the gun’s impact.

“I didn’t think it would get them bleeding so much, and so quickly. The spike did the exact same thing this deer did. They both ran about 30 yards before they started bleeding, then blood just started pouring out of them. I haven’t had a pellet pass all the way through one. It’s gone through both lungs, then got stuck on the inside of the skin,” he said.

“I love hunting with this gun. It’s a lot of fun. And I want to thank my dad for putting me in such a good spot to hunt. This was a nicer deer than we expected, and it came out from exactly where we thought it would,” said Thomas.

About Brian Cope 2787 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

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