Who says you can’t take a record-book buck on public land in North Carolina?
Story and photo by Matt Luck
Lifelong friend Jeff Myrick and I had been hunting a piece of land on the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge in Anson County, N.C., on and off for a little over a week. We had seen several decent bucks in the bean fields the weeks leading up to opening day of the 2003 bow season.
Jeff went to a spot on the edge of a beanfield the evening of Sept. 17, 2003. This was the night before a hurricane was about to make landfall off the North Carolina coast. The wind was pretty stiff for most of the evening. Thirty minutes before sunset, Jeff caught movement about 200 yards out on the other side of the beanfield. He later told me, “All I could see was a large set of snow white antlers shining in the sunset.”
It clearly was a good buck, but all Jeff could do was watch as it fed on the field’s edge. The hurricane washed out any chance of hunting on Thursday, but it was a fast-moving storm and cleared up late that night. I decided to hunt on Friday evening, Sept. 19.
I went to the place where Jeff had seen the big buck, while Jeff and a friend, Eugene, visited some other spots they had picked out earlier.
By the time, I reached the tree, I was drenched in sweat from the humidity and the long walk. A few hours later, the action began.
A small 5-pointer in full velvet showed up in the beans and started working its way toward my stand. I had already decided to pass because it had good potential. Besides, based on Jeff’s report, I was holding out for something bigger.
About an hour after the small buck had passed, four does came in and wasted no time heading out to the middle of the field. I was preoccupied glassing the does in the field when I kept noticing they were watching their back trail. I finally looked back to the right and saw antlers sticking out of the beans. At that point, the buck was 75 yards from my stand, and my heart was beating about 75 times a second.
An eternity passed before the buck started working its way up the edge toward me. At this point, my nerves had subsided and I was focused. With time running out, I decided to take a 35-yard shot. I got settled, put the pin on the point and released. It sounded like someone slapped their hands together when the arrow hit. The buck whirled around and high-tailed it across the beanfield toward the pines on the other side. It only took me a second to find the ground and head to the truck to meet Jeff and Eugene.
Once they arrived, I told them I’d arrowed the buck of a lifetime. Immediately, Jeff had an idea of what I had shot. We rounded up our tracking lights and headed back to locate the arrow and look for blood. We found the arrow and, 10 yards from it, a blood trail. We started tracking the brute across the beans, following good sign. I knew it was a big deer. We followed it into a block of woods on a worn trail. It took us several more hours of tracking, but we finally came upon it. To our surprise, it was still alive.
We backed out to give it some time. But on the retreat, Eugene tripped over a grapevine and fell. Alarmed, the buck stood. My heart sank because I knew the odds of finding a jumped deer. It bounded off, but it didn’t sound like it went far. Our decision was to begin tracking again in the morning.
After the longest night of my life and just two hours of sleep, we arrived back at the refuge, hoping for sweet redemption. At this point the tracking group grew with the addition of my wife, Jennifer. We went back to where we’d jumped the buck. Within 20 minutes, I finally heard those wonderful words: “Here he is!”
After it was all said and done, I had taken the fifth largest non-typical (P&Y) with a bow in North Carolina. It grossed 168 5/8 and netted 159 non-typical. My buck was measured for Buckmasters Trophy Records at 152 7/8 Semi-Irregular BTR (composite 170 3/8).
This article was published in the October 2005 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.