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You Just Never Know

By Brent Mabrey

Brent Mabrey
A 23-point crown with the makings of a third main beam and more than 60 inches of irregular antler add up to a new bowhunting record for North Carolina.

I headed into the woods early on Sept. 27, hoping to catch up with a 7-point buck I had missed the previous afternoon.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d wind up taking a buck whose rack carried three times as many points and break the state record.

In fact, if I’d known he was waiting for me, I probably wouldn’t have been able to draw my bow. I might not have been able to climb into my stand.

I am a member of the Woodlawn Hunt Club in Halifax County, N.C., a half-hour or so east of my home. I’ve hunted a lot and taken plenty of deer with a gun, but until my buddy, Brad Barnes, gave me his old bow, I’d never hunted during archery season.

My stand site was a good one. A couple of years ago, a big buck had been taken close by, and I had seen another in late 2004. It was one of the few places somewhat protected from the dogs that run on some of the leased land around ours. There’s a wooded field border about 50 yards wide behind the stand — a little island of woods in the middle of pastureland, making for a great deer funnel.

So on Sept. 26, the 7-pointer was in front of me most of the afternoon, but right before dark, I used the wrong sight pin and shot right over his back.

I was in my stand, about 20 feet up, by 5:30 the next morning. It was light about 6:45, and when I could finally see, an 8-point buck appeared 20 yards out in the pasture. I was standing up to shoot him when I heard another deer coming from behind me and to my left. It came out of the woods, jumped the fence and stopped.

Brent Mabrey
Brent Mabrey just wanted another shot at a lucky 7-pointer in Halifax County. Never did the novice bowhunter imagine dragging out the state record.

The second buck was bigger than the one in the field, but I didn’t think he was THAT big. I thought he was maybe 20 inches wide. I had left some limbs on the tree, both above and below my stand, because I don’t want to look like I am on a telephone pole. So I had to carefully find a shooting lane.

Every time the biggun moved his head, the 8-pointer jumped. I finally found a hole in the branches about 4 feet wide. My quarry was 13 yards from my stand; the bucks were 10 yards apart. When I shot, he ran like he wasn’t even hit. I never heard him fall.

I remained in my stand about 10 minutes, then got down and went to our clubhouse. I called Brad. It had rained, and I told him I needed his help looking for the deer.

It was a good three hours before we went to look for the deer. We went back in the woods, and about 10 yards in, I found the back two-thirds of my arrow where it had been broken when he ran past a sapling. We had a blood trail, but it wasn’t heavy. Then we came into an opening, and Brad looked up and said, “There he is.” He lay in some reeds, and his chest was still moving.

Subscribe Today!When we got up to him, I was shaking so hard, I just about told Brad to shoot him. If I’d known how big he was, I don’t believe I could have pulled that bow and shot him. But I went ahead and he rolled over, kicked and was dead within 2 minutes. 

Pictures don’t do the buck justice; you’ve got to grab hold of him to believe it. The thought of having a record-book deer never occurred to me that day, but I’ve got two bucks mounted at home that don’t have the antlers that this one’s got on one side.

Buckmasters Trophy Records scorer Darryl Rodgers measured the rack in early December, and at 177 1/8 (without the 21 1/2-inch inside spread) it was certified as the biggest irregular buck ever taken in North Carolina with a bow.

-- Reprinted from the September 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine

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