Northampton County deer hunters had a tremendous season in 2010-11, but no one experienced a better day than Tripp Todd, a 24-year-old Halifax County native.
Todd, who lives in Raleigh during the school year while attending Shaw University, traveled home for the opening of N.C.’s eastern-zone gun deer season. He was to hunt that day because he enjoys spending time with his grandfather, John Glover, and for a chance to bag a doe for some venison.
Todd had no idea he would kill the highest-scoring buck taken in North Carolina during 2011.
His whitetail was one of several tremendous deer that won categories at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh during March, although none came as close as Todd’s to being a Boone-and-Crockett record-book qualifier.
John Kellett of the Northampton community of Conway also downed a great buck during 2010, but he used a bow and arrow to drill his award-winning non-typical.
Here are the stories of two trophy deer that further cemented northeastern N.C.’s reputation as a prime producer of fantastic non-typical bucks.
“I didn’t have a lot of time to hunt that day,” said Todd, who told his grandfather he would be forced to leave Northampton County at 2 p.m. that Saturday (October 16, 2010) to return to Raleigh in time to catch a short nap before working the night shift at a CVS Pharmacy.
“I’d left Raleigh that morning at 3:30 a.m. after working Friday night at CVS,” he said. “So I was pretty tired.”
Todd’s grandfather owns land near Margarettsville, just south of the Virginia border. The Meherrin River forms a boundary with the land where they’d hunt that morning after releasing a few deer dogs.
“I was on the edge of a thicket near the river,” Todd said. “In front of me was a 5- or 6-acre field with a bunch of tall grass growing in it.”
A few minutes earlier, he’d accompanied Glover into Virginia where his grandfather kept his dog pens. They loaded several deer hounds into the dog boxes on his grandpa’s truck and returned to the N.C. side of the border.
“Grandpa told me to drive back and get in the stand he’d built, then he’d release the dogs on the other side of the property,” Todd said. “The stand also has a good view of a path that turns at a corner in the woods and a soybean field, so I could see a good distance, enough to see any deer the dogs might push across the river.”
Thinking he had some time before he had to climb into the 15-foot-tall box blind his grandfather had built several years earlier, Todd paused at his truck to eat a breakfast snack of Nabs, Chef Boyardee raviolis and drink a Pepsi.
“I had a 12-gauge Benelli Super Black Eagle shotgun, loaded with 00 buckshot,” he said. “I was sitting there, eating my breakfast when I heard the dogs bay not too far away.”
He quickly grabbed his shotgun and sprinted toward the box stand.
“I was in the stand only a minute, when I heard dogs and splashes behind me,” he said. “A big doe had come across the Meherrin River.”
Todd said he was in the stand about 5 minutes when the doe crossed the river.
“I got ready to shoot her, had put the bead (of the front shotgun sight) on her chest when she turned and went into some woods,” he said.
Todd then said he sat back and “threw in a dip (of snuff)” into his mouth.
“I thought to myself it wouldn’t be too long before I’d have to leave soon and go back to Raleigh,” Todd said. “I sat there probably 1 1/2 to 2 more minutes when I heard something coming through the weed field in front of me. Whatever it was was pushing weeds down like a bulldozer.”
When the weeds parted, Todd saw a huge buck standing about 45 yards in front of him.
“I was going to shoot him when he came a little closer, but the doe that’d come by me earlier was being pushed my way again by the dogs and the buck stopped walking,” the hunter said. “It seemed like he was listening and looking, trying to figure out where that doe would come out.”
Todd said he could see only the whitetail’s huge rack, chest and front legs. The rest of its body was covered by weeds.
“I guess I must have moved because the buck looked straight at me,” he said. “I thought he was gonna jump back in the weed field, and I’d never see him.”
However, for some reason, the buck lowered its head (probably to get a better angle at the movement it’d seen in the box blind). That decision would be a fatal mistake.
“When he dropped his head, I shot him in the chest,” Todd said. “I thought he’d crumble right there. His knees got shaky, but he still was standing. Then he turned around to walk back into the weeds. That’s when I shot at him two more times.”
Todd had emptied his gun, so he loaded two more rounds of 00 buckshot in the chamber and quickly climbed down from the stand.
“I wasn’t going to give him a chance to get away from me,” he said.
He ran to where the buck had disappeared into the field.
“I saw blood where he’d gone (into the weeds), and I started following that, then I saw him standing in a small clearing about 15 yards from me, weaving back and forth,” Todd said. “I shot him in the side.”
Seven-and-a-half minutes had passed since Todd climbed into the box stand until the buck was on the ground.
When he first spied the deer, Todd said knew it was a decent buck, but he had no idea the deer’s rack would net 182 2/8 non-typical inches at the Dixie Deer Classic.
“I never saw all the (rack’s) kickers until I got to him,” Todd said.
The buck’s rack had six abnormal points, four on its left tines and two on its right tines. The inside spread measured 18 6/8 inches and the outside spread totaled 24 inches. The left main beam totaled 27 inches and the right beam was 25 6/8 inches. Its right G1 (brow tine) was 3 7/8 inches and the left G1 measured 4 1/8 inches. It’s right G2 tine scored 11 2/8 inches with the left G2 at 12 inches with the right G3 at 10 5/8 and the left G3 at 11 7/8 inches. The G4 on the left side totaled 6 1/8 inches while the right G4 was 7 1/8 inches.
Circumference measurements of the main beams were (right beam) 4 4/8, 4, 3 5/8 and 3 4/8 inches, while the left circumferences totaled 4 2/8, 4 1/8, 3, and 3 5/8 inches.
The rack had only 5 3/8 non-symmetrical (deductable) inches and 17 4/8 total abnormal inches.
The buck, which weighed 190 pounds, was aged by a taxidermist at 4 1/2 years.
“My uncle Matt hunts (this land) each morning and afternoon and my cousin farms part of granddad’s land and neither one of them had ever seen this buck,” Todd said. “But this area has good genetics. My great uncle, Don Glover, killed a 183 3/8 buck here in the past, and Craig Kuykendall killed a 187-and-change buck near here. Plus, the state-record non-typical bow kill (buck) was shot about 5 miles from here.”
Todd’s buck ranks 12th on the Dixie Deer Classic’s all-time non-typical gun-killed list.
GOOD GENETICS KEY FOR BOW KILL
Almost exactly a month before Todd used a shotgun to down the top-scoring N.C. buck of 2010 in Northampton County, John Kellett of Conway (also in Northampton) arrowed a trophy whitetail September 15 that totaled 155 6/8 inches and captured the non-typical bow award at the Dixie Deer Classic.
“I was scouting and getting ready for deer season when I found a good spot,” said the 23-year-old senior baseball player at Chowan University.
He discovered a cutover area that adjoined his family’s farm that held promise.
“I knew the back side of the farm had a lot of nice deer,” he said.
Because of prolonged drought, a nearby waterway, Kirby Creek, had dried up, but it was in the middle of a seasonally swampy area that joined the cutover.
“Each morning and evening the deer would pile out of that cutover and cross the creek bed to eat white oak acorns on our property,” Kellett said.
He placed his 15-foot-tall ladder stand a few yards from the edge of a 100-acre field near an oak ridge overlooking the dried-up creek bottom that joined the cutover. During a visit to the area two days before he shot his huge buck, Kellett found cow-like paths made by whitetails that had cut into the creek’s banks.
On the day of the hunt and four days after eastern N.C. bow season opened, Kellett, in total camouflage clothing, climbed into his stand and pulled up a Martin Monsterbuck Hunter compound bow. His arrows, Easton 400 APs, were fitted with Rage two-bladed mechanical broadheads.
“I had to do some farm chores, so I actually got in my stand a little late, about 5 p.m.,” he said.
It didn’t take long for whitetails to start appearing. After 10 minutes had passed, Kellett had watched eight bucks walk by just out of shooting range at 60 yards. Seven of those deer had “at least” eight points, he said, and one was a small four-pointer.
“I was frustrated, but I won’t shoot at a buck farther than 45 yards with my bow,” he said.
The eight bucks eventually walked out of sight, and Kellett began to wonder if he’d strike out that day after seeing more bucks in 10 minutes than he usually saw in a season.
With only an hour of shooting light remaining, his brother, Michael, in a tree stand about 300 yards away, text-messaged Kellett alarming words — “Big bear!” A few minutes later, he received the same message forwarded from his father, Mike, that a large black bear was near his brother’s tree stand.
“I messaged them both back and asked what was going on,” he said, “and almost exactly when I hit the send button, a buck with a large set of antlers walked out of the cutover in front of me and headed down the creek bank about 40 to 45 yards from me.”
When the buck appeared, Kellett could see its rack held a set of antlers “that had points going in all directions.” The sight spooked him to the core.
“I knew this was definitely a shooter,” he said. “We pass up deer unless we’re going to hang them on the wall, but I knew this was a special buck.
“When he turned his head to look away from me, I drew back my bowstring. He was still about 40 yards from me.”
By then Kellett had regained his composure and was going to take the shot because he didn’t know if he’d get a better chance. But then the buck, which had climbed out of the creek and stood on the same creek-bank side as Kellett, turned and started walking toward the hunter, stopping every 5 feet or so to check out its surroundings.
With the buck 25 yards from his stand, it looked directly at Kellett, indicating it might have seen him. Caught cold, the hunter had to remain at full draw.
“But my adrenalin was pumping so hard that holding back the bowstring didn’t make me tired,” he said. “I waited until the deer reached 15 yards from my stand and released arrow. It struck him behind the left shoulder.”
After being hit, the buck ran 50 or 60 yards into the cutover, crashing to the ground within earshot but not within Kellett’s vision. Shaking again, he sat down to regain his composure.
“I got down after a little while and found my arrow about 15 feet from where I’d hit the buck,” he said. “It was covered in blood, and there was a good (blood trail). That Rage broadhead really tore him up.”
Kellett used his cell phone to call his brother to tell him about his experience, but Michael Kellett whispered that a 600-pound black bear was still in front of his stand. He wanted some assistance in scaring the bear away, but Kellett, focused on getting his buck, responded, “Take care of the bear yourself.”
Then he called his dad, who advised him to wait and not immediately track the buck. Kellett also called his Chowan baseball coach, Aaron Carroll, who offered the same advice. Then he called two friends, Chris Wall and Adam Baldwin, who agreed to help him find his deer. They waited until 9:30 p.m. before returning with flashlights to the stand, and Wall found the buck a short distance away in the cutover.
“That was a long two hours,” Kellett said. “I fell on my knees when we found him.”
The buck, scored at the Dixie Deer Classic, sported a mainframe 4×4 rack but none of its tines was longer than 6 6/8 inches. However, it picked up 21 4/8 inches because of nine abnormal points, three on the right antler and six on the left side.
Kellett’s buck ranks 14th on the Dixie Deer Classic’s all-time non-typical bow-kill list.
Brent Mabrey of Roanoke Rapids arrowed the N.C. record bow-kill non-typical Sept. 27, 2005, in neighboring Halifax County. Its rack measured 176 7/8 inches.