Our Biggest Bow Kills Of 2006

Our Biggest Bow Kills Of 2006

These two North Carolina hunters bagged the top bow bucks in the state last season. Here's the story of their deer and the hunts that produced them. (August 2007)

Byron Ellington holds the mount of his buck, the largest typical rack taken in North Carolina last season, with a score of 152 7/8. It is in the top 15 all-time typicals taken by bow in North Carolina.
Photo by Dan Kibler.

Byron Ellington and Jerrold Wade didn't have to wait very long last year for their deer seasons to be successful.

According to the calendar, Wade didn't wait at all. Ellington waited a month, but once he got started, he filled a tag very quickly.

Neither of the two hunters had to spend much time in the woods before they were dragging out two of the biggest bucks taken during North Carolina's 2006 archery season.

Wade, an aircraft mechanic from Arcadia in Davidson County, took his Stokes County trophy on Sept. 9, the opening day of archery season.

Ellington, a farmer from Reidsville, took his Rockingham County buck on Oct. 14 -- but on only his second hunt of the season.

Ellington's giant 8-pointer was the biggest typical whitetail taken in North Carolina last season by a bowhunter, winning the archery category at the Dixie Deer Classic's big-buck contest this past March. With a 20-inch inside spread and tines as long as 11 inches, it scored 152 7/8 points (Boone and Crockett Club system) to rank among the top 15 all-time in the state.

And all because a friend who was shooting groundhogs happened to catch a glimpse of the big deer a few weeks earlier.

Ellington and his father farm tobacco in Rockingham County, but the land where the trophy buck lived was planted almost entirely in grains: soybeans, wheat and corn. The buck was working a narrow spot in the back of one bean field in what Ellington described as a textbook spot for a big buck.

"A friend of mine from church, Paul Braxton, he'd taken his grandson up there to the farm to shoot groundhogs. He called my father and told him he had something entertaining to tell me," Ellington said. "I called him back, and he said that he'd seen five bucks in that soybean field, including two 'monsters' -- an 8-(pointer) and a 10-(pointer). I was working tobacco, and I was behind; once we got caught up, I went up there."

The field was on a farm that Ellington's family had once leased for several years to another hunter. However, that lease ran out, and nobody had hunted there in at least two years.

"They'd had two years without any pressure on them," said Ellington, who along with his father also runs a bird-hunting preserve -- Ellington Farms' Quail Hollow Hunting Preserve.

"The bean field was a narrow little channel near the back of a field, about 75 yards wide. It had white oaks on one side that were dropping acorns, and there was a pine thicket on one side and a cutover, and there was a creek bottom pretty close by," he said. "It was a good area for bedding, staging and feeding."

Ellington had made only one trip into the woods before he escaped the rigors of farming late in the afternoon on Saturday, Oct. 14.

So late, that he almost decided not to go.

"I had found a tree in the white oaks where the acorns were dropping, and it was getting late when I got there -- in fact, I thought it was too late; I started not to go, but I went anyway," he said. "I carried a Summit Goliath climbing stand in, and I didn't get situated until about 5:30. I had a small buck and six does come out in the field and get within 20 yards of me, and then I caught a glimpse of him coming into the field, coming out of the pine thicket on the other side.

"He had his head down, eating beans, but I knew he was a big-bodied deer, and I could see that he had good G-2s and G-3s (major tines), but he never picked his head up out of the beans the whole time."

The buck fed leisurely across the field in the general direction of Ellington, who was well up in a poplar tree, about 10 yards back in the woods from the edge of the field. The buck fed toward him, stopping about 40 yards out, then he angled slightly toward Ellington, coming to a stop 25 yards away to do some more serious grazing in the beans.

"I had wanted to find a tree right on the edge of the field so I could shoot straight down the edge, but these two poplars right next to each other were the only ones that would work," he said. "They were about 20 or 30 feet back off the field.

"There was a gum tree off to the side, and one of its limbs was right in front of me. I figured it would give me some breakup, some cover," he said. "I thought it would be out of the way if I got a real close shot like I expected to. I don't take any 35- or 40-yard shots, because I don't shoot enough at those distances to be comfortable. I figured I'd get a 15-, 20- or 25-yard shot, and the limb would be out of the way. But when he checked up at about 27 yards and I drew back to shoot, that one limb was dead in the way."

With his Matthews Outback compound at full draw, Ellington considered his options. He could have let the string back down or tried to wait the buck out at full draw being possibilities, but instead Ellington did what he thought would get him a good shot -- he bent his knees and squatted down about 18 inches, which put the offending limb totally out of the picture.

"It was an awkward shot, but it was the only one I had," he said.

The Gold Tip arrow and three-blade, 100-grain Muzzy broadhead zoomed toward the buck, and Ellington felt like he'd made a decent shot, even if it may have been a few inches farther back than he'd have liked.

"I shot, and I heard a 'thump' when the arrow hit, then he just trotted out of the field. I thought I might have gut shot him. I never heard him crash down, so I stayed up in the stand until dark," Ellington said. "Then I went down and found my arrow. It had gone straight through him and was sticking up out of the ground. It didn't have any blood on it, and there was no blood around, but it had this kind of clear liquid on it -- from the broadhead to the feathers."

Ellington decided there was no point in looking for the buck that night. He went back to his truck and drove home. "I wasn't going to pressure him," Ellington said. "I told my wife I was going to wait until the next morning, a Sunday morning. I got up at 7:30, took my dog out there, and I went right back to

where the arrow was, then I walked to where he'd gone back in the woods, and there was no blood there. So, I just started easing back into the woods.

"My dog, he'd never trailed anything before, but he started smelling along with his nose on the ground, and I just followed him. I was watching out to the left and right of him, but when we got about 50 yards back in the woods, I looked up ahead, right over his nose, and I saw the deer. He was bedded down, up against a pine tree, with his legs up underneath him, and his head had fallen over to the side.

"When I got to him, I was really tickled, because I'd never killed anything of any size with my bow before," Ellington said. "When I shot him, I didn't think he was any more than 16 or 17 inches wide, because he'd never looked at me straight on. I knew he had good tines, but I had no idea he was that wide. In fact, when I called my wife, I told her I thought I'd killed a decent deer -- nothing better."

The big buck carried a 20-inch inside spread. The longest tine was 11 inches; it had another 10 1/2 and two more 9 inches long or better. The main beams were 26 1/2 and 24 1/8 inches long, the brow tines both 6 1/2 inches long, and the circumference of each antler at the base just 1/8th of an inch short of 6 inches. The buck weighed 176 pounds on the hoof.

"Everything just fell into place for me," Ellington said. "He didn't smell me, the other deer didn't spook, he never looked up at me. And I never dreamed he'd come all the way across the field. But I think those deer were eating beans, feeding across the field to those white oaks."

Later in the season, Ellington wound up killing a beautiful buck on another Rockingham County farm with his muzzleloader, a buck he estimates will score in the 130s. That leaves the big 10-pointer that Braxton saw for next year.

"My buddy, Dwayne Smith, who is a highway patrolman up here, he found the (2005) shed a couple of weeks after I'd shot my bow deer," he said. "It was huge; it had a fork like a mule deer on the first point. I hope I see him next season."

Ellington said that the broadhead managed to miss the lungs, the liver, the paunch or any other vital organs, but he thinks that it clipped a major artery -- even though he didn't have a blood trail to work with. The buck ran only 135 yards before he died -- 60 yards to the edge of the field and another 75 yards back in the woods.

Wade's trophy buck only made it 50 yards from the spot where it was arrowed in a Stokes County wood lot at about 6:45 p.m. on the opening afternoon of archery season, Sept. 9.

Wade was hunting with Cody Durham, his 14-year-old grandson. The two were in Climax tree stands, about 40 yards apart in a wood lot. Wade's grandson actually saw the big buck before Wade did -- and he saw another buck just as big, if not bigger, slip into the wood lot a few minutes behind the first one.

When Wade saw the first buck, he was flabbergasted. First, the buck's antlers were a deep brown, so he thought the deer was still in full velvet. And, of course, the rack was stunning.

"I've never seen a buck like that before -- never one even close," Wade said. "I had no idea he was around here. When I first saw him, I thought he was a mule deer. I thought, You're not supposed to be here."

Wade made him pay for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Shooting a PSE Polar Express bow, Wade, who is left-handed, slipped an Easton XX75 arrow and Land Shark broadhead cleanly through the buck's side. "When I let it go, I heard a pop, so I knew I'd hit him good," Wade said. "He started stumbling away, took off, then I heard him fall. There was a limb that he fell on, and you could hear it crash.

"We didn't see him fall, but we heard him," said Wade, who was hunting within sight of his grandson -- who watched the entire episode. "We stayed up in our stands until after dark, because I was hoping that Cody would get a shot. Then, we got down and went and found him."

The buck carried not only an impressive rack, but a huge body as well. "We started dragging him, and he was so big we'd drag him a few feet and have to stop," said Wade, whose grandson made a cell-phone call to a friend and arranged to take the buck to a store near the town of King -- a store that was running a big-buck contest. "We finally got him out of there and took him up there, and there were about 15 people waiting to see him."

One was Joey Thompson, a scorer for the N.C. Bowhunters Association, who put a measuring tape on the buck that night and came up with green scores of 156 4/8 non-typical and 145 2/8 typical. When he rescored the buck after the required 60-day drying period, it scored 141 points. The buck, which carried a 5x4 typical frame with two sticker points on the left antler, had already shed all of its velvet.

The buck had an inside spread of 17 1/4 inches, brow tines that measured 6 1/2 and 5 1/4 inches, and two tines longer than 10 inches: 11 5/8 and 10 2/8. The deer's rack was massive -- close to 5 inches in circumference around the bases and 4 inches all the way out to the antler tips. Its main beams were 25 3/8 and 24 2/8 inches long. The two sticker points on the left antler were 2 2/8 and 2 6/8 inches long.

And the deer's body was almost as impressive as its rack. Wade didn't have a set of scales on which to weigh the buck, but Thompson and another veteran hunter estimated that the buck could have weighed as much as 230 to 240 pounds on the hoof -- close to 200 pounds field dressed.

"It took Jerrold, his two grandsons and his son-in-law to put it in the back of his pickup truck," Thompson said. "A deer that size is rare, especially early in bow season before he's been in the acorns for a while and put on some more weight."

The land that Wade was hunting was a mixture of planted pines, hardwoods and a half-acre food plot he'd planted. He and his grandson set up in some oaks close to the pines and food plot, with their portable tree stands about 40 yards apart -- so Wade could keep an eye on the teen-aged hunter.

Opening day, like many during the early part of archery season, was oppressively hot, but the weather started to change as darkness closed in, with the wind kicking up and clouds rolling in. Wade remembers hearing some rustling in the leaves to one side of his stand, and when he turned to investigate the sound, the buck was 30 yards away, feeding on the plentiful white oak acorns right along with the squirrels.

Wade had to take his bow down from its rack, but he was able to wait until the deer moved behind a tree. When it came out, he was ready -- a little too ready.

"There was an opening in front of him, but I knew if he got in the opening, seeing his antlers would affect me too much," he said. "There was a hole where I could see him, where his antlers were covered up, and I could get a shot at his shoulder through the hole."

Wade, who shoots instinctively -- without

pins or sights -- let fly as soon as his sight picture looked right and he got to full draw.

"Cody said the other buck that was with him, when I shot mine, he took off in the other direction," he said. "But I never saw him. My buck was the only one I was paying attention to."

When he and Cody got to the big buck, he was every bit as big as Wade had guessed when he first saw him. "To me, he looks perfect. I've never seen anything like him," he said. "I've hunted this place for seven years, and I've seen some good deer. I hadn't seen any sign in there to tell me he was there; there were no rubs anywhere -- and he didn't have any velvet left on his antlers."

Wade believes that the big buck may have been living on another piece of property, but when the white oak acorns began to fall, he changed his habits and travels and started working in Wade's hardwoods.

He's hoping the second buck, the "bigger" buck that his grandson saw, returns this season. The wood lot must have something going for him because Cody killed a nice buck there later, during gun season, from the same stand in which he was sitting when Wade struck gold.

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