Photo by Dan Kibler.
It never entered Brent Mabrey’s mind when he went hunting last Sept. 26 that anything really special might happen — beyond the possibility that he might get to kill a deer with a bow for the first time.
He was really just hoping to get a second chance on a buck that he’d missed the previous evening by picking the wrong sight pin in the fading light and sending an arrow whizzing over its back.
“The thought of killing a record-book deer was never in my head the whole time that morning,” admitted Mabrey, a Roanoke Rapids native who had killed plenty of deer with a gun but had only taken up archery hunting in time for the 2005 season.
But the deer he arrowed just after daylight that morning, on hunt club land in Halifax County, was certainly a record-book deer in every respect. It qualified easily for the Pope and Young Club’s all-time record book, and when the tape measure was finally put aside, it was the biggest buck ever taken in North Carolina by a bowhunter.
At least the biggest buck with a rack that, shall we say, defines the essence of the word “non-typical.”
Mabrey’s buck, sporting a “third beam” and sticker points everywhere, was the biggest non-typical ever killed with a bow and arrow in the Tar Heel State. Scott Osborne and Mike Seamster, wildlife biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, scored the buck in early December, and the numbers were astonishing.
Twenty-one scoreable points.
A 19 6/8-inch inside spread.
Brow tines over 6 inches long and a third brow tine on one antler that pushed 7 inches. One tine that was 11 3/8 inches long.
An enormous non-typical point curving out of the right antler, between the base and the brow tine, that measured almost 20 inches long.
A net non-typical Boone and Crockett score of 176 7/8 points, more than 10 inches larger than the buck that formerly held the state record, a Forsyth County buck killed in 1998 by Bill Froelich of Mocksville that scored 166 1/8.
“If I’d known how big he was when I first saw him, I don’t believe I could have drawn my bow back to shoot him,” Mabrey said.
Fortunately, Mabrey’s attention was focused on another buck almost until the moment that he let fly the arrow that killed his once-in-a-lifetime trophy. (Continued)
He had gotten in his stand — an API Grand Slam climber — by 5:30 a.m., where he waited 20 feet above a fenceline looking into a pasture where he had a pile of corn. When it finally cracked dawn and Mabrey could see, he made out the outline of an 8-point buck feeding in the corn pile, 20 yards away.
Mabrey had been hoping that the 7-point buck he’d missed the night before might return, but here was one even bigger, an 8-pointer he estimated at about 16 inches wide.
He picked up his bow and stood up, getting ready to shoot the 8-pointer, when he heard a deer coming from behind him, to his left side. The second deer was coming from a 30-yard-wide border of trees between two pastures, with a lane running through the middle of it.
The second buck jumped the pasture fence and stopped just inside, watching the 8-pointer, which was obviously worried by the intruder. And probably for good reason: Mabrey could easily see that the second deer was a much bigger buck.
“I heard him coming, saw him jump the fence,” he said. “I didn’t judge him to be as big as he was; I thought he was about 20 inches wide — and I didn’t see the extra tine.
“After I first saw him, I didn’t look at his horns anymore. I was looking for a place where I could shoot him. I leave some limbs on my trees above and below the stand because I don’t want it to look like I’ve got my stand on a telephone pole.”
Even though both bucks were downwind of Mabrey, they didn’t seem to notice him. He was wearing a “fresh earth” cover scent and had sprayed his clothes down the previous night with Scent Shield Carbon Blast. He was wearing a camo “bug suit” — and to keep insects from being a problem, he had ThermaCELL repellant.
The bigger buck moved a couple of times, each time causing the 8-pointer to jump. Then, Mabrey found a hole about 3 feet wide where he could shoot the buck broadside, and he let fly from 13 yards with the Jennings Carbon Extreme bow that he’d gotten from his hunting buddy, Brad Barnes.
“When I shot, he ran like he wasn’t hit, then he ran back the way he came from about 25 or 30 yards and stopped — but it didn’t sound like he fell,” he said.
Mabrey was confident enough in his shot, however, that when he climbed down out of his stand, 10 minutes later, he headed in the opposite direction, toward the hunting clubhouse, where he called Barnes.
“It had rained, and I told him I hoped it had rained enough that he couldn’t do any waterproofing, because I needed him to help me find a big deer,” Mabrey said.
At about 9:30, Mabrey and Barnes went into the woods where the buck had disappeared. They hadn’t gone very far when they found about an 18-inch section of Mabrey’s arrow shaft, an Easton 2314XX, which had broken off when the buck ran past a sapling. A little farther along the blood trail, which was consistent if not particularly heavy, Mabrey said, the pair walked into a grassy opening. Barnes saw the buck first, on the far side of the opening, lying in reed mash.
“Brad said, ‘There he is,’ and you could see him on the ground, his chest moving up and down. When we got to him, I about told Brad that he had to shoot him with my bow, because I was shaking so hard,” Mabry said. “But I went up to him and shot him again, and he rolled over on his back, kicked a little, and he was dead in another minute or two.”
And oh, what a buck it was. The deer weighed 175 pounds on the hoof, and biologists Osborne and Seamster both judged the deer at 5 1/2 years of age based on tooth wear on the lower jawbone.
Because he was shooting at such a sharp angle downward, Barnes had put his arrow j
ust above the buck’s near shoulder, and it angled down, the 125-grain, three-bladed Satellite broadhead coming to rest in the off shoulder. When the buck broke off the part of the shaft that was sticking out of its side, it left a 6- to 8-inch long piece between the buck’s shoulders.
But teeth and thick shoulders weren’t on Barnes’ mind as he stood over the buck. “Pictures don’t do it justice,” he said. “You’ve just gotta grab hold of it.”
The buck had a 4×3 main frame rack, with four points on the left side and three on the right. The main beams were 22 and 20 3/8 inches, and the left antler had one tine that was 11 3/8 inches long, a brow tine that was 7 3/8 inches long, and five sticker points, including a drop tine 4 1/2 inches long.
The right beam was the real story, however. In addition to the three points on the main beam, it had a 6-inch brow tine, a second brow tine that measured 6 7/8 inches, and a 19 6/8-inch-long third “tine” jutting out of the antler between the base and the brow tine. That extra tine had several sticker points, and the right main beam had several more drop points — a total of nine in all, giving the buck 20 scoreable points. The non-typical points measured a total of 59 1/8 inches. The main frame of the rack had almost 15 inches in deductions, so when Osborne and Seamster finally put away their calculator, they came up with 176 7/8.
“I’ve got two bucks mounted in my house that don’t have the horns that he’s got on one side,” Mabrey said. “I’ve always been into deer management. I let plenty of deer go. I figure, if you shoot a buck, you ought to mount it. If you want meat, shoot does. You’ve got to shoot them and cull the herd if you want big bucks.”
How in the world had a buck like that gone unnoticed before the morning Mabrey killed him? He and Barnes agree that no one in their hunt club had ever seen the buck, and they didn’t find anyone in neighboring hunt clubs who knew about the buck.
Mabrey had chosen his stand site based on several factors. First, a big buck had been taken not far from that stand two years ago at Christmas. Second, Mabrey had seen a big buck close to that stand late one evening the previous season, and third, he felt like the stand was in a place that wouldn’t draw much hunting pressure.
“If I wanted to hunt a stand anywhere on our hunt club where I felt like I could kill a deer to mount, it would be that one,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of clubs around us that hunt with dogs, and that’s one spot that doesn’t seem like it gets much dog pressure. Nobody hunts there too much.”