Photo by Dan Kibler.
Gary Setzer killed a huge buck last Nov. 5, and so many people played a role in the hunt that Setzer admitted, “I ought to have been sending out thank-you notes.”
He’d borrowed a portable tree stand. His brother had given him a new muzzleloader two nights before the hunt. Two of his buddies had driven him three hours from his home in the Caldwell County town of Hudson to the Butner-Falls of Neuse Game Land and had even showed him right where to hunt.
So when people congratulate him for killing the biggest buck taken in North Carolina in 2005, he’s only too happy to share the glory.
Setzer’s huge 10-pointer, the third-largest typical buck ever taken on public land in North Carolina and the second-largest buck ever taken in this state with a blackpowder weapon, scored 168 3/8 points, narrowly missing qualifying for the Boone and Crockett Club’s all-time record book. It was the biggest typical whitetail from North Carolina scored at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh this past March.
The buck, which had an inside spread of 20 3/8 inches, main beams of 29 3/8 and 28 4/8 inches and tall, symmetrical tines, was the happy coincidence of buddies being willing to help each other out, and hunters who almost instantly recognize a good thing or, in this case, a good stand when they see it.
“Two of my buddies, Robby Bentley and Toby Hyde, have a lease in Granville County,” said Setzer, a 38-year-old who works in the furniture industry. “I played ball with Robby, and when it got close to deer season, he was talking about having a lease that was close to a game land down there they had hunted.
“I had hunted at Butner before, 20 years ago when I was 18. I saw a bunch of deer getting run by dogs, and I never went back,” he said. “But the Friday before muzzleloader season opened, we went down there after work. They showed us some of the game lands they had hunted on, and we went back the next morning with our tree stands and hunted; we had never been in there to scout or anything.”
Setzer and another Caldwell County friend, Tim Roberts, went to a portion of Butner-Falls of Neuse where Bentley and Hyde said they’d hunted before — “Robby said that every time they’d gone to this place, they’d at least seen some deer,” Setzer said — and hung tree stands along an oak ridge that ran down to a swamp bottom.
Setzer killed a 4-point buck that morning, then went back that afternoon, moving his stand to another tree a short distance away, and took a fine 8-point buck.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion Setzer did after dragging out his second buck of the day. “We decided we were coming back the next year,” he said.
So, as November approached last fall, Setzer and Roberts made plans to return to what Setzer called, “our honeyhole.”
“Me and two of my brothers went down the week before muzzleloader season to find them a place to hunt on the game land. We got a (game lands) book, found a green spot on the map and found them a place,” Setzer said.
Two days before opening day of the six-day blackpowder season, one of his brothers, Gerald, gave Setzer a new muzzleloader, a .50-caliber CVA Optima Pro. Setzer mounted a 3×9 Nikon scope on the gun, and Gerald and Rob, another brother, sighted it in.
The next day, the caravan left Caldwell County for the Butner area. On Saturday morning, Setzer went directly to the poplar tree where he killed his 8-pointer the year before and climbed until he was about 35 feet off the ground. It was in an area of open hardwoods, relatively close to a pine thicket, where a slight ridge led to the bottomland.
“The place I hunted that morning was where I had killed the 8-pointer. I climbed up the same exact tree,” Setzer said. “The tree where I had killed the 4-pointer was about 50 yards down the ridge, but I didn’t like that spot as much, because you couldn’t see as far up the ridge.”
Roberts took up residence in a tree stand about 150 yards up the ridge from Setzer, who didn’t have to wait very long for things to start hopping, as the rut was obviously kicking in on the 43,859-acre game land north of Raleigh and Durham.