Photo by Mike Marsh.
When hunting trophy deer, good timing means everything. Frank Cash was hunting near his home in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina, on Sept. 14, 2007, and it was a fortunate day to be in the woods.
Unlike most Tar Heel hunters, he did not get an early start on his hunting hobby. He picked up bowhunting later in life.
“I’ve been deer hunting for 10 or 12 years,” the 47-year-old construction worker said. “I’ve always enjoyed eating deer, but I don’t have much time to hunt because I work so much. I’m always around a bunch of guys who love to hunt, so I decided to start going.”
Cash was hunting in Person County just two days after his wife’s birthday. He said he would never forget the day because he wouldn’t have hunted on her birthday. Another stroke of good timing occurred was when a cable broke on his PSE compound bow a couple of days after he used it to arrow a monster buck. The day he used it, he made a perfect shot.
“There was a misty rain falling and a lot of hunters won’t bowhunt in the rain,” he said. “But I have an umbrella that ties to the tree to keep me dry, so I don’t mind a little rain. I got into my ladder stand at 3:30 or 4 p.m. Then I saw a huge buck at about 4:30. I was standing up when he came out of the woods to my left. I was in a good position to shoot. But he was looking up in my direction and would have seen me draw, so I waited.”
Cash was hunting near a field. He was beneath the umbrella and partially hidden by some camouflage netting. But he dared not move while the buck was looking his way.
“I had four field cameras in the area and hadn’t seen him on any of them, although I had them set up the majority of the year,” he said. “They are digital cameras, so I only have to change out cards and download them to my computer. He must have come off somebody else’s farm. We live on a 119-acre farm, but another club hunts it. There’s also another club that leases some other property nearby and I was hunting a field where I have permission to hunt between those two clubs.”
Cash had seen several nice 8-pointers and a big 10-pointer on camera images that drew him to this particular stand. He had hunted the same area in the past because of the attraction of the field.
“The stand was back in the woods, overlooking a trail going to the field,” he said. “I could also see the field from the stand. The field is usually planted in soybeans or corn. But the drought made the planting season poor and there were only weeds in the field.”
Cash had placed some estrous scent on a tree limb and said the scent could have attracted the buck. He also put some red fox urine on pads on the soles of his boots to hide his human scent. He said scent control is an important consideration for bowhunting because deer must be close for making a good shot.
“If a deer smells anything out of the ordinary, he won’t stick around long,” he said. “I use the fox scent as a cover scent because it’s a scent deer in my area are familiar with.”
Something made a noise in the woods on the other side of the buck. The deer’s attention was drawn to the sound.
“When he turned and looked in the other direction, I drew my bow and shot,” he said. “The deer almost quartered away from me at only 20 or 25 yards away. The arrow entered behind the right shoulder and exited in front of the left shoulder.”
The deer traveled 30 to 40 yards and fell. Cash said he wanted to climb down, but he could see the buck lying where he fell.
“I waited probably 20 to 30 minutes,” he said. “I have had them get up and run, so I made myself wait. I didn’t get as much of a chance to look at the mass of his antlers as I did at the height and I really wanted to see them up close. Once I walked up to him, I was pretty ecstatic. I went to get my oldest boy, Adam, who helped me get him home.”
After the deer was taken home, Cash called many of his friends. Some of them got there to see the deer before it was dressed. Others gawked at the antlers after the buck was skinned.
“Most of them kept calling me lucky,” he said. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than it is to be good, but luck had nothing to do with it. I’ve practiced that same shot many times before. We have a tree stand set up near the house and we have a decoy we move around from place to place for target practice. Sometimes we put on our heavy hunting clothes even if it’s hot in the summer so we can practice for hunting. When you get a chance at a buck like that, you sure don’t want to miss him.”
At least one other hunter had spotted the buck. Cash took the buck with a fixed-blade broadhead. However, he found another broadhead in the deer’s back strap that was almost identical.
“Another hunter had seen the deer and shot him but didn’t get him,” Cash said. “The wound was probably from the year before.”
The buck had a Boone and Crockett Club net score of 157 6/8 and a gross score of 165. It was judged the best North Carolina Typical Bow buck at the 2008 Dixie Deer Classic.
THE STRADER BUCK
Charles Strader of Roxboro also took a big buck in Person County. However, he got his buck using a borrowed muzzleloader.
Strader is a 23-year-old mechanic at the Hyco Power Plant. He was deer hunting on the opening day of muzzleloader season on Nov. 3, 2007, when a buck with enormous antlers walked toward his stand while eating acorns.
“I was hunting directly behind my house,” Strader said. “I had scouted it the Sunday before and it was the first time I ever hunted there.”
Strader had seen a doe while looking at three big antler rubs and decided to hunt that same spot. But he almost didn’t get a chance to hunt.
“We were in an outage (a power plant shutdown for repairs or upgrades) and I had to swap a day with another worker to get the day off. I took off on a Saturday when I normally would have worked so I could work on Sunday instead. It was the only day I had off work to hunt that entire month, because you can’t hunt on Sunday. But you can still scout on Sunday.”
Strader hauled everything he needed for hunting into the woods, crossing several fences to get to his hunting area. He almost gave up on getting to the right place.
“At one point I sat there and almost decided to sit on the ground where I was,” he said. “But I had found the right spot, so I kept on going. I had my climbing stand, a book bag, my rifle and everything else I needed to spend the day.”
After climbing a tree at 6:15 a.m., Strader watched the forest brighten with the growing daylight. He had selected a spot where he could see 70 or 80 yards through a mature hardwood stand overlooking the rubs.
“I would have shot a doe if I got the chance,” he said. “I had decided to stay all day or until I shot a deer. I heard some squirrels making a racket and watched them for a while. But once I turned and looked at them and they weren’t moving, but something else was still making noise in the woods. I saw a buck put his head down, and then saw the right side of his rack when he picked his head up. I had seen an even bigger deer last year. But I had been so busy looking at his rack, I missed the shot. I learned from that mistake. Since I knew this one was a keeper, I quit looking at his rack.”
The deer walked closer and Strader observed the deer and held his fire, having learned to be patient. The rifle he was using had open sights, so he wanted to be sure of his shot. When the deer offered a broadside shot at 15 or 20 yards, Strader fired.
“When I pulled the trigger, the deer fell like a sack of rocks,” he said. “He fell facing toward me and I didn’t see an exit wound. I was worried he might get up and run off. He was so close I could have just about jumped out of the tree and landed on him. I had hit the bones in the shoulder and it stopped the bullet from exiting, but jellied everything in there. I was shooting a .50-caliber Knight rifle with a sabot bullet. It has two safeties and I was worried I hadn’t taken the rear safety off and it wouldn’t fire. I was afraid all I would hear was a click. My father-in-law had let me borrow his rifle and had loaded it. He gave me a speed loader and I reloaded the rifle before I got down.”
As it turned out, Strader wouldn’t need a second shot.
Once Strader saw how big the antlers were, he started counting points. The antlers had plenty of character and mass.
“He had a bunch of kickers and a lot of mass on the main beam with a drop tine on the right side,” he said. “He had 21 scoreable points and weighed 185 pounds. The taxidermist said he was 4 years old.
“Before this buck, I’ve never even had anything worth taking to the taxidermist. It was a 400-yard walk and I was carrying all my gear. When I got fed up with the effort and thought of just sitting on the ground and hunting, I got that out of my head. You have to find a good spot and dedicate yourself to getting there. I’ve been hunting deer for 10 years and mainly been successful through hard-earned knowledge. I’ve sat in the woods and not seen anything all year long. But I’ve learned from my mistakes and it’s paid off. The most important thing I’ve learned is you can’t kill a deer if you’re sitting at home. I don’t get to hunt that much, but when I get the chance, I go.”
Strader’s father-in-law gave him the rifle he had used to shoot the big buck as a Christmas gift. This spring, Strader took the mount to the Dixie Deer Classic to have it scored. It was judged the top North Carolina Non-Typical Muzzleloader buck, with a score of 154 3/8.
THE LYERLY BUCK
Nathan “Chris” Lyerly, has been deer hunting for more than 30 years. The 56-year-old cabinetmaker lives in Mooresville, North Carolina, and travels a couple of hours one way to hunt on his club’s lease near Rockingham in Anson County.
“During blackpowder season, we stay down there for the entire week,” he said. “We have a group of eight hunters from Mooresville. My son, Christopher Lyerly, had hunted my favorite stand for the first three days. He had killed a couple of bucks and a doe, but then he had to go home Wednesday night.”
On Nov. 8, the following day, Chris Lyerly headed for the same lock-on stand his son had been hunting. The stand was located at the edge of some planted pines and near a three-year-old clearcut. There was some corn placed on the ground, but a big buck materialized nowhere near the bait.
“He appeared to be after some does,” Lyerly said. “I had gotten to my stand when it was still dark. The buck came out of the planted pines at 6:45 a.m. It was cold and clear, with just a little fog. I saw three tines and knew they were long and thought to myself, He’ll do. I hollered at him three times before he stopped walking. Then, when he stepped into the clear, I concentrated on my shot. He was about 70 yards away.”
Lyerly shot the big buck with a scoped, 45-caliber inline muzzleloader, loaded with a full caliber belted bullet backed by 150 grains of a blackpowder substitute. At the shot, smoke hung in the air.
“I just knew he had taken off, but I had a cloud of smoke there,” Lyerly said. “I was trying to see around it, but I couldn’t. I thought I heard him crashing brush and running away. I was nervous as I reloaded my gun and figured I should give him some time. But then I thought, That’s long enough, and got down.”
Uncertain of where the buck had been standing, Lyerly didn’t find signs of a hit right away. However, he knew the direction the buck should have run.
“I looked around and saw him right there,” he said. “He had turned a flip and fallen where he was standing. I should have been able to see him from the stand, but couldn’t concentrate on looking for him. There was too much smoke.”
Still full of adrenaline, Lyerly was shaking so badly he couldn’t even count the points on the rack. He called everyone he knew, beginning with his wife.
“I was talking to my wife and counted to seven and she asked, ‘Only a 7-pointer?’ ” Lyerly said. “But I told her that was just on one side.”
Christopher was a little disappointed. But he was glad his father shot the magnificent buck.
“I had seen huge rubs going on five years,” Lyerly said. “I had shot some 8-pointers and seen other bucks but nothing like this buck. The year before, I had seen a large buck with a huge spread and moved the stand about 60 yards to the new location. I couldn’t shoot at the buck because it was too far away. That’s also the reason I increased my load to 150 grains of powder. It gave me a range of at least 150 yards.”
Lyerly entered his buck for scoring at the Dixie Deer Classic and it won the award for Best North Carolina Typical Muzzleloader buck. The buck had a net score of 170 0/8 after more than 8 inches in deductions. The antlers had 12 points with an extra kicker point on each side and weighed 174 pounds field dressed.
“The only advice I have is to put in lot
s of hours in your stand and pick the best place you can possibly find,” he said. “I hunted 35 days last season, the most days I ever have.”