December 24, 2018
By Mike Marsh
Every year, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resource’s antler scoring sessions ferret out the state’s best bucks. To make the state record listings, a buck’s antlers must have a typical score of 125 or a non- typical score of 145.
“Through the 2016 hunting season, we had had 6,717 typical entries, but only 279 non-typical entries,” said Charles Ruth, SCDNR Big Game Program coordinator. “Consistently, over each of the last few years, we have had one 160- or 170-class typical. In 2016, we had 211 bucks of 150 inches or better, typical.”
From the cumulative records, it is obvious that non-typical antlers are not common in S.C. Nevertheless, three non-typical bucks scoring over 200 inches have made the record book.
In 2016 season there were 213 new entries. Ruth says the last four or five years have been turning up lots of high-scoring bucks for several reasons, the biggest of which is hunter attitude.
“An ongoing attitude among hunters is taking the pressure off the young bucks,” Ruth said. “In South Carolina, it is age, not genetics and nutrition, that results in trophy antler growth. We have gotten away from the brown and down attitude of the past.”
BEST NON-TYPICAL BUCK
On Halloween, Jacob Buckner overslept. He had hunted a huge buck for nearly a month and missed the chance to get to his stand before daylight.
“When I finally got there, the wind was wrong for my stand, so I went to my grandpa’s stand,” Buckner said. “I was talking to him on the phone when I looked behind me and saw a doe.”
Buckner, a 22-year-old industrial painter from Aiken, killed his first deer when he was 9 years old. Although he and his grandfather, Ray Day, hunted doves on the property for years, they never considered hunting deer.
“We have other places to hunt deer,” Jacob said. “The place always had deer, so we thought we should try. After the landowner gave us permission to hunt deer, we put in food plots with soybeans in July and replanted them with oats and wheat in September. We also planted 7 1/2 acres of corn for doves.”
Most of the 300-acre property is forest, so the hunters set up five stands. At first, Buckner baited one stand and set up a camera.
“On Oct. 7, I got the first trail camera photo of a buck with huge antlers,” Jacob said. “After that, I put corn and cameras at every stand. On Oct. 10, I killed what I thought was the buck until after I shot it. He weighed 193 pounds, but he only had 3 points on each side and a spike growing in the middle. On Oct. 20, I got a photo of the buck at a different stand.”
On Halloween, Jacob climbed into a tripod stand in a clearcut that had 10-year-old pine trees growing so thick they hindered visibility. Deer paths crisscrossed the thicket.
“Our stands are 400 or 500 yards apart,” Jacob said. “I got to my grandpa’s stand and the wind was right. After I was in the stand, he called and asked where I was hunting. I told him I could hear something walking behind me. I turned around and peeked through the trees and saw a doe 5 yards behind me, then a second doe 20 yards behind her.”
The does faded into cover. Then he heard another deer following the second doe.
“I put my phone in my vest pocket,” Jacob said. “I kept looking through the trees until I saw two front feet and his shoulder blades. When I recognized the top three inches of his antlers, I put the crosshairs on his shoulder and pulled the trigger.”
After climbing down from the stand and reach the deer, Jacob was speechless, as he could hardly get his hand around the base of the antlers.
When he finally calmed enough to call his grandfather, Day did not believe his story. His cell phone could not receive photos, so Buckner convinced him to come and have a look.
“He was picking up fertilizer with his truck, towing the four-wheeler behind it,” Jacob said. “It took him 20 minutes to get there and help me with the buck. At first, he was in shock. Then he told me very clearly not to get back into his stand anymore.”
The buck weighed 174 pounds and was 6 1/2 years old. His antlers had 9 points on the right side and 7 on the left and scored 175 7/8 inches non-typical. It was the highest ranked non-typical buck taken in 2017 and should place at No. 19 in South Carolina’s all-time records.
HUGE ANDERSON COUNTY TYPICAL
On Nov. 10, 2017, Jacob Davis was hunting private property near his house in Anderson County. While he centers his deer hunting in Kentucky, he decided to hunt closer to home after overhearing people talk about a buck they had been seeing.
“I work on a poultry farm,” Davis said. “I have hunted a piece of property across from my house for years, but had not hunted it up until that point last season because I didn’t really think it was worth it. Sometimes, I hunt in S.C. When I do, I shoot mainly does and cull bucks to help remaining bucks grow bigger.”
The 21-year-old lives in Townville and began hunting with his father when he was 3 and took his first deer when he was 7. His biggest Kentucky buck scored 155. Unless he sees a big buck on a scouting camera, he doesn’t hunt more than a handful of times in South Carolina.
“The property had a 50-acre soybean field,” Davis said. “I came in late one night and my grandfather said a neighbor had seen a big buck in the area. I overheard someone else say something about seeing a big buck while we were eating in a small restaurant. I had not seen the buck on my cameras.”
After getting home from work, he headed for his two-man ladder stand on the edge of a field, where he could see 250 yards into a bottom.
“As soon as I got in the stand, I saw smaller bucks running after does everywhere,” Davis said. “They were 6-pointers and 8-pointers.”
It was a nice fall day, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. He sat back and enjoyed the show.
“That property has always had lots of deer, but it was the most rut activity I have seen in a long time,” Davis said. “It was almost dark when I saw a 6-pointer and an 8-pointer running a doe and her yearling in the bottom. The bucks stopped, looked into the woods and then they booked it out of there.”
The doe and yearling kept looking back into the woods when a huge buck stepped into the open. The buck was 250 yards away, moving toward Davis. He walked along the edge of the field, checking scrapes. Using a rangefinder, Davis checked the distances while the buck kept bumping the doe and yearling until they were right in front of him.
“I did not want to shoot him when he was coming straight at me,” Davis said. “He got on a terrace 55 yards away and, when he turned broadside, I shot. He ran 20 yards and fell. I watched him 45 minutes. Then I walked over to see him. I knew he was big, but not that big. When I see a buck, I don’t focus on his antlers. He was a perfect 6x6, resembling Texas deer with G3s taller than his G2s. He was gray with a dark chocolate rack that had a couple of stickers and one big knot on the main beam. From now on, I am going to hunt closer to home.”
The buck scored 151 3/8 typical, and will likely rank No. 2 for the 2017 season.
OCONEE CROSSBOW BUCK
Zachary Hart and Marshall Morris have been hunting at Keowee WMA for several seasons. They had seen a big buck for three years and had his movements patterned.
“It’s an archery area with several small tracts in Oconee County,” Hart said. “It opened two days before I got the chance to hunt there on October 18.”
Hart is 24 and lives in Walhalla. He is a fly-fishing guide on the Chattooga and Chauga rivers. He hunts deer with a PSE crossbow and seldom sees other hunters at Keowee WMA’s archery-only tracts.
“We set up about 50 yards apart,” Hart said. “It’s only 20 minutes from my house, so I hunt three or four afternoons each week when the season is open.”
After seeing the buck twice the previous season, all Hart had to do was climb the same tree as before, facing a thicket that led to a natural funnel along a ridge. He saw three big scrapes within 30 yards of his stand and had seen as many as 30 deer at that spot in a single day during previous hunts.
A little after 6 p.m., a doe came out, went to the scrapes and smelled around. She also kept looking behind her. A little later, she trotted away over the ridge, which is when Hart heard a twig crack behind him.
“A treetop had fallen and he was walking through it,” Hart said. “I turned my head and all I saw was antlers coming through the woods. He was 45 yards away and I started standing up. He was eating acorns, feeding along. He came within 25 yards, picked his head up and rolled his lips back, smelling where the doe had been. He made the nastiest, deep, raspy grunt I ever heard. Then he took off in a dead trot to where the doe had been.”
At 15 yards, the buck presented a quartering away shot opportunity. Hart made a loud bleat with his mouth. The buck heard it and stopped just before he would have made it into cover.
“I shot him and he took off running down the ridge to my right,” Hart said. “My buddy Marshall was set up in his tree stand. The buck ran within 10 yards of his stand and stood there with the blood pouring out of him. When he put an arrow from a compound bow into the buck I heard him release the bowstring.”
The second arrow hit the buck high in the shoulder. Hart’s arrow had penetrated both lungs. The buck moved another 25 yards and fell.
“Two or three minutes after I made the shot, Marshall and I were on the phone with each other,” Hart said. “I called my dad and he drove to the area, bringing a cart so we could get the buck out. He weighed about 215 pounds. I have never shot any buck close to that size. I was sure it was the same buck we had been seeing in the past because he was the only one we saw with a chocolate colored rack.”
The deer was the state’s best typical archery buck of 2017, with a 10-point rack that scored 150 7/8 inches typical.