Randy Parker's Big Carolina Trophy

Randy Parker's Big Carolina Trophy

One day last November, Randy Parker reluctantly dragged himself out of bed -- and into the state record books. Here's the story of his trophy buck.

Randy Parker with the mount of his buck, which officially netted 161 2/8. Behind him are the buck's sheds from 2001 (top) and 2002 (bottom). Photo by Todd McDonald

By Todd McDonald

Four-thirty a.m. came quickly on Thursday morning, Nov. 20 for Chatham County native Randy Parker. After silencing the alarm clock, Randy contemplated the morning hunt. A rain-soaked hunt the previous afternoon, along with two weeks of hard hunting before that, was starting to take its toll. Nevertheless, Randy reluctantly crawled out of bed. He knew the chances of killing the big Chatham County buck he'd been after wouldn't happen while lying in bed.

Randy's quest for the big buck began in 2000 when sightings of the deer started surfacing around the local community. For three years, the buck would elude Randy and other local hunters. Randy hunted hard for this buck, trying every strategy in the book, only to come up empty-handed. Randy was becoming frustrated by the fact that he hadn't even had a glimpse of this large deer - and that this buck had become the main topic of conversation around his grandmother Lola Parker's community store and grill.

During late spring of '02, Randy's uncle, Gordon, was disking a field when suddenly he ran over something with the rear tractor tire. The loud clunking sound caused him to stop and investigate the problem. Much to Gordon's surprise, a large antler was lodged in the tire. Luckily the antler was only slightly damaged. Gordon was awestruck at the enormous antler and figured it had to be from the "Big Buck" that roamed the area. Curious to the whereabouts of the other side, Gordon began searching the immediate area. Surprisingly, he walked less than 100 yards and discovered the matching side. The sheds were from the 2001 season.

Randy was elated that the sheds were found on their farm - obviously, the buck's territory included this property. His first thought was, Man, I'd love to kill a buck like that! Pieces of the puzzle were starting to take shape. The sheds and several big rubs were found within close proximity of one another. Finally, Randy had something tangible to put his hands on and could see firsthand just how big the buck really was.

Studying the clues the phantom buck had left behind, Randy finally had a hunch that maybe the buck was staying on a small isolated piece of land away from the main farm. According to Randy, the area was only about seven acres. It was located behind some barns and secluded from the daily farming activities.

"The small piece of land hadn't been farmed in several years," Randy noted. "Nobody bothered the place. It has everything a big buck needs. It's mainly an overgrown broom straw field with some timber and a small pond. The buck could lie there all day listening to everybody coming in and out of the farm. But it was one of those places I didn't feel confident hanging a stand in and hunting."

Randy's strategy going into the 2003 deer season was to focus his efforts between the bedding and feeding areas. With hardly any acorn mash, a large cut corn field on an adjoining farm became the main food source for many of the local deer. Were the buck to make a mistake, Randy knew it would be during the rut. So, to improve his odds, Randy scheduled a two-week vacation during mid-November in hopes the rut would be in full swing.

Randy's first full week (muzzleloader week) of hunting proved to be productive. Small bucks were chasing does, indicating the rut was heating up. By week's end, Randy's steadfast strategy had paid off with a nice 130-class buck. However, Randy was having a problem with some deer not reaching him until dark. To combat the problem, he decided to move deeper into the hardwoods and closer to the bedding area.

Thursday morning, and under darkness, Randy headed to his stand near the pine thicket where he had hunted the evening before. To keep from spooking any deer feeding in the corn field, Randy sneaked to his stand from a dirt road on the back section of the property. The heavy rains from the day before kept his approach quiet. Reaching the tree, Randy quietly turned the portable stand 180 degrees to now face the corn field. Then he quietly climbed the tree.

"It turned out to be a blue-bird morning," Randy recalled. "I was just sitting there and right after first light three does in single file came through the woods, coming from the corn field. They came by me probably 60 yards from my left. They came right on by, crossed the creek and went up into the thicket.

"I was just sitting there when I thought I heard something jump the creek behind me and crack a limb. I quietly stood up and turned around and was actually looking back that way."

He didn't see anything, but he continued to look in that direction because the vegetation was extremely thick. Then he heard something else.

"As I was looking in the direction of the creek, I thought I heard a deer grunt back behind me toward the corn field. The grunt sounded real deep," he said.

Now he had to ease back around to his original position. When he finished, he was looking at a doe.

"She was almost directly in front of me on a trail about 40 yards out. She was kind of quartering away from me to my left . . . just easing along. I knew I had heard a grunt," he said, "so I was looking back behind her. Within just a few seconds, I saw movement and then there he was. The sun was behind me and when he came through the trees all I remember seeing were just tines, just his rack. I remember thinking, Man, what a rack! As soon as I saw him, I knew he was a shooter."

Luckily, the buck still had no idea Parker was there. The trophy was focused on one thing: going the same direction as the doe.

"I remember thinking, Just keep your cool. It was sort of thick right there and I didn't want to screw up, I didn't want to mess my shot up," Parker said. "I was looking ahead the way he was going, hoping to find an opening. He was quartering away from me following her. I found a small opening and eased my gun up, when about that time he stopped and started rubbing a tree. He started tearing up that tree. The sun was shining down on his rack and he was up and down with his rack tearing up that tree. That made it 100 times worse! That tore me up!"

After what Parker now estimates was a minute and a half of tree-thrashing (but which seemed like "forever" to Parker at the time), the buck continued to follow the doe. Parker was ready.

"I had my rifle on the opening and was looking through my scope. When he stepped

into the opening, I put the cross hairs right behind his left shoulder and squeezed the trigger," Parker said. "At the shot, the buck bolted. I could tell by the way he was carrying his left shoulder low to the ground as he ran off that I had put a bullet in him somewhere."

"I lost sight of him about at 30 yards; it was just that thick. He bolted in the direction he had been walking. I mean he was gone! I didn't hear a crash or anything, but I knew when I pulled the trigger, I had put a bullet in him"

Not knowing the buck's fate, Randy decided to wait 15 to 20 minutes before climbing down. Moreover, he was shaking so much from excitement, he was afraid he would fall from the tree.

Once on the ground, Randy slowly headed in the direction he last saw the buck. But, he didn't have to walk far - Within 50 yards, he found his trophy. Randy could hardly believe his eyes when he walked up on the giant buck. The first thing that caught his eye was how high the rack stood off the ground. Kneeling beside the fallen monarch, Randy couldn't help but feel a little sorrow. After a tireless four-year pursuit, the chase was over. Randy paused and gave a prayer of thanks - and to think he almost decided to sleep in.

To add to this amazing story, Randy's dad was squirrel hunting on the farm in late December, just weeks after Randy had harvested his trophy buck, when he happened upon the buck's sheds from the 2002 season. The horns were lying together and partially covered by leaves. Incredibly, they were in good condition. According to Randy, the buck must have bumped the ground with his antlers while feeding and the horns fell to the ground. Interestingly, the kill site and both set of sheds were all found within a few hundred yards apart.

The Parker buck, aged at 5 1/2, carried a typical 10-point frame with two abnormal points. It gross scored 177 2/8 and netted 161 2/8. If you added in the abnormal points, the buck would gross score well over 180. Not bad from the ol' Tar Heel State.

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