With the cool September weather, and having a trophy buck show up in range by 7:30 a.m., Elon’s Alex Hughes couldn’t ask for much more on his opening day hunt. But a squirrel or some other critter broke the early morning silence, almost foiling his opportunity at the trophy deer.

Despite the hidden noisemaker, Hughes got a shot at the 159-inch, 9-point buck — his biggest ever — and he delivered a fatal blow. He didn’t find the deer right away, but perseverance paid off.

Firefighter by night and big buck hunter by day, Hughes is no newcomer when it comes to killing and tracking down big opening day bucks. In 2015, Hughes bagged a massive 150-inch 9-pointer at 13 yards. And this past Saturday, again on opening day, Hughes shot this big buck which he expects will outscore his former 150-inch personal record.  

Hughes captured a few trail camera shots of a couple of big 9-point bucks several weeks before this season came in. The biggest of the two bucks wasn’t making regular visits to his stand, but the other one was no slouch, a 9-point, 140-class buck, and it was coming in almost every day.   

“I had three trail camera photos of the big one about 10 days ago and there was another big buck working the same area too. I knew right where I would be on opening day,” he said. 

Short on time because his 24-hour shift at the firehouse was starting later that morning, Hughes decided to hunt anyway. And by 7:30 a.m., his corn pile was full of deer, including both of the bucks Hughes had been watching.

“They showed up and the big one stopped behind a big tree that I use for cover, leaving me without any shot whatsoever, but I kept waiting. He was only 15 yards away and all he had to do is walk 10 yards either way for me to make a shot,” he said.

Then, the noisy critter spooked the deer and they all scattered. Hughes was discouraged, but he could still see the buck on the outer edge of his viewing area. But it was 30 yards away and still moving. With the deer still in range, Hughes had a decent quartering-away shot. 

“I shot him leaving at 30 yards and he took off. It wasn’t the perfect shot opportunity I was hoping for, but for a deer like that, you have to take what you can get and I didn’t figure he was going to come back anymore at this point,” he said. 

Hughes knew he hit the deer, but he wanted to give the deer some time. He went to work and came back with a friend over his lunch break to look, but after two hours, they’d seen no sign of the buck. 

“After looking a couple of hours, I figured he was gone. I was sick,” he said. 

The next morning after his 24-hour shift was over, Hughes went back to look one final time. 

“I prayed to God and asked God to lead me to him. And after 30 minutes, I walked up right on him,” he said. 

“I felt as if the deer knew something was up. He was acting differently than the rest of the deer and he was nervous the entire time. But, he hung around just long enough for me to get a fatal shot on him. He is the biggest deer of my life and I am proud to have gotten him on opening day,” he said. 

With a five-inch circumference along the main beams right below the G2s and incredible mass, the 9-point buck was green-scored at 159 inches.