No one in their right mind wants to see Medusa in the woods, but that’s about what Chris Carter of Raleigh saw on a recent hunt in Johnston County, N.C. while hoping to get a shot at a big buck or a doe to get some meat in the freezer. The 12-point “cactus buck” was in full velvet, and had an array of antlers unlike anything Carter had ever seen.
“This is my family’s land that I’ve been hunting on for more than 10 years, and we’ve kept watch on the land with trail cameras, and have also talked closely with neighboring property owners and hunters, and none of us had ever seen this deer either in person or in trail camera photos,” said Carter.
After getting up a hickory tree about 20 feet with his climbing stand around 6:30 a.m. on the 100-acre property, Carter was down on himself for not getting set up earlier, and was afraid he’d made too much noise on the walk in.
“I got there later than I’d hoped. Earlier that week, I’d scouted the area and found that two chestnut oaks were dropping acorns steadily, and I’d found this nearby hickory tree which was the straightest tree around. But the morning of the hunt, I felt like I broke every stick while walking in, and I know from past experience that the deer like to get to this spot super early, so I was wishing I’d gotten there sooner,” he said.
Carter was overlooking a clear cut and had an agricultural bean field behind him. He was expecting to see deer come from the bean field, but that’s not the way things played out.
At 7:45 a.m., Carter saw his first deer. It was the crazy-racked cactus buck, but the deer was far enough away that in the shadows, Carter could only see antlers and couldn’t make out just how out-of-ordinary the rack was. He saw enough to believe it was a shooter though, and as he watched with his binoculars, he noticed some other deer showing up.
“There were five other deer. A smaller buck and four does, and they came from the direction I expected them too. They encountered the other buck, and at first I thought he was trying to run them off, but that smaller buck and does were actually bumping him. They pushed him directly toward me,” he said.
Two of the buck’s antler tines go straight to the sides of its head, parallel to the ground, then drop. Carter focused more on where the deer was headed than on its antlers, and even though he couldn’t help but see the antlers, he didn’t focus on them enough to get a grasp for how they looked. The buck was nearing a point that would give Carter a good shot, so he readied himself and drew back on his Mathews bow.
“I saw that the deer had velvet on his rack, and I noticed the two drop tines, but I didn’t want to focus on the rack, so I didn’t understand what they were. I was watching the deer’s body and I just though to myself ‘he’s shedding the velvet and that’s what is hanging down,’” he said.
At 24 yards away, the deer stopped, offering Carter a perfect broadside shot, which he took. The arrow went straight through the deer’s engine room.
“It ran about 15 yards, wobbled a bit, then ran hard for another 15 yards, then dropped. It was only when I walked up to the buck that I got a good look at the rack and realized just how strange it was.
“I’d always wanted to kill a non-typical buck, I’d always wanted to kill a buck in velvet, and I’d always wanted to do both of those with a bow. I was able to do all of that with this one deer,” he said.