Zach Phillips of Easley, S.C., missed out last season on a massive buck on his Abbeville County hunting land. He started getting trail camera photos of the same buck this year and developed a plan to get the buck in his sights. And on the evening of Oct. 12, Phillips’ plan came together perfectly when the biggest buck of his hunting career stepped into shooting range.
Deer hunters develop and follow a wide range of management styles from targeting does and irregular shaped antler configurations to a less strict policy of “if-its-brown-its-down.” Phillips and his crew follow a totally different hunting strategy. They tread lightly, only hunting select areas of their property and only pulling the trigger on something big enough for the record book.
“Bottom line, deer like to go where it is safe and we like to keep it quiet. That means no four wheelers and when we shoot, it is a good deer,” he said.
Phillips also refrains from shooting any does at all.
“The way we look at it, our neighbors and the coyotes thin out the does,” Phillips said. “When you kill the does on your property, you are killing the number one thing that will bring in your bucks.”
After hunting hard all season last year, the big buck eluded him. Nobody last season got a chance to see the deer in the flesh. Once Phillips saw that the trophy was still around, he decided to let his doe herd pull the buck out of hiding.
“Chasing does was the only way I felt I could get him in my sights. So I waited until a few weeks into gun season after the neighbors were shooting up the woods and the rut started to get the bucks on the move,” he said.
By the second week of October, Phillips noticed the rut was beginning to take off, so on the afternoon of Oct. 12, Phillips slid into a hardwood finger between two large pine thickets and climbed very high in a pine tree he had previously selected because it gave him a huge viewing area and had plenty of natural food scattered about.
Early in the hunt, a group of does stepped out and began feeding. Then, they suddenly scattered and started blowing. Phillips knew either a coyote or a buck was about to show up. He got ready.
“I caught a glimpse of a deer in an opening 250 yards away and there was one little window the deer was heading. Then, he popped out and all I could see was tines,” he said.
But, Phillips was ready. He squeezed the trigger on his .300 Win mag and the 200-pound beast fell in its tracks. Phillips’ buck is a true lifetime specimen with a 20-inch inside spread that taped out to 163 4/8 inches.