Chris Smythe was running late on Saturday, Oct. 14, to the hunt property near Ridgeway, S.C., that he shares with his brother, Jason. There was a buck on the property so impressive that Smythe, 37, a veteran deer hunter, over which he admits he had been losing sleep.
The Smythes first saw the huge buck in velvet on a trail-camera video July 23; they immediately dubbed him “The Viking.” Subsequent videos through late September documented the Fairfield County buck as he rubbed the velvet away to expose a heavy 16-point rack.
“My wife, Amanda, and I have 3-week-old twins, and I was doing the 5 o'clock feeding that morning,” Smythe said. “My son was dragging on feeding, and it was 6:15 before I got out to our property.”
His climbing stand in a gum tree overlooked a clearcut with several hedgerows running down to a creek bottom. About 7:45 a.m. he heard crashing in the hedgerow to his right.
“Suddenly, I heard a deer blowing, and then a doe came flying down the alleyway between the hedges with two bucks chasing her,” said Smythe, who then lost sight of them in the thick cover.
“I stood on top of the climber, trying to get as much elevation as possible so I could see them,” he said. “I heard a grunt, and then I saw this deer walking back to my clearcut on the other side of the hedgerow.”
Smythe's heart stopped; it was The Viking. Smythe took aim and squeezed the trigger, but the shot did not seem to faze the big buck. Smythe took another careful shot, and the deer disappeared.
“I thought I had dropped him, but then I saw a buck running down the other side of the clearcut. He stopped at the creek bottom and just went to blowing. He must have blown 30 times,” he said.
“I called Jason, and he said, 'Don't move a muscle. They have been chasing does, and they are rut-crazed. Just stay there for 30 minutes.”
Following his brother's advice, Smythe waited 30 minutes, then slipped down the tree and eased into the clearcut, his rifle shouldered and ready. Suddenly, a buck spooked in front of him and ran, but it was not The Viking.
Then, another deer stood up, watching the other deer run off. It was The Viking!
Smythe took aim and squeezed the trigger. The big buck lunged into a briar thicket and went down. The hunt was over.
The Viking should easily make the state record book. The 16-point rack has a 16-inch inside spread, with main beams more than 20 inches long and more than 4½ inches in circumference at the base. The right G2 is 11 inches, the G3 is 9 inches, the G4 is 6 inches and the brow tines are 6 inches.
Although there will be some deductions when the rack is officially measured, the Smythe brothers raw-scored it at 160 5/8 inches and estimated it will officially score around 153 to 154 inches.
“The Viking definitely is the buck of a lifetime,” Smythe said.