Travis Smith of Bethany, N.C. was pleasantly surprised on the afternoon of Nov. 9 from his ground blind when the biggest deer of his life showed up unexpectedly less than 50 yards from his feet. A 146-inch, 8-pointer appeared with very little warning. But, Smith made it count when he perforated the deer’s chest cavity with the massive projectile from his .50-caliber CVA Optima muzzleloader.

And in his own words, “It was all she wrote!” 

For weeks, Smith had his eyes on several good bucks on his family’s property in Guilford County. He was hunting at one of his favorite spots located at the base of a pond dam adjacent to a thick cutover that had a freshly mowed field edge planted with several crab apple trees scattered around. And this year’s bumper crop has so many crab apples on the ground that the deer were passing on his corn pile to eat nature’s bounty. 

It was one of Smith’s favorite spots on the farm, and apples or not, it was a prime place for deer to cross without being out in the wide open. The base of the pond dam was screened and protected, and Smith had several good “shooter” bucks on camera there. 

Most of his shooter bucks all seemed to vanish over the last couple of weeks. But that didn’t worry Smith. With the cool weather coming in and the rut beginning to take off, he knew anything could happen at any time especially in Guilford County, one of the best counties in the state to encounter a trophy buck. 

That afternoon, Smith slipped into his ground blind and got situated for the evening. Shortly after he got settled, a doe showed up walking down the wood line towards the crab apple trees. Smith watched her for a few minutes with his binoculars. She ate crab apples and eased up and down the field edge without a care in the world. She was alone and everything was normal until instantly her body language changed, alerting Smith.  

“She alerted me with her body language. She got behind the crab apple tree and started acting nervous,” Smith said. “She put her head down and suddenly took off running back the way that she came.”

Smith isn’t new to hunting and he knew there was a buck there somewhere in the immediate area. As soon as she took off, Smith immediately figured it was the small basket-racked buck he had been watching in there for the past few weeks. He scanned over with his binoculars looking for the small 8-pointer, but something else filled up the instrument’s field of view. 

“Bam and there he was!” Smith said. “It was the biggest buck I had ever seen. I knew he was a shooter instantly!”

Smith raised his CVA Optima and shot the deer right where he stood 47 yards away. The deer took a few steps and quickly collapsed within sight of Smith’s ground blind.  

“I had some good bucks on trail camera, but I had no idea this buck even existed,” he said. 

Smith’s buck is a mainframe eight pointer with a total green score of 146.75-inches with several tines up to 11 inches long and massive bases measuring at 5 ¾ and 5 ½ inches around. It is Smith’s biggest buck to date, outscoring his previous 131-inch, 7-pointer he killed several years ago.