Up until Thanksgiving morning, Adrian Whitson of Burnsville had not killed a buck in eight years, and normally only hunts with a bow. But it was rifle season, and Whitson carried his Ruger .223 into a stand deep in the forest of Yancey County, and a buck showed up that was worthy of Whitson pulling the trigger.

“I had never seen this deer on trail cameras or in person. I’ve been hunting this particular spot for about four years, and nothing like this buck had ever shown up before,” he said.

To say this spot was remote would be an understatement. 

“It’s really in the middle of nowhere. I have to ride an ATV about 30 minutes, then hike another 20 minutes to get in there. It’s an old-growth forest with big, mature oak trees, and it’s thick, but it doesn’t have any underbrush. There’s a lot of wide open space where you can see for long distances — like 150 to 200 yards in some spots,” said Whitson.

After making the long trek and working his way up a tree with his climbing stand around 5:45 that morning, Whitson watched the woods wake up, and before long he was observing a couple of small bucks fighting and chasing does.

Then he heard grunting.

Once he spotted the source of the grunts, Whitson knew it was a shooter, even though he couldn’t tell just how big it was. He’s killed 120-class deer in the past, and has passed on many bucks over the past decade, opting to kill does for the dinner table. He saw right away that this buck was special.

“I’ve been really picky when it comes to bucks. I like to eat venison, so I take my share of does while hunting. But for all the bucks I’ve passed on, I knew this one was worth shooting,” he said.

At 8:45 a.m., the buck had worked his way well into shooting range, and Whitson pulled the trigger from about 80 yards away. The buck dropped immediately, and when Whitson walked up to the deer, he knew immediately it was even bigger than he’d thought. His taxidermist taped the antlers out to 169 6/8 inches, and it is one of the highest scoring deer to ever be recorded in Yancey County. 

The 10-point buck had an inside spread of over 20 inches. His right main beam was 24-inches long and his left main beam was 24 7/8-inches.

Luckily for Whitson, his brother-in-law, who was about 45 minutes away, agreed to come help him drag the deer out to his ATV, which was not an easy task.

“It was definitely the deer of a lifetime and a once-in-a-lifetime hunt for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to top that, and I fell lucky to have had the opportunity,” Whitson said.