As Aaron Loftin of Gastonia, N.C. sat in his climbing stand 300 yards from his friend Mike May of Indian Trail, NC on the afternoon of Dec. 9, he had already made his mind up to let a big buck walk if it was headed in May’s direction — and he did just that. But when that buck made an about-face and trotted back to Loftin, he laid out the 159 ⅞-inch, Gaston County 12-point before it could flee.

Loftin will admit that he wasn’t exactly thrilled to get back in the woods that afternoon after getting soaked in the rain and snow that morning. In fact, his plan was to try to persuade May into letting the hunt slide. But when May persisted, Loftin gave in, and they got onto the 30 acres of private land that Loftin hunts by 3 o’clock.   

Venturing into an area that Loftin hadn’t hunted before, they found a prime spot near a laurel thicket where May could climb before Loftin set off to find his own hunting spot. Within a few hundred yards he made an incredible discovery.

“I'm on this little logging road and see where there's a fork that goes up the hill,” said Loftin.  “You could tell by the way the leaves were disturbed that something had been thorough there that day. I followed it and there was a tree as big around as my leg that had been rubbed. I walked about 20 yards more and there was another rub on the other side of the logging road. I decided to stop and hunt; got up in my tree and settled down.

“That’s when I prayed for my buddy to get his deer. I said, ‘Lord, if it’s the biggest deer in the world, I’m not going to shoot him if he’s headed toward Mike.’ About an hour and a half later, the deer came down from the top of the hill and jumped across the logging road. I had him in my scope at 20 yards and could have shot him, but he was headed towards Mike.”

Loftin watched the biggest buck he had ever seen on this property walk nearly out of sight, close to a halfway point between himself and May. But, it became wary. Before Loftin could text May to be on the lookout, the buck turned and stopped, looked in all directions, and trotted right back underneath Loftin’s stand.

“When he got right out in front of me, I could hear him breathing,” said Loftin. “I was trying to get him in my scope and he must have saw me move because he took off running really fast for about 15 or 20 yards. Then, he stopped.”

As the buck stood broadside, Loftin found the brown in his scope and squeezed the trigger on his Remington 742 Woodsmaster .30-06 as the crosshairs fell on the shoulder. The 150-grain Winchester Power-Point bullet did its job and the deer never took another step.

Loftin’s buck carries an inside spread of 18½ inches, outlined by 25-inch main beams. The longest tine is a G2, just under 10 inches long. The base circumference of the antlers is 5½ inches on both sides.