Swamp hunting can be an effective way to harvest big bucks, especially if you use a bulldozer to clear out shooting lanes. Matthew Lee, 20, of Johnston County, did exactly that when he downed a 12-point, 161-inch trophy on Nov. 3.

"I'm hunting between a bedding area and the water," Lee said. "The deer stay in the swamp most of the day, because there's different stuff for them to eat at a 1-acre island ... where no one can get to them except me. And I normally don't go there."

Lee had used a bulldozer several summers ago to clear two shooting lanes near a stand at the edge of the swamp.

"My stand is set up at the edge of the swamp, and I have two shooting lanes, one in front and one in back," he said.

"This stand is surrounded by the swamp on three sides with a field and a (open) patch cut through the woods behind me." The swamp receives water from a creek impounded by a large beaver pond.

"I was doing what my dad told to me to do; he's the one who originally told me to hang stands in this area," Lee said. "It's worked out pretty good. We have a double-ladder stand, and I shot a big 8-pointer out of there last year."

Another factor helped Lee in taking the big buck. "The rut was in pretty good swing," he said.

Lee, a volunteer fireman, walked to his stand around noon after classes at Wilson Community College where he takes fire-protection courses. "I saw a 6-pointer about 1 p.m.," he said. "It had been rainy and overcast and pretty chilly that day.

"About 2:10, a doe came busting out (of the swamp) with an 8-pointer chasing her. Then I saw the big deer at about 75 yards; he was chasing both of them."

Lee first heard the 8-point buck and doe because they had splashed out of the swamp and circled his stand. Then he spied the 12-pointer and knew it was a shooter.

"When I saw him at first, he was running away from me, but then he stopped for a split second," he said. "I knew he was a big deer by his body size (170 pounds)."

Only a few seconds elapsed before Lee looked through his Bushnell 6x18 scope, mounted on a Remington .30-06 rifle, and pulled the trigger.

"He was 80 yards and quartering away from me when I shot at him," Lee said, "but he was standing still then." The hunter said the small buck and doe had run through the bulldozed shooting lane behind his stand. "That's the only reason he stopped," Lee said. "I think he lost track of them, and he stopped to see which way they'd gone. He was trying to figure out where they were when I shot him. He fell in his tracks."

The .30-06 bullet, which hit the buck in its left shoulder, smashed into its right shoulder, which put down the deer and delivered a clean kill.

"I found the bullet in his right shoulder when I caped him out," said Lee, who estimated only 30 seconds elapsed between the time he first saw the buck until he took the shot that dispatched the wide-racked whitetail.

"I waited 30 minutes before I came down out of my stand," he said, "but I watched him like a hawk the entire time." Lee called one of his friends, Christopher Dodson, to come help him drag the buck out of the woods.

"I was in shock when I walked up to," Lee said. "I never dreamed (the rack) would be that big. I've killed a couple of big deer, but he takes the cake."

The inside spread of the buck's 12-point rack has been measured at 22 7/8 inches, with the main beams of 24½ and 23 inches.

"The (brow tines) were right at six inches tall, and he's got a really tall kicker point in front of his right brow tine," Lee said. "The G-2s are eight and 10 inches and both the G-3s are five inches. I don't remember how long the G4s are, but they look to be 4½ to five inches long."

Lee had scattered corn in the shooting lanes that day. He was wearing camouflage overalls and a hunter-orange cap. "The only scent I use is cover scent, and it's kinda unusual -it's vanilla extract mixed with water and put in a spray bottle," he said. "Some old-timers told me this trick. I spray it on my boots and clothes.

"I didn't believe it until I saw a doe walking down the same trail I'd used to go to a stand, and she would lick the ground where I stepped."

The buck was an estimated 3½ to four years old, according to Eastern Carolina Taxidermy of Smithfield.