He wound up killing the biggest buck he's taken in 25 years of hunting, a 150-inch, 10-point Bladen County trophy.
Even more interesting? Oct. 13 was the first day of gun season in eastern North Carolina, but Campbell carried his .50-caliber muzzleloader into the woods because he needed to discharge it so he could clean it and put it away until next season.
Campbell was hunting in the general vicinity of the Cape Fear River; the area has oak-filled bottomlands and booming agricultural fields, and Campbell had limited the buck harvest on the property he was hunting to those big enough to take to the taxidermist, in fact, he hadn't killed a buck in nearly four seasons. He'd worked with clubs on adjoining properties to follow suit, and the quality of deer in the local herd was started to show.
While he was working on Saturday, he noticed a big acorn crop around his hunting cabin and thought that an oak ridge along a trail headed for some food plot he's planted in Eagle forage soybeans might be a good spot to camp out. He determined that the prevailing wind was perfect for that stand, so when he finished his work, he headed there, feeling it would be the best spot for a quick doe kill.
One thing Campbell did was carry a stool with him, just in case he decided to sit on the ground.
"With the foliage still attached to the trees, I figured sitting on the ground may be better to see the furthest," he said.
As he approached the stand, he started noticing all kinds of deer tracks, fresh rubs and scrapes, and 70 yards from the stand, he decided not to go any further. He set his stool down with a pine tree on one side and holly bushes on the other for concealment.
An hour or so later, four does walked out at 30 yards and began feeding on acorns along the ridge. He picked out the biggest one and flicked off the safety on his .50-caliber Traditions Vortek muzzleloader to make his shot.
"Just before I shot, a big deer came into the picture further up the ravine, trotting towards the does and dispersing them like a covey of quail." He says. "I saw his crab claws and his width and knew that it was him!"
The deer scattered about, and the does pushed towards the food plots, crossing a narrow opening in the forest. The buck was trailing the does, and Campbell raised his blackpowder rifle and waited for the buck to cross the opening. The buck hit the opening at 80 yards, and Campbell bleated at him – "Baaahh Baaahh Baaahh" – to try and stop him.
The buck stopped for a moment, and Campbell squeezed the trigger and sent a 250-grain bullet on its way, a huge plume of white smoke filling the air.
"Right after I shot, I could hear deer thrashing around all over the place, but I couldn't see anything through the heavy smoke," he said.
When the smoke cleared, he couldn't see anything that resembled a deer on the ground. He waited 20 minutes to start looking, along with his brother, Wesley, and after a short search, he saw a white belly among the litter and vines about 30 yards away.
The buck weighed in at more than 180 pounds, but the rack was more impressive, with a 17 ½-inch spread and 12-inch back tines. Preliminary scoring puts it at 150 ¾ inches.
Campbell judged the buck – examining the lower jawbone – at 3 ½ to 4 ½ years old. He plans to have someone with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission give it a look to better gauge the buck's age.