The experience haunted her and her husband, Hunter, until two weeks ago, when she dropped the same Rockingham County trophy buck, which carried a 12-point, non-typical rack with more than 158 inches of horn.
An orthopedic nurse at Alamance Regional Medical Center, she and her husband, Hunter Huffines, had pursued the buck doggedly for three years after that first missed bow shot.
"Two years ago, he was just gone; we didn't see him at all," Mindy Huffines said. "Then on Dec. 14, 2011, he showed up at a neighbor's farm, and we shared trail-camera photos."
But over the next two seasons, the big bruiser was captured on camera only twice during daylight hours. The couple had just about given up hope they'd see Heartbreaker, but disappointment changed to elation Nov. 12.
"I usually hunt by myself," Mindy Huffines said. "But that day it was drizzling rain, so Hunter went with me and set up a ground blind."
He husband placed a hub-style blind at the edge of a soybean field where they'd gotten trail camera photos of the buck in June and July.
"I have a tree stand there, but because of the rain, Hunter put the ground blind up right below the tree stand," she said.
They eased into the ground blind about 4 p.m. Mindy was holding her husband's Remington 700 .30-06 rifle while Hunter carried a pair of binoculars.
Thirty minutes later, she grunted twice, and a small buck walked out of a thicket across the bean field, followed by a buck with a stunning set of antlers – Heartbreaker.
"She saw the big buck across the field that's 80 yards wide," Hunter said. "I put up the binoculars and saw him and told her, 'It's him', and she knew what to do."
Things happened quickly from that point.
"It happened so fast, I didn't have time to think, which probably a good thing," Mindy said. "I put the gun up, looked through the scope and shot."
Neither was sure she'd hit the buck.
"I was watching through the binoculars when she shot, and the buck squatted, made one bound and was in the thicket," Hunter said. "She was asking me if she hit him and I told her, 'Yeah, you got him.' But I really didn't have a clue."
In a few minutes, the 3-pointer that ran into the woods with the larger deer returned to the field, giving Mindy hope she'd hit the bigger deer.
"I thought something was wrong in the woods and had scared the little buck," she said. "But I had to know what happened, so we got out of the blind and walked across the field."
After about 100 yards of tracking a spray of blood into the woods, Hunter Huffines found the trophy deer. Mindy had drilled the monster through the left shoulder and both lungs.
"I started crying I was so happy," she said. "I was scared I'd wounded him and he'd get away and might die without us ever finding him.
"It was a release because we'd been hunting him so long," Mindy said. "I usually hunt by myself, but I'm glad my husband was with me this day."
A green score of the 12-pointer's non-typical rack revealed 158 5/8 gross inches. It had main beams 24 inches or better, an 18 ¾-inch inside spread, one tine almost 11 inches long and another 9 ¼ inches, and four abnormal points totaling 18 3/8 inches.