Rockingham County in the northern Piedmont has a reputation for producing quality bucks, including a Boone & Crockett specimen in 2011.

Andy Flinchum of Stokesdale discovered last Nov. 5 just how good the hunting could be. That's when the 39-year-old truck driver used a muzzleloader to drop one of the biggest 8-pointers killed in North Carolina in 2012.

Flinchum was hunting a 100-acre tract near the Dan River, and he'd placed an enclosed box stand on a 10-foot-tall platform, backed up to stand of pines near a regenerating cutover

"We keep (shooting) lanes trimmed back and put out corn and minerals," said Flinchum, who got to his stand at 4 p.m. "We put the corn 70 yards from the stand in a shooting lane."

A doe and two fawns visited to the corn pile at 4:45, then a large buck stepped into the shooting lane.

"All I could see was one side of his rack," Flinchum said. "It was very palmated. Before that ... I had heard other deer running 100 yards through the thick stuff, and I heard one grunt, then it got quiet, But I knew, obviously, a buck had made that grunt.

"A doe came running down a hill into the bait pile, which made the three deer in there run away," Flinchum said. "Then she turned her head and looked, and I saw the buck coming toward her at a trot with his head on the ground."

When the buck walked into the open shooting lane at 70 yards, Flinchum peered through the Leupold scope atop his Thompson Center Encore .50-caliber muzzleloader, put the crosshairs on the buck's rib cage and pulled the trigger.

"He ran to the left, out of sight," Flinchum said.

After re-loading his smokepole, Flinchum climbed down from his stand and walked to the spot where the buck had been standing, but he found no signs of a hit, Wisely, Flinchum didn't pursue the deer but went to get help from his brother, Alex. The two returned to the woods with flashlights and searched 90 minutes before giving up.

Flinchum returned with his father, Alonzo, at daylight the next morning. After a short search, they revealed the buck downhill near a creek 40 yards in the opposite direction from where Flinchum had seen the deer run out of the shooting lane.

The buck's rack, scored at Betty's County Grocery in Walnut Cove, had a 23-inch inside spread and identical 23-inch main beams. Its brow tines were 5 2/8 and 5 4/8 inches long, and the next two tines on each beam measured 9 6/8, 8 4/8, 9 6/8 and 9 4/8 inches. The buck grossed 153 2/8.