You can’t blame Eric League if he’s looking forward to his father, Art League, going deer-hunting in Kansas next season and leaving him home again. The last two times Art has been off chasing Sunflower State deer, Eric has killed Rockingham County bucks that would overshadow most Kansas trophies, including a huge one last week that may rank among the five top archery bucks ever killed in North Carolina.
The afternoon of Oct. 25, Eric League, a sergeant for the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department, took an enormous 5x5 typical that has been green-scored at 173 2/8 gross and 162 net inches. Four years ago during rifle season, he killed a buck that grossed 165 4/8 – also while his father was in Kansas. On both occasions, League was hunting property owned by Reidsville’s Sandy Brady.
“I like nothing better than calling up turkeys for people, so I trade out two days of hunting my managed deer property per season for turkey hunting rights to some of Art’s land,” Brady said. “It just so happened this year, once again, Art went to Kansas to muzzleloader hunt, and Eric used one of Art’s two days to kill a big buck.”
Eric League said his father and Brady had set up a trail camera on a portion of the property near a gradually-sloping hillside studded with white oaks that tapered downto a swamp. Photos revealed a wide and tall 10-pointer often sauntering up the hill with some exclusive company.
“He would be leading a group of six or seven bucks, five of them wall-hangers,” Eric League said, “but it was clear he was the ring-leader. I started calling him ‘Mufasa’ (the leader of the pride in Disney’s movie, The Lion King).”
The spot was sweetened with ear corn about 25 yards from a brushed-up ladder stand – scattered to the left of the stand so a bow hunter could draw without having to stand up.
“Dad hunted him in September and most of October and didn’t get a shot,” Eric League said. “Then Sandy said I could go the two days while Dad was in Kansas. I waited until conditions were perfect: a north wind blowing from the swamp bedding area to the stand.”
League, who had worked a night shift on Oct. 24, fell into bed the next morning at 6 o’clock.
“It had been cold and was going to get colder, so I knew that should make bucks move that afternoon,” said League, who climbed into the 22-foot high stand at 3:45 p.m. The big deer walked in behind a spike and doe at 5:35.
He drew his Mathews Z7 bow, set at 70 pounds, and put the 20-yard sight pin behind the buck’s left shoulder.
“I haven’t shook in years when I saw a deer, but I was shakin’, then my police training kicked in,” League said. “I said, ‘It’s just a deer, so shoot it.’”
The Carbon Express arrow, tipped with an Antler Insanity Bonecrusher 100-grain broadhead, zipped 22 yards and slapped the deer’s side but didn’t go all the way through, and the big buck bounded down the hill.
When League saw the buck’s reaction, he knew he’d hit the deer hard.
“At first I said, ‘I killed a giant,’ then I said, ‘This isn’t good’ when I didn’t find blood,” he said. “I backed out and went and got Sandy, and we came back an hour later with his 4-wheeler. It was dark, and we used lights. Sandy found his blood trail, then we lost it once, circled, then picked it up again. I saw him lying on his side down the hill.”
The buck’s main beams measured 27 and 26 2/8 inches, and its inside spread taped 21 3/8 inches. The first big tines out from the brow tines are 10 4/8 and 9 2/8 inches long, then the tallest tines are 12 1/8 and 12 4/8 inches. The rack had a 2 1/8-inch sticker point at the base of its right antler.
At Brady’s prodding, League sent his father a cell-phone photo of the buck with no words attached.
“Dad texted me back, ‘Is that you in the picture?’ ” Eric League said. “He was happy for me when I texted it was.”