The biggest buck ever killed in North Carolina with archery equipment didn’t come from one of the counties normally associated with trophy bucks, but one that’s come to be known more for barbecue, Richard Childress and Bob Timberlake. Last Thursday morning, Steven Davis of the Davidson County town of Welcome killed an enormous buck sprouting sticker points everywhere that will likely wind up measuring somewhere mighty close to 190 inches.
Davis, a fireman for the city of Winston-Salem, was hunting on some family land in the northern end of Davidson County when he took the tremendous buck on the morning of Sept. 18 with a crossbow at between 35 and 40 yards. The buck carries a huge 5x5 main-frame rack with nine different sticker points, five of them jutting from the tallest tine on the left antler. The buck’s greatest spread is 23 ¾ inches, its inside spread is a smidgen under 20 inches, and its longest tine is just short of 14 inches. The buck weighed 175 pounds and has been measured at 190 7/8 non-typical inches.
Davis killed the buck after watching it go to and from a soybean field for four days. He put up a 16-foot ladder stand about 50 yards off the edge of the field on Saturday, Sept. 13, the opening day of archery season in the Piedmont, and he returned first to hunt it the next morning. That’s when he saw the buck stand up from where it was bedded in the bean field, 200 yards away and downwind, and walk straight away from him until it disappeared.
He put a trail camera up later that day to watch a pile of apples and corn he’d put out 37 yards from his stand, and between Sunday and Thursday morning, when he killed the deer, his trail camera collected 640 photos of the buck and a smaller, 6-pointer that was accompanying it on its rounds and apparently spent much of its time stripping the velvet from the trophy buck’s antlers and eating it.
“The first time he stood up, as soon as I saw him, I knew he was a shooter, because his horns were wider than his body,” Davis said. “I put the trail camera up, and I had a photo of him by 9 o’clock that night.
“I hunted Monday and saw him twice. He came into the beans and bedded down in the middle of it with the 6-pointer. He’d get up and leave and come back – I guess he was going to get water and coming back to his bed. I saw him two times on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but I had a bad wind, a north wind, that was blowing wrong. He’d get up every day and walk away.”
Davis watched the smaller buck strip and eat the velvet from the bigger buck’s antlers on Monday and Tuesday, through binoculars, for as much as 30 minutes at a time.
“I know so much more about deer from watching those two deer,” he said. “On Sunday, he was in full velvet. On Monday and Tuesday, he had velvet hanging from his horns and it looked like he had even more points than he did. By Wednesday, his antlers were clean, and when I killed him Thursday, they were bone white – no blood or bark anywhere – and he had a 6-inch strip of velvet left on each antler.
“The little buck was cleaning the velvet off him the whole time I watched him,” Davis said. “The big buck would even tilt his head around so the little buck could get at it better.”
Finally, on Thursday, Sept. 18, Davis got a wind that was in his advantage. He was in his stand well before daylight, and at around 6:45, the buck stood up, this time 75 yards out in the beans, still with his smaller escort.
"He walked into the woods to my right, and after about an hour, he and the 6-pointer came to my pile of corn and apples. The big deer walked straight through it; he seemed kind of jittery. The 6-pointer stopped right in it and started eating.”
Davis squeezed off a shot from a Horton crossbow, letting fly a Horton Carbon strike MX bolt tipped with a Swhacker broadhead. The buck took off across the bean field, topping out a high spot in the beans and disappearing. When Davis got down to investigate, he found that the buck had fallen going down the hill on the backside of the beans. The buck was lying partially in a creek, its head and horns in the water.
“I had a blood trail that looked like it was painted on the ground,” Davis said. “He probably went 150 yards. He fell about 30 or 40 yards going down the hill and wound up lying in a creek, with water running over his head.”
Davis, who said he had watched the buck for so many days and hours that he wasn’t really nervous when it finally came in range, suddenly got nervous when got to it and found the bolt had quartered through the buck’s vitals, slammed into its off-side hip and was still in place.
“By the time I killed him, he was just another buck to me, but after I got my hands on him, that changed. Boy, he was a big deer,” Davis said. “I guess I’ll shoot does from now on.”
With the deer down, Davis suddenly had plenty of hunters on neighboring properties offering that they had trail-cam photos of the buck from as far as 5 miles away and from as far back as 2011.
“In 2011 and 2012, he was a typical 5x5, then, in 2013, his right beam was split, and he had grown some trash (stickers),” he said.
Davis’ good fortune will put North Davidson High School in the center of North Carolina’s deer hunting map for the second-straight year. Davis graduated from the Welcome high school in 2003, in the same class as Aaron Bates, the Wadesboro man who killed the biggest non-typical taken by a bowhunter in North Carolina last season, an Anson County buck that scored 165 6/8 inches.
The largest non-typical buck ever killed by a bowhunter in North Carolina is Brent Mabrey’s 176 7/8-inch Halifax County buck, killed in 2005. The biggest buck ever taken with a crossbow is James Thompson’s 163 1/8-inch non-typical buck, killed in 2010 in Moore County.