For the opening day of Clarendon County’s rifle season on Sept. 1, Joey Brunson of Manning started his season off strong with a 200-pound, 138-inch buck with several tines reaching out 12 inches long. And this wasn’t just any deer. It was a deer very familiar for Brunson. Just last year, Brunson watched this deer on multiple occasions nibbling on his corn piles well within lethal rifle range. 

“I saw him last year on camera and on my corn pile a couple of times on my stand,” Brunson said. “I knew he would be something special if I could let him grow another year, and he made it.”

Just two days before opening day, Brunson’s game camera caught the heavy-horned eight pointer munching on his food plot and on a full complement of yellow gold in the center. Even better, the buck was making a routine visit right at 7:30 each evening. Brunson made sure he was off work that afternoon to get a shot at this buck while it was in a familiar pattern. 

From his tree stand that afternoon, Brunson watched an entire herd of deer show up, with over 12 bucks and four does coming through. And like clockwork, his big eight pointer showed up with 20 minutes left of good shooting light coming into the field from the far back corner. 

“I knew it was him, I recognized those tall points immediately. He got me shaking and my heart was pumping like crazy,” he said. 

Brunson got ready and pulled up his rifle to prepare for the shot, but the buck walked right in front of a bush, stopped, and stood there for what seemed like an eternity. 

“He stood behind that bush for at least two minutes and I was debating if I should shoot through the bush or wait. I could see the top of his back and his tall antlers were towering above. I was nervous,” he said. 

The longer the buck waited behind the bush, the more nervous Brunson got. But finally, the buck walked out and turned broadside at 70 yards away. Brunson aimed and fired his Remington 7mm Magnum. The buck hit the dirt.  

Brunson’s nervous jitters turned into excitement as he watched his biggest buck to date lie there motionless in the middle of the food plot. But when Brunson walked up to the deer to take a closer look, he noticed that his nervousness almost wrecked his day.  

“If I was two inches higher on my shot, I would have missed him. I am glad that he fell,” he said.