Colin Ford of Fayetteville, N.C., and his older sister, Stephanie Ford, of Raleigh, N.C., killed a couple of big bucks on back-to-back days two seasons ago.
So when Colin killed an even bigger buck a few minutes before dusk this past Saturday, the opening day of archery season in North Carolina, an immediate thought for both he and his sister was, could Stephanie kill a big buck the next day?
She could and did. An even bigger one.
As far as brother-sister acts go, this one is going to be hard to beat.
Colin’s buck — an 8-pointer unless you count a pair of developing crab claws on the end of each beam — that had a 15 1/2-inch inside spread and 10 1/2-inch G-2s, had been on his radar for about six weeks, when it first showed up in trail-camera photos. Stephanie had first seen her buck in the 2016 season, got to know him so well she named him “Luey” and was amazed at how much bigger he’d grown in just a year: an 8-pointer with 24-inch main beams and one tine on the left beam that measured 11 inches.
“We were beyond excited,” said Stephanie, 29. “It was a very happy day. I’d rather Colin kill a bigger deer than me every day, but for both of us to get bucks like this on the opening weekend was great. We had a big day. I don’t think I slept at all that night.”
Colin, 21, got things started on opening day, Saturday, Sept. 9, in Cumberland County.
“We had been watching this buck for about six weeks,” he said. “We had a couple of nice bucks in the area, and I checked my camera before I got in the stand. He was completely nocturnal, but I had two more shooter bucks coming in during daylight, a 9-pointer, and a 20-inch 7-pointer.
“I saw six does and a small 8-pointer, and right at 20 minutes before the end of shooting time, I heard something behind me in the creek bottom. I looked behind me and saw the 9-pointer coming up the oak ridge, and there was another deer behind him. I thought, ‘No way it’s him. He’s been coming out at night,’ but it was.”
The buck fed across the ridge and stopped 60 yards out, then turned and came toward Colin’s stand.
“The 9-pointer came right to the corn pile, and the big buck stopped about 30 yards away, facing me; I didn’t have a shot. He finally moved around into one of the shooting holes I had, but when I drew back, a squirrel a few trees away from me went to chattering, and both of the deer took off. I grunted and stopped the big buck in the last shooting hole I had. He locked up just perfect.”
At 23 yards, he let fly with his Mathews Z7 Extreme, tipped with a 100-grain, 4-bladed Wac‘Em broadhead, and he got a perfect double-lung pass-through. The buck ran about 120 yards and piled up.
“I’d been watching him in velvet,” Colin said. “And he had all his velvet three days before the season. He was the last buck in the area to lose his velvet. He had all kinds of bark in his antlers where he’d been rubbing.”
The next afternoon, hunting just inside the Raleigh city limits, Stephanie finally got Luey in range.
“I had seen him at the first of last season, and I saw him about five times last year, but I never got a shot, because I’m only hunting with a bow because I’m in the city limits,” she said. “He showed up on a trail camera about a month ago, and he was way bigger than last year. He had grown substantially. I knew it was him because one (antler) was definitely bigger than the other.”
Stephanie had several other big bucks working the area she was hunting, and she had a big 8-pointer that was in full velvet she wanted to kill, but her brother and father, Steve Ford, talked her out of it. In fact, just about every deer she had on her trail cam showed up on Saturday — except Luey. It was the same thing on Sunday, until 7:30 p.m.
“He came in and walked straight to the corn pile,” Stephanie said. “I saw him for about two seconds. He was at 25 yards and turned broadside, but he was scratching his side (with a hind hoof). As soon as he put his foot down, I shot him.”
Stephanie had been shooting a Hoyt compound bow, but because she’d never got a shot at Luey last season, Colin had talked her into shooting a borrowed Barnett Ghost crossbow with bolts tipped with 3-blade Muzzy broadheads. The shot was perfect, and the buck took off. He ran a total of 100 yards, but he circled back and fell close enough that Stephanie heard him crash to the ground.
“I heard him fall, and I knew he was dead, but I stayed until my dad and brother came up — about an hour,” she said. “We went right out and found him.”
Like Colin’s buck, Luey had shed his velvet. Stephanie said she had trail-camera photos of him the middle of the previous week, and the buck was still in full velvet.