John McDonald of Woodruff, S.C., was ready to let his wife take a nice buck when the two climbed into their deer stand the morning of Oct. 14. But a couple of hours later, a truly magical whitetail showed up, and McDonald wound up on the trigger, taking a tall, narrow, heavy 11-point buck that measured almost 150 inches.
“I had this deer on trail cameras for three years,” said McDonald. “The first year I had him, I think he was a 2 1/2-year-old. But he always disappeared after bow season; I had never physically seen him. Then, we’d have him on camera after the season. We had photos of him all of the time.
“I have six shooter bucks on my place, and I took my wife with me that morning. If any of the other shooters had come out, I was going to let her shoot him,” he said. “But I saw him and said, ‘That’s him!”
The buck, slipping through a path through thick kudzu cut a month earlier, looked like “he was on a mission, grinding through there, nose down,” according to McDonald, headed to an old food plot with millet and clover leftover from turkey season. McDonald bleated at him at 60 yards and got the buck to stop, broadside, and he drilled him with his .30-06. The buck bolted, went 50 to 60 yards, got tangled up in some kidzu and went down.”
McDonald’s buck was certainly a unique one. He and his taxidermist put a tape on the buck and scored him at 148 gross inches, a trememdous total for a buck with only a 14-inch spread and 21-inch beams. But it had several tines close to or longer than 10 inches, one stretching to 11 1/2 inches, to go with tremendous mass. Around the bases, the buck’s antlers measured 6 1/2 inches. In addition to a basic 4x4 frame, the buck had three kicker points.
McDonald was almost surprised to see the buck.
“Every year, he’s dropped off the camera, and I got the feeling that he’d been taken by somebody else,” he said. “I’ve only got about 100 acres, but I think the bigger ones don’t move as much. They get smart and just sit tight and wait for the does to come past.”
McDonald, 33, has had his hunting land in Spartanburg County for four years. He’s planted food plots, put out supplemental feed and minerals, and held off shooting any small bucks.
“Putting in all the work was the real story of taking this buck,” he said.
Take, for example, the stand he and his wife were sitting in the morning the buck appeared around 8:15. He bought and erected two levels of construction scaffolding, let the kudzu grow up around it for cover, and put a couple of chairs on a platform on top of the scaffolding.
And, he counted on kudzu to draw deer into the immediate area.
“Within 20 yards of the place I shot him, there is a good buck killed almost every year,” he said. “It’s just sort of a good corridor. I’ll bushhog a path through the kudzu, cut it back, and the deer will come in after the kudzu starts to grow and eat all the new growth.
“They’ll even use the path I bushhogged through there. I kind of open a window in the kudzu for them every year.”
McDonald said he’s brought a handful of friends to hunt his land, and he is almost as proud of the nice bucks they’ve taken as his big one.
“I’ve been growing these bucks for four years, taking people on their first hunts,” he said. “I feel like it’s kind of like tithing. God is providing those deer; He knows I’m a good steward of the land.”