Dawson Durham got a late start on the afternoon of Sept. 14, and didn’t settle into his climbing stand until just after 5 p.m. He was nearly 40 feet up the tree on a steep ridge, and hoping to shoot some of the coyotes he’d been seeing around his North Carolina deer property.
“It was a little breezy that afternoon, about 80 degrees,” the self-employed businessman told Outdoor Life. “I had trail cameras out, but I had no good bucks on camera, just a bunch of coyotes that I wanted gone. That’s why I climbed so high [in the tree], the wind, and coyotes are notoriously difficult to take with a bow as they see almost every movement.”
Durham, 24, was hunting the top of ridge where white and red acorns were falling. His spot overlooked a grassy lane that dropped off sharply behind his tree and into a creek bottom. After half an hour, he spotted a doe and a yearling feeding along the lane.
They browsed for about 30 minutes, coming to within 20 yards of his stand. Around 6 p.m. they disappeared, and that’s when Durham heard something behind his stand, making its way up the ridge from the creek.
“It was just a light-sounding walk, and I thought for sure it was a coyote,” he says. “I didn’t want to move fast and scare the coyote, or the doe and yearling if they were still around.”
Durham with his buck. The low exit wound helps illustrate the extreme angle of the shot he pulled off. Courtesy of Dawson Durham
But as the steps got closer, Durham turned to see a deer’s back just 10 yards from his stand.
“It was coming straight up the hill to the lane in front of me, and I saw it had a tall and wide rack,” he says. “I stood up very slowly, and the buck sensed something wasn’t right and spun around to head back down to the creek.
“He was directly below me, and I had to shoot fast or I was sure he’d bolt and be gone.”
Durham drew his bow, anchored, aimed, and let his arrow fly. The extreme angle wasn’t Durham’s idea of a perfect shot. The buck charged downhill and disappeared into the tangled brush of the creek far below.
“I was in shock, really,” says the veteran bowhunter, who has seven Pope and Young whitetails to his credit in the last three years. “I had no idea a buck like that was anywhere around that area. I’d never gotten a trail camera picture of it—just coyotes and small deer.”
Durham didn’t hear or see anything for 30 minutes. Then he climbed down to look for blood. Almost immediately he recovered his arrow, and saw blood on the ground.
“I had no real idea where I hit the buck, because he was so close and it happened so fast,” he says. “So, I just sat at the base of my tree until it got dark, about 7:30 p.m. Then I started to follow the buck’s blood trail.”
The trail was easy to follow, and Durham shortly found his buck at the bottom of the hill, laying near the creek. He’d hit the buck perfectly, with the arrow entering the top of the buck’s back, passing completely through the chest, and exiting low to bury in the ground.
He had an ATV parked not too far from where he shot the buck, but driving it down and back up the steep hill would have been impossible, he says. So he snapped some photos, then skinned, boned, and caped his buck where it fell. Next he packed it all uphill and out to his ATV.
Courtesy of Dawson Durham
When he got the buck home, Durham put it in a freezer, delivering the cape and skull to a taxidermist the next day. Durham estimates the buck weighed over 200 pounds, with a typical main frame rack totaling 15 points. When pressed for a rough score, he estimates the buck will gross about 160 inches, but he didn’t measure it.
“The buck has 15 points, but two are short and won’t count for P&Y,” he says. “I don’t really care that much about the score. It’s just a big, beautiful buck—my best.”
The young bowman is pumped going into his autumn deer season, with upcoming hunts planned in a few more states.
“I’ve doubled down on my bowhunting since taking the 15-pointer,” he says. “I’m knocking on landowner doors looking for access, finding new areas, and hunting every chance I get.”
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