July 29, 2022
By Clifford Neames
Breaking News Bucks
Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina are full of evergreen trees, mountain laurel, black bears and relatively few white-tailed deer. The terrain is rough, rocky and thick with tangled foliage making it tough to hunt. While mast-bearing oak trees are abundant in some areas, there’s not much agriculture in the steep country. Hence, the primarily woodland area is not considered prime habitat for growing or killing a world-class trophy buck.
Most of the bucks taken in Appalachia have racks without much mass. Even older deer seldom have long or heavy antler tines. So local hunters consider any deer over 140 inches from the area a true giant.
Vincent Clark lives in Avery County, the very heart of that area. He is an avid hunter, and a true mountain man who leads a private lifestyle. The buck he killed, on Dec. 7, 2021, was a local legend. Because it was so large and unusual, it lit up the internet and gained our attention at North American Whitetail. While the buck was suddenly famous, Vincent shunned the spotlight. So, he told his story to Christian Gardner and let him handle getting the word out.
Christian also lives in the area and runs a Facebook page called Appalachian Holler Hunters, which promotes local hunting. In addition, Christian is a skilled photographer. As follows, Christian relays the story of Vincent’s hunt for the incredible North Carolina whitetail.
The big buck had been the topic of discussion for the past few years amongst hunters in local gun shops. Several of them had trail camera pics, which added fuel to those conversations. The buck was covering a lot of ground with ghostlike behavior, managing to evade all the hunters’ efforts to claim his crown.
The buck sported a large non-typical rack, and he cruised an area several miles long, randomly appearing here and there throughout the season with no apparent pattern. Many men were after him, but no one seemed to have a real grasp of where he might show up next. That hit-and-miss activity allowed the deer to survive season after season and grow a highly unusual and massive set of antlers. The legendary buck was proving very hard to take down.
Vincent had a few trail camera photos of the big deer and even found a matching set of the buck’s shed antlers in the spring of 2019. Then the buck was already noteworthy, but nowhere near the size he would eventually become.
Vincent had access to a small hunting area that borders the Pisgah National Forest, where the reclusive deer was living. It was the type of property where Vincent could count on seeing a few deer if he put in the time. So, he hunted there with hope that he might get the buck so many were after. But the deer never showed up during the ‘19 or ‘20 seasons.
When last fall’s deer season opened, nothing had really changed. If anyone in the area had killed the big deer, everyone would know about it. Word travels fast in small rural communities, and Newland is no exception. Vince still figured it would be pure luck if he even saw the giant whitetail. So, he hunted as much as he could, but never really expected to be the one who killed the deer.
By December, the better part of the season was winding down. Most of the does were already bred, and buck activity was far less than it had been a few weeks before. There was almost no chance of catching a buck behind a doe, but the rut-weary animals needed energy to get through the winter. So late evening watches over food sources were a great tactic.
One afternoon, Vincent headed to a shooting house overlooking a small, planted field to hunt. It was a cold windy day, but the season would be closed soon, and he wanted to take another deer if he could. At about 5:00 p.m., he spotted a buck entering the edge of the plot about 100 yards away. The huge, light-colored rack left no doubt that it was the ghost buck. Vincent immediately knew this was his opportunity. Quickly, he aimed his 7mm Rem. Mag. and made the shot. The legendary deer fell within yards of where it had been standing. The giant deer was finally down, but the story was not over.
The incredible North Carolina buck was estimated to be 8 years old and had very worn teeth. The rut had pulled the old mountain monarch’s weight down to just 200 pounds, far less than it should have weighed given that age. The deer was very likely at the peak of maturity and as large as it ever would be.
The impressive 23-point rack has everything a trophy hunter dreams of, including beautiful split brow tines, sticker points, huge mass and even a drop tine on the right beam. And all of this is on a giant 8-point main frame.
Immediately after Vincent took the great buck, there was a lot of speculation that it might become the new state record. With that on the table, things were kept quiet until it was officially measured.
The drying period took a couple of months, and then Vincent entered the buck at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh in March 2021. It fell short of the record but scored an amazing 203 0/8 inches, and drew a lot of attention at the event, winning Best Male Gun Non-Typical and also Best of Show.
All in all, this incredible Appalachian Mountain whitetail is a unique trophy from a special part of the country that is almost never in the spotlight for big bucks. It’s unlikely Vincent’s buck will be equaled anytime soon, as the buck is a true mountain monster.