Bowhunter Charles Nunn of Chatham County and his outstanding opening day buck. PHOTO BY JAMIE WHITAKER
Raise your hand if you remember the old Saturday Night Live skits where Garrett Morris, playing fictional Dominican baseball star Chico Escuela, explained that “Baseball been berry, berry good to me!”
The first time that happened was Nov. 11, 1978, taking the St. Mickey’s Chapter of the Knights of Columbus into debt for a $900 speaking fee for Escuela’s small pearl of wisdom. If you’re a deer hunter who recalls the line, it not only means you have an excellent memory but also that you’ve been in the woods a long, long time, for better or worse.
Chatham County hunter and life-long resident Charles Nunn, 55, could turn that phrase around and say “Opening Day been berry berry good” to him. From his first deer season the same year that Chico Escuela came to fame—Nunn bagged an impressive 132-inch buck with a shotgun Day One—through to today, Nunn has had some great luck hunting the openers everyone looks forward to.
This year he took an outstanding Chatham buck on the first day of bow season. Nunn hasn’t fully measured the rack, but estimates it will score in the upper 150s or lower 160s, with 15 points, heavy bases and 28- inch main beams. It tops a full velvet buck he got on the bow opener in 2007, which taped at 147 inches.
People in the know say this year’s buck is one of the most impressive bucks they’ve ever seen from Chatham County, but as far as we know, no one had ever seen the deer before Nunn sent an arrow its way. He hunts a rural part of the county where the neighbors are either very selective about the deer they shoot or don’t allow hunting at all,and he’s been on the property “since he was young.”
He and his hunting companions know the land, are very selective in what they kill, and keep hunting pressure low. They see their fair share of good bucks, but this giant surprised everyone.
On the other hand, Nunn’s hunting strategy this opening day likely surprised the buck into riding home in a truck.
“I did something different this year,” says Nunn, explaining that he had been in the habit of doing the traditional scouting, corning and trail camera routine many hunters go through to try to find a good buck to hunt each year.
Considering that all four of the good bucks he got on trail cameras last year had disappeared once the hunting season rolled around, Charles said he decided to stay completely out of his hunting area this summer, foregoing cameras altogether and putting no bait out until the Thursday before the Sept. 9 opener, a Saturday. He was hoping to catch a big buck totally unaware.
After a relatively uneventful sit opening morning, Nunn returned that afternoon to hunt a funnel area between a kudzu bedding area and a one-acre wildlife opening planted in clover and freshly-planted winter wheat. He settled into his ground blind by an old abandoned smokehouse and as the afternoon progressed, watched a total of six bucks go about their business as if no one were there—a dream scenario for any hunter.
Among the group filtering through the bottom was a “very, very nice 10.” Nunn had been telling himself he was hunting a nice drop-tine buck he’d gotten on camera last year, and had to do a double-take when the big 15 appeared, “like he was a ghost.”
The buck came toward Charles to feed and stood facing him for a while before turning broadside at 20 yards. “I set my 20-yard pin right behind his shoulder, and when I released he took a step and my heart dropped,” says Charles.
As an experienced bowhunter, Nunn knew not to push a deer that might have been hit a little far back, so when he recovered his arrow, he backed out of the area to spend a restless night at home. In the past, he hadn’t listened to himself “or anybody else” and had trailed deer too soon, pushing them and sometimes losing animals.
Experience is the best teacher, so he didn’t repeat the mistake this time. This deer was too big to trail, to pun on the recent economic crisis.
Before church the next day, Nunn took up the trail again with no luck. He had marked last blood, and noted where he had last seen the deer, but it took some friends doing circles and half-moons after church before an 11-year old son of a friend came across the buck stone dead within sight of the ground blind.
The shot turned out to have been quickly fatal and the deer hadn’t run a hundred yards, but it had finally headed unseen in the opposite direction from what Charles had thought. “If I had been looking [in the right place] I could have seen him go down from the blind,” he said.
Nunn’s father is in his mid-70’s and still goes out after deer, though to hear Charles tell it, “He doesn’t care much about big bucks except for cooking and eating them.” So, it might be goofing around to call the son an old dog who can learn new tricks, but as Charles himself says, “I’m an old bowhunter.” This time, and not for the first time, lessons from a lifetime of chasing whitetails came together for the gift of a great Chatham County buck.