A hot youth opener turns into a special experience for Leyton Weaver and his new brother-in-law
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Leyton’s buck sported a massive 9-point frame that scored a whopping 158 inches.
August openers in the South are hot, sticky, and prone to mosquito infestations. Some hunters might even question their sanity as they sit in the stand or a blind, dripping sweat and swatting bugs. Why do it? Because mature bucks are at their most patternable this time of year, and the chance at a full velvet whitetail makes the tough conditions worth it.
Those were the exact conditions 10-year-old Leyton Weaver and his brother-in-law Jamin Stoltz found themselves in for the South Carolina buck-only youth season. Leyton and his dad, Lewayne, had been running trail cameras in preparation for the upcoming season. “We had some bucks coming in until a few days before season, then they just disappeared. It’s almost like they know the hunting regulations,” Lewayne said. “This year, the youth season started a little earlier than normal, so we were hoping to get on them before they got the memo.”
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The initial plan was for Leyton to hunt with his dad, but Jamin happened to be visiting that afternoon, so he volunteered to hunt with Leyton while his older brothers, Camden and Anson, hunted together from another stand.
The warm temperatures kept deer movement to a minimum for most of the evening. Around 6:30 p.m., a group of five does came in. Leyton and Jamin watched as the deer fed around their stand. Eventually, the does wandered out of sight, and things calmed down again.
At 7:45 p.m., Leyton saw more deer coming in. “I couldn’t see their heads, and I told Jamin I thought they were more does,” he said. “He looked at the closest deer through binoculars and told me it was a buck, a really good buck, and to try to get a shot.”
The buck stopped broadside just 50 yards away. Although he had seen a glimpse of antlers, Leyton still hadn’t gotten a good look at the full rack and couldn’t see it at all when the buck stopped with his head behind some brush. Trusting Jamin that it was a good deer, Leyton took careful aim at the buck as it was about to disappear into thick cover. At the shot, the buck bolted straight forward and disappeared into the thick cutover brush in an area that had been timbered a couple of years earlier.
By the time Leyton squeezed the trigger, the other bucks had worked their way close to the hunters. At the sound of the shot, deer bolted in every direction, making listening for Leyton’s buck to crash nearly impossible. After letting things settle down, Jamin got down and went to where he thought the buck had been standing to look for sign. He didn’t find any. After a few minutes of searching, Jamin returned to the blind, and Leyton got down to go look with Jamin, directing him to where he thought the buck had been.
Leyton’s brothers were hunting close enough to hear the shot. When they got over to where Leyton and Jamin had been hunting, Camden mentioned that the shot sounded like it had made contact with the deer. By this time, it was nearly dark. All four hunters searched the area for blood or any sign without luck.
“After we had looked for so long with no blood, I was pretty sure I had missed,” Leyton said. “Anson decided to make one more pass through the thick cover. We were all just kind of standing there when he yelled out for me to come look at the trail he was on. I started to get excited and asked if he had found blood. He told me to just come look.”
A last-minute change of plans found Leyton hunting with his new brother-in-law, Jamin.
As Leyton made his way up the trail, he lifted his eyes to see the back end of a deer sticking out from the low brush. “I got excited but I still couldn’t see the buck’s head and rack,” he said. “Then Anson lifted it up, and I saw how big it was and got really excited.”
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By this time, it was getting late. Dad was starting to worry. Finally, he got word from the hunters that they were heading in. “I asked them if they had any luck,” Lewayne said. “They answered that they had a little and were on their way, but I could tell something was up.”
That something turned out to be a massive 9-point full-velvet buck with a 21-inch spread. The hunters put a tape to the antlers that night but weren’t confident that they were close on score. A trip to the taxidermist soon yielded a green score of 158, a massive deer for that area.
With no exit wound, Leyton’s buck didn’t leave much of a blood trail for the hunters to follow.
The shot had gone in high and stuck just under the skin on the off side, explaining the lack of sign. “Honestly, if the deer had made it much farther into the thick cover, we probably wouldn’t have found it,” Lewayne said.
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