Fairfield buck may be new state record

A four-year quest ended when Sims bagged Waldo on Nov. 30. | William Ladd

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – The four-year saga of James Sims and Waldo finally ended Nov. 30 when Sims finally bagged the Fairfield County buck with the massive 13-point rack that could become South Carolina’s new state record.

Four years of frustration finally ended with Friday’s hunt, four years when the buck seemingly taunted Sims, who recently moved to Blythewood from Fairfield County where he grew up. The buck was a regular on Sims’ trail cameras – at night. He flirted from time to time with Sims appearing in front of his stand when there was not enough light to see through the rifle scope.

And then, to add insult to injury, the monster buck would appear on camera in broad daylight – when Sims was not there. He was so elusive that Sims tagged the buck Waldo as in “Where’s Waldo?” He even created a Snapchat account with that name for him and his hunting buddies to keep up with sightings of the buck.

Sims first saw the buck four years ago this past August when he was scouting a new hunt lease in Fairfield County. A check of the area on Google Maps showed a thicket with an opening and he walked in there to check it out.

“I jumped two deer, a big 8-point and a big 10-point. So I put some trail cameras in there and I’d always have pictures of the big 8-point. The big 10-point would be in the background. He was not camera friendly but I knew he was a good young deer.”

For a good part of the fall of 2016 the big buck was a no-show, then he suddenly appeared right in front of one of the trail cameras in mid-November.

“He was an absolute monster,” Sims said. But he showed at the wrong time for Sims, who had not been hunting a lot because of an infected foot from stepping on a nail, plus his son was born on Dec. 2. But he hunted the buck as hard as he could until the season’s end and never saw the deer.

With his cameras out Sims knew the buck was there when deer season began in 2017. On opening day of rifle season the buck teased Sims with an appearance.

“I was in a spot where I could see for about 300 yards and this deer stepped out about 225 yards from me,” he said. “I put the gun on him and looked through the scope. The deer turned and looked my way and I could see a huge mass of rack. But he was walking steadily through some tall vegetation and I could not get a clear shot.”

He hunted the buck every chance, but by Thanksgiving he had not seen him again so he and his brother-in-law went duck hunting that morning.

“We only killed two ducks, not a great hunt. When I checked my cameras the buck was right there after daylight. That broke my heart,” Sims said.

After that he took two weeks off from work and hunted the buck every morning and afternoon. He did not see the buck in daylight, but it appeared on his trail cameras almost every night in December.

“On Dec. 20, I saw a small 8-point come out. Then a few more small bucks came out along with some small does,” Sims said. As the evening grew darker, the deer turned into just silhouettes and he could no longer see them through his scope.

“I saw a big-bodied deer come out at about 100 yards and run the other deer off the corn pile. I could not shoot because all I could see was the silhouette. So I sat there for probably half an hour to 45 minutes so I would not scare him as I walked out. I changed memory cards in my camera on the way out and when I got home and viewed the card I could see it was him.”

“I kept telling my Dad, my brother-in-law and my buddies at work that the buck was torturing me. I never saw him again the rest of the year except on camera.”

By late June this year Sims had his cameras in place. The buck appeared on camera two nights in a row, then disappeared. But those two nights revealed how massive his rack had grown, how much mass had been added, plus the addition of a split brow tine.

As the season wore on Sims began to worry. Shooting on adjacent properties made him wonder if someone else might take the huge buck. But in the previous years the buck had not shown up until mid-October and this year was no exception. On Oct. 22 he appeared again and added to Sims’ frustration in the process.

“I had to go into work earlier than normal that morning so I checked the cameras that afternoon after work and he was there at 7:57 a.m. I was happy to see him, but I was disappointed that he was there in daylight when I had to be at work.”

Sims’ resolve grew and he began hunting every morning from 6 to 8 a.m. and every evening the last hour and a half of daylight. But the only time he saw Waldo was when he appeared at night on camera.

Last Friday morning was the end of a long, hard week at work and rain was in the forecast. Sims said he did not feel much like hunting, but dragged himself out of bed and headed to the deer stand where he fought sleep by playing on Facebook and Instagram.

By 6:30 the sky was beginning to lighten up and Sims laid the phone down and got his hat and face mask on.

“I could see the silhouette of a deer feeding, so I put the scope on it and kept watching. As it grew a little lighter, he turned and faced me, and I could see it was him,” Sims said. For the next several minutes he prayed silently, “Please don’t let me miss.”

Then the buck turned sideways, giving him a clear shot and he squeezed the trigger. The buck fell instantly and Sims shot a second time to make sure it did not suffer or get up and run off. Then he climbed down from the stand and ran the 120 yards to where the deer lay.

With his eyes filling with tears, he dropped to his knees, grabbed the antlers and prayed to God for “letting me even hunt that deer, for letting me be a part of that deer’s life.”

Then Sims changed the group name on Snapchat from “Where’s Waldo?” to “Found Waldo.”

With a 19-inch inside spread the rack features a 28 1/8-inch right main beam and a 27 3/8-inch left main beam with a 5 ¼-inch circumference at the base for both. The shortest antler is the left G5 at 4 3/8 inches, but all the other antlers are over 6 ½ inches and the G3 and G4s are all over 8 inches.

“Based on the pictures, it is a very impressive buck and I feel certain it will likely be in the top 15 all-time,” said Charles Ruth, the SC DNR Deer Project Supervisor and Big Game Coordinator who maintains deer antler records. “It is truly a giant.”

It definitely is the largest rack ever for Fairfield County, according to the records, and if the overall green score of 188 inches holds up when it is officially scored it would become the No. 1 typical buck for South Carolina. The current record is 176 0/8, taken by William C. Wyatt in Pickens County in 1994.

A rack has to dry for 60 days before it can be officially scored, so it will be February before the verdict is in on Sims’ buck. But one thing is for sure – Waldo has finally been found.

Comments

  1. Carson Cockrell says

    I just want to say great job and what an incredible buck

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