It sometimes pays to blow through a tube if you hear a grunt-like noise.
The weirdest growling, grunting sound that Brandon Brown had ever heard echoed out of the nearby hollow. Steadying himself, the Kentuckian blew on his grunt tube a couple of times in response.
A buck with a familiar rack came into view five minutes later, moving toward the startled hunter at a steady pace. After gawking at the size of its antlers, even after seeing them in trail camera photographs, Brandon almost fell out of his tree.
He might’ve been a veteran hunter with plenty of notches on his belt, but Brandon was ill prepared to see such a giant in the flesh.
Brandon has been hooked on deer hunting since he shot his first buck — a spike — with a .243 at age 11.
“Hunting has always been my passion,” he said. “I’ve gone every single year since shooting that first deer. I plan my vacations around hunting seasons.
“Running trail cams is almost as much fun as hunting,” he continued. “It lets me stay in the woods the year ’round. I really like to see what’s out there.”
Knowing what kind of bucks pass through his hunting area has helped him set and meet goals.
“Three of the last four years, I’ve shot my target buck, chosen among those caught on camera,” he said. “Year before last, I ended up settling for a smaller buck during the late muzzleloading season because our meat was running low. That was a rough year.
“Lots of days, I hunted without seeing a single deer,” he added.
Brandon had a good reason for waiting until late in the season to kill a deer that year. Because he’d retrieved trail cam photos of the largest buck he’d ever seen, he was picky.
By the beginning of the 2016 season, the big buck he dreamed about in 2015 had faded from memory.
“I had given up on ever seeing that big deer again because I had zero pictures of it,” Brandon said. “But on Monday, the third day of gun season, it showed up on camera twice in daylight, once in the morning and again that afternoon, at the same spot.”
Brandon had his target buck.
By the middle of the afternoon the next day, Brandon was sitting in a two-man ladder stand overlooking the area where the buck was photographed. The stand was on a narrow ridgetop covered with white oak trees.
Deer were obviously feeding on the abundant acorns. Trails led in every direction.
“The rut was on, and I wanted to be in the woods as much as possible,” Brandon said. “I hunted Tuesday afternoon and all day on Wednesday and Thursday. I saw only one spike and a doe fawn.”
By Friday, Brandon was discouraged. He wound up taking a relative hunting in a different area. An 8-pointer dodged a bullet, which seemed to add to the negative vibe.
Brandon hunted yet another area on Saturday morning, Nov. 19. On the way in for lunch, he stopped and checked the trail camera set up on the white oak ridge. The giant buck had been through there at 6:40 a.m. that morning, almost a full hour after first shooting light.
“After I discovered that he had been back on the oak ridge, I decided to spend all the free time I had hunting that spot,” he said.
“On Sunday morning, I woke up exhausted from all the hunting. I was worn out and still discouraged, despite getting the new trail cam photos of the buck. It was really cold, about 24 or 25 degrees, and I had to force myself to get up and go, but I finally got myself bundled up and headed outside.
“I had been driving my ATV to within about 150 yards of the stand and walking from there. I was wearing a full-face toboggan as protection from the cold that morning, but I left it at the ATV.
“It was just breaking day when I climbed into the stand. After sitting there for an hour and a half, I started to get cold and decided to walk back and get the toboggan and warm up some during the walk. I left my gun at the stand,” he said.
Just as Brandon arrived back at the ATV, he bumped a doe. She spooked, snorted and ran away. Thinking other deer might be afoot, he quickly grabbed the toboggan, jogged back to his tree, and climbed back up to his stand. By that time, he was warm and comfortable again.
“After I had been back in the stand about 30 minutes, two does came out to my left and started feeding on acorns. About that time, I heard the weirdest, growling grunt down in the hollow. It was like nothing I had ever heard from a whitetail.
“I took my call and answered with a couple of grunts. For about five minutes, nothing happened. The does just kept munching acorns,” he continued.
“I looked away and then back to my left, and the buck was emerging from a hollow, coming toward me at a steady walk. It was the big one, focused on the does feeding behind me. Its rack was huge!
“When I’d first climbed into the treestand, I picked shooting lanes in various directions. The buck was moving toward one of those about 45 yards from me.
“I swung my gun around and held it on the shooting lane while the buck got closer and closer. Its big rack jerked forward with every step.
“When it hit the shooting lane, I didn’t try to stop it; I just put the crosshairs on its heart and shot. The deer ran back into the hollow, out of sight. I soon heard a crash and the buck thrashing around, and then all was quiet.
“I called my dad and told him ‘I just shot the big old deer!’ After that, I got down and walked to where I’d last seen it. The strong odor of rutting buck lingered in the air.”
Brandon followed a blood trail about 40 yards to his heart’s desire, which had fallen in a ravine.
This article was published in the August 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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