It’s a good time to be a deer hunter in America. The opportunity to shoot a monster buck has never been better. As proof, we introduce you to three hard-working, hard-hunting guys who recently went out near their homes and shot giant bucks. They got lucky, yes, but they hunted smart, too. One or two of their keys to success might help you score big way this season.
Randy Bradley’s “Bad-Luck Buck”
Things weren’t going so hot for Randy Bradley on opening morning of Kentucky’s bow season. He woke up to a trailer with a flat tire. He changed it, pinched his back, and then had trouble loading his 4-wheeler on slick ramps. Randy finally got it done and made it to his hunting area. He fired his ATV and motored up on a big fallen tree; he took a different trail and got turned around in the dark. He finally found his stand at 4 a.m. Good thing he had gotten an early start!
“With the luck I was having, I decided not to hang my bow ‘cause it would probably fall out the tree,” Randy said with a laugh, “so I sat there and held it.”
A tad after 6 a.m. Randy saw a deer coming-the 7-pointer in one of his cam pictures. He heard another deer behind it-monster!
The bucks drifted closer. Randy pulled his bow, but the arrow popped off the string and hit the stand with aclink. The deer flinched.
“I was about to lose it now,” Randy said.
But the bucks calmed down again. He nocked another arrow and fired it at 6:23 am.
Randy waited 30 minutes, got down and found blood everywhere. Soon he was standing and marveling at the velvet giant, which grossed 193!
Keys to success:
- Most big deer travel with at least one small buck during the summer and into bow season. Get to know and recognize the young deer from cam photos and/or glassing. If you see him from your stand, get ready, big daddy might be close.
- Some days nothing seems to go right and you think, Heck, I’ll never kill a deer today. Refocus, keep hunting hard, and remember Randy’s bad-luck buck. The fate of a hunt can change on a dime.
Brent Irelan’s Double-Drop Monster
While bowhunting in Parke County, Ind., a buddy of Brent Irelan missed a double-drop-tined buck not once, but twice. Disgusted and thinking he had messed up the area, Brent’s friend moved his tree stand. ButBrent had a notion the buck was still there. He set a trail camera on the ridge about 100 yards from the miss site. When he checked it in a day, there was Double Drop! He hung a stand.
Two mornings later the sun came up, and deer began chasing all around. Brent heard a snort-wheeze and heavy grunting, and then he saw a 150-inch 8-pointer. Should I shoot this great buck or wait for Double Drop? As Brent was mulling it over, a stick snapped. There he was!
The titan walked down the ridge, grunting like a market hog. Brent’s arrow was perfect, and the deer went on a 60-yard death run. The main-frame 10-pointer netted 170 2/8. Add 29 4/8 inches of abnormal tines and the buck netted 199 6/8″.
Keys to success:
- If you (or a buddy) miss a buck with an arrow (or two), all is not lost. If the deer did not see you mess up, he’ll think a limb cracked, a stick fell, whatever… He’ll stay in the area. Hang a new stand and pull a surprise ambush like Brent did.
- Keep your cams running throughout the rut. The day you get a picture of a giant prowling for does on a ridge, move in and hunt him.
Wayne Mill’s Blackpowder Titan
Wayne Mills sat in his stand in the Virginia woods and watched a good 10-pointer chase does all around.
“I passed him at 35 yards because I had pictures of a bigger buck,” he said.
He heard a grunt and looked up. A doe was running down an old road with a different and massive buck on her tail! She bolted out of sight with the monster on her heels.
“I only got a glimpse, but I knew he was the one,” Wayne said.
He hunted the stand a few more days, but didn’t see “the one” again. On November 12, a front came through and changed the wind. Wayne slipped over to another tree stand 100 yards away. At daybreak, he did a little grunting and waited. At 7:07 he spotted a deer behind a pine tree and raised his binoculars. When it stepped out, he saw tall tines and mass! Wayne’s T/C Black Diamond boomed.
The buck ran through the pines. Wayne watched the deer as long as he could, and thought he heard him crash. He went to the spot where the animal had been standing—no blood. He went to the last place he had seen the deer and started working the line the animal had fled.
“He was lying under a pine about 30 yards away, and as I got closer I saw the drop,” Wayne said. “I said,Lord what have I got here?
What he had was a main-frame 10-pointer with 26- and 27-inch beams and a 25 5/8-inch spread. Oh yeah, and a 7¾-inch drop tine. The blackpowder giant grossed right at 180 and “is the deer of a lifetime for me,” Wayne said.
Keys to Success:
- When the front came through and changed the wind, Wayne’s critical move was shifting seamlessly to a secondary tree stand 100 yards away. He already had another stand set for that exact wind situation-that is how you do it!
- November 12: It’s uncanny the number of rut-crazed giants that are shot on that day every year from Iowa to Virginia, no matter the moon phase or temperature. Take off work and hunt November 12th and a few days before and after if you can swing it.