Kentucky’s early bow season offers grand opportunities at bucks still in velvet. Just ask Nick Brown.
Nick Brown thought he’d caught a break when the buck passed behind a tree, which allowed him to draw his Mathews Drenalin. But that was before the animal stopped, forcing the 28-year-old bowhunter to hold both string and breath.
Nick wanted that deer like Democrats wanted a regime change throughout the Bush years, like the Republicans have wanted to unearth a Kenyan birth certificate ever since 2008.
He knew that Campbell County, Ky., buck with the velvety rack. He’d been watching it take shape for more than four months via trail camera photographs.
That’s how Nick, a firefighter who got into archery about five years ago, came to place a stand right there, overlooking the deer’s regular travel corridor.
His 24-on, 48-off shifts allow him plenty of time to hunt.
“After sleeping the first morning, I can hunt that evening and then the following morning and evening before going back to work,” he said. “My family has several little pieces of property that we hunt, but I kind of stole one from my dad, Randy, in 2013.
“It’s only about 10 or 15 acres total, and it’s really nothing special when you look at it, but it’s a natural travel corridor,” he continued. “The property butts up against a thick bedding area and has a hayfield straight behind it and an alfalfa field about a quarter-mile away.
“We have a permanent stand there about 15 or 20 feet high,” he added. “We’ve hunted it for so long that we’ve had to replace it several times.”
Nick put out a lone trail camera in May with the idea of photographing a buck and watching it grow, and he got his wish. A few weeks later, he pulled a photo of a buck worth documenting.
“At first, I thought it was just a nice buck,” he said. “But when Dad saw it, he was just blown away. I guess I didn’t have the foresight to realize the rack’s potential.”
By the time the buck showed back up in front of the camera in June, there was no doubt of its trophy potential.
“The buck’s coming and going were sporadic,” Nick said. “There would be a break of maybe three weeks, and then it would show back up for a while. My camera had a feature that recorded the moon phase and during May and June, and it seemed the deer was there more often during a three-quarter moon.
“I continued to get several daytime photos in both mornings and afternoons,” he added.
Most hunters would’ve considered the buck a heart-stopper by late July. The rack had extra long main beams and some tines that were more than a foot long.
Excited at the prospect of hunting the deer, Nick put in for vacation time to coincide with the opening of bow season.
“I took a week off because I wanted to hunt the buck before it changed habits,” Nick said.
“The first Saturday, I was in the permanent stand on the small plot of land. It was miserably hot, but the reward was that I was seeing a lot of deer, especially that afternoon.
“Several trails crisscross the area around my stand, but my shooting — visibility — was limited to about 30 yards, except for one trail. I could see maybe 60 yards down it.
“On Sunday, I used my ThermaCELL to keep the mosquitoes at bay, but there was still all the nastiness that came with hunting in hot weather,” he continued. “I was trying to control my scent, but it was so hot that was probably impossible.”
Nick saw the same few does and small bucks, but not the big one.
“I skipped the next morning. About noon, I went out and checked my memory card from my trail cam. The big deer had come through at 9 a.m.!
“I thought for sure I’d blown my chance at him. By the time I got my gear together and got back to the stand, it was pushing 4:00,” he said.
That still gave him four hours to hunt, or to endure the afternoon’s mugginess.
Between 5:30 and 6:00, the same does and small bucks he’d seen the two previous days began filtering through the area.
“At 7:00, I happened to look down the trail where I could see 60 yards, and there was my buck. As soon as I saw it, I knew,” Nick said. “The first thing I tried to do was control my legs, which were shaking. Whenever I see deer on that trail, they’re going to come right past me.”
Even though three does were accompanying it, the buck seemed nervous during its slow approach. Nick was standing.
“As soon as I saw that deer, I reached down and got my bow off its hanger,” he said. “There was a big tree out about 20 yards from me. I made up my mind that when the deer got behind that tree, I would draw.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
“He just stood there, behind that tree, for what seemed like five minutes,” Nick said. “My arms felt like they didn’t have any blood in them. Sweat was beading up and running down my face.
“After a while, I had no choice but to let the bow back down and just be as quiet as possible,” he continued.
When the giant buck finally cleared the tree, Nick drew and unleashed his Rage-tipped Easton.
“I saw the arrow hit, maybe a little far back, but the buck kicked and ran,” he said. “He acted the way you want to see a deer act when you hit it, so I thought I’d SMOKED it.”
There was barely time for a few telephone calls before darkness fell.
“I called and told Dad what had happened and that I was about to look for the arrow, and he told me not to,” Nick said. “But I did it anyway. I just couldn’t sit there any longer.”
Randy Brown was beside his son about 10 minutes later, and they waited another hour before picking up the trail.
“Dad’s was the voice of reason,” Nick grinned.
Soon into the search, father and son found a decent blood trail, which led them to the adjoining property — land for which they also had permission to hunt. After another 40 yards, the red stuff stopped, and they still hadn’t found the arrow.
The buck had gone almost 150 yards to that point, down into a creek and then up the other side. That it was going back uphill worried Nick.
“Reluctantly, we tagged the trail as best we could; hung my cap at the last bit of sign; and left it for the night,” he said.
After a sleepless night, the Browns were back at Nick’s cap at first light. Forty yards later, Randy lifted his binoculars to peer ahead and saw the downed whitetail’s antlers.
Hunter: Nick Brown
BTR Score: 196 7/8
– Photos Courtesy Nicholas Brown
This article was published in the October 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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