By Mike Handley
Photos Courtesy of Brandon Thorne
If you want Brandon Thorne to cut your hair during Missouri's deer season, you'd better waltz into his shop on a weekday. The stripes on his barber pole do not spin on Saturdays or Sundays.
The 31-year-old barber from Greenwood would like to hunt more often, but there's a mortgage and groceries to consider.
"If I'm not here, I'm not getting paid," he says between customers.
Soon (but not soon enough for Brandon), his customers will be able to gawk at a new piece of wall art. Because, at least for a while, that's where he plans to hang the 21-point buck he shot last November - one of the finest whitetails taken in the Show Me State in 2008.
The mount's appearance in the shop will depend on how fast Brandon's taxidermist finishes the 42 bucks, two bobcats and hog that are ahead of it. In the interim, Mr. Scissorhands will have to be content to stare at and share photographs taken on the heels of the 30-minute hunt he shared with his father, Sam.
Nov. 23 was a gorgeous Sunday. The Thornes were running late that afternoon when they reached the 500-acre Livingston County farm bequeathed to them by Brandon's grandfather. Half is cropland; the rest set aside in CRP.
They entered the old homemade 4x8 shooting house about 3:45. To the north was 160 acres of timber. A cut cornfield stretched away in the opposite direction.
Brandon had encountered a couple of mature bucks earlier in the season, one of them a 10-pointer with a bum leg. He was hoping to see that rascal again.
Father and son had been sitting there for half an hour, the inactivity knocking on boredom, when a buck practically sprang up from nowhere in the cornfield. It was soon joined by two more bucks and a couple of does.
"I couldn't believe my eyes," said Brandon. "One minute, there wasn't anything out there. The next, we're trying to decide whether to shoot a doe or one of the bucks.
"As I was looking at them all, trying to decide which one - the bigger of two 10-pointers or a doe - to take, the king of all deer walked out," he added, "and my decision was made."
Antlers aside, the latecomer looked every bit of 5 or 6 years old. Two big neon signs were flashing in Brandon's brain: MATURE BUCK and NICE RACK!
"We had to watch the buck feed for three or four minutes before it stopped moving and turned broadside. During the wait, I asked my dad if he wanted to take the shot, but he said, 'Nope. You shoot him.'"
Squeezing the trigger is easier said than done when one's nerves are playing jump rope over a rifle barrel and there's nearly 200 yards of airspace between muzzle and target.
"I was shaking so badly, I didn't know if I could hit a thing with my Model 700," Brandon said. "But at the boom of the 7mm Mag, the deer dropped."
No tracking required.
Nobody had ever seen or shot a buck like that on the Thorne's farm.
None of the four trail cameras scattered about the property had caught it either. So to say the guys were shocked would be an understatement. When father and son walked up to the dead deer, their vocal cords were seized by rigor.
Even if there had been adequate words, none escaped their lips for several seconds.
"Even though I actually pulled the trigger, this whole experience has been a first for all of us," Brandon continued.
After field-dressing the deer, the Thornes transported it to the barn and weighed it. The scales showed 190 pounds.
Hunter: Brandon Thorne
Official Score: 197 3/8"
Composite Score: 216 3/8"
-- Reprinted from the September 2009 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.