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Hooked On Hook

Brandon Mantooth

Father-and-son Texas hunt saved by stranger

By Mark Mantooth
(Brandon’s Dad)

This past October, I watched my 9-year-old son Brandon accomplish something I haven’t been able to do in 36 years of hunting.

For years, I’ve monitored trail cameras, trying to find that perfect buck, but every season I wind up settling for a lesser deer. I never see the monster I’m after, but this year my son showed me how to make it happen.

In June 2013, Brandon helped me pick out a new site for a ground blind on the small farm we hunt in Vernon, Texas. After gathering trail cam photos all summer, Brandon wanted to harvest a particular buck he’d nicknamed Hook, because it had a couple of two-inch kickers growing off the base of its right brow tine.

There was a problem. Hook had only been caught on camera twice since August, and only once during legal shooting hours. Getting a shot at this buck was going to be a challenge.

When we found out Brandon would have a few days off school in October, we traveled to the farm on a Friday for a four-day hunt.

I couldn’t wait to see if my son could actually reach his goal of taking Hook, especially after he confidently declared it was “a sure thing.”

Like all good plans, things started falling apart when I had to work Saturday morning and we didn't arrive at the farm until late Saturday afternoon. We rushed to the blind for a quick evening hunt and saw nothing.

The next morning we anxiously got up before daylight, but our truck broke down on the way to the farm.

The truck needed an alternator and the earliest mechanics in town could fix it would be late Tuesday, the day we had to go back home.

As we sat in the shop, I apologized to Brandon because our four-day hunt for Hook just turned into a long weekend in a hotel room instead of a ground blind.

“That’s okay, Daddy,” he said “I'll just get Hook another day.”

A man at the shop named Rodney overheard our conversation. He offered to pick up the alternator after he got off work and even install it at no charge. He was simply a kind stranger who wanted to help us out. I couldn’t believe it!

Rodney drove two hours after work, picked up our alternator and installed it in his driveway that night. This man saved our trip!

By the way, he did receive a very nice tip, but only after I forced him to take it.

The next morning, we were happily on our way back to the farm again and things were finally looking up.

As the sun rose, I noticed movement behind the blind. Two mature 8-pointers were standing about 20 yards downwind with their noses held upward, testing the air.

We’d captured Hook traveling with both bucks on trail cam, so I knew there was a good chance the old buck was following close by.

Hunting Stories Wanted!Still, I figured Hook already had busted us and would be afraid to come in.

Ten minutes later, both bucks calmed down and one started heading straight toward our blind.

When the buck was about 3 yards away, it looked straight at me then suddenly threw its tail up and spun away. My heart sank!

Amazingly, as quickly as it spooked, the buck settled down and returned to grazing. That’s when Hook finally felt it was okay to step out into the open.

Hook walked into Brandon’s shooting lane 15 yards away, and my son made it count with a perfect shot from his crossbow!

When Hook went about 20 yards and fell over, the look on Brandon's face was priceless!

I can’t explain how proud I am of Brandon. He’d managed to sit still for 20 minutes while holding a heavy crossbow on shooting sticks as three mature white-tailed bucks surrounded us and, at times, were within spitting distance.

It’s an indescribable feeling when your child puts so much time and effort into something and it all comes together!

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