Any time you get a chance to go to an area that hasn’t seen a hunter in 25 years, you better take it.
By Brian Berrisford
One day, two hunting buddies were standing me up. The next, I was hitting the woods with two other friends, Mike Briddick and Brad Leistner, who had scouted a piece of property for about three months. It would be my first time to set foot on the land, which hadn’t been hunted for nearly 25 years. The anticipation of the number and size of deer in those woods was strong enough to convince me to pass on my land for a day.
It was 35 degrees when we arrived at these virgin Indiana woods at 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2004. Thus began a long walk up a logging road to the spot where Brad had sat the previous morning. He was bragging about the number of deer he’d seen and all but guaranteed that I would have a shot at a doe.
I picked a tree, and at 7:30, the woods came alive. For the next two hours, I saw does in groups of four and five filing in from the main cornfield to the north and walking just beyond bow range toward Brad. At 9:00, several more that were calmly eating sapling leaves atop the nearest ridge became alert as Brad walked over to signal to me that he had scored. I could tell from his excitement that it must have been a good deer. Although the deer I’d seen were does – except one basket-racked 8-pointer – I had stopped counting at 30.
Brad had shot his best bow buck ever, a large 9-pointer. It was obvious the deer had been eating right. It was going to tilt the scales at more than 200 pounds. Mike caught up to us, and after an exciting 20-minute celebration, we attempted to start dragging the buck out. We didn’t get far. Ultimately, my four-wheeler made our lives easier.
We got home around 1 p.m. with Brad’s deer, and Mike and I realized we needed to get back out there as soon as possible. Brad said I should visit a spot he hunted when he’d harvested his doe the weekend before. He’d marked the spot with a stick at the edge of the cornfield. Mike wanted to grab a bite to eat, so we agreed to meet again at 2 o’clock. I returned home to find my wife, Valori, standing in the doorway, wanting to know if I had shot anything. Valori never complains about the amount of time I spend hunting, and she always shares my excitement. I asked her if she would make a sandwich for the road as I wanted to take a shower to be scent-free before returning to the woods.
Mike and I took the four-wheeler to the woods for the evening hunt. I started along the edge of the corn and came upon the stick that Brad had marked as his entry into the woods. I soon found the tree Brad had climbed, as the claw marks from his treestand were obvious. I decided to climb it, too. On the way up, I realized that my setup height was going to be a major factor. A long, gradual hillside led down to the edge of the cornfield, which meant that 20 feet in the air was going to be eye level to any deer within 100 yards of the tree. I decided that an additional 15 feet would be necessary to lessen the chance of being spotted.
I was set up by 3:15 and began to analyze the area for possible shooting lanes. I pulled out my rangefinder and starting logging distances in my head. I keep my rangefinder around my neck at all times in case I need to make a shot and don’t feel confident about the yardage.
That afternoon, the noise from the squirrels had my head spinning. Finally, at 5:00, I spotted movement atop the sloping hillside. There were three does working down the hill toward me. I stood up and grabbed my bow. As the deer started to swing to my right, I realized they were on a trail that was steering them out of bow range at approximately 70 yards. In fact, they all were headed to Mike’s spot. After they were out of sight, I was about to put my bow back on its holder when I saw something move where I’d first seen the does. I knew it was a deer, but the tree canopy kept me from seeing its head. As it slowly worked closer to me, the first thing I picked up on was the huge drop tine.
It was going to make me sick to watch it pass by 70 yards away as the does had done. When the entire rack was finally visible, I couldn’t believe my eyes – massive antlers and lots of them! I had to force myself not to get caught up in disbelief that this buck was really in front of me and concentrate on making a good shot.
The buck continued on the same path as the other deer before suddenly turning my way. I thought it was going to give me an opportunity for a shot, so I pulled my rangefinder out of my shirt pocket and made two last-second measurements, trying to determine which opening the brute would choose.
At 40 yards, it turned directly toward me and was looking past me onto the cornfield. I could hear other deer out there, but I wasn’t taking my eyes off this buck. It stared in my direction for an eternity, which really started making me nervous. My knees began to shake, and the more I tried to stop them, the worse it got. I could actually see them wiggling back and forth. I thought surely I’d be busted, but the buck finally just turned its head and started walking.
I slowly raised my bow. The buck stepped into an opening, and I tried to stop it with a mouth grunt, but it didn’t work. So I placed my 30-yard pin on its sweet spot and squeezed my release aid. My arrow disappeared in the buck’s chest and reappeared on the far side as it tumbled to the ground. A complete pass-through! The buck jumped, ran off about 30 yards and stopped to look around. It was walking slowly toward Mike’s stand when I lost sight of it.
I waited about 35 minutes to let Mike finish his hunt and then got down to look for the arrow and a blood trail. The arrow was coated in the massive beast’s blood. I was walking toward the last place I’d seen the deer when I spotted Mike and signaled to him to please help me track my deer. Mike couldn’t believe I’d had a shot at this buck. He had seen it while preseason scouting and was amazed that it showed up at 5:10 before the rut had even begun. We followed the blood trail until it reached the edge of an adjoining pasture. It was getting dark, and finding blood in tall standing grass is a very difficult job. I pointed Mike in the direction of the blood trail in the grass, and he continued ahead.
Suddenly, he shouted from 80 yards in front of me, “Brian, come here!”
I ran. And there was the buck, struggling mightily to keep walking. We didn’t want to push it in that state, so we sat down and watched it walk 100 more yards and drop at the field edge. Still, we gave it another 30 minutes. At 7 p.m., we approached the edge of the woods where we had seen him bed up, turned on our lights, and Mike shouted, “You just landed yourself a record-book buck!”
I laid my eyes upon the massive buck, but I couldn’t believe what I saw. It looked like a small moose with a huge kickstand drop tine. After shouting and hugging for 15 minutes, all I wanted to do was pull my cell phone out of my fanny pack and call everyone I knew. The first call was to Brad, thanking him for not passing up his buck that morning and for suggesting I hunt his spot.
I owe this buck to Mike Briddick for taking me to such an amazing woods and giving me the opportunity to bring home the Kickstand Buck.
This article was published in the July 2005 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.