By Mike Handley
Rob Brennan's 2006 Illinois buck is the runner-up to the world (velvet) record in the BTR's blackpowder category. That 303 4⁄8-inch, 48-point buck was taken by Troy Wilson during Kentucky's 2001 season.
Photo Courtesy of: Rob Brennan
"Omigod, Dad, you-won't ... I-can't ... Huge ... Oh, jeezeyouhave to ... now ... Just come!"
Any other time of year, Tom Brennan might've deduced that his normally articulate son was either drunk or speaking with a mouth full of peanut butter.
The words cascading out of his cell phone were rushed, garbled and almost indecipherable. But he got the drift, even if he never heard the word "buck."
Rob Brennan - a younger, slightly thicker version of Tom - hadn't been drinking. The cold was to blame for his red nose, the dead deer at his feet for the thick tongue. Pacing while waiting for his father to arrive, he punched in another telephone number.
"Tina, you gotta see it," he told his wife. "Bring the kids. Dad's already on his way."
Tom wishes he'd taped the strange, one-sided conversation with his son on Dec. 1, 2006. It was like listening to someone sitting in a dentist's chair, gums deadened, trying to sing the national anthem around a suction hose, drill and the dentist's too-big fingers.
"Omesay can you seeeeeee, bite dedawn's eery lide ..."
Yet both Tom and Tina knew exactly why they'd been called. It could only mean that Rob had shot "Big Nasty."
Tyler Brennan, Rob's son, might be the only other person to have seen Big Nasty in the flesh. During the early part of the '06 bow season, father and son watched the buck rocket across a field. Photo Courtesy of: Rob Brennan
That's not a particularly flattering nickname for a whitetail, but it's the one that stuck when Rob's kids saw the photographs from the trail camera. The rack was indeed big - its greatest (outside) spread a whopping 35 inches! And the antlers weren't clean, at least compared to your average set, because they were encased in velvet.
Since 2005, the entire Brennan clan had looked forward to every new batch of photos, hoping to see Big Nasty in his favorite Biologic food plot.
"That first year, waiting for hunting season to arrive so that I could go after this dude was like waiting up for Santa Claus," Rob said. "We were all excited - Dad, my hunting friend, Mark Grites, and my son, Tyler. Tina and our two daughters, Chelsea and Jenna, also were cheering for me."
When Illinois' 2005 bow season finally kicked off, Rob hunted the buck as often as he dared - careful not to overpressure the giant whitetail. He really wanted to nail it with his beloved PSE, but he wasn't about to limit himself. Knowing that he'd have six days to hunt Big Nasty with a firearm, he wound up tying that year's archery tag on another buck.
Of course, it helped that the stand-in wore about 172 inches of antler, the largest specimen Rob had ever seen within an arrow's reach.
He saw Big Nasty once during the Land of Lincoln's second '05 gun season, but not before the buck saw him. End of story, or at least of chapter.
"My expectations were high for '06," he said. "Early on during bow season, as Tyler and I were leaving one night, his highness ran out of the Biologic clover patch about 60 yards in front of us. Since the deer was slightly below the horizon, all we saw was that enormous rack bouncing along. My son said, 'Dang, Dad, that thing is huge! I sure hope you get him!'"
Rob tried alright. He hunted diligently, some might say fanatically, with his bow. When the first firearms season arrived, he traded the whisper-quiet stick and string for a more thunderous stick and sling. But the buck was a no-show.
By the time the second firearms season rolled around, Rob and his dad had worked out an arrangement: Tom would hunt in the mornings, while Rob was at work. The younger Brennan would get dibs in the afternoons.
On Friday, the season's second day, Rob reached his stand about 12:30. It was 22 degrees, but the knife-like, 25-mph wind made him happy he was wearing Scent-Lok.
"Around 2:00, 11 does filed past, heading for a thicket. I thought, 'This is good. When they come back, the bucks will follow,'" Rob said. "As the time passed, I saw a few deer pass through, but none tempted me. And then, around 3:30, the string of does began exiting the thicket."
The original 11 had multiplied. Deer were everywhere, before something spooked them all.
While most of the does were jumping a nearby fence and coming closer to Rob, Big Nasty slipped out of the woodlot like a big gray destroyer looking for a U-boat. By the time USS Buck decided which submarine to chase, the butt of Rob's T/C Encore was glued to his shoulder, the stock to his cheek.
"When the buck jumped the fence and ran straight to me, it was like it was meant to be," Rob sighed. "I'd spent endless hours in trees, hoping for that moment. And I knew that was going to be my only chance."
Rob squeezed the muzzleloader's trigger as the giant buck veered broadside at 70 yards.
There would be no more photographs of Big Nasty munching on clover, but there were going to be plenty more of him in the back of Rob's truck, on the floor of the family pole barn, and being grasped - one by one - by a grinning Rob, Tom, Tyler and others who were telephoned afterward to join the party.
Rob's buck is second only to the world record among velvet-clad Irregulars in the BTR's blackpowder category - a Kentucky specimen taken back in 2001. And like the velvety 48-pointer to which it plays second fiddle, this one will probably never be entered into the Boone and Crockett Club's registry because Rob isn't planning to strip the velvet from the antlers (a prerequisite for B&C).
Whitetails that carry their velvet well into winter, often because of testicular damage and the resulting testosterone deficiency, are called "stags." They usually don't shed their antlers, and they're not particularly interested in breeding.
Big Nasty, however, had a thundering libido. He might have had only one testicle the size of a walnut, but two seasons' photographs prove that he was shedding and re-growing that distinctive rack.
Hunter: Rob Brennan
Official Score: 270 3/8"
Composite Score: 290 6/8"
-- Reprinted from the August 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine