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September 2020
Story by Tanner Legg
State: Texas
Species: Deer - Whitetail

One of my favorite things in life is getting to experience the outdoors and bowhunt with my dad. He and my grandpa, who passed away July 2019, taught me everything I know about the outdoors and instilled in me a passion for hunting and fishing. In the past several years, bowhunting Texas free-range whitetail deer has become the thing I most look forward to all year. My dad and I spend the spring taking down stands and cameras and sorting through pictures from the previous season. We hunt fairly small tracts of land with low hunting pressure around, so we’ve been fortunate enough to keep up with bucks from year to year. Some deer we’ve had over six years of history with. Watching them grow and change throughout the years is part of what I love about hunting, and it makes it even more special when you harvest a deer you’ve been hunting multiple years.

In October 2016, a new buck showed up on our primary hunting spot, a small 100-acre lease in north Texas. He appeared to be a four-year-old buck. At the time, I’d never shot anything as big as him. He had a tall, typical 9-point frame with some extras on the right side. He would have probably scored around 150". The buck was strictly nocturnal on our cameras and only hung around our place for a couple weeks during the season. After the 2016 season, we never saw him again.

Fast forward to October 2019. A buck bigger than any we’d ever seen before appeared on our camera at night. We were filled with excitement at the mere thought of getting an opportunity to hunt an animal of that caliber. He had everything – third main beam, palmation, double row tines, and a drop tine! We’d had some pretty big deer on camera before, but oftentimes the giants will show up at nice once or twice here and there and never hang around long enough to give you an opportunity. This deer, however, seemed to feel comfortable on our place and continued to show up on multiple cameras most nights for several weeks. My two-year-old son, Anson, is actually the one who nicknamed the deer. He took on the name “Big Brownie.” My dad and I both put in more time in the stand than we ever had, and we were set on holding out for an opportunity to shoot this once-in-a-lifetime deer.

On October 30th, Big Brownie made his daylight debut, coming to a camera around noon. Then on a rare morning when neither of us was hunting, he came in to two of our stands around 7:30 a.m. behind a doe. He was visibly exhausted in the pictures with his mouth open, panting. It was obvious he was on a hot doe. After that, he disappeared. We continued to hunt, but we didn’t get a single picture of him for over a week. Fearing he might be gone forever, we began to contemplate going after other bucks we were getting pictures of. However, on November 13th, he came back in at night and continued his nightly routine of hitting several of our stands, checking for does.

Saturday, November 16th, I had the right wind to hunt one of my favorite stands. It was the stand Big Brownie frequented the most. My dad hunted another stand on the property about 400 yards from me. At 8:15 a.m., I got a phone notification that a picture had been taken on the stand about 150 yards to my west. I checked the picture and it was clearly a buck, but the fog made it difficult to identify the deer. The more I studied the picture, the more I became convinced that it was him and he was headed my way. I texted my dad the picture and he agreed that it looked like Big Brownie. I immediately grabbed my bow and prepared for a shot. There was a young buck in front of me at the time, and I was waiting for Big Brownie to step out at any moment. My heart was racing, and my eyes were locked in on the trails coming from that direction.

Thirty minutes passed and I began to wonder where he had gone. I hung my bow up and texted my dad. He must have turned another direction. No surprise for a deer as elusive as Big Brownie. Fifty minutes after seeing the picture of him heading my way, I looked down the trail and caught a glimpse of movement. I made out the legs of a deer walking my way, so before I could even see its head, I grabbed my bow and hooked my release. As the deer continued to walk towards me, I finally saw the antlers clear the brush. It was him, Big Brownie! I couldn’t believe it. I had spent so much time studying hundreds of pictures of this deer, but seeing him on the hoof was like seeing Santa Claus.

I watched him cautiously walk 60 yards straight towards me, stopping every 5 or 10 steps to assess the woods around him. My heart continued to beat out of my chest. He revealed new facets of his impressive antlers with every turn of his head. I sat in the stand, playing out different scenarios and how I could get a shot off if he turned away before he got to my main shooting lane. I felt like there was no way he’d just come in and stop broadside. As he continued slowly towards me, he finally arrived inside 20 yards and turned broadside. I drew my bow just as we had a tree between his eyes and me, and as I settled in on my sight, he came to a stop. I put my top pin over his vitals and squeezed off the shot. As he turned to run, I saw blood pumping out both sides. I just melted into my seat. I was a basket case of emotion.

As always after shooting a deer, the first thing I did was Facetime my dad. However, this time was different. We both shared the same obsession with this deer and both understood what a feat it would be to kill one of this caliber. We’d both spent a lifetime dreaming of the opportunity to hunt a deer this big, and I had just run an arrow through one. I was wearing my grandpa’s old camouflage “Whitetail” cap and couldn’t help but think how proud and excited he would be. I sat in the stand until my dad got over to me. We hugged and whooped and hollered. It was joy like I had never felt before. I told him the full story right before taking up the blood trail. It looked like a red carpet. We knew he couldn’t have made it far. We followed blood for about 50 yards and there he lay just off the trail.

I was again overwhelmed with emotions as I wrapped my fingers around his antlers. I’d dreamed of this moment since the first picture we got of him back in October, and it was actually happening. My whole family came out to see the deer and take pictures. Anson finally got to see the deer he had nicknamed. As he pulled up in the side-by-side, he shouted “Big buck down!”

I am so grateful to God for the opportunity I was given. I accomplished the greatest achievement of my hunting career, killing a 194" gross B&C whitetail with a bow. The best part about it was that I got to share the moment with my dad and my son. Ultimately, that’s what makes the outdoors so special to me. It is a passion that I share with my dad and has been the source of so many great moments in my life. I can’t wait for the day I get to sit with my son as he takes his first deer and I get to continue that legacy in him.