Every dedicated whitetail hunter knows that during the summer or really at any time between when one season ends and another one begins, there’s several things you should do to prepare. For me, one of my favorite things to do before the next season is to take an “inventory” of the deer who are calling my hunting properties home. During this process you may see some familiar bucks that you’ve watched mature from year to year, or you may have a few new deer show up on camera as a pleasant surprise. In this article I will share with you the story of how I killed my first buck with a compound bow here in Kentucky during the fall of 2021, but the story starts well before that.
During the early summer of 2021, my wife and I had just bought a new house that we spent the months of June and July remodeling before we eventually moved in during August. We spent a solid 2 months of constant work where we would come up to the house in the morning and not leave until the late evening. But don’t worry, this is more of an Outdoor Channel story, not HGTV. Every evening as we would leave our house and make our way down the end of our street, we would pass a large field at the edge of a large piece of property coming out of some rolling hardwoods and creek bottoms. On a typical day there would be a doe or 2 in the field out grazing the last hour or so of daylight. However, one day that all changed.
I remember shooting bows and hanging out with one of my good hunting buddies Josh Hess and getting a text from my wife saying that there were (as she described it) a few of the BIGGEST bucks she'd ever seen in the field when she left that evening. Now, even though I joke and refer to my wife as a mountain woman from the heart of South Eastern Kentucky, she's never been much of a hunter and laughs at my obsession with the outdoors. So, my first thought was maybe she was exaggerating or that of course this would happen the one evening I’m not there. Let’s just say that it didn’t take me long to realize that my wife wasn’t kidding. The next month I watched several very large mature bucks step out into the field evening after evening as they grazed in their bachelor groups and showed off their newly grown large velvet racks. If you're anything like me, seeing several mature bucks at once and getting to just sit back and observe was basically like coming down the steps as a little kid on Christmas morning to see a room full of presents.
Until, one evening I saw a buck that stood out to me and just looked different. I knew that even though this buck didn’t have the biggest set of antlers of his counterparts, he was the oldest and most mature buck in this piece of woods. The buck I am describing that finally made himself known as I watched this field bottom was a buck I named the “Brute 6.” He possessed a large set of chocolate colored antlers with just three points on each side, a white/gray looking face from wear and tear mixed with age, and a huge body that made the other bucks in the field look like button bucks by outweighing them by what looked like 50-100 pounds. Like I said, this buck just looked different and I could tell how old and mature he was. Instantly, I knew that if I could find a place close to hunt and if he presented me with the opportunity, there's no way I would pass on such a mature and dominant buck.
Fast forward a couple months later and bow season had already begun in Kentucky. Up until this point, I had been hunting our family hunting farm and a property I have access to in Louisa, KY without much luck going my way. Finally, I received hunting permission on a small piece of private land that’s about 200 yards from where I watched the bachelor group graze all summer. I couldn’t have been more excited to take my bow and hunt this piece of property because I knew what kind of deer were calling that piece of land home. Since bow season was already in full swing, I didn't want to disturb the area too much so I "still" hunted my way into the property for the first time with my bow as I also scouted to try and find a good spot to set up. My intentions were to find the first decent looking area to set up without spooking too many deer in the process. Typically, I would like to scout any new properties well before any seasons open up so I can really get boots on the ground, but in this case I was going for minimal human presence.
Within about an hour of being on the property for the first time I found a great spot that had a natural funnel from an old dirt road that connects a large piece of hardwoods to a thick power line cut that looked like a great spot for bedding. The power line cut even had a small stream running through it. To me, this looked like a heck of a spot for a mature buck to feel safe and at home (he's got water, plenty of browsing food, and plenty of cover). My theory was proven to be correct as I actually almost got a shot at a really nice 10 pointer that cruised past me while my bow was laying on the ground 5 feet away from me. Turns out my love for coffee and overactive bladder created terrible timing for the buck to stroll by, but that’s another story for another time. We've all been there. After that, I hung a trail camera, picked out a good climbing tree, and got the heck out of there.
A couple days later, the wind was finally right and it was time for my first sit as I creeped through the woods with a Summit Viper tree stand on my back and bow in hand. Before climbing the tree I pulled my SD card from my camera and began to scroll through the pictures of the deer that were funneling from the bedding in the pipeline, past the stream, and up into the field down in the bottom. As I scrolled I saw several does, yearlings, smaller bucks, decent (but younger) bucks, some very promising big bucks that still looked to be 2-3 years old, and then BAM. There he was. The brute 6 I remembered seeing out in the field a couple months before then. He was in pictures with other nice deer that looked tiny in stature compared to him. Once again, I could tell that I was looking at the oldest and the most dominant buck in this set of woods.
I couldn’t be more fired up as I continued to sit in my stand. Now, with about an hour or so left of shooting light, I saw 4 does coming up from the pipeline bedding directly towards my stand. I sat above them for about 30 minutes watching them graze peacefully out in the pipeline thickets. Then, with just a couple minutes of light left, I saw a very large bodied buck pop out of the woods and into the pipeline at about 70-80 yards away. Unfortunately, even though I could tell it was a buck, it was way too far away and way too dark to determine just how big or what buck I was looking at. I waited for about an hour after dark and quietly slipped out of my tree with an eagerness to come right back and hunt again. Was it the brute 6 that popped out into the open right before dark? I wasn’t sure, but man I had a gut feeling that it was.
Fast forward three days later for me to have a free evening and for the wind direction to be right again, it’s October 8th, 2021. The evening had some light rain in the forecast that was supposed to stop and clear up about an hour or so before dark, so I took that as a perfect opportunity to quietly get in the woods and hunt until dark. This time, no deer movement at all until around 6pm (this time of year it gets dark about 7:45pm in KY). Suddenly, it was like the pattern was repeating itself as I saw 4 does come up out of the
bedding out into the pipeline once again. Only this time, it was much earlier in the evening.
Would the story repeat itself and the buck come out right at last light again not offering me a shot? Nope, not this time. At 6:45, in the exact same spot from 3 days earlier, I saw the same very large bodied buck step out into the pipeline and this time I had plenty of daylight left. There he was, it was the Brute 6. It was almost like he owned the woods and the second he stepped out all the other deer knew the old man was present and to get the heck out of his way.
However, the beauty of bowhunting is you have to get them in range. At this point, he’s still going to have to travel about 40 yards to even be close to archery range. Here he comes. The does came in closer, and closer, and closer, and eventually walked right underneath me at 13 yards. Here he comes right in their footsteps. This was one of those situations where everything was going so right my main concern was to not find a way to screw it up. 30 yards, 25 yards, 20 yards. Finally, he stepped out into a dirt road at 13 yards. Practically right below me. I drew back and tried to settle my top pin tight on this front shoulder, gently squeeze my release, and BAM. I let it fly. I tried to control my adrenaline enough to analyze how the shot looked and how he acted after contact. My arrow made a clean pass through and I watched him bolt off into the pipeline, get wobbly, and go down exactly 45 yards from my tree. SMOKED!!! Ever been so excited that you almost fell out of a tree? Well, safe to say that happened to me. I thanked God, made a few phone calls to family members, hunting buddies, the property owner, and then climbed down ecstatic.
Year after year I’ve been completely blessed to have opportunities to hunt and to have some success along the way while doing so. Even though everything seemed to go right during this hunt, every hunter will understand there’s normally about 100 other times where something goes wrong in a hurry. You just never know when your next opportunity will be, but you have to execute and take advantage of the hunts where everything falls into place. In my opinion, there’s simply nothing more exciting and up close and personal than chasing an animal with a bow and arrow. The difficulty level is intense as there’s so many variables that go into it from one hunt to the next.
I’m so thankful to be able to take such a mature animal that had survived a very long time in these Kentucky hardwoods as the dominant buck. A fellow hunter who I coach baseball with introduced me to a company out of Montana called Wildlife Analytical Laboratories where you can age whitetails and almost any other animal. Out of curiosity, I decided to send off to age the Brute 6. I received my aging kit, collected my tooth sample from the bottom jaw, and sent it in. After a few weeks the laboratory sent me a plaque determining the Brute 6 buck to be 6.5 years old. Based off his appearance, he was just an old warrior.
Here I am again running trail cameras on the same piece of property one year later and super excited for another season of chasing whitetails. I’ll leave you guys with this, take advantage of every opportunity you have to get in the woods, and be grateful for the memories made and the time spent with family and friends in the woods. Here at Hunt Lift Eat, we focus more on the process, providing meat on our tables, and the grind of the hunt much more than what we kill. It's much more than killing an animal. The relationships, teamwork, comradery, and memories that can be developed through the outdoors truly are special. To me, that’s more special that any buck you’ll ever kill, even the Brute 6.
By: Josh Reed