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My Own Backyard - Paul Brown's Story
A good friend of Hunting Network, and an excellent photographer, writer, and hunter by the name of Paul Brown has literally traveled around the world to pursue game. Little did he know that perhaps the most memorable hunt of his life, would take place in his own backyard. This is Paul’s story.
The dream of taking a Boone-and-Crockett buck began for me more than three decades ago while attending Mississippi State University. Visions of a heavy-racked buck making a beeline for my treestand filled the empty hours sitting in a tree stand while hunting Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Fantasy turned to reality as I began my quest by journeying to places I thought offered the best chance to kill a book buck. A trophy animal shouldn’t be judged by scores; far from it. I’ve taken whitetail bucks I consider trophies that didn’t come close to making any sort of record book. But to kill a buck that would qualify for listing … well, that would be special.
This mission has taken me across North America. For 20 consecutive years, I’ve hunted either Alberta or Saskatchewan—sometimes both—trying to take a typical or non-typical that would qualify for listing in Boone and Crockett Club’s Records.
American Big Game
I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve hunted with some of the best hunting outtfitters and guides in North America, forging lifetime friendships, creating lasting memories, and experiencing a few close encounters with B&C bucks. But I didn’t close the deal. A miss at 350 yards, a fleeting glimpse, and cover so thick a laser beam couldn’t get through are some of the excuses.
I’ve been an outdoors writer, book author, and wildlife photographer for 30-something years. Writing articles for North American Whitetail and other hunting magazines featuring hunters who have killed B&C bucks kept my interest alive. But the allure of taking the ultimate whitetail faded as the years flew by. I never lost the passion for hunting, however; my focus simply turned more toward photography and writing hunting books.
That changed February 11, 2007. Suddenly I was reenergized, and deer hunting became the fixation again.
Longtime hunting buddy Tim Biard and I were shed hunting on my property in Holmes County, Mississippi that day. We’d split up and mostly scoured food plots. Tim met me back at my cabin grinning and holding up the right shed from a nice, mature buck sporting five long tines. I was thrilled. Then Tim’s smile widened as he brought his other hand from behind his back and thrust forward the left shed from a really nice buck. Ten points on the one beam. No one had seen this buck during the previous hunting season. Nor had we gotten pictures with trail cameras.
The Deer Hunt Began That Day
After measuring 90 inches of antler on the shed, my obsession to hunt this buck grew exponentially. Assuming an equal, matched shed from the right side—20 total scoreable points (one inch or more)—and a conservative 17-inch inside spread, the buck would gross 197 non-typical. And if he grew just a little more, we’d have a 200-inch buck on our hands.
I immediately called Chad Dacus, the deer program coordinator and wildlife biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Chad, who hunts just down the hill from my place, examined the shed and said he couldn’t say for sure, but his best guess was the buck was 4 ½ years old at the time he shed his antlers. Chad’s smile reflected my exhilaration.
To enhance our chances of seeing this buck, we had to make sure our perennial food plots were in tiptop condition. We had to insure the lack of nourishing food would not be a reason for this buck to leave my 200-acre piece of heaven. The fall before, I’d planted about 10 acres in four locations of Mossy Oak BioLogic’s Clover Plus—a perennial blend of New Zealand red and white clovers and chicory—to provide a year-round food source for deer and turkeys.
The fight with various forms of invasive grasses began in earnest in early summer. Selective herbicides such as 2,4-D and Select were used in the battle to control unwanted grasses that would compete with the clovers and chicory. This big buck would need all the nutrition he could get during the summer months—antler growing season—to reach full potential. In May, I planted a five-acre field of BioMax—a mixture of soybeans and corn—to add more sustenance.
Then came the drought
The guys at the co-op are probably still talking about that crazy, gray-haired man who asked about a tank truck to water food plots.
The chicory thrived in the dry climate, but much of the clover wilted in the parched fields. There was enough left, however, to withstand grazing. The soybeans and corn fared well in the shaded areas and did okay elsewhere.
Overall, I felt good about the available groceries on the ground for the “20-point” buck. Now we’d have to sweat through the summer. The buck could die from who knows what, be injured, or just not develop into the buck of a lifetime. Anything could go wrong.
All summer my excitement and obsession were shared with my two youngest kids, Mark, 23, and Jessi 19, both students at Mississippi State University. My oldest son Paul Jr., 36, was interested enough to help move treestands, erect new ones, and help with food plots; he just wasn’t obsessed like the rest of us.
We all put our heads together and unanimously picked Mark as the designated shooter. He seemed to want it more and had hunted hard and passed on bucks most hunters would have shot the year before. Jessi had taken two quality bucks—one for the video camera and TV show All That Matters Outdoors. Though Mark had taken plenty of quality bucks, he had yet to kill a buck off this particular piece of property.
We were all going to deer hunt, but we were pulling for Mark. I didn’t know at the time, Mark wanted me to kill the buck. He’d silently watched me put the time and resources into a quality deer management program and felt I’d earned the opportunity to kill the deer. Impressive for a young man who loves hunting as much as anyone his age.
Mark and I preferred to take the buck with archery equipment. I had one problem: an aching right shoulder that needed surgery. No way was I going under the scope until after the season. My doctor ordered physical therapy (PT) in an effort to strengthen the shoulder enough to draw my compound bow.
Finally, after six weeks of PT, I could muster just enough strength to draw my bow and accurately shoot a handful of arrows. I deemed myself “good to go.”
When the calendar turned to September, I figured the buck’s antlers would be fully developed, and I wanted to see them. On September 1, I blew the dust off the Cuddeback no-flash digital scouting cameras and began positioning them along trails leading to the clover fields in hopes of proving our dream buck really existed.