Rare is the story of a hunter killing a trophy buck where everything goes exactly right, from start to finish.
Bryce Gaston, 12, of Southaven came extremely close to that perfection with the 150-inch 11-point he killed Saturday at the Duck Lake Hunting Club in Tunica County.
It wasn’t until after the deer, the youngster’s first buck with archery equipment, was in a truck for the ride to the deer camp before things went awry.
“It was kind of crazy, we were so excited about the hunt and about Bryce killing that big buck, that we just forgot about the crossbow,” said his dad, Spencer Gaston, who was hunting with his son. “When we started to load the buck and gear, Bryce set the crossbow down on the ground to help. Then, we ran over it with the truck.
“Just smashed it. But you know what? That’s OK... doesn’t matter. This was a great day and I could have cared less about that crossbow.”
And, neither could Scott Gaston, Spencer’s dad and Bryce’s grandfather. It was Scott Gaston’s crossbow.
“It’s kind of perfect how it worked out,” said Spencer Gaston, perhaps the proudest father on the planet this week. “Bryce took up bow hunting last year, and was shooting a traditional bow and killed a doe with it. I am a traditional archer, and he was following me. But, this year, Bryce has a sprained shoulder, a problem that I think began with shooting the traditional bow so much last year and then made worse by baseball and other stuff.
“He couldn’t pull a bow this year, but he wanted to hunt. My Dad, Scott, had a crossbow and was in Tennessee hunting with it, and he made a special trip back home early to let Bryce use it. That’s what he took to the stand on Saturday, Pop’s TenPoint GT Flex Crossbow.”
The afternoon hunt started at 4 o’clock when father and son went to a stand at Duck Lake, a club behind the Mississippi River levee.
“We were climbing and I sent Bryce on up the tree first, which is how we do it,” said Spencer Gaston. “He climbs up first, and faces the direction the deer should be moving. I climb up second, to his level, but on the other side of the tree where I can look over his shoulder.
“The stand we were hunting was about 20 yards from where several trails converge, leading from a bedding area toward a huge field where deer feed. We just happened to be lucky, in that the big buck used one of those trails that day and he stopped right where they merge and gave Bryce a perfect broadside shot at 18 yards.”
Deer were moving good, but a wise old solitary doe almost messed up their day.
“We’d seen a few does and a couple of small bucks moving on the trails earlier, and then we had this one doe come in and she really blew the woods up on us,” the dad said. “I guess she winded us because she started blowing up a storm, and then ran off.
“Bryce turned to me, thinking it was over, and said ‘Dad, should we climb down now?’ I told him no, that we had time for things to settle down and still make a hunt.”
“Yeah, about 30 minutes later, in the final minutes of daylight, I heard a deer walking,” Spencer Gaston said. “Then I heard Bryce say, ‘Dad, it’s a buck, a big buck.’ I looked up and saw it was the one we were looking for, ol’ Split Brow, which is the name we gave him last year for the split left brow tine. He still had it this year.”
Spencer Gaston credits long-time Duck Lake owner and conservationist Tommy Goldsby for producing the deer.
“Tommy was a pioneer in quality wildlife management, as well as a very good timber and land manager,” he said. “He’s the reason why we have deer like that one up there.
“I had several trail cam photos of that buck in that area from a month ago, then more from about two weeks ago. We’d gotten photos of him last year, too, and he looked similar, but we never got a look at him last year in a hunting situation.”
This time, they got as good a look as was needed.
“Man, it was perfect,” the dad continued. “He walked up that trail toward us and stopped when he was at 18 yards, giving Bryce a perfect broadside shot. I had told him already, I think before we ever left the camp, that if a big buck walked up, shoot him. I told him that if we encountered a big buck, once we recognized him as a shooter, then he was never to look at the rack again, just concentrate on executing the shot.
“That’s exactly what he did. That young boy was as cool as could be, and when he pulled the trigger, I can’t tell you how excited I was when I saw that nock disappear in that buck’s 10-ring. It was a perfect shot and I knew that deer was dead. It bucked and ran off. Man, we were so pumped. I balled up my fist and gave Bryce a fist bump because he had sealed the deal.”
Spencer Gaston managed to remain calm, about all of 10 minutes.
“That’s all I could stand,” he said. “I told Bryce I was climbing down, not to pursue, but just to look for blood. You know how it is for an archer, you never feel comfortable until you have blood. I got down and turned to Bryce and he was still in the stand. I think that’s when the excitement and the adrenaline hit him.
“He looked down at me and said, ‘I can’t move.’”
Dad didn’t wait and walked the 18 yards over to where the buck had stood at the shot. It had gone dark, but with his flashlight he found that there was indeed blood, enough of it for him to be sure the buck didn’t go far.
“I turned around and Bryce was right there; he’d made it down and came walking over,” Spencer Gaston said. “We waited until 30 minutes had passed, and as confident as I was at where that arrow had hit the deer and with all that blood, I knew we could begin trailing. I pointed my light down at a trail that was at about a 45 degree angle from us. It’s where I thought the buck had gone.
“Bryce said no, that the buck hadn’t gone that way, instead pointing about a 15-degree angle off my line. He pulled out his cell phone, turned on the flashlight and started down the trail. He took the lead on the blood trail, his first time, and he walked right to the buck. It was about 100 yards away. You know how when you trail a buck, you usually walk up on it facing his butt. Not this time, the buck must have turned back because when I pointed my flashlight up the trail the first thing we saw was these massive antlers and the celebration broke loose.”
Massive is right. The buck green scores 150 inches gross, P&Y. It is a very symmetrical mainframe 10-point with the split left brow tine to make it an 11-point. It is 17 inches wide, with over 18 inches of circumference measurements on each main beam.
“Just a pretty rack, a really big buck to be Bryce’s first archery buck,” Spencer Gaston said. “When you think about how it all happened, with the sore shoulder and dad lending him a crossbow, it was perfect.”
Well, except for running over the crossbow.
“Dad was kind of like silent about that when I first told him,” Spencer Gaston said. “Then he was like me. He said, ‘I don’t care about that crossbow. It was worth it.’”
*Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.