Brian Smith is a workingman’s deer hunter, the type that doesn’t look for an easy way out and is willing to forego the comfort and expense of a deer stand at an exclusive deer club.
“Never been my thing,” he said.
But killing big deer is and on Oct. 10 Smith took down a monster and nearly symmetrical 10-point that green grosses 176 6/8 inches and nets out at “167 and change.” It weighed 270 pounds.
He did it stalking with a crossbow and did it on undisclosed public land in Adams County.
“That’s all I’m willing to tell you about the location, because it’s tough around here about people trying to find everything out; I’ve even had them looking for and following my truck,” said Smith, 41, a security guard at the River Bend Nuclear Power Plant in St. Francisville, La. “But I’ve never been one to like hunting clubs. I like hunting public lands and I like to stalk. I don’t mind working for a buck because that’s what it takes.”
Three years ago, hunting the same general area, Smith had proven his mettle by stalking and killing a 150-class 10-point buck with a compound bow. It was a heavy deer, too, at 230 pounds.
“That one came from the same general area, so that’s why I’m careful about giving out too much information,” Smith said.
Since that first big buck, Smith had changed weapons, from a compound to a Barnett Raptor Crossbow. The weapon and a small 3-legged stool is all he carried to the woods on Oct. 10.
But he hasn’t changed his style. He walks. He stalks. Most days, he goes home empty handed, and that’s OK, too. This was his first buck with his two-year-old crossbow.
“There aren’t many left that do it like I do,” Smith said.
Smith’s morning started with a brisk walk in the darkness. He had an area to reach, one with a big thicket, well beyond where most would tread.
“I got there early, parked and walked in, until I got near the area I wanted to be,” he said. “Daylight was just breaking when I got there and I put down my stool against a tree and sat down. I always try to get settled and get a feel for the woods on a particular day, whether the deer are moving or just being lazy.
“On that day, I sensed that they would not be moving, so after about 30 minutes I decided I would have to stalk. Something told me to get up, move around, that the deer were laying up. So I got up and started slipping. What I do is move slowly, using natural cover to break my body, and I keep the wind in my face. I always walk into the wind, and when I say I walk slow, I mean really slow, maybe 100 yards in 20 to 30 minutes.”
A half hour later, Smith reached a group of bushes, and stepped behind them for cover. He would soon be looking out at the open area that he had walked so far to reach.
“I was at my spot and what I usually do is take binocular and begin looking for deer laid up,” he said. “I usually like to look for deer about 100 yards away, giving me time to plan a strategy to approach.
“But, this time, when I slipped around the bush, I saw the buck. He was right there, about 35 to 40 yards from me bedded up in some tall grass. I could see his antlers plain as day, and maybe the tips of his ears. But there were antlers going every which way and I knew he was a shooter. He was facing away from me so I knew I needed to grab a knee so I went to kneel.”
But as Smith went to crouch, lifting his crossbow to his shoulder and the scope to his eye, the buck stood up and looked back in the hunter’s direction.
“Guess he either heard me or something because by the time I got down, he was up and I knew I had to shoot pretty quick,” Smith said. “I was at a pretty good angle. He was quartering away from me, looking back, and that gave me a good angle for an arrow behind his ribs, through his vitals. I aimed, looking between my 30- and 40-yard lines, and I pulled the trigger, and I heard it hit the buck.”
Here’s the deal. From the time he first saw the antlers until he hit the trigger was five seconds. That’s a lot longer than it took to read those last three play-by-play paragraphs.
“He took off and I could see him running the first 100 yards, until he got behind some cover and was out of sight,” Smith said. “I had heard the arrow hit him, and I had had such a good angle and shot that I thought I had made a good hit.
“When I got to where he was laying, there was blood everywhere, spots as big as your hand. It had to have been just spurting out. I knew with all that blood, I just needed to give him time and he’d bleed out. But, you know what, it ain’t easy waiting, not with a buck like that. I called a buddy, and described the blood and the shot, and he said to give him an hour. Well, that didn’t work.”
Smith managed to last perhaps 30 minutes and then started slowly following the trail, which was so easy because there was so much blood. He didn’t need the blood, not for the first 100 yards, but it was there, every step of the way.
“I had seen him run the first 100 yards and I went straight to where I last saw him, then I slowed down and started slipping through the woods,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to jump him. So I’d move 10 yards, stop and listen. Then move another 10 yards, stop and listen.”
After 50 more yards, the hunt was over.
“I saw his body piled up and he was dead,” Smith said. “I did not hit him as cleanly as I thought. The shot hit him left of where I was aiming and it hit him in the hip, and the broad head sliced right through the femoral artery.”
The more the buck ran, the more he bled until there wasn’t enough left to bleed.
Smith was stunned.
“Biggest thing I’d ever seen, and not just his antlers either,” he said. “This thing was huge. I knew I would need help, so I left him and walked back to where I had parked and got my deer cart. I called my dad to come help me get him. When he arrived, we walked the mile and a half back in, with the cart.
“When we got there, we decided that even though we both wanted to field dress it, we wanted more to know just how much his live weight would be. So we loaded him up.”
Three hours it took to get it on the cart and then to walk back the mile and a half.
“Worth every second,” Smith said, which was an understatement.
At Tucker Crisp’s taxidermy shop in Natchez, Crisp aged the animal at at least six years, and then began measuring.
“He grossed him green at 176 6/8 and netted him at 167 and change,” Smith said. “His bases were 6 inches and it carried out through the main beams, too. The lowest (circumference) was 5 inches. The main beams were close, 26 on the left and 25½ on the right. He looks pretty symmetrical, too, but the right side is not as well developed as the left. The left G2 and G3 were both over 11 inches while the right side had 9 and 8½ inches. If the right had developed as well as the left, he’d have been a 180, Crisp told me.”
The trophy will soon hang on the wall, and Smith will have a story to tell the rest of his life … well, sort of.
“It happened so fast, to be honest with you, it was a blur,” he said.
Click here to read other big-buck stories from the 2016-17 season.
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