Brayden Muse’s first draw on a deer with a bow was one for the books.
The record books, that is.
Muse, 14, a 9th grader at Florence High School, put an arrow through a Holmes County non-typical brute — a main-frame 10-point with three drop tines and a kicker off a G2 — that green scores 166 6/8 inches gross.
The Oct. 15 kill will be tough to beat, as his Dad and mentor Brian Muse said, “for the rest of his life.”
In addition to an amazing rack, the buck was massive. It weighed 280 pounds on the hoof, and produced 82.5 pounds of deboned venison.
“He was huge,” Brayden Muse said.
“He was a chore to load, that’s for sure,” Brian Muse said. “Took four of us, Brayden, me, his uncle and his grandfather to get him on our Bad Boy Buggy, but we did it.”
The first-year bow hunter was in a tree with his uncle, Alan Brunston, on private land that has been under intensive buck management for 15 years, on his fifth hunt of the season.
“Alan takes him because I’m very reluctant about climbing,” said Brian Muse. “I fell 25 feet out of a tree stand that malfunctioned in 2001 and I am still fighting problems related to those injuries. I don’t climb anymore and I am hesitant about letting Braydon. I quit bow hunting.
“But late last year, he got interested in bow hunting and that’s all he said he wanted for Christmas was a bow. He wanted to bow hunt. We took him to The Outfitter in Richland and Cameron Stigler, who works at the bow counter, got him all set up. I’ve got to give him credit. And, Alan has been his teacher.”
Braydon Muse spent a lot of spring and summer hours shooting with his new hunting present.
“About three or four days a week, for about 30 minutes or an hour in the backyard,” Braydon Muse said.
With a new bow hunter in the mix, the Muses had to include new tree stands at hunting camp.
“We decided to put up two sets of Millennium lock-ons for Braydon,” his father said. “I like to use Mississippi companies products whenever I can, and what we did was put two stands on two different sites, one for a north wind and one for a south wind. The two stands went on the same tree at both sites, which gives Braydon a shooting platform and one at a 45-degree angle for his uncle Alan so they could be together.”
It alleviated some of the anxiety Brian Muse has about tree stands, with Brunston within an arm length of the young hunter at all times and able to help with the climb and the fall restraint system (harness).
On that Saturday morning, the wind was out of the south so they chose the appropriate stand, which overlooked a hardwood bottom between a levee and agricultural fields, about a mile from the Yazoo River.
“We saw a couple of deer in the dark when we first got in, but I couldn’t tell what they were,” Braydon Muse said. “Guess we got in there about 5:30 that morning, but the night before we had studied the moon charts and everything and knew that a peak feeding time was around 11 to noon. We had gone in there with a plan to stay all morning.”
It started slow.
“I saw a spike and then a mama doe with a fawn come in about 8:30, and they kept it interesting,” Brandon Muse said. “The doe and fawn came running in like something had spooked them and then the fawn just walked out and laid down. The spike kept playing with it. It was fun watching them.”
But those three deer were the only ones that came through the bottom, which included a big oak that was dropping acorns. Deer had been hitting those acorns pretty hard recently, so the two dedicated guys just hung in and waited.
About 11 a.m., it paid off. Brunston was the first to see the buck.
“I was playing a game on my phone,” Braydon Muse said, with a yeah-I-know type laugh. “He tapped me, and said ‘there’s something coming off the levee. It’s a buck. … It’s a big buck.’ We both started getting shaky.”
The buck was slipping off a levee built years ago when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer dredged the Yazoo River and built up levee-like high ground. The hunting property has two of them, which provide outstanding bedding areas for deer, and the buck was walking down the southernmost one to reach the acorn-rich bottom, about a mile or more from the river.
“I think he had to be going back toward the river to bed up and came through to eat some acorns,” Brian Muse said.
The buck first appeared about 150 yards from the stand.
“He was walking at an angle, quartering to me, right to this big ol’ acorn tree that was dropping acorns,” Braydon Muse said. “He got him a bite to eat about 125 yards from me and the whole time I was wondering which way he was going to go after that. After eating, he walked around the tree and around another tree that had fallen down.
“When he came around it, he started walking straight toward me. He walked over that fallen tree and turned straight at us and started coming. I was getting so nervous. I started shaking. Uncle Alan was shaking.”
Fortunately for the hunters, once the deer committed to its chosen path, it never detoured, nor did it slow down.
“It didn’t take long; he was on his way and he never stopped,” Braydon Muse said. “He never knew we were there.”
Within minutes, the buck was within shooting range, still quartering at an angle from right to left.
“There was a tree to the left of him, with branches, that kind of kept us a little covered so I could draw,” the young hunter said. “He came in and turned to his left away from me and Uncle Alan made a bleat noise and he stopped, I was a full draw, but I had no shot. There was a limb in the opening and it blocked my shot.
“My uncle asked me, ‘why aren’t you shooting?’ I said ‘I can’t, a limb is in the way. The deer started walking again and heading to another gap. I was still at full draw, and I was shaking pretty bad. Uncle Alan asked me if I could hold it and I think I nodded my head. When he reached the next gap, Uncle Alan stopped him again. The same limb was still there, but this time I had a little gap so at 25 yards, I put the pin behind his shoulder and when I released, I could follow the glowing Nocturnal nock. Then I heard it hit the deer with a loud thump.”
The Rage Slip Cam broad head, suggested by Stigler did the rest.
“Cameron talked us into the Rage and the Bowtech bow, and I am so grateful to him and to both products,” Brian Muse said. “It was a textbook shot, what any expert would want. It was quartering away and Braydon shot behind the rib cage, cut that big artery behind the liver, passed through the liver and the left lung and lodged behind the left shoulder. It got it all and then some.”
The huge buck didn’t bolt, but instead just started walking away. Braydon Muse wasn’t sure what to do, what he’d done or …
“I was just surprised I had him,” he said. “He didn’t run and I was like ‘did I hit him good?’ First time with a bow, I didn’t know much. We started discussing the shot, if it was good enough, all the while we could still see him walking off and could see the arrow. I could see it was so deep in him. We debated the shot, and sat up there two more hours. We finally got out of the tree, went around behind it and went back to camp.”
Another two-hour wait followed before the four guys went back to the stand.
“We went back to where I shot him, and followed his path 20 yards in the woods,” Braydon Muse said. “That’s when we found a big blood trail. There were big puddles. We could see where it looked like he was spitting it out, but we kept coming to places where the blood stopped, then we’d pick it back up.”
Brian Muse was not concerned.
“I could tell by the color of the blood that he was dead or going to be dead, and then we came to the levee and a road and I said, ‘no way could this buck could cross the levee, not with all the blood he’d lost,’” Brian Muse said. “Seemed like a couple of gallons.”
Brian Muse found the arrow about 80 yards into the recovery and he said it looked like it had been stuck in a bucket of blood.
“Dad walked up on the gravel levee road and found a few drops of blood,” Braydon Muse said. “He tracked him down and there he was barely over the road.”
Said Brian Muse: “I was still looking for the next blood and Braydon said, ‘Dad, he’s laying right there.’ Then we all got emotional.”
The buck had died right next to a fallen tree, about 200 yards from the Yazoo River and about 125 to 150 yards from where it had been shot. Like most injured bucks, it was heading to water.
“He didn’t make it,” Brian Muse said.
After taking a few photos, the group loaded the hulking mass and went back to camp. Using an iPhone App, they began measuring the main-frame 8-point buck:
* Main beams: Left 23 7/8, right 25 2/8.
* Inside spread: 19 6/8.
*Brow tines: 5 7/8 and 6 5/8.
* G2s: 9 6/8 and 9 2/8.
* G3s: 8 and 7 3/8.
* Total inches atypical: 12 2/8.
* Base circumferences were both six inches and the other measurements were 4 5/8 down to 3 5/8.
There was no doubt the deer had reached its maturity and was on the way down.
“The buck had no front top teeth left; they were either worn out or had fallen out,” Brain Muse said. “The molars were as flat as you’ll ever see. Had to be 8 years old or more. I wish I had seen him two years ago.”
Funny thing, nobody at the property had ever seen this buck or had gotten a photo of this buck until this year.
“Not a clue and we’ve gotten hundreds of buck photos over the past five or six years,” Brian Muse said. “The last two years, we had 42 different bucks on camera in 2014 and 46 bucks in 2015 and had never gotten one single picture of him until this year. When we did get pictures, he was always alone, even back during the bachelor group period. Probably because he was so old.”
Click here to read other big-buck stories from the 2016-17 season.
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