December 29: Brandy Hampton

When your wife asks you where you want to go for your eleventh anniversary, you're walking on eggshells when you answer, "I figured we'd just go hunting." I was ducking and trying to cover my head when my wife said, "okay, as long as we make it to our 8 o'clock dinner reservations." I couldn't see any reason why we couldn't be at her favorite restaurant 2 & 1/2 hours after dark, unless of course we killed a good buck.

Arkansas has a 3 day firearms hunt that starts after Christmas. The next three days following the firearms season is the late muzzle-loading season. Brandy had only been able to hunt for a morning and an evening thus far the entire season due to work and motherly duties. She actually jumped at the opportunity to go hunt on the 2nd day of the muzzle load hunt, even though it was our anniversary. I was excited also because I had recently put out some Reconyx cameras and had gotten some pictures of a real nice ten point that was moving in the daylight. This deer was definitely no stranger though. The land that I had leased was being logged during the bow and early part of the regular firearms season, so I had stayed out until the last few days of the regular firearms season. The loggers had moved out due to the weather, so I threw up a ground blind on a travel route that was 150 yards from a destination feed field. On my very first morning I had an encounter with the buck that would now be known as the "Lucky Ten". I passed the buck that morning with the full intentions of trying to get my son or my wife in the blind and hope for a second encounter. With my son in school and my wife busy at work, I went back to the blind on the last morning of the regular firearms season. About an hour after daylight, I passed him for the second time in as many days. Had I not killed my biggest buck in my home state in October, the buck may not have lived long enough to get his name. I knew where he was and what he was doing. The problem now was that it would be at least a week before we could hunt him again.

My son and I went after the buck for the 3 day "Christmas hunt" but had no luck. I knew he was still around because the Reconyx was catching him fairly regular. The problem was that now he was not moving until dark. My son was track-burnt and decided not to hunt the next 3 days with the muzzle loader. It was now Brandy's chance to get behind the Thompson Center and change our luck!

We had barely zipped the blind up when the first deer began moving through the timber in the staging area. It was getting towards dark when I began trying to con my wife into taking the next big doe that offered her a shot. I turned on the camera to check the light due to the cloudy conditions that was prematurely bringing on the darkness. As soon as I saw the screen, I whispered to Brandy that we had about 15 minutes of camera light. I turned back to check the screen when a big racked buck stepped right into the shooting lane! "It's him!", I said excitedly as I reached up and hit record. Brandy slowly but quietly went for the gun. The buck threw his head up and turned to go back where he had came when Brandy cocked the hammer. The buck hesitated for just a second when the shock-wave was released from "The Beast!" I couldn't believe it! She had just dropped her second great buck in as many years with the muzzle loader that we appropriately named "The Beast."

I was extremely jacked up until I heard the groans start coming. "What's wrong sweetheart?! You got him... He's down!" And that was when she let me know that the scope had smacked her above the eye, leaving her looking like a victim of domestic abuse. I always said that if the gun gets you, you usually get the deer. We gave the deer a little bit while we poked fun at our luck, Brandy's eye, and the dinner that we knew we wouldn't be on time for.

I'll say this much, it was definitely the most unforgettable anniversary that we have had so far. I know how lucky I am to have a family that understands the passion that I have for whitetail and for hunting in general. I don't take it for granted, not even a little bit. The Lord has blessed me this season. I personally had the best season of my life. I was extremely excited that my wife had just completed the perfect year with a great home state buck.

I almost forgot.... We did end up making it to dinner!..... Thank you Wendy's for staying open late! :)