December 4: Brandy Hampton

I'd love to tell you I was holding it together..... However I was not. My wife had just squeezed the trigger on the oldest and largest framed buck that I had ever layed eyes on. My right leg was shaking so hard that my teeth were chattering... I thought I saw the shockwave slam him behind the shoulder, but why did Brandy just say she missed? "It looked good to me, were you dead on him?" I asked with uncertainty. "Why did you say you missed sweetheart?!!!"....."Well, shouldn't he have fallen right there?" A huge gasp of air left me in total relief. I understood then why her reaction was that of total concern. I thought she saw something different than what I saw through the viewfinder of the camera... It would be nice if every buck we shot never left his tracks, wouldn't it? I'd say she's been lucky since the only 2 other bucks that she had ever shot had gone down like a one-egged pudding.

Five years ago when I leased my farm in Kansas, I had a particular wide 10 point buck that we named "Bobby Joe's 10". We named him after the landowner's daughter who owned an 80 acre hayfield that bordered the lease. I gained permission to hunt the 80 as well. This seemed to be this bucks preferred travel route to the surrounding crop fields. We would only get night photo's of the buck and very rarely did he step close enough to the camera to get his picture taken. The following year I got permission from the landowner to make his old apple orchard which is just a quarter mile south of the field, into a Biologic food plot. This ultimately would be the key to harvesting the nocturnal giant that at the time we guessed to be 4 or 5 years old.

Bobby Joe was just like a ghost to us. We knew he was there, but we never saw him from a stand, and he absolutely stayed off of our radar. The lone sighting of this buck was 3 years ago while Rod Owen and I were taking the back way to eat lunch in town. A huge buck ran across the road trailing a hot doe and the truck tires began sliding across the gravel. Both sets of Nikons went up! Even though we were 3 miles to the east of our property line, there was no doubt it was Bobby Joe! We had only 1 picture of him that year and he appeared to have dropped off considerably from the past. Having the largest block of timber in the area, we felt that he was primarily living on us. However, he was the master of dodging the camera. Rod picked up a shed from the buck that fall and he was much bigger than we anticipated.

Last fall, Bobby Joe didn't change a bit. Other than some huge rubs and tracks that were thought to be his, he was non-existent. We felt he was now 8 or 9 & 1/2 years old. We were hoping for at least a sighting or picture just to let us know he was still living. On December the 2nd at 9 O'clock a.m. we got our first daylight pictures of him. The temperature had fallen into the 20's for high's. The Biologic Maximum food-plot was the ticket on that day, but that would be the only daylight pictures that we would ever get of the monarch. His rack had actually improved slightly from the year before.

This fall, once again , we were hoping for just a little sign of hope. Finally, on November 21st he was back! He was at his usual travel route and looked to be sporting a heavy rack. He was the buck I'd be after in the next few weeks no doubt, but killing him would take an enormous amount of pure luck. On November the 23rd, I harvested the "Droptine 9" and filled my only bow tag. It would now be my wife's turn to hunt for the elusive Bobby Joe. I felt that if she was unable to harvest him, he could possibly die of natural causes.

On Saturday, December 3rd, my wife and I left early to head back to my favorite whitetail state. We arrived at the farm and began checking the cameras. At the wheat field blind, we pulled in to see a 4 year old buck tending a doe just 30 yards from our setup. That was a real confidence booster to know that the deer were definitely using the field during the daylight hours. The wind was totally wrong for our 2 available blinds. It was raining steady and a huge cold front was ushering in from the north. The next five days looked to be perfect, with forecasted high's in the 30's. The next morning we met Rod for breakfast and he returned a blind that he had borrowed for the last week. After breakfast, Brandy and I drove back to the food-plot that Bobby Joe had visited during the daylight the previous fall. I cut limbs from a cedar tree next to the road and hauled them with me to brush in the ground blind. After the blind was hidden good, we left to check the Reconyx cameras to see if we had any activity from the night before. I knew that we could see deer at any of our set-ups. To have a chance at Bobby Joe however, I felt we would have to be in the food-plot where we had just brushed in the blind. We decided that we would hunt him every evening until Thursday. We'd monitor the other blinds with the Reconyx. If a different mature deer was showing at another location, then after wednesday evening we would go with plan B.

We got to the blind before we realized that we had forgotten the chairs.... Aaaaaagain!... The last time I forgot them my son killed a 165" buck in the same blind... So when I returned to the blind Brandy began making fun of me during her interview, the same way Coltin did 2 years earlier on Dream Season Celebrity. At around 4:30, a doe and a yearling came from straight down wind. I was totally caught of guard wondering how they could have come from that direction unless they were bedded up where we had just recently walked through. I turned the camera on a began filming the pair. They were on the far left side of my filming window and I was tight on them. With the camera running, I panned back while I swung around to get a quick interview from the beatiful blonde hunter.... I never noticed at that moment that just a few yards behind them was the buck we were after! Brandy began to whisper as I glanced out the window to see the 25" wide buck with unbelievable mass staring right at me at 35 yards. He was where the doe had just been standing..... I absolutely freaked! I was trying to keep it together, but went in to panic mode instinctively. I was on the buck as he walked across the food-plot while trying to coach the woman that held Bobby Joes fate in her hands. He turned towards us and raised the largest framed rack that I had ever seen. I told Brandy to wait until he was broadside, before shooting. The last thing I heard her say with a quivering voice was "Oh my gosh, I am shaking so bad!".... The hammer was dropped before the sentence was finished. In an instant, the buck had fled the scene.....

After the conversation that took place in the beginning of the story was complete, we returned to our cabin to watch the footage. The shot looked good and I knew the shot should be fatal. After explaining the location of the impact to Rod, Jeff Lindsey, and Mark Drury, they all said the same thing. "He's done!" My confidence of finding the giant was beginning to skyrocket after their quick reassuring words. 2 hours later, we began the search. At around 100 yards in, I spotted what turned out to be a 28 & 2/8" mainbeam sticking up through the brush. I called Bran to the spot. We were both absolutely shocked at the size of the buck. The celebration began! After the tagging sequence and elated interview, Brandy showed us the proper way to celebrate by doing "The Dougie!"

I went back and watched the footage from the hunt expecting it to be a little rough do to the tremendous amount of buck fever that I experienced in the moments that the buck of our dreams was within 40 yards of us. It was, in my opinion, the best hunt that I've personally ever layed down on video. I can't wait to share it with the rest of America. I believe if you can go back to the emotions of seeing or harvesting your biggest buck, that this hunt will bring back a flood of memories. We were absolutely blessed to have this experience on camera. I personally thank those that have taken the time to share this story. I also thank our land-owners, my team-mate Rod, and my family for all your help & support.

We can't wait to share this hunt with you this summer on Dream Season "The Journey."