Brian Hollands had mixed emotions as he drove along the dark back roads near Nevada, Mo. Confident, he felt like he had a date with destiny. The former lead-guitarist in a rock band, Hollands normally cranked up his radio and jammed to heavy metal during his morning drives to his hunting spot, but this morning was different. His truck’s cab was quiet as he pondered the previous evening’s hunt. He had grunted a giant buck to the edge of the power line opening. The buck grunted back but never emerged.
For five years, Hollands chased and became obsessed with a big, gnarly-racked buck he nicknamed the “Slant 9” since the buck’s antlers leaned in on one side. Thoughts of bagging this elusive buck occupied his mind for years. He came close but never closed the deal. Now with Missouri’s rut in full swing, he wondered if the great trophy would be careless and offer him a shot.
Making the final turn onto a gravel road that would take him to his hunting property, Hollands would be arriving an hour early, as usual. Bouncing down the rough road, his headlights spied movement ahead. What he saw next sent chills down his spine and altered the course of his morning!
Hollands lives in Nevada, Mo., where he is the president of Missouri Welding Institute, Inc. His job keeps him very busy, but he still finds time to be outdoors. Hollands, 41, started hunting upland game with his step-dad as a young boy, but he didn’t begin deer hunting until 11 years ago after being exposed to it by his father-in-law, Todd Payne.
“I got started hunting a little late in life, but my father-in-law got me up to speed pretty quick,” Hollands said. “My father-in-law has been hunting for 40 years.”
Brian’s first deer hunt was in neighboring Kansas, while attending college at Kansas University. He hunted the Sunflower State’s rifle season that year and took a 130-class, 10-point buck on the first morning out.
Hollands hunts in Kansas and Missouri and admits to have taken nearly 40 deer. The majority of his bucks were taken with a bow. Hollands has taken seven Pope & Young bucks, with his best scoring 143 6/8.
Hollands credits much of his success to his wife, Megan, who is an avid hunter herself and understands his archery addiction.
“The very first thing that you have to realize is to be a successful bow hunter, it takes a lot of time,” he said. “You have to have patience, strategies, know how to play the wind, scout, build food plots and just have pure luck.”
In honor of his hunting achievements, Hollands was made a member of Mathew’s Dominant Bucks Pro-Staff this past year, after submitting footage of a 140-class 10-pointer he killed from a ground blind.
The Hunt for Slant
During Missouri’s 2008 archery season, Hollands was on a quest to video himself taking a nice buck. That fall, he shot at a 2 1/2-year-old 9-point buck, but his arrow struck high and he never recovered the deer.
Hollands was relieved when the same buck appeared again during the 2009 season. Trail camera photos revealed the buck was still a 9-pointer, but the right side of his rack appeared to be angled. He was given the nickname the “Slant 9.”
Hollands was hunting a soybean field in late October when Slant stepped out 40 yards away, joining 30 other deer on the food plot. Hollands can-called in an attempt to bring the big 9-point closer, but the buck blew and bolted.
His next encounter with Slant came on November 5. Early that morning, the big buck came in on a dead run to his grunt call, before stopping 37 yards away. Brian shot low, missing the monarch. The following spring, Brian picked up one of Slant’s sheds not 30 yards from his treestand.
In the fall of 2010, Hollands’ game cameras revealed Slant was now a 140-class trophy. However, Hollands failed to see the buck until the last day of Missouri’s 2010 gun season, when Slant appeared 300 yards away. Brian shot and missed.
During the spring of 2011, Hollands never found any of Slant’s sheds, causing him to wonder if the harsh winter had taken the giant. That fall, on October 23, Hollands saw Slant while walking to a bow stand. The unique buck now had a 10-point rack with two abnormal points. He saw the great buck several times during the fall season, but was never presented with a shot.
Last August, Holland’s first game camera photos of Slant revealed the buck was now an undeniable non-typical with several abnormal points. The buck’s antlers still bore the “slanted” characteristics, but Hollands now estimated the buck to be in the 170- to 180-inch range. Hollands also got video footage of the buck on August 25. Knowing Slant was hitting the same field every night, he hung a stand on each side of the opening, anticipating the September 15 opener.
During the opening evening, Slant came out an hour before dark and walked through one of Hollands’ shooting lanes 50 yards away but never presenting a good shot. With light fading, Slant walked through a second lane before turning and walking straight away into the thicket. Slant continued to show up on the game cameras until mid-October. Then, he disappeared.
“EHD hit our area pretty hard, and I was afraid it killed Slant too,” Hollands opined. “I was relieved when my father-in-law saw the buck on November 13. (He had) relocated towards the north end of our property.”
During an earlier hunt, Hollands passed up a big-bodied 9-point buck at 15 yards and wondered if he might regret it later. “I clicked off my safety, but made myself let him go,” he said. “I had my heart set on taking Slant.”
This is where things got interesting. Several hunters driving past the property saw Slant, and with a few days remaining in the 2012 season, Holland now had competition.
The Morning Visitor
After a restless night, Hollands crawled out of bed and donned his hunting clothes. He knew the pressure was on. With other hunters chasing Slant, he knew he needed to close the deal.
Hollands pulled out of his driveway feeling optimistic. As he drove, he pondered the events from the previous evening. He had hunted all day in the treestand, where he had missed Slant with a bow in 2009. Just before dark, he grunted in a buck to the edge of the power line that snapped large branches like they were toothpicks. The buck was 50 yards away and shrouded by a thick cutaway. Hollands never got a glimpse but had a hunch it was Slant.
Hollands’ thoughts then returned to the cool early morning. Confident that he finally had the buck patterned, he turned onto the gravel road that would lead him to his hunting spot. While bouncing down the gravel road his headlights found a strange object in the distance. He described the next series of events as “spiritual.”
As he closed the distance, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Standing in the middle of the road, illuminated in the darkness, was a little girl. Her tear-stained face told a story of heartache, and she was shivering. The child was improperly dressed for the frosty, 28-degree morning.
Hollands instantly thought of his own children. He threw his truck into park and went to help the young stranger. Hollands said he did what any parent would do.
“I snatched her up and held her tight to warm her up,” he said. “I brought her to my truck, and turned up the heat so she would feel secure.”
The little girl was within 100 yards of busy Highway 54. Hollands cringed when he thought what could have happened if she had continued in the direction she was heading.
The little girl said her name was Sage, but she couldn’t tell Hollands where she lived. He drove to Jared and Crystal Burch’s house nearby and awoke his friends. They figured out that the young girl’s family had stayed all night at her grandparent’s house nearby. Apparently, her dad, brother, and grandpa left early that morning to go deer hunting, and she awoke upset because they hadn’t taken her. So she dressed and struck out to find them.
After making numerous phone calls to area neighbors, Hollands and his friends finally reached the little girl’s mother, who came to retrieve her daughter. When she arrived, Hollands placed Sage in the arms of her emotional mother. Before Hollands left to go hunting Crystal told him, “Brian, today is your day.”
Hollands texted his wife and family to tell them of his ordeal, and soon his wife received a call from her father. “The Lord is going to bless Brian this morning,” Payne told her.
Closing the Deal with Slant
Still emotional from the morning’s events, Hollands headed to the woods nearly an hour and a half after daybreak. As he reflected on the previous happenings, he smiled knowing he had already had a good day.
“I didn’t even care if I saw a deer or not,” he said. “I knew the little girl was back and safe in her mother’s arms. That’s what really mattered!”
When he arrived at his lease, Hollands grabbed his father-in-law’s .300 Remington Ultra Mag he had borrowed and hurried to his stand. His wait was short before a doe and a fawn crossed the power line and headed for the thicket he was hunting. Five minutes later, a noise revealed the same doe and fawn he had seen earlier, but then another doe appeared. In seconds, a buck grunted from deep in the thicket. Suppressing the urge to grunt back, Hollands decided to let nature take its course. Much like the evening before, branches began to break in the distance.
Suddenly, a big-racked buck emerged from the thicket and stood 60 yards away. Hollands knew the buck was Slant and tried his best to steady the crosshairs on the massive buck. He squeezed the trigger and the big buck bolted. A few seconds later, Hollands heard what he thought was the buck piling up. He prayed the buck was Slant and not the 140-class 9-pointer he had passed on earlier.
After a brief wait, Hollands walked over and found the buck. Still unsure if the buck was Slant, the abnormal points and the inward slanted tines confirmed he had taken his prize. Tears filled his eyes when he realized what he had just done. He called his wife and his father-in-law to tell them his good fortune.
“It truly was a spiritual experience,” Hollands remembered. “I truly felt the Lord was at work that morning.
“I really felt like I had a connection with Slant. Since 2008, when I first laid eyes on him, I saw him a total of 14 times. Now I am finally able to put my tag on him.”
Amazingly, Slant had put on 50 additional inches of antler from the previous year and now carried 16 points. Hollands guessed the giant to score near 200 inches. Slant was scored by Payne—an official scorer for Missouri Big Bucks. The great buck green-scored 204 2/8 and later netted 183 4/8. Hollands’ buck holds the distinction of being the second-largest buck ever taken in Vernon County.
When Hollands dragged the big buck out to the power line, he looked into the distance and he could see the farmhouse where the little girl wandered away from. It brought a smile to his tear-stained face knowing she was okay and that he finally had Slant for his own.