Brent Bracken Buck: 244-Inch Kansas Giant
February 24, 2015
Some deer-hunting stories feature drama leading up to the kill. Some are interesting due to the size of the buck. Well, get ready for a story that offers an overdose of both. Brent Bracken's Kansas buck is amazing enough, but the events that led up to the day he shot the deer have plenty to make you shake your head.
Growing up in Oklahoma, Brent was fascinated by hunting. Trips to his great-grandfather's place in South Texas fueled the fire as he admired the big bucks on the wall. He became an avid hunter himself, finding some success near his southern Oklahoma home. And like many other hunters, he eventually tired of just shooting deer and became filled with a desire to take a great whitetail.
"The really large bucks seemed like something we all dreamed of or saw in magazines," he says. "There was a four-buck limit at home, and there was a large percentage of 1 1/2- and 2 1/2-year-old deer harvested across the state. Plus, there was the issue of overcrowded hunting areas.
"One day, as I was talking about the quality of deer we were seeing to my friend Joe, he said, 'This is just hunting around here. If you want to shoot a really big buck, you need to go north to Kansas, Nebraska or South Dakota.'"
And so, in 2008 Brent and a couple friends decided it was time for their luck to change. They bought leftover Kansas tags and took their first road trip.
Over the first few years, they began to have some success in southwestern Kansas. In fact, Brent shot a 190-class mule deer and several nice whitetails. But then, the first round of bad luck hit: A couple of the walk-in public access areas they'd been hunting were leased by private individuals. The majority of the big bucks Brent and his friends were seeing at that point were on private land they couldn't hunt.
So they decided to make a move. With the help of a few friends and relatives in north-central Kansas, they found some good places to hunt there and started doing so in 2012.
The hunters quickly realized they had come across great whitetail land, because they were seeing really big bucks.
"We had some close calls the first year," Brent said, "but couldn't get it done. We just hunt big deer. If it isn't a big one, we don't shoot." Letting the "nice" bucks go allows them to have a crack at some of the truly big, mature bucks inhabiting that part of Kansas.
Brent says they don't use trail cameras because of limited time to hunt. Instead, they prefer to watch the deer from a distance and try to learn movement patterns through such observation. The guys might actually spend the first couple days just watching deer before they move in and read the sign, then put up stands. The more they get to know the property and the deer's tendencies, the less they have to observe and the earlier they can make a move with confidence.
They felt really good about their chances in 2012, thanks to the great information they'd gained. But then, bad luck struck again. Brent arrowed a 160-class buck straight below his stand. The shot looked lethal, but after many hours of trailing and searching, the men begrudgingly admitted defeat. They couldn't find the buck. Brent went back to Oklahoma with an unfilled tag.
They say bad luck comes in threes, and in Brent's case, that was the case. The spring of 2013 found him suffering with a rotator cuff torn in an accident while working on a barn. Brent is self-employed, working in the field of foundation and lift repair. A busy work schedule and the insurance expenses that come along with being self-employed had him putting off dealing with the shoulder injury for a few months.
He was living with the pain. However, as fall approached, he realized he had another major problem. "I couldn't even draw a kid's bow," he says. "But I wasn't going to give up my hunting season. So I traded my bow off for a Horton HD 175 crossbow."
When Brent and crew arrived in Kansas in early November, they did so with optimism and the dedication to work hard. They scouted the first day, then hung some stands and waited for exactly the right conditions.
"We placed my ladder stand in a narrow creek that had no hunting pressure," Brent recalls. "It was where we'd seen some really nice bucks the prior year. The deer would use it traveling to the corn in the section to the south."
On the fourth day of the hunt, conditions were finally perfect for that particular stand. "The timing of the rut is everything," Brent notes. "If you can get a cold morning in the peak of the rut, even better.
"Knowing the rut was in full swing and that a cold front was moving in, I was highly anticipating some good action. Early that morning I walked into my hunting area in the dark, watching every step with a small handheld light. I like to say I sneak in like a cat. I climbed into my extended ladder stand 20 feet up in the dark."
When daylight arrived, the hunter ranged several nearby trails. And as the morning kicked off, he enjoyed action right away. By 8:30 Brent had seen several small bucks and does. Then, to the south, he saw a shooter pushing a doe around.
"I grunted several times to get his attention, but he chased her out of sight," Brent says. "Then, something caught my eye from the north! As I turned, what I saw was by far the largest deer I had ever seen, standing only 30 yards away. He had clearly responded to my grunt call; he was bristled up, his ears alert, his chest out and his head up, looking to put it on whoever was on his turf.
"There was absolutely no hesitation; I placed the crosshairs on his shoulder and let the arrow fly!"
The deer ran hard but crashed to the ground only 30 yards away. And Brent's unlucky streak crashed to an end right along with him.
"For a brief moment, two hearts stopped beating," he says. "I was shaking so bad I could hardly text my friends that I had shot a big one. They wanted to know how big, but I could just type the word BIG!
"As I approached the buck, he grew even larger. There was absolutely no ground shrinkage. After admiring him for a moment and taking a quick photo, I counted 30 points. I was so excited I was shaking again. Still in shock, I sent a picture and called both of my hunting partners, Brent and Mike. I then drove to a nearby town and bought a digital camera to take better pictures of the giant.
"We took it by the landowner's house and showed the buck to him, but he wasn't that impressed," Brent notes. "He said, 'That's a nice one.' But both he and his wife said they had seen some really nice ones.
"Within a few days, he was 'green' scored by a Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks employee at 32 points and 245 2/8 inches," Brent continues. "He's now been officially certified by Boone & Crockett at 244 7/8. He's mounted on my wall, and those dreams of big deer in my great-grandfather's living room have come true for me."
Brent's trophy could be the world's largest non-typical taken by crossbow in 2013. While the sheer number of scorable points is a striking feature of this rack, the 19 1/8-inch inside spread also adds to the look. The stunning rack has an even 66 inches of non-typical growth. He really does have it all.
Many people set out to hunt new areas in hopes of shooting bigger bucks than they could at home. Some are successful; some aren't. But in Brent Bracken's case, hard work, persistence and the end of an unlucky streak all came together in a buck for the ages.
Of course, few who set out to hunt trophy bucks far from home will experience this level of record success. Bucks of this class are rare. But Brent's incredible experience in Kansas last season proved it can happen. And that's what keeps all of us going when times are tough.
"They all call me 'Lucky,' and I guess I am," he says. "Maybe I'll be lucky again in the 2014 Kansas archery season. Maybe preparation and opportunity will meet again in the land of giants!"