Brian's Ultimate Rush

Brian's Ultimate Rush

Brian Stephens' hunting career has had many unusual twists and turns, but never in his wildest imagination did he expect to fulfill a lifetime dream in Forsyth County, Georgia, on a warm September afternoon last season.

Having grown up hunting on a cattle ranch in central Florida, Brian is used to putting up with early-season bugs and heat. That's just what he did on the afternoon of Sept. 19, 2007, when he crossed paths with this 16-point Georgia brute. Brian's 186 7/8-inch megabuck was actually a new state record for 60 days.

I think every serious whitetail hunter fantasizes about having an encounter with a true trophy-class buck. Each of us visualizes where that encounter might take place, what equipment we'll be using, and how we'll handle the emotional stress when and if that encounter does occur.

Last season I was fortunate to have my long-dreamed-about encounter with a buck of a lifetime. While I started out with high hopes of harvesting a great deer with my bow, I was absolutely overwhelmed by what actually occurred on that warm September afternoon.


My hunting adventures began as a young boy in Florida. I was born on a cattle ranch near Okeechobee, Florida. I grew up working cows and riding horses. When the workday was over, I typically found myself hunting deer and hogs in the woods with my brothers. As I grew older, my hunting expanded. My dad became the executive vice president of the Florida Cattlemen's Association in Kissimmee, Florida. While we did not live on a ranch anymore, my hunting expeditions continued on friends' ranches lush with swamps and palmettos.



Post college, my career took my wife and me to Georgia. Even though I was in a new state, I still made annual trips to hunt with my best friend, Bill Lawson, on his family's ranch in central Florida. Along with our other buddy Bill Carpenter, we harvested some great deer. In fact, because of extensive herd and land management, Bill and his dad (Marc Lawson) had one of the best deer populations in the state. Over time, I learned more about hunting from Bill than from anyone I have ever known. Hunting is not just about shooting a deer. It's what you do before, during and after the hunt.

Unfortunately, Bill's family sold their ranch, so it was time to look for new areas to hunt. The next chapter in my hunting endeavors would be with a local friend, Aaron Walker. Aaron and his family let me join their lease in Estill, South Carolina. In 2003 I was fortunate to harvest a 132-inch 8-point (a great buck for that area).


THE ULTIMATE RUSH
Several years ago, I started getting serious about hunting with a bow. Even though bowhunting tends to be more challenging and frustrating, I enjoy the strategy, planning, close encounters, and technical aspects of the sport. Though I have only hunted with my bow for the past four years, I quickly learned one thing: When everything comes together and you let that arrow fly, there is no greater rush in the world!


Over the past several years, I've been hunting in the suburbs of Cumming, Georgia, near my home. Unfortunately, there are many pockets of wooded property being developed, pushing deer into smaller areas all the time. This type of "suburban" hunting has afforded me the opportunity to harvest several mature bucks early in the season with my bow.

During the summer of 2007, I went out scouting whenever the opportunity presented itself. A few times, I watched a bachelor group of bucks late in the afternoon. In July, as I was watching this group feed, I saw a buck that was supporting an impressive set of horns. His antlers were unusually large for that time of year.

I didn't see this group again until late August, when I noticed that one of the bucks had now reached the 140-inch range. He was tall and heavy, and he had kickers everywhere. In early September, right before archery season, I got a brief glimpse of another buck that appeared to be an awesome 150-class deer. I was very excited to have seen two P&Y-class bucks in the area.

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THE BRIAN STEPHENS BUCK

Scorable points....16(10R,6L)
Tip-to-tip spread.... 14 4/8
Greatest spread..... 22 2/8
Inside Spread..... 20 2/8
Total length of abnormal points: 24 7/8
Areas MeasuredRightLeftDifference
<main Beam24 6/825 3/85/8
1st point (G-1)8 3/88 5/82/8
2nd point (G-2)13 5/812 6/8 7/8
3rd point (G-3)10 7/88 5/82 2/8
4th point (G-4)1 3/8 -- 1 3/8
1st circ. (H-1)5 0/85 0/8 --
2nd circ. (H-2)4 0/84 0/8 --
3rd circ. (H-3)4 7/84 2/8 5/8
4th circ. (H-4)3 4/83 1/8 3/8

Totals

76 3/871 6/86 3/8
Gross typical score.........................168 3/8
Subtract side to side differences........... -6 3/8
Add abnormal points......................... +24 7/8
FINAL NET NON-TYPICAL SCORE..................186 7/8
Taken by: Brian Stephens
Date: Sept.19 2007
Location: Forsyth County, Georgia

EARLY-SEASON ADVANTAGE
While many people do not like to hunt the early season because of the heat and mosquitoes, I love it because mature bucks are still maintaining their summer patterns. Once October arrives, these same deer could be long gone. To help manage the heat and the bugs, I wear Under Armour heat gear, light 3-D leafy pullover and pants, and LaCrosse rubber boots. Most importantly, I use a ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent unit (vital for hunting in the South).

Last year I was able to hunt the opening weekend of archery season (Sept. 15). I prepared for my hunt by doing what I always do. I had all my cloths washed and placed into a Hunter's Specialties travel bag with earth scent wafers. (I keep my carbon cloths in a separate bag.) Before going into the woods, I took a shower and then sprayed down my clothes, my Mathews Switchback XT and my Lone Wolf Alpha Climber with Scent-Away scent killer. After I'm up in the tree, I also like to use Hunter's Specialties wash towels to wipe away any sweat on my head, hands or neck.

Around 6:30 p.m., I saw two bucks walking toward me. One of them was the awesome 140-class buck I had seen earlier. Unfortunately, I could not get a shot at him. Although he got within 15 yards of me, he was standing in very thick brush and he never presented a shot. He hung out for a few minutes and then decided to walk away. Naturally, that encounter was very disappointing at the time, even though it's always exciting to get that close to a 140-class buck!

A SPECIAL AFTERNOON
The next opportunity for me to hunt was on Wednesday, Sept. 19. I was very excited about the chance to see either of the two big bucks I had seen earlier. I went through my normal routine of preparing for the hunt. I got in the stand around 4:30 p.m. to ensure time for the woods to settle down. The major feeding time that day had been around 6:30 a.m., so I figured that if I was going to see anything, it would be right before dark at around 6:30 p.m. (the minor feeding time).

I hoped the deer would still be following a trail that paralleled a small creek with cover on both sides. This area has a number of hardwoods with pockets of thick cover. I had a good ambush spot where I could hopefully catch the deer coming in and have cover to draw back my bow. As the afternoon passed, I didn't see anything. I kept checking the wind -- most of the time it was in my favor. Ten minutes before shooting light would be gone for good, I started thinking, Come on, big boy. Show yourself!

As luck would have it, a large body suddenly caught my eye. All at once, there he was, walking down the trail at 40 yards! I immediately knew that it was the large buck I had seen before the season started. Knowing this, I told myself not to look at his horns and to try to focus on the shot.

Two years earlier, I had shot a mid-130-class buck that I never found. I was devastated. I learned many things from that experience. Now this buck was walking slowly down the trail, checking out the situation as he went, and I was determined not to make the same mistake again. I kept telling myself, "Don't rush this shot! Wait, wait, wait!"

NOW OR NEVER
He slowly worked his way around a thick bush and walked to within 25 yards of my tree. At this point the shot was iffy. He finally turned broadside. I waited for his front leg to move forward. When it did, I let the arrow fly. He hit his knees, and I knew I had hit him hard!

Unfortunately, the arrow hit him a little high. I knew I didn't get a pass-through because as he ran off I saw part of my arrow sticking out of his side. I was rattled. My hands and knees started shaking. I sat down for a moment saying, "What the heck just happened?"

I use Carbon Express arrows with 5-inch veins and "Revolution" mechanical broadheads. I knew I had a good angle on him because of my height in the tree. I've shot a lot of deer with this broadhead, and I know how devastating it can be to a deer. I felt confident in the shot, but I was not sure about how far he would run.

Knowing this would be a potential buck of a lifetime, I decided to back out for a few hours and not push him. Anyone who has had to go through this understands how hard and emotional it can be. As I started back into the woods after waiting a while, I felt tremendous excitement. At the same time, I had a sick feeling in my stomach.

When I got back to my stand, I was prepared for the possibility of not finding any blood because of the arrow not passing through. I was ready for a long night of looking for my deer. With flashlights in hand, I began to walk in the direction he had run, looking for blood along the way. Sixty yards into the search, I suddenly saw a white belly. Almost immediately I was overcome with a feeling of relief that I cannot put into words.

A DREAM REALIZED
It wasn't until I got to the buck's side, kneeled down, and pulled his head and horns out of the brush that I really knew what I had in my hands. I was almost in a state of disbelief as I stared at him. He had it all -- mass, points, tine length and width. Most importantly, he was mine! I told myself I might n

ever shoot a buck like that again. While my arrow had hit him a little high, the broadhead devastated him and did its job.

With tremendous emotion, I immediately called my wife on the phone. I asked her to get the kids outside so they could see him when I got to the house. By the time I got him out of the woods, it was nearly 10:30 p.m. When my wife saw him, she was amazed. She had seen all the other bucks I've taken, but none compared to this deer. My older children were asleep and we did not wake them to come outside, but my 3-year-old was more than willing to take a look. As we took pictures, he wanted to hold my bow and be in every picture.

I feel very grateful to have had that one special encounter we all dream about. As my brother said, "It was your day!" I have shot a lot of deer with my gun, but there is a special feeling when you do it with a bow. There is a sense of accomplishment like none other. I want to thank the Walker family for the hunting opportunities they gave me. I'd also like to thank Bill Lawson and his family for the many opportunities to hunt together over the years. Finally, and most importantly, thank you to my wife and children for their patience in letting me do what I love doing -- chasing whitetails with a bow!

FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Taken on Sept. 19, 2007, Brian's 186 7/8-inch trophy actually was a new Georgia state-record non-typical by bow for a short time, replacing a somewhat controversial non-typical deer scoring 185 7/8 that was entered in the Pope & Young records back in 1973. (That deer may well be an inappropriately entered mule deer.)

Ironically, two months after Brian shot his record non-typical buck in Forsyth County, Jay Maxwell arrowed an 18-point non-typical in neighboring North Fulton County only a few miles away that scored 213 4/8. (See the July issue for Jay's story.) Thus Jay's buck is now the new Georgia state-record non-typical by bow and Brian's buck ranks No. 2. But Brian is not complaining!

By the way, Brian is in the process of launching a new comprehensive Web business called "Stick'em Archery" that will target avid bowhunters. "Initially, we'll be selling nice shirts and outerwear for bowhunters, but we also plan to provide bowhunting products, resources, knowledge and information designed to benefit bowhunters. We plan to be up and running by Aug. 1."

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