Chad Gaines of Goldston had a familiar buck under surveillance for four years, even giving it a unique nickname, but their relationship ended this past Monday when Gaines slipped a razor-sharp Rage broadhead through the ribcage of the buck, which had an 18 ½-inch inside spread and measured 140 inches.
Gaines, who called his trophy “Brows” because its brow tines were as long as its other tines and a good 4 to 5 inches from the base of its antlers, estimated the buck at 6 ½ years old.
Many hunters might have put the buck on their most-wanted list after 4 ½ years, but Gaines kept putting out minerals and supplemental nutrition to try and get the buck to mature into something exceptional.
Gaines tracked the buck like clockwork. Brows would show up in trail-camera photos in July and would hang around his Chatham County property through the entire deer season. He did everything he could do with nutritional supplements and keeping hunting pressure down to keep the buck safe and at home.
This fall, Gaines decided he couldn’t stand it anymore and decided it was time to bring Brows to his trophy room, but he nearly blew it during his first few encounters in the deer stand, almost coming away empty-handed.
The first day Gaines set up on Brows, he saw plenty of nice bucks but no sign of his target. On Sept. 16, the same bucks showed up, and one other big buck showed up just after dark. Gaines couldn’t tell if it was Brows until he checked his trail-camera footage later. It was his big buck, and he had inadvertently spooked the bucks when he left his stand well after dark.
“I was heartbroken and just knew I had messed up. An old buck like Brows doesn't usually give you but one chance,” he said.
Gaines let the stand rest for a couple of days, and then checked his trail camera. To his surprise, the buck was back to visiting the area before dark, and he planned an evening hunt for Sept. 19. The entire herd of deer visited his stand site, but it wasn’t until the last few minutes of shooting light that Brows showed up and got within 25 yards of his tree stand. Gaines was ready, but by the time the buck gave him a shot, it was too dark to shoot, and he was taking no chances on his majestic buck.
“As heartbreaking as it was, I just decided to use the last little bit of light I had left to watch him maneuver around and out of sight. I climbed down and left the woods empty handed,” he said.
The next day, Gaines got back in the stand and saw some nice bucks, but Brows didn’t show up.
“I left the woods thinking I had missed my opportunity not once, but twice, and wasn't going to get another one,” he said.
The next day, Sept. 21, the wind direction was still in his favor, but Gaines was short on time and slid into his stand a few minutes after 6 p.m. In the stand, he started to pull his bow up from the ground, but he heard something approaching from his right and left his bow dangling on his pull rope, a few inches off the ground. It was two does.
“I knew I was in trouble, but I couldn’t stop now. Each time they would turn their heads, I would pull my bow up, inch by inch,” he said.
When the bow was halfway to his hands, he heard something else in front of him.
“I looked up, and it was Brows, and he was only 40 yards out, looking my way. I started panicking, and I knew it was over,” said Gaines, who inched his bow up the tree until he had it in his hands. That left him with another obstacle. The Velcro on his release aid was stuck to his shirt.
“I waited until both does and Brows turned their heads, and I ripped it from my shirt,” he said. “They immediately looked my way, but again, I was lucky. They calmed back down, giving me a chance to nock an arrow and draw.”
As soon as Brows presented Gaines the right shot, he released the arrow, and the deer ran off down the roadbed and out of sight, but only made it about 15 yards into the woods.
“It was a bittersweet end to a long journey, and I am very fortunate to have harvested him, but the place will now seem empty without him,” said Gaines, who said Brows will be his most-memorable buck ever, even though it won’t outscore the 168-inch, 19-point non-typical he killed in October 2012.
–Click here to read about another big Chatham County buck killed earlier this year.