He expected the buck to show up that evening
Brandon Johnson of Mount Airy, N.C. killed his biggest buck on North Carolina’s opening day of archery season. The Surry County buck was in full velvet, had a large body, and a massive 8-point rack. It was a deer Johnson had seen through trail cam photos many times.
“I had been seeing pictures of this buck on trail cam. He was among a group of bachelor bucks for the past two or three months. A lot of those were daytime photos. So I knew I had a good chance at seeing him once the season opened. But I knew I had to make it happen early in the season before his pattern started to change,” said Johnson.
Johnson was correct. On opening evening, he saw 16 deer in the soybean field he was hunting over. And when he saw a couple of the bachelor bucks that had been traveling with his intended target, he knew he was in luck.
“When I saw that, I knew the giant was probably close. Just a few minutes later, he appeared on the same trail into the field. Two of the bucks with him came up in front of me about 25 yards were I had some corn and Big&J attractant poured out amongst the beans,” he said.
Johnson was siting with Blake Hull, a lifelong friend, in a popup ground blind on the edge of the field. They were hidden in thick cover. He was hoping his supplemental bait would lure the big 8-pointer over, but it was getting late, and the deer was being more cautious than his partners. Around 8:10 p.m., Johnson knew time was short.
Days of shooting practice come in handy
“The giant 8 stayed along the edge of the field and was eating soybeans. He wasn’t moving much at all to where the other bucks were. I knew I was going to run out of daylight. And I knew it wouldn’t be long before these deer would change their habits and patterns. So I felt like I had to make a move,” he said.
Johnson measured the deer’s distance with his Bushnell rangefinder. It read 45 yards. He had shot his Stryker crossbow a lot on the Thursday and Friday before opening day. And he’d been shooting at targets that ranged from 15 yards to 65 yards.
A 45-yard shot was longer than he’d planned on taking at this deer, but he decided it was his best bet. And thanks to the time he’d spent shooting at targets the previous two days, he felt comfortable that he could make the shot.
“I told Blake I was about to take a shot. I told him I was afraid I would not have another chance at this buck. So I turned to the left and put my 20 pin at the top of the deer’s back and squeezed the trigger. Blake and I both heard the loud pop of the bolt hit the deer. The field scattered,” he said.
A few moments later, the two heard a big crash in the cutover in front of them. They were sure it was the buck. They waited about 20 minutes, giving the buck time to expire. Johnson saw his green Lumenock shining in the field, then they walked out to where the buck had been standing when Johnson shot it.
Bloody arrow tells the tale
“Blake picked up the arrow, and we both saw the bright red, bubbly blood on the arrow. We were so overwhelmed with excitement, we hugged each other’s necks! Then we tracked the buck for about 40 yards. The Toxic broadhead left a killer blood trail, so it was no problem following it. The buck was down in the woods under a laurel bush,” he said.
The buck’s rack was almost 7-inches thick around the base, and the tines maintained lots of mass throughout their entire length. The G2s were over 12 inches long, and the rack was rough-scored at about 160 inches.
Johnson is a longtime fan of the Dixie Deer Classic. He’ll be there in March with a trophy of his own.
“I go to the Dixie Deer Classic every year, but it will be even more fun this time around,” he said.
Click here to read about the 31-point buck killed on North Carolina’s 2019 opening day of archery season.