When it comes to deer hunting, Earl Brady has tunnel vision. There was a time when the Tyler hunter probably spent as much time as anyone in the state, maybe the country, learning about big deer.
He had a day job, but he did not let it get in the way of talking about, learning about or hunting deer.
After a pause for more family than career, Brady is back in a big way having taken his highest scoring buck, a 19-pointer scoring 181 2/8, already this season.
Having hunted throughout Texas, last season he crossed the Red River to hunt a large, low-fenced ranch in Oklahoma. Being the first lease hunter on the ranch in 60 years, he was drawn by the few trophies taken by the owners in limited hunting.
Unlike Texas, Oklahoma’s deer season favors archery hunting. Its bow season opens Oct. 1 and continues for 108 days. The gun season is 16 days between Nov. 21 and Dec. 6.
Being pragmatic in his effort to take big deer, the disparity between gun and archery season caused Brady to purchase his first bow, a crossbow.
“I didn’t get into bow hunting like most people to bow hunt. I just wanted to kill a deer,” Brady said matter-of-factly. “I don’t plan to bow hunt again except to extend my season or if I see another big deer.”
Brady has always been leery of bow hunting because of the stories of lost deer and the nerve-racking delay between the shot and being able to begin the search.
His reasoning for picking up the crossbow over a compound bow was simple.
“It is a lot easier to learn a crossbow. I am not at the point in my life where I want to spend that much time practicing with a compound bow,” Brady said.
With cameras scattered around the ranch Brady never saw the 19-pointer last year. Late this summer the buck became a regular especially at one feeder. Not surprisingly Brady was in a stand opening day overlooking that feeder.
The buck was a no-show, but he had to leave the stand after the morning sit and while he was gone a camera showed the buck came out.
It was its only appearance until the fifth day of the season.
It was a cool, crisp morning with temperatures in the 40s. Meticulous in his planning, Brady had planned a long walk to the stand based on the early morning wind direction. He was armed with his crossbow and a lunch so he could spend the day in the 24-foot high tree stand.
The feeder went off at 7:20 a.m. and within minutes a few does were milling around the feeder 28 yards away. Minutes later Brady caught a buck sneaking in from behind to his left. Having studied game camera pictures of the big buck Brady immediately knew it was him.
“Once I confirmed it was him I immediately made the decision to try and kill him,” Brady said.
Again with his degree of preparation Brady had a front rest for his bow. Knowing most missed shots come from a loose back end he had a camera tripod as a rear rest.
The only wildcard was Brady’s inexperience with the bow. Even with practice he lacked the confidence he would have with a rifle, but his philosophy has always been to take a shot as quick as possible.
“Lots can go wrong between the decision to shoot and the actual shot, even with an experienced rifle hunter, but a raw rookie crossbow hunter with the buck of my lifetime, and with other deer close, the possible missteps were numerous,” he said.
The deer was moving from left to right and stopped about 20 yards away to feed on corn thrown by the feeder. Because of the tree limbs around his blind the deer was almost out of sight.
“I thought he would have turned to the feeder, but that’s why you don’t waste time because you never know what a deer will do,” Brady said.
As soon as he could Brady pulled the trigger. The deer bucked and ran. With his limited view Brady was not sure where it went. He hoped it had gone into the adjacent wheat field and not the thick brush prevalent on the ranch.
Brady’s intuition was to immediately set off in search of the buck, but he phoned a bow hunting friend and was advised to wait 30 minutes to an hour before following the blood trail.
When he finally started looking he found good blood, but after a while it became occasional drops and some of those were difficult to spot in the sand. At one point Brady was on his hands and knees looking, thinking this was his worst bow hunting fear coming true.
He eventually followed the trail 75 yards across the wheat field and found the buck dead just five yards into the brush.
The buck met his expectations with 157 inches of typical measurement, almost topping Brady’s all-time best, a 159 taken in 2012. It also had 24 inches of non-typical growth.