Talkin' Outdoors

Stuff is really starting to happen in the deer woods around our area. Freezers have been cleaned out making room for the fresh tasty venison that will be added. Occasionally, a hunter gets lucky and downs a buck worthy of wall space in the den.

For some hunters, luck plays a part in the success of downing a trophy buck. There are those, however, who put together a game plan to up the odds of having a better than average chance of seeing an eye-popping buck in his sight picture.

For the past 22 years, Brad Martin and three friends have leased 600 acres of private property in Lincoln Parish. A pact the four made to not shoot a buck until it was at least 4 ½ years old paid off in spades for Martin the morning of November 11 when the crosshairs on his scope settled squarely on the shoulder of a big 11-point buck.

“After hunting this land early on, we weren’t very particular about the bucks we shot. After a few years,” Martin said, “we decided we should begin managing the deer on our lease and would only shoot bucks 2 ½ years or older. For the past 10 years, we have upped our game and agreed to let bucks live until they were at least 4 ½ years old. We only shoot maybe two or three a year but we know when we get a buck, it’s going to be a good one.”

The management plan formulated by the quartet of hunters is quite simple. Other than planting winter time food plots and keeping trail cameras out, the focus of their plan is learning to estimate age of bucks and only shooting older mature deer that have lived until at least 4 ½ years of age.

“This works pretty well for us because hunters who lease property around us pass on smaller bucks and let their deer grow and mature like we do ours,” said Martin.

“Our box stands are on rights of way left by the timber company that manages the land. The woods begin growing up pretty thick, which makes for habitat big deer are comfortable with. The company thins the timber every 6-7 years and it starts all over again.

“I was in my stand on a high line right of way that morning when I looked to my right about 150 yards away and saw a deer standing in the edge of the wood line like a mature buck will often do. I could see his shoulder and neck and could tell it was a good buck but his rack was behind a bush,” Martin recalled. “I eased my gun around, the deer began trotting across the lane, stopped just before going into the thicket and looked my way, giving me a good look at his rack. From the size of his rack and body, I felt this was one I wanted to take. I shot and the deer took off into the thicket.”

The buck only ran 40 yards before expiring and as Martin began following the blood trail, he became a bit concerned.

“The first thing that went through my mind was I was hoping he’s not a 3 ½ year old,” Martin noted. “When I got a good look at him as I walked up, I thought, ‘Holy Moley….look at this!’”

The buck sported a massive 1- point rack with an inside spread of only 16 ½ inches but the impressive characteristic was the mass. Bases were 6 ½ inches each with heavy mass throughout the rack. The circumference between the last two antler points exceeded 4 inches on each side. The buck was unofficially scored at 167 inches.

“I have killed some big deer, including a 160-inch buck in Kansas but I wanted to get one that big in Louisiana,” said Martin, “ and I finally got it done.”

Why did Brad Martin have success on his deer stand last week? He followed the motto that will work every time ….”Let ‘em go so they can grow.”