McKenzie had set up multiple trail cameras in the thicket to try to figure out which trail the buck was using, but he could never get a photo anywhere but the one spot where he'd set up his stand. Now he saw why. The buck emerged directly from the dense underbrush and stepped onto the trail. "I don't know how he did it in that thick stuff. I didn't catch a glimpse of him until his head poked out of the scrub brush and he stepped onto the trail.".
Ohio’s 2012 archery season was barely an hour old when Brant McKenzie arrowed this 198-inch gross typical in the state’s southwestern corner. But McKenzie’s 2012 trophy success actually started during the 2011 season, when he caught one glimpse of the big buck in Hamilton County. Through the long off-season he thought of little else than coming up with a game plan to get this Buckeye bruiser on the ground.
McKenzie, a 33-year-old landscaper in Harrison, Ohio, started shed hunting after briefly spotting a tall-racked buck on one of his hunting areas in 2011. “I knew he was big, but I didn’t get a good enough look to know exactly how big,” McKenzie says.
He and friend Matt Frederick turned up some nice sheds, but nothing special–until they took one last shed outing in April and Frederick found this big antler. “We knew then that the buck I saw had made it through the season,” McKenzie says.
In July, McKenzie started putting out trail cams and got his first look at the giant. “I’ve taken some pretty nice bucks–145, 150 and a few 130s–but nothing like this. I knew it would be the buck of a lifetime for me.”
“We watched him, hit or miss, right up through August and into September,” McKenzie recalls. Though the buck showed up reliably at one spot, a thicket where two trails merged into one at a Y-shaped intersection, McKenzie wasn’t able to pattern the buck beyond that one area.
“I tried moving the cameras around to find out where he was coming from, where he was bedding, but I never could figure out how he was getting to the Y. He just showed up.”
Then three weeks before the Sept. 29 opener, the buck disappeared from the trail cameras. “I was scared to death something had happened,” McKenzie recalls. “I thought maybe he got hit by a car or something.”
But a week before the opener, the buck was back in the thicket. McKenzie was relieved, but he also knew he’d have to change his game plan.
“We usually hunt field edges on this farm,” McKenzie explains. “But since we could never figure out where this buck was moving, I decided to set up in the thicket.” That was easier said than done: The dense honeysuckle vines and thick scrub brush made it hard to find a good treestand site.
McKenzie managed to find one tree where he could get his climber 20 feet off the ground. He could watch both trails, but his longest possible shot would be 14 yards–the distance to the Y where the trails met.
Around 8 a.m. on opening day, a 4-point buck walked down one of the trails and began eating leaves from the tree McKenzie was sitting in. “He was looking straight up as he was nipping leaves off the base of the tree and he finally realized something wasn’t right. He started stomping and carrying on. I thought I’d blown my hunt.”
The buck finally settled down and started feeding again about 35 yards from McKenzie. Two does were next to amble down the trail. “The 4-pointer came back into the picture and started acting like I had spooked him again,” McKenzie says. “Then all of a sudden the does ran off. That’s when I saw the big buck.”
McKenzie had set up multiple trail cameras in the thicket to try to figure out which trail the buck was using, but he could never get a photo anywhere but the one spot where he’d set up his stand. Now he saw why. The buck emerged directly from the dense underbrush and stepped onto the trail. “I don’t know how he did it in that thick stuff. I didn’t catch a glimpse of him until his head poked out of the scrub brush and he stepped onto the trail.”
“He took one more step and turned broadside. I drew back. He came in like he was in rut, with his tongue hanging out, slobbering, panting hard. He looked toward the does and that’s when I shot.”
The shot was a little high, but the buck dropped in its tracks. “He didn’t kick or anything, just went straight down like he died instantly.” But McKenzie could see blood bubbling from the buck’s nose, so he knew the big deer was still breathing.
“I nocked another arrow and was standing there, when all of a sudden he stood back up. I shot again and he went straight down again.” This time, the buck wasn’t getting up.
An unofficial green score puts the 14-point typical rack at 198 4/8 inches gross, but deductions for several abnormal points (including an extra brow tine with a kicker on the left side) will likely knock that down to the high 160s.
The longest G-2 stretches 13 2/8 inches, and one G-3 is 12 2/8 inches. The inside spread is 18 6/8 inches and the main beams measure 25 1/8 inches long on the right and 24 4/8 inches on the left.
McKenzie knew one of his first stops would be to show the deer to his 90-year-old grandfather, Buck. Boyhood squirrel- and rabbit-hunting trips with Buck had formed McKenzie’s introduction to the outdoors. Though Buck had never been a deer hunter (due to the scarcity of deer when he was growing up), he guided McKenzie to his first deer, this doe he shot as a 14-year-old.
“From then on, deer hunting became a passion with me,” McKenzie says. “As I grew older and my friends started to get into deer hunting, Buck no longer went with me. I think that he knew he had instilled a tradition in me that I was sure to pass on to others. “Me and my buddies have killed lots of nice deer over the years and one of the first stops is always to show Buck and Granny our kill.”
A couple of years ago, McKenzie returned the favor and helped Buck take his first deer, setting him up in a ground blind with a heater running. As McKenzie and his buddies sat shivering in their tree stands, they heard a muzzleloader report. “We knew where it came from,” McKenzie says. “The place that it all started. Buck had shot his first deer!”
This year, Buck will look to extend his time in the field by using a crossbow during Ohio’s archery season, and Brant McKenzie will be right there with him. “Now that I have shot my buck for the year–my buck of a lifetime, for that matter–I will spend the rest of my hunting season with my best hunting buddy in his deer blind,” McKenzie says. “With the heat on, of course.”