When she spotted a jaw-dropping 31-point buck in mid-November on the Louisiana farm she hunts, Jacey Broussard vowed to do everything she could to get her hands on the giant's gnarly rack. After an obsessive three-week hunt, she finally tagged her trophy--and that's when things got weird. The 22-year-old novice in only her second season of deer hunting discovered that her buck was an escapee from a high-fence operation in nearby St. Charles.
Broussard, of West Lake, Louisiana, planned to up the ante for her second season in the deer woods. After being introduced to hunting last year by her husband, Jacey took a doe and a 4-pointer. This year, she bought a bow and started practicing hard, determined to make her first bow kill. Until the 31-pointer showed up.
Hunting one morning in a bow stand, she watched a “big, beautiful” 8-pointer that never got closer than 100 yards. A few minutes later she heard a rifle shot. Her father-in-law, Albert Broussard, had shot the buck. She helped him field dress the deer and then saddled up her horse, planning to take a midday ride and then finish the evening in her deer stand.
“When I rode past the stand I’d been in, I saw huge buck tracks,” Jacey says. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? The one hour I’ve been out of this stand a huge buck passed?’ Then I turned the corner and he was standing right in the middle of the road.”
Broussard dismounted and crept closer to snap a cell phone photograph of the buck, thinking no one would believe her otherwise. She thought perhaps the buck was just passing through and she’d never see him again. But the very next day he showed up on a trail cam.
And he kept showing up, hitting the three feeders that Broussard’s father-in-law had under trail cam surveillance, at all hours of the day and night. “I was so excited that he was staying around,” Broussard says. “I thought I might actually get a shot at him.”
There was just one problem: While the buck continued to parade before the trail cams on a daily basis–often during shooting hours–Broussard was tied to a desk at her job at St. Charles car dealership, able to hunt only on weekends. As many as 10 people hunt the Broussard farm, and Jacey was convinced one of them was going to beat her to the buck. “When I wasn’t in the stand, I was literally physically sick thinking someone on our farm or the neighboring property was going to get this deer.”
Her husband found Jacey hard to live with for a couple of weeks. “When I would get out of the stand and go home, that was all I could talk about,” she recalls. “I’d turn on the outdoor channel and watch all the deer shows. I was just crazy about it.”
On Saturday, November 19, a week after she’d first spotted the buck, Broussard had her second encounter with the deer. “My father-in-law told me that the buck had been at this stand between 9:30 and 10:30 every single day for the last four days. So I went in prepared to stay at least until noon.”
She’d decided to put down her bow and hunt instead with her husband’s grandfather’s 7 mm mag Browning. “I’d gotten good with the bow, but I’m really confident with that 7 mag. With a buck like this, I wanted to be really confident when he walked out.” The elder Broussard even hand-loads his ammo. “He was really happy that I’m using his gun.”
“At 6:45 I heard a sound like a truck coming through the woods,” Jacey says. “He came out 10 yards away and looked straight up at me. I didn’t have the rifle pointed at him and I didn’t want to risk spooking him. I got no shot.”
“The next day, Sunday, at 9:30 I heard him coming through the trees again. This time I had the gun ready, but he was running too fast. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Two days in a row I couldn’t get a shot at him. I was just sick.”
The next week was Thanksgiving week, and Jacey spent her turkey day in a deer stand. The buck never showed. She went back to work Friday, fretting because everyone else had the day off, dreading every incoming text message because she feared it would bring news that the big deer–her deer–was down.
Before sunrise on Saturday, November 26, Jacey was again in her stand. As the morning wore on she played games on her cell phone to keep herself awake. “About 8:30, I said, ‘You know, I need to get serious. I need to put my phone up and get my gloves on and get ready. It wasn’t five minutes later that I heard him coming through the trees.”
The big deer galloped through the clearing between Broussard and the feeder. This photo shows the buck moments after she connected with a running shot at 15 to 20 yards. “I knew it was a good shot, but I still followed him with my scope until he fell, because I was planning on shooting him again if I had to,” Broussard says. “I wasn’t letting this one get away.”
“I think I was literally dialing with one hand and steadying the rifle with the other,” Broussard says. She called her father-in-law first. “The first thing he told me was, ‘Calm down!’ And then he said, ‘I am so proud of you.'”
Her husband was duck hunting that morning, and she called him next. “He was so excited for me. Everybody was. I think they all wanted me to get that deer. Even though a little piece of them wanted it themselves, I think they wanted me to get it more.”
Broussard floated through the next couple of days, disbelieving. “I kept saying, ‘That didn’t happen, did it? That did not happen.’ I must have counted points a hundred times and came up with a different number every time.”
Meanwhile, Gene Trahan got a text message with a photograph of a big deer killed in the area. Trahan, the ranch manager at RiverRoad Whitetail, a 400-acre high-fence hunting operation in Lake Charles, recognized the buck–and the red and yellow ear tags that RiverRoad was required to attach in order to bring the animal across the state line. “I said, ‘Oh, my god, that’s our deer.'”
Trahan says RiverRoad imported the 3 ½-year old buck from Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, a few months earlier with several other deer. RiverRoad raised deer for seven years before starting its hunting operation this fall, and Trahan says it’s not unusual for deer to go unseen on the RiverRoad property for long periods of time. “We had some problems with our gates a few weeks back and we think he slipped out on us,” Trahan says. “We honestly didn’t know he was missing until we saw the pictures of him with Jacey.”
Broussard says the tags were visible in some of the trail cam photographs, but she thought perhaps a wildlife biologist had tagged the buck. “We did see the tags, but we weren’t aware that if you see a tagged deer you’re supposed to call Wildlife and Fisheries,” she says. Louisiana law requires that either the state’s game or agriculture department (which licenses imported deer) must be notified if any non-native animal escapes a high-fence enclosure. “If we were to see a tagged deer on our property now, I don’t believe we’d take the actions we did. We would notify the people we’re supposed to notify. We’re not outlaws, normally.”
Trahan notes that the buck was killed four miles from RiverRoad: “He went through a marsh and swam the Calcasieu River. He did some traveling. I definitely don’t think she knew it came from us. Louisiana is not like Texas, where they have high-fence operations from one end of the state to the next. We haven’t been open that long, and most of our advertising is word of mouth.”
Trahan eventually figured out who’d killed the deer, and he realized that he knew the family. (Trahan, who also owns an auto body repair shop, had bought supplies from Albert Broussard.) When he finally got Jacey on the phone, he pointed out an ad RiverRoad ran in a local magazine called the Lagniappe. “I got a copy and there at the top of their full-page ad is a picture of my deer,” Jacey says. Trahan declined to say exactly how much the buck cost RiverRoad, but the price to hunt the deer was $24,000. “We paid a bunch for him,” he says.
RiverRoad declined to pursue legal action, and Trahan seems genuinely happy for Broussard, happy that “the one that got away” was tagged by a family he knows. “He may have been more excited than anyone,” Broussard says. “On the phone he said, “Girl, I’m so happy for you.’ There hasn’t been a day when he has been upset about it. That’s not what I was expecting.” “It was crazy that we knew the people,” Jacey says. “And second, we find out, okay, it sucks that it came from a pen. It came from a pen, but that’s not going to make it any less of a trophy for me.”
The story–and the rack–have made Jacey Broussard a local celebrity, signing autographs for high school boys outside the Pizza Hut. A Youtube video telling her story has racked up nearly 3,000 hits. When she toted the rack to work, one co-worker, an avid hunter, noted that the buck’s brow tines had more points than the mainframe 8 he’d shot this season. “I’m glad it happened and I’m glad everybody has been so positive about it,” Jacey says. “I didn’t know how people were going to take this story, but there has been a lot less negativity than I expected. There’s always a few people who’ve got to rain on your parade, but overall it’s been positive and that to me is amazing.” “Everybody tells me I’m ruined now, because I’ll never top this. But honestly, it doesn’t matter to me if it’s a 31-point buck or a 4-point buck, it’s still going to be awesome every single time I get in a stand. It’s never going to lose this excitement.”
When she spotted a jaw-dropping 31-point buck in mid-November on the Louisiana farm she hunts, Jacey Broussard vowed to do everything she could to get her hands on the giant’s gnarly rack. After an obsessive three-week hunt, she finally tagged her trophy–and that’s when things got weird. The 22-year-old novice in only her second season of deer hunting discovered that her buck was an escapee from a high-fence operation in nearby St. Charles.