An ominous weather forecast for the afternoon of Nov. 29 prompted Brandon Malone to head to his stand in Caldwell Parish several hours earlier than usual — which proved to be perfect timing to intercept a heavy-horned old 12-point attempting to cross his food plot early that afternoon.
Malone, 31, of Pineville, made the most of the daring 2 p.m. appearance and knocked down his biggest buck to date with a deer that scored 168 2/8 at Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop.
“I normally don’t even get into the stand until 3, but it just so happened I hunted that stand that morning and saw a couple of deer. I went back to the camp, ate a bite and I looked at my phone and they were calling for rain at 4 o’clock that afternoon for the rest of the day,” said Malone, who works offshore for Chevron. “So I said, ‘Screw it, I’m just going to go out there and make a hunt before the rain. And once it starts raining I’ll just come back to the camp.’
“That was the only reason I was there at that time. I was swatting mosquitos off of me - it was 70 degrees that day.”
Malone hunts on 500 acres of private land that butt up to the Ouachita River, and was in a box with a 360-degree view overlooking a road and two narrow food plots nestled in 10-year cutover.
Just two days before, his dad had seen the big 12-pointer — which had been appearing in nighttime trail cam pics on the property for two years — but couldn’t get a good shot at 300 yards.
So Malone, who was in from offshore, hunted the area hard hoping the big buck would present itself one more time.
“I just happened to look to my left and all I could see was horns on the side of the food plot,” he said. “As soon as I saw him, I’m pulling my gun out of the other window and shoving it through the window trying to get to him. By the time I get on him, he was already halfway across. He wasn’t eating or anything, just crossing.
“I yelled at him and he didn’t hear me, but I was on him pretty good. So I yelled at him one more time, figuring if he didn’t stop I would just squeeze off on him while he’s walking.”
The hunter yelled even louder the second time and the big buck stopped in its tracks, and from 200 yards Malone reacted quickly with his 7 Mag.
“He heard me and he stopped right before he went into the woods, and looked right back at the stand,” he said. “I shot and I ended up breaking both front shoulders, so he broke down in the food plot. He dropped right there.”
The buck struggled for the woods, so Malone fired a second shot to finish it off.
And just like that, the years-long quest for the big buck was over.
“Man, it happened so quick I didn’t even have a chance to get nervous. Now if he’d have been out there for 20 minutes coming toward me, that would have been different,” Malone said with a chuckle. “But it all literally happened in maybe 10 seconds.”
His uncle, Joey Stiefvater, was at the camp and heard the shots, and accompanied Malone to go and see the big buck.
Malone wasn’t expecting what he saw when they walked up and got a closer look at the awesome rack.
“We knew he was a good buck, but we were estimating he was 18 or 19 inches wide — it’s hard to tell with those cameras,” he said. “I thought he was a 145- or 150-inch deer, and I’ve never even killed one that big.
“When I saw him laying down and how high his rack was above his body when he was laid over, that’s when the nerves kicked in. I was pretty excited. I think we hugged, high-fived — everything. My heart was pumping. I might not ever get an opportunity like that again.”
The big buck was a stud, with a 23 ¼-inch inside spread, bases with nearly 6 inches of mass and 24-inch main beams. The deer was estimated to be 6 ½ years old, and green-scored 168 2/8 at Simmons’ and 168 inches even at The Spotted Dog.
To cap off the buck of a lifetime, longtime Rapides Parish taxidermist Clinton Malone — who happens to be Brandon’s grandfather — is mounting the big deer for his grandson.
“We’ve got a spot at the camp where we’re going to put him,” he said.
They say every cloud has a silver lining, and Malone’s big buck is proof positive of how that Tuesday afternoon’s rainy weather forecast was critical in him even getting a glimpse of the deer.
“I think those deer start to pattern you. They know when you’re there and when you’re not, so I guess you can surprise them,” he said. “If not for the rain, I would have never been out there. He wasn’t chasing a doe or anything.
“He was just trying to cross the lane, probably heading to the does because they bed up in there. If I had gotten there at 3 o’clock, I never would have seen him.”
Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the rand drawing for Nikon optics at the end of the contest.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.