Andrew Sankey hunted the same buck for two consecutive years before tagging it in November. He’s also the first to admit that he would still be chasing the deer if it wasn’t for the help he got from a couple close friends.
Sankey tells Outdoor Life that he went into the season focused on a buck he nicknamed “Brutus.” His hunting plans were almost derailed just days before the opener, however, when he broke one of the limbs on his compound bow. His friend Keneth Barschow knew about his obsession with the buck, so he loaned Sankey his crossbow to use.
As he thought about his plan of attack, Sankey reached out to another one of his hunting buddies, Damien Gajewski, who’d been getting trail cam photos of Brutus.
“Damian already had tagged out on a Pennsylvania buck, so when he learned I was chasing Brutus, he shared with me four years of trail cam photos. He never actually saw Brutus, but his tips on the deer and its patterns enabled me to figure out the buck and finally get him,” Sankey says. “Without his help, I don’t think I would have taken this huge buck.”
Sankey’s own knowledge of mature buck behavior, combined with Gajewski’s input, helped him home in on a pinch point to set up his treestand near.
“It’s a funnel type location near a river bottom and a deer bedding area, and I checked the outlying area on the downwind side without barging into the core region,” Sankey explains. “I thought the buck would be cruising the perimeter looking for does, and I was right.”
After getting permission to hunt the spot from the landowner, Sankey snuck into the area at 4 a.m. on Nov. 4. He put up his hanging stand and settled in.
A half hour before dawn, Sankey heard some grunting and the sound of brush being ripped apart. It came from nearby, around 40 yards from his treestand, and he figured it had to be a buck making all the ruckus. When daylight broke, though, there were no deer in the area.
Early that afternoon, a small fork buck came into range. The buck was chasing a hot doe in and out of the thick cover that was only 50 yards away from Sankey.
“That’s when I saw a big bodied deer. I knew it was a buck, and when he turned his head, I knew it was Brutus,” Sankey says. “He came after the little buck at 35 yards, chased it back into the brush a bit, and then stepped out at 60 yards. It looked like an entire tree was stuck to his horns.”
Sankey opted not to risk a 60-yard shot with a borrowed crossbow. Instead, he watched and waited and then drew the buck even closer.
“I pulled out my grunt tube and made a soft call, and Brutus started walking toward me,” he says. “Then he turned broadside at 35 yards. But there was a tree blocking my shot. He started walking again but stopped in the thick stuff. I had just a small hole to slip an arrow through some poison ivy vines.”
Looking through the crossbow scope, Sankey could see Brutus through the keyhole in the vines. He threaded the needle and his bolt hit the buck in the vitals. The deer ran only 50 yards before falling dead.
Naturally, Sankey called up his two pals Gajewski and Barschow. They soon arrived in Gajewski’s truck with another friend in tow and helped him get Brutus out of the woods. The buck won’t be scored until after the 60-day drying period is up, but its heavy rack has a 23-inch inside spread and split brow tines.
“He has stuff going everywhere on that rack. There was a little velvet hanging on, and fine bark from him rubbing trees and bushes,” Sankey says. “I have a lot of people to thank for helping me get this buck, but especially Damian for all his tips and photos, and Kenneth for loaning me his crossbow.”