The Brady Bucks

For at least this member of the Record Quest hunting squad, it's been a abnormally tough deer season. Whereas Hunting Editor Andrew McKean, Shooting Editor John Snow and Senior Editor John Taranto have seemingly been whacking deer with reckless abandon, I've not been as fortunate. But no sense dwelling on the past. What's done is done and it was with that attitude that I gobbled up my Christmas dinner and eagerly packed gear for the last Record Quest whitetail hunt of the season at the Ford Ranch in Brady, Texas.
If Brady sounds familiar to you, it's for good reason. Brady, Texas and even more specifically The Ford Ranch was once home to the 78-point, world-record non-typical. Legend has it that after finding the sheds from this giant buck in 1891, several hunters set out to take him the next season. It was apparently shot by Jeff Benson who then lost its blood trail. He told the ranch manager of the details and he soon found the dead buck. The remarkable animal, sometimes referred to as the "Benson Buck," scored 286 0/8. There's something pretty cool about hunting the same pastures where a world-record whitetail once roamed--even if it was shot in the late-1800s. Cooler yet, Armke can show you almost exactly where the giant went down for the last time.
I've had the good fortune of hunting with Forrest Armke at the Ford a couple of times in the past. My first buck hunt didn't really last too long. As is the case with many newcomers to the ranch, I shot my buck pretty quickly--a bit too quickly considering the quality of the deer on the ranch. Looking at the smallish--for the Ford--8-pointer now makes me chuckle. A few years later, I was invited back. This time, I told myself, I'd be more judicious. Indeed I was and actually managed to wait until the second morning to take this pretty neat 9-pointer.
My "Quest" for 2010, however, was to take my first buck with a crossbow--a chore that I eagerly anticipated. By spring, Rick Bednar and the good folks at Ten Point had me set me up with a bow and I was booked to hunt with Todd Frank of Clear Creek Outfitters in Lancaster, Ohio. Whether it was the abnormally warm weather or a bumper crop of acorns, the whitetails proved to be super scarce.
I never fired an arrow at a deer out of my crossbow, but I was enamored with making another attempt. A quick e-mail to Forrest at the Ford Ranch and a solid plan was in the works. Myself and buddy Dave Streb were headed to Texas for the last hunt of the season during the week between Christmas and New Year's.
The Ford spans 35,000 acres of Hill Country brush. Here, average spreads on mature bucks measure 17 to 18 inches and field-dress at 108 pounds. With a buck-to-doe ratio of one buck for every two does, rutting activity is tremendous as is the trophy potential. The Ford is not a high-fence operation and this past summer's count was more than 2,600 deer. Average success rate is 97% and trophy buck hunters are permitted to take one buck and up to four does. There are two hunters per guide and each guide scouts and manages his own country. They know it and the deer like the back of their hands. Each summer, before deer season begins, Armke takes to the skies to inventory the bucks on the 50-square-mile ranch. Here are just some of his photos. Remarkably, some of the biggest bucks in Armke's photos are never seen by hunters during the open season.
The ranch also has a healthy population of Axis deer.
Look at the spread on that bruiser!
The first order of business was to dial in Streb's Ten Point Turbo XLT. The winner of Outdoor Life's Editor's Choice Award, the Turbo features compact limbs, a 180-pound draw weight and screams a 420-grain arrow at 315 fps.
The bow also features the ACUdraw cocking system. The crank-controlled cocking device requires on the strength of an average person's index finger to operate.
Once cranked, a double-safety system prevents dry firing and makes accidental discharge extremely unlikely.
The Turbo is also outfitted with a 3X Pro-View scope. Calibrated for crossbows that shoot in the 300 fps range, this 20, 30, and 40-yard combo crosshair and illuminated dot configuration is housed in a lightweight seven-inch aluminum tube equipped with fully-coated 3x optics. The illuminated dots are positioned at the intersection of each of the duplex crosshairs. In the field, you select non-illuminated black dots or one of two illuminated, colored dots (red or green) controlled by a five-position rheostat so you can match the illumination intensity to your hunting conditions.
These babies are remarkably quick and it only took a couple of shots for Streb to be dead-on at various whitetail ranges.
It was time for us to hit the blind. The Ford boasts dozens of box blinds situated near corn feeders.
Blinds were roomy and comfortable and easily accommodated myself, Streb and videographer Scott Standiford.
We took up residence in our home away from home for the next few hours and waited for the action to crank up.
We could still hear the engine of Forrest's diesel when the first (of many) deer began to filter in. (Next--"Exactly how many bucks are there out there?")