So often hunters think of big bucks holding up in cover until last light before coming out to feed in the ag fields after dark.
That’s often how things do work on bucks that have felt a little pressure, but not always. Sometimes they follow the script that one might see on TV.
That’s what a big Todd County buck did over the youth firearms season in Minnesota, and Osakis 15-year-old Aidan Gulbranson was there to take advantage of it.
This year was the first time in Minnesota where kids ages 10-17 could hunt deer statewide with a firearm before the regular gun season opens up on Nov. 9. The youth season ran over MEA break in school from Oct. 17-20, and Aidan was hunting with his dad, Chad, and twin brother, Connor.
The family was hunting on private land, but right next to a public wildlife area by their house. They had bow hunted the same area quite a bit since the Sept. 14 archery opener and seen quite a few deer, but nothing close enough to get a shot at.
“He was really excited to be able to gun hunt this early,” Chad said of Aidan.
Aidan was sitting by himself during an evening hunt on Oct. 19, and his dad and brother were about 300 yards away looking over the same cut hay field.
It was about 20 minutes before last legal shooting light when a deer appeared in the hay field. Aidan said he initially thought it was just another buck, and that he really did not feel too many nerves when the deer approached. Chad put up the binoculars and couldn’t believe his eyes.
“I just said, ‘Connor, that is a massive deer,’” Chad said. “Connor took the binoculars and looked. We just kept passing back and forth with the binoculars, and I’m thinking, ‘Why isn’t he shooting?’”
The buck came out of the wildlife area and into the hay field, eventually working to about 50 yards from Aidan.
“I looked behind me, and it came out of the woods,” Aidan said. “I was getting situated and all that to shoot. At first I thought it was just a regular-sized deer. I didn’t really know how big it was until I saw it close up.”
Aidan aimed and pulled the trigger. The buck took off into the timber. Chad and Connor were watching the whole time, and Chad knew Aidan had hit the deer.
“He texted me right away and said it just crashed in the trees,” Chad said. “I called him and said, ‘Just wait. Let us sit for 10 more minutes then your brother and I will come down and help you look for it.’ Well, of course he climbed down right away.”
Aidan was nervous for about 10 seconds after the shot, but said he was confident he would find the buck after hearing a crash in the woods.
There was no sign of blood in the field, so Chad called his wife, Sherry. They trained their German Shepherd for tracking bears and were in the process of teaching the dog to track deer.
The whole family eventually returned to the field with the dog to start looking after dark.
Aidan knew where he thought he heard the buck crash after the shot. With still no blood found, Chad went to search in that area.
“I could actually smell it,” he said. “It was dead calm, and he must have nicked something that caused an odor. I shined the light, and it was right there. It was just unbelievable.”
The family felt the excitement and relief of finding the deer and seeing how big it was up close. Chad said a friend of his green scored the deer at 188 inches.
“At first I was thinking, I think this is the biggest deer anyone that is with me has ever seen or handled,” Aidan said. “I was excited.”
Chad soon found out that there were many hunters in the area who knew about this deer from their trail cameras. Archers had targeted him early in the season, but Aidan was the lucky one to put his tag on him. It’s been part of a fun early season for Aidan, who also shot his first bear on a hunt north of Bemidji this fall.
The Gulbransons usually spend the four days over MEA weekend pheasant hunting in South Dakota. Plans quickly changed when they found out about the youth deer season.
Aidan has shot plenty of other deer since he started hunting at age 10, but that decision to stay home and hunt over the youth season paid off with the biggest buck of his life.