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Hunter Shoots Monster Buck After His Truck Burns Down

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Hunter Shoots Monster Buck After His Truck Burns Down

Posted 2023-08-11  by  Josh Honeycutt

Brandon Gills earned this big North Carolina whitetail, even though it cost him his pickup

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Brandon Gills poses with his big North Carolina buck. Image courtesy of Brandon Gills

Ask a deer hunter how much it costs to a fill a buck tag, and it’ll likely spark a grimace or sly grin. Most hunters will respond with, “hundreds,” or more likely, “thousands.” But for Brandon Gills, it cost that and then some. It cost him his truck.

Gills hunted a big 4½-year-old Burke County, North Carolina, deer for much of the 2022 season. “I had many pictures of the deer, but they were all at nighttime,” he said. “I never had a daytime picture of the deer and had never seen him in person.”

Unlike many deer hunters, Gills didn’t start hunting until about 2014. But he’s enjoyed it since. “It’s the friendships that I’ve made with people through hunting,” he said.

It’s also the places. Gills and the buck he was pursuing grew up on the same mountain. They spent their lives there. When Gills was a young boy, his mother and father built a log cabin on the mountain. Today, Gills and his wife, Hillary, own the cabin. They raise their two daughters there in the cabin he grew up in.

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In 2022, this deer really packed on the antler. Image courtesy of Brandon Gills

Incredibly, in 2022, a massive whitetail appeared on his trail cameras. Gills dedicated his season to this buck. “I hunted the deer from Nov. 21 to Dec. 15 and only missed two days in that time period,” he said.

He missed one day because his daughter was sick. But the other day — the third day of the hunt — ended prematurely because his truck burned down.

“I was walking to my treestand,” Gills said. “It was an uphill walk. I looked back, and it looked like the headlight was on. I started walking back down the hill.”

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This is not how hunters hope to kick off a morning hunt. Image courtesy of Brandon Gills

Within a few yards, Gills realized it was no electrical light, but the oldest form of light — fire. As the seriousness sank in, he scrambled back down the hill. “I basically rolled down it trying to get back to the truck,” he said.

Reaching his truck, Gills called his wife and asked her to bring a fire extinguisher. The problem? She didn’t know how to get to where he was. So, he called 911, and 15 minutes later, the men in red arrived.

All Gills could do was watch as flames licked the truck, trees, and sky around it. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt, and most important items remained unharmed. The fire, paired with a serious firefighter effort, offered plenty of adrenaline for the day, though.

The worst part about it, other than a busted hunt? “I just got that truck out of the shop the day before,” Gills said. “New tires and shocks. I spent $945. But it was just an old truck. I bought the truck for $1,200 and drove it for three years. It had oil leaks.”

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Gills offered a hearty thanks to first responders. Image courtesy of Brandon Gills

Of course, Gills didn’t return to the woods that day. But the next morning, he was right back at it. And as he climbed the hill, the smell of the crispy Ford Ranger gave him some good cover scent.

Fast forward to Dec. 15. At about 4 a.m., Gills rolled out of bed. He made a cup of coffee. And about 5:30 a.m., he climbed into his treestand. Unfortunately, it rained until about 10:30 a.m. Fog rolled in and out the remainder of the day.

His spot was along a steep ridge, and he camped out at the top of it. Pine thickets were directly to his left and right. He had two shooting lanes about 50 yards long in each direction.

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Gills’ buck looked even bigger when he ground-checked it. Image courtesy of Brandon Gills

At about 12:30 p.m., three does walked through the area. “You could tell that something was chasing them, because they kept looking back every so often,” Gills said.

Gills kept an eye out for other deer. And about an hour later, it happened. “I continued waiting patiently, hoping that a buck would present himself,” he said. “I heard a noise to my right, and honestly thought it was a squirrel. I looked to my right, and the deer was 20 yards from my stand with his nose straight to the ground.”

Unfortunately, Gills couldn’t get a shot off. So he waited for the buck to come around and turn the corner. Within seconds, the deer was broadside at 40 yards. Gills raised his crossbow, settled the crosshairs, and made the shot. The bolt struck the buck in the spine, causing it to drop immediately. Gills followed up with a second arrow.

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The gang arrived after Gills killed his buck. This, in part, is what hunting is all about. Image courtesy of Brandon Gills

That moment still seems surreal. “It’s still mind-blowing to me that the opportunity presented itself,” Gills said. “I didn’t use any tips or tactics to kill this deer — just perseverance and patience. There were a lot of people involved.”

And then the celebration began.

“I’ve got some buddies that are some clowns — Duck Dynasty ain’t got nothing on these boys,” Gills said. “The talk is the same talk that goes on in every hunting camp — a lot of laughs and stories told. It was truly an evening that I’ll never forget. It’s safe to say that deer hunting is something I’ll do till I’m dead and gone.”

Gills took his buck to The Dixie Deer Classic, where it gross-scored 166-1/8 inches. The hunt for that buck will live forever in Gills’ memory, perhaps easing the sting of losing his truck.


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