Kentucky hunters Jamie and Brennan Shields filled their tags with two great whitetails and one unbelievable experience
The Shields family is a hunting family. Bryan and Jamie, along with their son, Brennan, spend as much time as they can every fall chasing big whitetails in the hilly country of Boone County, Kentucky, and they have a history of tagging nice deer. Bryan Shields has been hunting his entire life. In his early years he shot any deer he could, but he eventually worked up to being a self-declared trophy hunter. Jamie Shields got into deer hunting about eight years ago, and she's a particularly avid bowhunter.
We have probably 15 deer on the walls, and she's harvested a couple with a compound and a couple with a crossbow. She's more of a bowhunter than anything, Bryan says.
Their son, Brennan, who is now 14, has been hunting since he was 6. He killed his first two at 6 and 7, Bryan said. He got those during gun season. Afterward, he got the bow bug. So we got him a crossbow, and he's been into that the past few years. He's killed three nice bucks since then. One was 148 inches in full velvet. I've always been with him for every deer he's ever killed.
A Rare Trip Afield
The 2021 Kentucky rifle season opened Nov. 13, and by then, the Shields family had already hunted about 25 days. But all three of them were still carrying buck tags. While opening weekend didn't produce, they hoped the following week would. On the 16th, they geared up for a last-minute afternoon hunt and drove to the farm. It was partly cloudy and calm, and looked to be a good day to hunt.
Bryan had been getting pictures of a big 12-pointer on his trail camera, so he decided to hunt that buck at the back of the property, while Jamie and Brennan sat in another spot. Why don't you just take [Brennan] to your blind, Bryan said to Jamie. You can choose who shoots based on what comes in.
Jamie agreed. She'd never hunted with her son, and knew it'd be a great opportunity for them to share some time together. Settling on the plan, they wished each other luck, and departed for their respective hunting spots.
As they neared Jamie's blind, she and Brennan spotted what looked like a buck along the timberline, directly in front of the blind. They crouched low and snuck closer, to where Jamie could find a good rifle rest. She peered through the scope and realized the buck was a big one. She was about ready to pull the trigger but hesitated because the deer's head was down close to the ground.
Maybe it's injured, she thought. Perhaps someone shot it on a neighboring property?
Then, the big deer moved its head, and Jamie saw another buck standing in front of it, and realized they were fighting. Both were large whitetails.
When I realized there were two bucks. I couldn't believe my eyes, she said.
She quickly decided to shoot, placed the crosshairs on the vitals of the buck offering the best shot opportunity, and pulled the trigger. Her .243 dropped the buck where it stood, but yanked the head of the other buck down with it. That's when Jamie and Brennan realized something wasn't quite right. The bucks weren't just fighting; they were locked up.
Brennan was right beside Jamie, and so he eased into position to shoot the other deer with his .350 Legend. Soon, both bucks were down. I have seen some pretty cool things while hunting, but seeing two big bucks locked up fighting, and then me and my mom getting to shoot them, is by far the most awesome thing I have done, Brennan said.
Hearing the shots from several hundred yards away, Bryan didn't know what to think.
Instantly, I had the best feeling — the one you get when you know your wife or son probably just had success, Bryan explained. But then he heard Brennan shoot, too. I got a little nervous, Bryan said. Wondering what was happening, I hightailed it straight back over to where they were.
Upon getting there, he saw two dead bucks and two very happy hunters. It was a rush of emotions and celebration, with all involved reflecting on what'd just transpired. This was their first time hunting together, Bryan said. From turkeys to deer to squirrels, I take my son hunting every time. It was ironic that, the first time they went out hunting, they had all the luck in the world. I think I was in more shock than they were.
Jamie's buck was the oldest of the two — likely 6 ½-plus years old with a 130-inch rack. They'd never seen the deer before, and concurred it was a rut-time traveler. Brennan's buck, though, was a deer they knew well. He'd been on the property for two or three years, was about 5 ½ years old, and scored 140 inches.
After the initial excitement, they realized they had work ahead of them. They were way up on a mountain with two big bucks to drag back down to the truck. By the time they walked to it, got supplies, and returned to the deer, it was almost dark. The separated the bucks and began the long descent down the hillside to load them into the truck.
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Remembering a Unicorn Hunt
A few days passed, and with a buck tag left to fill, Bryan went back to the farm to check some trail cameras. He runs close to 20 on the property, and it takes some time to monitor all of them. That said, it produces valuable information for deciding when and where to hunt.
I checked some cameras where I was hunting 400 yards down the hollow — which is closer to some bedding — and sure enough, these bucks were locked up for about 30 minutes in front of the trail camera, Bryan said. They worked their way down the shelf to in front of the camera.
Altogether, it took about 36 hours for the deer to cover the distance between his trail camera and where they finally fell, but who knows how long they were locked up before hitting the trail camera, or if they'd have ever gotten separated.
This hunt means everything to me in so many ways, Jamie said. We prepare and plan for every hunt, but it always seems to be the unexpected events within the hunt that leaves us with the most memorable experiences. It has made me appreciate all the small details that make up a hunt and to always expect the unexpected.
Bryan says he's enjoyed watching his wife and son argue over what deer mount they want.
The main thing that my son and I have agreed on, after some debate and a few competitive games of rock, paper, scissors, is that we want to have them mounted locked back together on pedestals, Jamie said. We want to recreate our first hunt together, but the debate on what room they should go in is still ongoing.
I told them they have that unicorn luck, Bryan said. I've been hunting since I was old enough to walk and have never encountered anything like that. I don't think they understand how rare this is to begin with. Everything happens for a reason. When things happen like this, you almost can't say you were lucky. Someone was winding something up for you. Making these memories with my wife and son — you can't ask for more than that.
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