The New-Age Deer Hunting Debate: Nicknaming Whitetails

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Is the Phase That Stormed the Nation Here to Stay?

Tom James poses with Tall Brow (Tom James photo)

Buck: 152”

Date: November 27, 2016

Location: New Haven, Illinois

Weapon: Elite Energy 32 Compound Bow

I remember the stories my grandfather told me as a young boy. I was a knee-high lad back then, maybe eight or nine. He’d set me down and tell me of a story about how a mythically large, wide-racked, tall-tined white-tailed buck named The Moose Buck, or more commonly, The Ghost Buck, got away. I lived for those stories. They’re what made me dream of hunting whitetails every night. And they cultivated the ground and planted the seed for the intense passion I have for deer hunting today. Every detail, down to the fine details — and especially the deer’s name — enhanced these legends.

Then came trails cameras. And every deer that stepped in front of one had a name too. Somewhere along the way, a big group of people rose up like the Tenth Legion and made a huge fuss about “those who give names to deer.” The war of the nickname ensued, and the discussion has been ongoing ever since.

I’m the type of person who chooses to go the “to each his own” route. As long as what you’re doing is ethical and legal, have fun with it. Make it your own. That’s the beauty of this country and the beauty of deer hunting. It all means something slightly different to each of us. And that goes for nicknames, too, I guess.

Am I the type of person who gives a nickname to every buck that walks in front of my cameras? Absolutely not. But I do hand them out to particular deer every now and then. And I find nothing wrong with those who choose to do so. After all, who’s it hurting by doing so? No one.

James' Moultrie cameras played a big role in harvesting this great buck. (Tom James photo)Tom James of Whitetail Properties feels much the same. He recently took down a big 152-inch buck that came to be called The Tall Brow 8. And he might even say that it made the hunt that much more personal, meaningful and fun because of it.

“My good friend Matt Duffy owns The Country Lodge Outfitters, and owns and leases some awesome river bottom ground that produces some very impressive bucks,” James said. “Matt has a long history through photographs of this old buck dating back to 2010 when Tall Brow was estimated to be two years old. This would have put him at 8½ this season.

“The taller brow which became his namesake, was a trait he carried throughout his life along with the distinctive inward curve at the top,” James continued. “He also had a wide frame even as a young buck. Long, sweeping main beams of 26 1/2” each and tall tines really set him off too. Lastly, he recently developed two right-side sticker points, one off the side of his main beam, and another off the front of his G2.”

As is always the case in deer hunting, the setup he chose to kill this deer was everything. Knowing when and where to get into position is an important factor.

“There was an ag field several hundred yards to the north and he [Matt] situated me with my back literally 10 yards from the Wabash River,” James said. “[I watched] over the narrow natural river bottom timber bordered by 14-year-old CRP tree plantings. The deer were expected to move southward through the cover after sunrise.”

It didn’t take long for deer to start filtering through. The spot was awesome and the deer activity was steady. He knew it wouldn’t take long.

“At 7:30, four does and fawns came into view just at the edge of the CRP trees, and milled around into the timber in front of me,” James said. “About 30 minutes later, I saw antlers bobbing through the rows of planted trees 50 yards away. It was a tall, ear-wide 8-pointer that looked to be a 3-year-old scent-trailing the does.

“At 8:30, I saw legs moving out of the thick CRP and into the open timber directly north of me,” James continued. “I immediately saw the huge frame of Tall Brow. He was very slow moving. When he entered the area where the does had stood, he just stood there completely still with his eyes locked in my direction and his ears rotating at every slight sound. He eventually started moving again and instead of coming straight south toward me he began veering in an arc moving west and putting more distance between us. He made his way to a shooting lane that Matt and his father Martin had previously wisely trimmed, and just as he stepped into it I came to full draw and settled the second pin on him. The arrow hit and passed completely through.”

As you can imagine, he was extremely happy when he found his deer.

“After nearly eight years of my shed dog Belle and I joining Matt and friends for our annual shed hunt — many of which were affected by high flood water — this was the first time I have actually hunted with him. It was short and sweet though, taking a big buck two hours into my very first morning. It was very humbling knowing this old warrior had been a survivor in these bottoms for that many years, and I am very thankful for the opportunity.”

Personally, I see nothing wrong with the whole nicknaming mantra. The story behind the hunt — down to the very nickname itself — embodies the whole of the hunt for some people. And who am I (or anyone else) to tell them they shouldn’t do that.

Nickname on fellow hunters. Nickname on . . .

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