November 01, 2018The father/son team of Bryan and Brayden Dunlap have a most interesting story they would like to tell. Both shot enormous bucks on their family farm outside Vermontville (Michigan) this year.
Brayden shot his on September 22 during the youth hunt and Bryan shot his buck October 3 early in the bow season, just 10 days apart. They both had seen the bucks several times on the farm and have many trail cam photos of the bucks.
They were the biggest bucks on the farm.
Brayden Dunlap, 12, with his 14-point, which green scored an impressive 172 6/8. His second buck, two years ago he shot a 6-pointer.
They're very special bucks to both and not just because they are trophies. They are special because what the bucks represent to them.
They lost their partner in the outdoors and in life, Bryan's father and Brayden's grandfather, Rick. He died tragically in a horrible motorcycle accident in August.
"I'm not a super spiritual person, but what I'm saying is that if my dad didn't put the two largest deer on our farm in front of us, well, he did a lot to make it happen," Bryan told me.
And the symbolism continues.
Brayden, 12 years old, shot his buck the first night of his 2018 hunt, the first tree stand set and first buck he saw. And what a buck it was! One he will never forget.
At 40 yards Brayden shot an enormous buck with a Henry .44 caliber rifle. After an overnight agonizing wait they recovered the brute which green scored impressively at 172 6/8 and tipped the scales at 190 pounds. The 14-point, 4 1/2 year old buck had six inch bases, nearly a 23 inch main beam, triple split brow tine and 19 1/4 inch spread.
Bryan, 34, has a similar story and just as memorable. It was his first evening of the bow season, also the first tree stand set, first buck seen in stand and at 41 yards he shot the biggest deer of his 22 year hunting career. Bryan's buck, an 11-pointer, green scored 163 3/8, with 25 inch main beams, 36 inches of mass and a 19 3/8 inch spread. The buck weighed an impressive 220 pounds.
It was Bryan's ninth wall hanger, which is saying something because he has a personal standard of 140-plus class bucks. For Brayden it was his second buck, his first a 6-pointer two years ago.
For father and son, their hunts were very much the same, just weeks apart and only slightly different spots.
Extreme sadness, joy and pride are some of the many emotions the Dunlap family have been dealing with the last few weeks.
Rick Dunlap, 60 years old, was struck by a person who was texting while driving.
"My dad was a hell of a family man, he would and did do anything and everything for his family." Bryan told me, emotion clearly heard in his voice.
"He was a hard working, wonderful man and I was so very proud of him," he continued.
Rick was preparing to retire and enjoyed his 200 acre cattle farm with his son and grandchildren.
He taught his family to appreciate the outdoors and was an all-around sportsman himself.
"To have this happen to him, it just took the wind out of us. He was my best friend," Bryan went on to say.
Rick liked muskie, perch and bow fishing, but his son told me he loved his deer hunting.
"I think he liked it so much because we did," Bryan said. "He would do all he could to keep his family interested in the outdoors."
Brayden shot his monstrous buck with the Henry .44 caliber rifle his grandfather gave him and taught him to use. The two were inseparable, when not hunting or fishing they were just beginning a project on an old tractor to rebuild.
"Brayden loved being with him, from the outdoors, to wrenching and Sunday morning rides to get donuts," Bryan states.
"My dad provided this wonderful property for us to do what we enjoy. He was a great man," he went on to say.
Bryan has now had a chance to reflect on each of the hunts. He recalls Brayden's buck appeared out of thin air, they didn't see him come in, or hear him.
"It was that special time, just before dark, and this buck just appeared," Bryan said, apparently still puzzled by it.
"And my buck was very much the same, like he just popped up," he says.
"I will treasure those memories. I just feel it was meant to be!" Brian concluded.