Brett Stray and his wife bought an old 52-acre farm 2 years ago. They planted the front 5 acres with grapes to start a vineyard and the rest of the property for hunting.

Last year, Brett saw a very nice buck on his trail camera several times but never really had a shot opportunity that season and he hoped the buck made it through the winter.

Brett started to see the buck show up on camera again in September and October, but only at night. He was sporting an even more impressive rack than he had in 2022. Starting around October 22, his target buck started making daylight appearances, which lasted about one week, and the buck wasn’t showing himself very much at all. At that point, you might start thinking that another hunter may have harvested this giant buck after Brett spent almost a year waiting for another chance at this buck.

Brett’s 15-year-old son, Gage, is a very active hunter. He has harvested a few good bucks and had decided that he would also wait for a chance at this buck. Brett thought their best chance of harvesting this buck would be during the youth hunt. Brett and Gage were hunting together during the youth hunt, and while on stand, Brett received 2 pictures of his target buck on his phone! The buck was about 200 yards away. Of course, they couldn’t see it from their blind.

Brett Stray and son Gage with a monster record book 12-point taken on their new Muskegon County farm!

That was the only sight of him except once during archery season.

On November 15, Brett was sitting in his box blind and, at first light, saw some deer activity. Brett was looking through his glasses and saw the target buck that he had been hunting for the last 2 seasons. As he opened the window, it made a little noise (I hate when that happens), and when Brett looked again, he couldn’t find the buck in his glasses.

Brett was sure the buck heard the noise and left the area. About 20 minutes later, Brett was watching a couple of deer, including a good 8-point buck. But there was no way Brett was going to shoot that 8-pointer after seeing the big one. During archery season, he passed up several bucks because his focus all season long was on the big one.
While watching the 8-pointer, he saw some movement, and the big buck reappeared. Brett wasn’t taking any chances on missing another shot at this trophy. He raised his rifle and shot the buck with his 7 mag. He could tell he had hit the buck hard and watched as he moved off into some brush about 15 yards away from where he shot him.

Brett said he waited about 2-hours; he didn’t want to take any chances with this buck. Brett’s wife and son were in another blind and came over to help with the recovery.

They didn’t have to look very far; about 15 yards away lay a buck of a lifetime. They knew that this buck was big, but no one knew just how big. The monster buck had 12 points, split brows and his gross score was 175 2/8 and later netted 170 2/8 inch. A Booner buck harvested in Muskegon County, the second year after buying the farm. Brett didn’t get an age on his trophy, but the dressed weight on the buck was 182 pounds.

After a neighbor of Brett’s heard that he had harvested this trophy he wanted to come and look at it. He had told Brett he had wounded a big buck during archery season around Halloween and couldn’t find it. There was a wound on the buck in the same location where the neighbor had shot at the buck on his property. The neighbor was grateful the buck didn’t run off and die somewhere without being recovered. Brett said from the picture he had of the deer prior to harvesting him that the buck had lost a lot of weight. Brett was wondering if it was from the injury.

It has to be a great feeling after buying your piece of land, hunting a trophy buck of a lifetime and being able to recover it and share those moments with your family.

I am sure Gage will be spending the entire year dreaming about harvesting his trophy buck!

The author is Jeff Pendergraff, a retired Captain from the Law Enforcement Division of the MDNR.