The bridal-shower crisis actually began six years earlier when Brooke started dating her now husband, Daniel Merrell. Daniel, an avid hunter, asked Brooke to accompany him on a hunt as an observer, and that first year he tagged a buck. By the third year, she wanted her own chance at a buck.
“I was hooked after that experience and needed to get out there,” said Brooke. I’m always looking for a challenge and bowhunting seemed like the perfect match for me.”
That was 2013, and that same year the family farm where they hunt in northern Kentucky had become home to a bruiser buck. They dubbed him “Unicorn,” due to a unique antler formation that appeared to be an extra beam protruding from his forehead. Brooke hoped to have a chance at this giant, but when a 7-pointer showed up that had been photographed repeatedly with Unicorn, she seized the opportunity and proudly killed her first buck — with her Hoyt Vicxen bow.
The Unicorn buck disappeared shortly after the opener three years ago and started an unusual pattern that repeated annually. The buck frequently visited trail camera locations, albeit oftentimes after legal shooting light. But when the bow opener rolled around, Unicorn would vanish and wouldn’t show up again on cameras until late in December.
Unicorn or Bust
For three years this pattern repeated, but Daniel and Brooke were always tagged out and unable to take advantage of the December prospect. Daniel decided that for 2015 he’d hold out for Unicorn, even if it meant a late- December hunt. With that goal, he volunteered to film Brooke’s bowhunt on the opening weekend.
After a review of trail camera data for the week, Daniel and Brooke decided to sit in a ladder stand where a 150-class buck they called “Goofy” had been consistently passing by between 7 and 8 a.m. Unicorn had been by the location, too, but at 3 a.m., so the pair didn’t have much hope of the bruiser showing up during legal shooting light.
To ensure they didn’t spook any deer, they arrived at their stand by 5 a.m. At 6:45 a.m. Brooke stood up and prepared for a shot if Goofy showed up early. At 7 a.m. Brooke spotted a big buck approaching.
“There’s a giant,” she whispered to Daniel.
“Is it big?” he replied.
Brooke responded, “Oh, yeah!”
As the buck approached, it acted as if it smelled something out of place and began to suspiciously circle the tree. Unfortunately, Daniel, now filming, had a perfect shot at the buck but Brooke was blocked by its change in position. Sidestepping on the ladder platform gave Brooke a brief shot opportunity and she guesstimated the buck was just outside of 30 yards. Selecting her 30-yard pin, she aimed a tad high and released the arrow.
“You smoked him!” exclaimed Daniel as the two stared at each other in amazement. Backing out, they replayed video footage of the shot. That’s when they determined the big buck was really Unicorn. That added even more excitement and tension to a nervous situation. Trailing blood, they found the arrow 70 yards from the shot. Scrambling up a small rise, they spotted Brooke’s velvet-clad buck lying dead.
The giant buck would later green score approximately 175 points with an estimated age of 61⁄2 years. With the buck hanging in the back yard and Brooke in a crunch to clean up for the shower, the bride to be’s mother summed up her daughter’s persona.
“My girl can wear camo and two hours later be decked out in a dress and high heels,” she said. “That’s my girl.”
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