Marianne’s voice was loud and excited as she burst into the house with her mother, Lauri, trailing behind. “Dad, Dad! I’ve shot a Benson Buck.” “Dad” is Bob Brown, a taxidermist of some renown, who lives just north of the village of Onekama, Michigan, in Manistee County, bordering Lake Michigan in the state’s Lower Peninsula. The “Benson Buck” referred to a very large buck shot in Manistee County a few days before by Brent Benson of Kaleva. The antlers had eight points on a twenty-four and a half inch spread. It was indeed impressive. Bob was working on the mount in his taxidermist shop, located in the basement of their comfortable home, nestled on a wooded knoll.
The Brown family, Bob, wife Lauri, son Ted, and daughters, Marianne and Emily, have hunted in their neighborhood for many years. Although Emily is not an enthusiastic hunter, she can be coerced to venture out now and then.
The November 19th day started early for Marianne, a senior at Onekama High School. She arrived at her chosen stand which consisted of a large wooden box used to store picked apples, shortly after 7AM. The wind, ranging from NE to NW, was mild, but steady. No new snowfall added to the two or three inches on the ground.
Bob had selected the site for the apple box stand, as it afforded a good view of trees and terrain that would funnel deer to a road crossing a few hundred yards to the south. The gently rolling terrain interspersed with thick pine cover, small hardwood lots, apple and cherry orchards is laced with natural travel routes for the local deer herd.
About an hour after arriving, the young girl continued to scan the landscape around her stand. After looking to the right, she began to swing her eyes in a broad band to the left when movement caught her attention.
“I saw the antlers right away and knew they were exceptional..”, she said.
Shouldering her .243 Remington Automatic mounted with a Redfield scope, she touched off a shot as the deer moved in bounding leaps through the trees. The buck stumbled, but carried on.
Shouting with excitement to her mom, who was situated a few hundred yards to the northwest, Marianne moved quickly to the spot where the deer had been when she shot. Blood in the snow told of a hit. Lauri hurried over to join her daughter.
In an excited and rapid voice the young girl told her mom of the buck with the huge rack. Both Mom and daughter took up the trail. In less than three hundred yards they jumped the buck and Lauri clearly saw the huge mass of antlers. It was then she knew they would need Bob’s help and headed for home, which was less than a half mile away, as the crow flies.
Upon arriving home both mom and daughter burst in the house, interrupting Bob’s morning routine, with news of the wounded buck.
Planning strategy, Bob sent the two girls and son Ted off to intercept points while he took up the track.
The deer, his nose pointed into the wind, headed out across an apple orchard to a small copse of oak trees. The cover was thicker and here the tracks led to two beds. The buck had moved out with Bob’s approach.
Across a narrow two track trail and into tall pines the buck wandered in search of cover. His trail eventually entered a small, but very dense, thicket of pines. Bob heard the deer crash out the other side as he came near. This time the buck crossed an orchard of sweet cherries and into a woodlot made up of mixed hardwoods that had been timbered off a few years ago. The area was a mass of blackberry brambles reaching well over Bob’s head. It was here that the buck again bedded. As Bob walked up and entered the tangle, he heard and then saw the buck flee in a crashing and noisy dash. Scrambling to the top of a tall stump, he saw the deer and fired off a quick shot which proved ineffective. The spot was close to one of Ted’s favorite stands, but he wasn’t there, as he was covering another known escape route.
Marianne, sitting a few hundred yards to the west of this last bed, knew nothing about what was going on until she heard the report of her dad’s rifle. Bob had placed her in a row of cover near an apple orchard. Her view was of a fairly open field.
Running hard now, the buck came out into the field about eighty yards from the stand. Having been taught from an early age to respect and then to use a hunting rifle, she brought the .243 up once again on the buck of a lifetime, determined not to let this opportunity pass. The gun barked once, the deer lurched, and ran a few more yards before tumbling up. A well placed 100 gr. bullet put the buck down for keeps.
“Mom!”, came the cry from the young lady, as she ran toward the deer. Brother Ted, having assumed upon hearing his dad’s shot and thinking that he had killed the buck, was heading toward his truck. Bob, by this time less than 200 yards away had easily heard the shot and ensuing call for, “Mom!” He hurried towards his very excited daughter.
“I didn’t think the deer was that big until I ran over and stood over him.”, Marianne said. “We didn’t even think about counting his points because we were so excited over the size and mass of the rack.”
Bob realized immediately that he would need help getting the deer to the house. It dressed out to 187 pounds, with a live weight of about 228 pounds.
The buck carried 13 points on antlers highlighted by 13½ inch G2 tines and a17 ½ inch inside spread. It would eventually be scored at 164 and 3/8 inches, missing out on the minimum for entry into Boone and Crockett by less than seven inches.
“I think the deer’s size and weight tired it out as I was tracking it.”, Bob commented. I didn’t want it to go south from where Mary Ann first shot it, so I set out standers to cover those escape routes. Initially, it seemed from the tracks that the wound was a bit far back, as the deer seemed to be walking and running in a hunched-over manner. It’s tracks were close together and not at all set wide apart, almost as if he was tiptoeing in his bounds and steps. As it turned out, the first shot was high through the right front leg, which, coupled with his weight, hampered the buck’s mobility.” As Bob and his wife related their parts of the story, interspersed with ample humor, they would now and then cast proud parent’s eyes toward their daughter.
Many experienced hunters go a lifetime without seeing, let alone harvesting, a Michigan trophy buck. Marianne succeeded, where others have failed due, to her upbringing in a hunting family, her father’s skill in tracking and figuring out a deer’s way of thinking, and also her determination to do well. Before leaving home early that morning, she had announced to all that she was going to get a “Benson Buck”. Little did she or her family realize, but that is just what she did.
Indeed these traits carry over during cross country and track season, when she participates in these high school sports on championship teams. It is more than a smile that glints her eyes in photographs of her and her trophy. There is also a long measure of pride in accomplishment.