Brown’s big buck

Grand Junction — Zachary Brown took a deep breath and drew back on his bow. — Zachary Brown took a deep breath and drew back on his bow.

— Zachary Brown took a deep breath and drew back on his bow.

A big buck was in the cross hairs. His nerves were churning, but he focused on the deer.

The situation was similar, but this hunt was different for the 14-year-old boy from Crawford. He’d already had successful hunts: two elk; three wild turkeys; and a bear, which is mounted and hanging on his bedroom wall.

But those kills came with a rifle. This was his first archery hunt, and this buck was huge. But he didn’t take notice of the antlers as he focused on the shot.

To cut to the end, and the obvious, Brown bagged the big buck, and now he’s waiting to see if it will make the record book.

“I was kind of nervous,” the shy freshman at Hotchkiss High School said. “My bow was shooting high the day before, so I knew I had to aim low.”

Zachary was hunting with his dad, Christopher, who was armed with only a pistol. This hunt was for Zachary, and the day belonged to father and son, but the kill was all Zachary’s.

“It was all for him. I just wanted to share the experience with him,” Christopher said.

Christopher, who also started hunting as a youngster, laughs about the big buck that Zachary shot.

“It was phenomenal. He had no idea what he hit. I said, ‘Dude, you have no clue what you hit,’ ” he said. “When he got closer, he said, ‘I’m so glad I didn’t look at the (antlers).’ “

Zachary said it was an thrilling hunt, adding his dad couldn’t contain his excitement.

“He couldn’t hold it in,” Zachary said with a laugh.

The deer’s antlers were measured at 176 inches. Christopher said the minimum requirement to make the Pope and Young Club is 140 inches. Pope and Young is one of North America’s leading archery organizations.

The deer will go through a 60-day drying period before the official measurement can be made. Then, it’s likely Zachary will be in the record books after his first archery hunt.

Even at 14, Zachary has worked hard at archery to improve as fast as possible. But he enjoys rifle and archery hunting.

“It’s hard to say which one I like better. (Archery) is more exciting because you’re closer to the animal, and you have to aim better,” he said. “I’m more nervous than I am with a rifle, too.”

He practices three days a week, and he’s come a long way in a short time.

“When I first started, I couldn’t even hit the target,” he said.

After mastering the target, he had another challenge: They bumped up the poundage on the bow, making it more difficult to pull the string.

But that was the next step.

“I’ve put a lot of work into it,” he said.

From not being able to hit the target to probably making the record book at 14, Zachary is one fast learner.

He said he practices with shots from 20 yards to 30 yards.

But he estimates his buck was about 35 yards away.

With this being his son’s first-ever archery hunt, Christopher said they had a long talk about the hunt afterward.

“I asked him what he learned and what he’d do differently,” Christopher said.

Zachary said he needs to practice more, so he can make more accurate shots.

The hunt was in the Unit 63 area near Crystal Creek on Black Mesa. Not only was it his first hunt, but Zachary got the big buck on the opening day of archery season on Aug. 29.

Zachary said he loves hunting and, of course, a successful hunt.

“I’ve been around it my whole life. I like the thrill,” he said.

After deer season, Zachary was back on the hunt, this time looking to bag his first bear with a bow.

Even at 14, and this being his first season hunting with a bow, Zachary knows that big buck might be the best kill he will ever get.

“It might be tough to beat,” he said with a smile.