Women have been one of the fastest growing participants in the tradition of hunting. When it comes to pursuing whitetail deer, females are some of the best. They possess an incredible amount of patience and determination. Maybe it comes from raising children, taking care of family and home or dealing with irreverent husbands.
Take Kokomo’s Liz Bryant for example. She has achieved what most men have not, taking a buck most consider a deer of a lifetime.
During her younger years, Bryant originally began hunting small game with her father and brother-in-law. It wasn’t until later, after marrying her husband Billy, she would get the opportunity to hunt deer.
“For several years I mentioned I wanted to go but they both thought I was joking,” Bryant recalled, referring to her husband and his late twin brother Jerry. Together the three shared ownership of Bryant’s Outdoor Store. “I would hear all these guys come in and talk about deer hunting and I wanted to go too,” she explained.
To see if she was serious, her husband made her practice with gun and bow until he thought she was proficient. He then made her find property to hunt. “He wanted me to put in the effort like everyone else has to,” she added. “That was his way of seeing if I was really serious.”
As the years passed Bryant began collecting deer nearly every season. But nothing prepared her for the buck she would collect just several months back.
Early last fall the husband and wife placed trail cameras on one of the properties they hunt. They acquired photos of a massive buck. “I never really thought I would get a chance to take him but I was sure going to give it try,” Bryant said with an air of determination.
After spending countless hours in a tree stand, she saw many deer except the buck she hoped to encounter. “Bucks like that don’t get big by being dumb so I thought I probably wouldn’t see it,” she explained.
Then, last December, during one of the coldest days of the year, Bryant decided to spend a morning hunting. “Because of the cold, Billy told me to take his crossbow,” she said. Bryant prefers to hunt with her traditional compound but was concerned about being able to draw it back with the amount of clothes she had to wear. “He showed me how to use it and cocked it for me,” she added. “He even gave me a little heater to take.”
By late morning the cold became unbearable. Preparing to leave, she leaned over to shut the heater off. After flipping the switch a twig snapped. Slowly looking up she couldn’t believe her eyes. The huge buck was heading straight towards her. Taking careful aim she pulled the trigger on the Barnett crossbow when the deer approached within 25 yards. “It jumped and ran out of sight,” she explained. “It took me a half hour to quit shaking,” she added with a laugh. “I’m not so sure if it was the cold, adrenaline rush or both.”
Once gaining her composure she climbed to the ground and began tracking the enormous buck. “There was sign everywhere and it was easy to follow,” she explained. “But then it just ran out and I became very dejected,” she continued. “I always remembered the saying ‘when in doubt, back out,’ so that’s exactly what I did.”
She went to get her husband then explained what transpired. “Billy was calm and said we needed to wait a little while longer,” said Bryant. After an agonizing hour the husband and wife went back to the spot where Bryant had shot the deer. They picked up the trail and saw where the buck had crossed a small stream.
After a few more yards Bryant looked up and couldn’t believe her eyes. In front of her laid the biggest buck she had ever seen. The deer carried 15 points and an inside spread of over two feet. “Even though we had seen him on trail cameras, seeing it in person and actually putting my hands on him was truly amazing,” she said thankfully.
After waiting the mandatory 60 day drying period she had the deer scored, which includes a compilation of spread measurements, circumferences and tine length. To make the Hoosier Record Book a buck must score 140 inches or above. Any deer worthy of making this book is a true trophy. Bryant’s deer scored 174 inches of antler, well eclipsing state requirements. In Indiana it was the fourth largest taken last year and the largest ever taken by a woman with archery equipment.
Bryant plans to professionally preserve the deer herself in their store, which also provides taxidermy services to area sportsmen and women.
“It was one of the highlights of my life,” said Bryant. “And I could not be more thankful.”