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Welcome to the family… well sort of.


November 29, 2010 by Dave Spratt

Talk about a warm welcome to the family.

In June this year, Brian VanDorsten of Marshall, Mich., married his longtime girlfriend Samantha Kipp. VanDorsten, 23, had become something of a fixture in the Kipp household over the past eight or nine years, but this fall Samantha’s dad, Dick Kipp, extended an invitation to his new son-in-law that he never had before: Brian could bowhunt Kipp’s Calhoun County property as he has in the past, but this year he could start opening day.

So VanDorsten and Kipp hunted the property, with their eyes on some nice bucks. One was a 10-point that they figure goes 18-19 inches wide with tall tines. Another is a seven-point that’s 18 inches wide with 10-11 inch tines. Both very nice deer. But there was also The Big One, a massive 16-point that took Kipp’s breath away when he jumped it and saw it for the first time on a summer walk through the property.

From that moment Kipp made shooting The Big One his mission. He watched The Big One from a distance and knew its habits. He hung trail cameras to learn more – and made one of the pictures of the deer his cell-phone wallpaper. He established rules against shooting other deer because he didn’t want anyone tracking in The Big One’s core area. He had several heart-pounding encounters with The Big One in October but couldn’t close the deal. He even passed up a sure shot on one of the others because he had seen The Big One earlier that day and knew it was nearby.

Then, on Nov. 4, while VanDorsten and Kipp hunted in stands close enough to see one another, VanDorsten shot a big buck. A really big buck. And when they came up on the deer lying dead in the grass, Van Dorsten, a quiet guy by nature, recognized an excellent opportunity to keep his mouth shut.

“I didn’t know it was his buck at first,” he said. “We walked up to him and (Kipp) goes ‘Oh, it IS the big one.’ I was like, ‘ooh.’ I don’t think I said anything. I just kind of looked at him for a minute and then we got on our way.”

The buck was The Big One. Kipp admits to feeling a mix of pride and dismay when he saw the deer lying dead in the grass.

“I hunted that buck hard,” Kipp said. “I’ve probably got 30 trail cam pictures from that deer. He hung out in that area all summer. I saw him a couple times early on, I jumped him once I was like ‘Oh, my god’ the first time I’d seen him. I was getting excited about the season and then he shot him and my season just kind of …. It took the wind right out of my sails.”

Kipp’s pursuit of that buck – a preliminary measurement put it at 185 inches of antler – actually began a few years back when he began to actively manage his 75-acre parcel for deer habitat. The piece has about 40 acres of crops and three small woodlots, so Kipp hinge-cut trees to provide bedding cover and planted a food plot. He trimmed up some apple trees so they would yield better and planted others that will soon bear fruit.

When this bow season dawned, Kipp decided to sit opening morning in the stand where VanDorsten ultimately shot the buck – only to watch the big buck walk right under a different stand. One evening the deer was walking straight toward him but inexplicably stopped about 60 yards away before stepping in to a mowed lane and changing direction. On one hunt, Kipp watched as the buck munched acorns 20 yards away – but it was too dark to see with the naked eye.

“As it turned out I did see him, I had him get my heart pumping several times,” Kipp said.  Then, a little less enthusiastically: “And I got to hold him.”

Kipp’s Lee Township property holds plenty of deer and there is still another nice 10-point running around out there – at least there was before gun season started. That’s the deer VanDorsten thought he was looking at when he spotted a large pair of antlers in the woods on Nov. 4.

Kipp had spotted a couple big bucks moving in the woods earlier that day, so VanDorsten got into his stand by 4:30 and waited nearly an hour and a half for something to happen. Shortly before 6 p.m. he looked into the woods and saw what looked like antlers — a very still pair of antlers. The deer finally moved at 5:57 and VanDorsten sent Kipp a text message telling him the big 10-point was up and moving.

The deer headed north toward Kipp, but may have picked up his scent in the north wind because it quickly turned back toward VanDorsten.  As the deer jumped logs and kept coming, VanDorsten prepared for a shot to his right. But the deer passed behind him, came around to his left and stopped behind some brush. By that time VanDorsten had already drawn.

“So I’m holding the draw, five seconds or so, and I’m thinking ‘you’ve got to move, you’ve got to move,’” he said. “He started moving and it didn’t look like he was going to stop, so I gave him a little ‘meep’ and he stopped right in my window.

“So I let him have it.”

Kipp doesn’t hesitate to rib VanDorsten about serving up the family’s newest member with the buck of a lifetime. Or about being his supervisor at work. Or about setting up VanDorsten’s bow in his archery shop, Indian Creek Archery.

“My boss put it pretty good when he saw that picture of that deer,” Kipp said. “He said ‘You’re a better father-in-law than I could ever be.’”

Despite Kipp’s repeated insistence that VanDorsten needs to find new hunting ground, the two will most likely hunt the property together again next season. But they joke that VanDorsten has painted himself into something of a corner. A smaller buck would be a letdown. A bigger buck might be too much for Kipp to handle.

And beneath all the ribbing, Kipp still has generosity in his heart. Mostly.

“Right at the beginning of the year I said I’d rather see him get it than some of the other guys, you know,” he said with a wistful smile. “But I really wanted it myself.”

(courtesy of http://www.greatnorthernoutdoors.net/vandorsten-buck)