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Ken Perrotte: Browns bag bucks together as father-daughter hunting duo
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Ken Perrotte: Browns bag bucks together as father-daughter hunting duo

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Lainey Brown with her buck - Ryan Brown photo

Lainey Brown has stepped into the family tradition of hunting deer.

Deer hunting is a family tradition in Ryan Brown’s home, a passion he began developing at age 5 and tagging along to hunt with his father on their rural Fluvanna County farm.

Today, he is passing along his love for a good sit in a treestand to his teenage daughter and recently bought her a new Ruger American rifle chambered in .350 Legend. Lainey, Brown’s daughter, may have to get used to sharing her rifle, especially after he used it to take a real wall hanger trophy buck last year.

The rifle is a good fit for most stands, compact and light. Plus it packs a lot more downrange punch than the gun Lainey had been shooting.

“Her first gun was an old single-shot .243 youth rifle that came from grandpa, where all good rifles come from,” Brown said. “She had success with the rifle every year she carried it, taking a number of white-tailed does.”

Brown is director of Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources. Like his father, he gave his young daughter ample opportunities to accompany him on hunts, giving her a chance to experience the wonders of the woods.

He calls Lainey’s shooting skills “impressive” for her young age. She often outshoots him at the range.

Lainey holds the distinction of taking the largest wild turkey gobbler ever recorded in the Brown family, an old tom weighing 22 pounds, 7 ounces that was wearing an 11.5-inch beard and wielding tremendous 1.75-inch spurs.

“She had to settle me down when that bird was coming in. I was shaking but she was steady as a rock,” Brown said.

With her Ruger .350 Legend, she quickly took a “racked” buck, something that had eluded her in previous years. It was a 7-pointer her dad scouted for her on a hunt of his own. They worked together to plan a hunt, strategizing ideal ambush points. Lainey preferred one location, but they ended up hunting a favored alternate, one picked out by dad.

“We sat in the blind that dad considered to be the sure thing and, of course, no deer showed up,” Brown said with a smile. “The second afternoon, we hunted where Lainey wanted to hunt. A little before dark, a doe approached. Lainey let the deer pass. A couple minutes later, a young buck, estimated to be 1.5 years, cruised by. She, again, declined the shot. A second later, the 7-pointer appeared. As often happens for kids, the deer cooperated and Lainey took the buck,” he said.

Brown often hunts brushy areas, places where shots rarely exceed 100 yards. Deer usually don’t give you too long of a look before vanishing. Lainey’s rifle might be just the ticket for these spots, he concluded. Plus, he had shot the rifle several times and really enjoyed its performance and light recoil, explaining his fondness for lighter-kicking calibers dates to when he was a 110-pound, wiry teenager hunting with a shoulder-thumping .30-06.

“It was a bit much. I developed a recoil sensitivity that took me some time to overcome,” he said. “Not worrying about recoil leads to better shots and the key to all rifles, including this .350, is shot placement. If you’re confident with your rifle and the caliber that you’re shooting with, when the time comes, you’ll make good shots.”

Like daughter,

like father

While hunting an overgrown cutover near a hardwood bottom last year, Brown used Lainey’s rifle to tag one of his best Virginia whitetails ever, a heavy-antlered, high-racked mainframe 8-pointer with a 9th-point kicker.

“I was in my stand and I heard something behind me. I carefully glanced over my shoulder and saw the deer,” he said.

Brown was initially unsure of the deer’s size, but as it approached, he decided it looked good enough to expend one of his buck tags.

Bucks in thick cover are notorious for confounding hunters, often veering off expected routes or vanishing behind trees or shrubs. Fortunately, for Brown, this deer pulled no such Houdini act and strode toward the stand, pausing at 40 yards before turning broadside and offering a perfect opportunity. The 145-grain ballistic tip bullet found its mark.

“I knew the deer was well-hit when I shot. It likely wouldn’t go far,” Brown said.

While Brown knew the buck was nice, he initially didn’t think it was anything exceptional in the antlers department. Since Virginia hunters can legally take two deer a day and it was a cold morning, he opted to stay in his stand a little longer. After all, a doe or a big buck still might come by. After replaying the shot scenario in his head, though, he began reconsidering the deer below him and climbed down for a better look.

Brown found the deer in a thick clump of scrubby vegetation along the cutover. He knelt, lifting the buck’s head to marvel at its magnificence. He also was surprised at his previous uncertainty about the buck’s stature.

After snapping a couple photos, he called a friend to share the news before field dressing the deer. His Thanksgiving “grateful for” list had grown by one.

The buck later measured, for those interested, just under 140 inches on the Boone and Crockett scale, a beautiful 8-pointer in anybody’s book.

Still, his big buck pales in comparison to his feelings for his daughter’s accomplishment.

“Lainey has definitely stepped into the family tradition of hunting. She is representative of a lot of what we see today with more female hunters getting into the sport. I’ve found she enjoys being in the woods as much as me and relishes the hunting experience whether we actually tag something or not,” Brown said.

Now, Dad, get your own .350.

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