Sometimes, killing a giant whitetail is the result of looking at a property–even one you’ve hunted all your life–in a different way. That’s exactly what it took for Branden Michel to tag a 215-inch Iowa giant this fall. The 33-year-old Iowan has been hunting his family’s farm since he was 16, and this fall, he was trying to figure out how a huge buck had been moving through the farm when he noticed a spot he’d always dismissed for a stand site. Sure enough, hanging a stand in that spot resulted in a trophy of a lifetime.
Michel got his first trail-cam pics of the buck last fall. “He showed up in the last week of October and triggered two different cameras,” the hunter told F&S. “But I couldn’t figure out anything about where he was coming or going.” While the Michel farm is large, most of the ground is tillable, with small blocks of timber serving as travel corridors. The combination can make for difficult patterning on a mature deer.
But on the morning of Halloween, 2021, Michel got an important tip on the buck’s whereabouts when the monster walked by a camera that wasn’t far from one of his tree stands. Michel hunted the stand that afternoon, and at about prime time, he watched as a small buck pushed does toward him. “Then I heard a deep grunt behind them and saw this huge buck following,” he said. “The big one walked in to 20 yards and stopped behind a patch of brush to watch the chase. I came to full draw and held forever; all he had to do was take two steps and I’d have had a perfect shot. But when the little buck chased the does off, the big one just turned around and walked away. I actually came close to crying. I didn’t think I’d ever see such a buck again.”
After that encounter, the giant buck disappeared again. Hunting pressure–especially during Iowa’s shotgun and muzzleloader seasons–on neighboring properties is intense, and Michel feared his one encounter might be his last. Then a late-winter shed hunt revealed a pleasant surprise. “I was walking the farm and had left a camera out through the last week of January,” he said. “I got one pic of him that week, and, of course, he disappeared again. But at least I knew he’d survived the hunting season.”
Second Chance at a Monster Whitetail
A trail-cam photo of the huge buck from this past October. Brandon Michel
In the weeks leading up to this fall’s archery season, Michel and his father, who is also an avid bowhunter, were working on stands on their farm when the younger turned his attention to an overlooked area of the property—an abandoned farmstead that had been turned into pasture. “It’s really kind of a dumb spot,” he laughed. “It’s only a quarter mile off a road and can be seen from there. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense that this might be the place the big one traveled to on our farm to avoid all of our stands and most of our cameras. So we decided to put a stand in that spot.”
On October 23, Michel got off work and headed straight to the new stand about three hours before dark. Dismayed by the sudden appearance of several coyotes that were howling and chasing prey in the pasture, Michel thought his hunt was over, until he spotted a buck standing in a nearby waterway 100 yards away. “I knew right away he was a shooter, but I didn’t recognize him at that point,” he recalled. “He disappeared into the cornfield for a bit, then popped out at the edge of the timber and started rubbing some willows. I grunted at him, and I knew he heard it because he acted mad, rubbing even harder and snapping his head back at me, looking for the buck he heard. When he turned his head, I aimed my grunts away from him, and he decided to come looking for me.”
The buck disappeared into cover as he approached, but when he appeared again he was already nearly within bow range. That’s when Michel saw the buck’s body and antlers and distinctive drop-tine. “I thought Oh sh*t, it’s him,” he said. “But at that point, I was honestly as calm as I’d been on any deer. I took the shot and knew I had a good hit. And then he turned and ran and I could see the whole rack. That’s when I fell apart.”
How “Kick Stand” Got Its Name
The bucks drop-tine was so big that it propped the deer’s head up, like a kickstand. Brandon Michel
The monster nontypical ran off a ways, then turned and ran closer to Michel, and then fell over in the hayfield. But before Michel could celebrate, the buck jumped up again and tore off into the standing cornfield. “He was knocking down three rows of corn as he ran,” Michel said. “And then I thought I heard him crash. I called my dad and my friends Derrick and Cody and they came out. We decided to give the buck 90 minutes, then followed the blood trail through the corn and found him on the edge. When I spotted that rack, I whooped and threw this light I’d borrowed from my dad up in the air. It broke when it came down, and I didn’t care.”
Michel had something to celebrate, alright. The massive buck grossed 215-6/8 B&C, had 21 scorable points, an inside spread of 18½ inches, and incredible mass that spreads throughout the rack, with no circumference under 6 inches and some over 7. And, of course, a huge drop tine that propped the buck’s head up when Michel laid it on the ground. “That’s when we started calling him ‘The Kickstand Buck,” he laughed. “Putting my hands on him was something else. I work really hard at bowhunting, because it’s my passion, and this buck was more reward than I ever hoped for. People say ‘Well you might as well quit now,’ but that’s not happening. What they don’t get is that I’m going to look for a buck like this every year, but if I shoot a 130- or 140-inch buck, I’m not going to be disappointed one bit.”