Sometimes killing a giant whitetail is the result of taking a different look at a property – even one you’ve been hunting all your life. That’s exactly what Branden Michel needed to tag a 215-inch giant from Iowa this fall. The 33-year-old Iowan has been hunting on his family’s farm since he was 16, and this fall he was trying to figure out how a giant buck had moved through the farm when he noticed a spot he’d always dismissed for a standing site . In fact, hanging a stand on this spot resulted in a trophy of a lifetime.
Michel got his first trail cam pictures of the buck last fall. “He showed up the last week of October and triggered two different cameras,” the hunter told F&S. “But I couldn’t find out anything about where he came or went.” Although Michel Farm is large, most of the ground is buildable, with small wooden blocks serving as travel corridors. The combination can lead to a difficult pattern in an adult deer.
But on the morning of Halloween 2021, Michel received a major clue as to the buck’s whereabouts when the monster walked past a camera not far from one of his stands of trees. Michel was chasing the stand that afternoon and around prime time he watched as a small buck pushed females towards him. “Then I heard a deep grunt behind them and looked after this huge buck,” he said. “The big one went in to within 20 meters and stopped behind a bush to watch the pursuit. I got to the full train and lasted forever; He only had to take two steps and I would have had a perfect shot. But when the little buck chased the hinds away, the big one just turned and walked away. I was actually close to crying. I didn’t think I would ever see a buck like that again.”
After this encounter, the giant buck disappeared again. Hunting pressure – especially during Iowa’s shotgun and muzzleloader season – is intense on neighboring properties, and Michel feared his one encounter could be his last. Then a late winter shed search revealed a pleasant surprise. “I was walking around the farm and had left a camera outside the last week of January,” he said. “I got a picture of him this week and of course he’s gone again. But at least I knew he survived the hunting season.”
Second chance for a Monster Whitetail
In the weeks leading up to archery season this fall, Michel and his father, who is also an avid bow hunter, were working on stands on their farm when the younger turned his attention to an overlooked area of the property – an abandoned homestead that had previously been in willow transformed. “It really is a stupid place,” he laughed. “It’s only a quarter mile from a road and can be seen from there. But the more I thought about it, the more it turned out that this might be where the big one on our farm traveled to, dodging all of our booths and most of our cameras. So we decided to set up a stand at this location.”
On October 23, Michel came home from work and headed straight to the new booth about three hours before dark. Dismayed by the sudden appearance of several coyotes howling and chasing prey in the pasture, Michel thought his hunt was over until he spotted a buck standing 100 meters away in a nearby stream. “I knew right away he was a Sagittarius, but I didn’t recognize him at the time,” he recalls. “He disappeared into the cornfield for a while, then popped up at the edge of the wood and started rubbing some willows. I grunted at him and I knew he heard it because he was acting mad, rubbing even harder and jerking his head back at me, looking for the dollar he heard. When he turned his head, I directed my grunt away from him and he decided to look for me.”
The buck ducked for cover as it approached, but when it reappeared it was almost within bow’s reach. At that moment Michel saw the body and the antlers of the buck and the prominent tine of the fall. “I thought Oh shit, it’s him,” he said. “But at that point I was honestly as calm as I was on any deer. I took the shot and I knew I had a good hit. And then he turned around and started running, and I could do the whole thing See Regal. That’s when I collapsed.”
How Kick Stand got its name
The uncharacteristic monster ran away a little, then turned and ran closer to Michel and then fell over in the hay meadow. But before Michel could celebrate, the buck jumped up again and raced into the standing corn field. “He knocked over three rows of corn while running,” Michel said. “And then I thought I heard it crack. 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 trail of blood through the corn and found him on the edge. When I spotted the frame, I cheered and threw this light, which I borrowed from my father, into the air. It broke when it came down and I didn’t care.”
Michel had something to celebrate, okay. The massive buck earned 215-6/8 B&C, had 21 assessable points, an 18½” inside spread and an incredible mass that spread throughout the rack with no girth under 6″ and a few over 7. And of course a huge drop prong , who supported the buck’s head as Michel laid it on the ground. “That’s when we started calling him ‘The Kickstand Buck,'” he laughed. “Putting my hands on him was different. I work really hard at bowhunting because it’s my passion and this buck has been more of a reward than I could ever have hoped for. People say, “Well, you might as well stop now,” but that doesn’t happen. What they don’t understand is that I’ll be looking for a buck like this every year, but if I shoot a 130 or 140 inch buck I won’t be disappointed one bit.”