Double Velvet Bucks Thanks To Musician Brantley Gilbert

A borrowed crossbow from Brantley Gilbert helped this husband-and-wife duo make an incredible opening-day memory.

Brad Gill | September 11, 2023

A messed-up crossbow right before bow season started meant that Nicki Johnson, of Jefferson, had to borrow one from her friend, musician Brantley Gilbert.

“Brantley and I grew up together, so I ran to his place to get his Raven crossbow the evening before our hunt. She practiced with it and got it zeroed in,” said Nicki’s husband, JT.

JT is a certified wildlife biologist with the UGA Deer Lab and no stranger to bowhunting and Georgia Deer Records. He’s got the current No. 1 Jackson County bow-kill, a 145 5/8-inch deer killed in 2016. JT enjoys hunting with both a compound and a recurve bow.

“Nicki and I were hunting on our family farm, which is where I harvested the county archery record in 2016,” said JT.We’ve been watching these deer all summer. The week prior to the season opening, we’d been watching cameras holding our breath that they’d stay in velvet and give her an opportunity. We were hoping to put velvet on the wall and meat in the freezer. The plan was for her to harvest a velvet buck, and I had no plans on shooting.”

JT had a video camera in his hands hoping to capture the hunt for Nicki’s first velvet buck.

“The first deer showed up, but unfortunately her shot was obscured from my view,” said JT. “Even though I couldn’t get it on camera, I told her to take the deer when he went broadside. She made a perfect shot.” 

They heard the deer crash and decided to switch roles, Nicki grabbed the camera and JT took the crossbow. 

“Before we finished getting reset, my buck entered the food plot and came straight to us,” said JT. “I wouldn’t normally take a 3-year-old, but since he was in velvet, I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass since I’d never harvested a velvet buck. Plus, the experience of double velvets with her was all I needed to pull the trigger. It would also be my first crossbow deer ever.

“He started getting nervous, and I decided I’d take him as soon as he turned to bolt. Both deer went down within 75 yards from our blind in opposite directions. Her buck was 4 1/2 and mine 3 1/2. I don’t think we’ll ever top that hunt together, experience of a lifetime.”

Brantley Gilbert’s take on this?

“He’s so stoked for us,” said JT.

No word yet if Brantley will get that borrowed crossbow back.

“It’s got some serious good luck charm to it now!” said J.T.

Jackson County Best Crossbow Bucks Of All-Time

1156 4/8 (NT)Johnny Bell2002JacksonCrossbowView 
2120 1/8 David Ruark2013JacksonCrossbow
3107 5/8 Eddie Bradberry2005JacksonCrossbow

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