Kaylee Crane's Quest for "Cloud 9"

Our friend Kaylee Crane wrapped up a multi-year quest for a giant buck she named "Cloud 9". Here's how it all went down in her own words.

As I headed out for my fourth archery season this September, I had a bit of hesitation. We had a rough past few seasons, leaving those countless days, hours, and minutes of sitting in a stand fresh in my mind. We prepared just as we had year and year before, but something felt different. In years past, we had many highs and many lows as hunters. I’ve learned that patience could definitely run out as a hunter, even if you choose to stay determined and set back out day after day. I learned that you can grow and manage your herd to find your neighbors harvest the best deer on your list. I learned that the morning of rifle season, your anxiety level sky rockets at the question of which deer that could possibly of been. As a hunter, I learned that it’s okay to be frustrated because eventually it WILL pay off.


Early bow season was a bit different for us. As we picked up another farm that connects to our land, we felt encouraged, excited, and blessed, knowing this was where our best deer stayed the majority of the time. We hunted each and every moment we got in our early season bow stands no matter the temperature or pressure, feeling very thankful for my Sola 1.5 Performance shirt. We watched deer feed out into the 70-acre field we hunted over day after day. Something felt different. Nearing October, we made a few changes and hunted the last few days that we could before we got married and honeymooned.


cloud 92 Not only is Kaylee a great hunter... she's a very creative photographer.

We returned home on October 11th at 2am but happily set alarms for the next morning in hopes to have some newlywed luck. As we approached our best stand, we found it to be on the ground in pieces, our cameras turned backwards, and the heartbreak of knowing someone had completely done this on purpose. In a nutshell, we had lost our best spot and were completely betrayed. The emotions we had from past seasons had just doubled and the frustration turned into anger. We moved our stands and sat quietly the rest of the day.


Amazingly, the next few weeks leading up to the end of early bow season were great- we saw plenty of movement had about five close calls, one leaving the deer needing to step TWO more yards for an open shot, and encountering a deer that I named “Cloud 9” after a very close call last year. I was out by myself when a deer stepped out about 60 yards, clearly cruising for doe weeks before rut. I could barely breathe as I watched this incredible mature deer cross the field, just out of reach.


Cloud 9 has been on countless trail camera pictures and was generous enough to give us a picture from every angle we could have asked for, he was insanely lean- making us truly question his age. But one thing we knew, he was a mature deer and I was going to set out after him. Once rifle season started, our farm dwindled with movement. We couldn’t understand what was going on. On Friday, November 20th as we were driving out, we came face to face. He stood there, looking at us, and I couldn’t help but shake. He was even better in person, even taller than we had thought, and HE WAS ALIVE. That following Sunday, he stepped out from the draw we sit in front of, giving us literally a five second window to take a shot. Obviously, he had outsmarted us again.


As the second to last day of rifle season neared, we set out for what would be our last day of rifle hunting with our Savage.308 and incredible Leupold Fire-Dot scope.A gun, I had quickly fell in love with. That morning, we experienced more frustrations. But the evening of the 23rd , everything changed.


We sat down in our blind three hours before the best part of the night and somehow got into a deep conversation about life. We talked about everything that God had blessed us with and all the true beauty we get to experience each and everyday sitting in those stands or blinds. We talked about why everything had happened to us in the past years hunting and how it would someday pay off. We discussed how thankful we were for all the true determination and passion we have for this sport.


About an hour earlier than usual, we had some deer start feeding out into our field. Within a few minutes, Chase spotted a buck cruising the timber next to us. Although he was a nice deer, we decided to pass. Leaving us questioning our decision. After a few more moments, we could hear bucks fighting near us, scaring the deer we had passed on right back out to us. This time, truly unsure if we should attempt to harvest this buck; he was mature, had a nice rack, and clearly felt the need to tempt us. With gratitude, we decided to let him walk once again. The last of light was dwindling and we knew this was it. I scanned the field one last time with my Nikon Pro Staff binoculars and somehow managed to see a rack silhouetted up on the hill. I had to take a double glance to make sure I was truly seeing a shooter. I somehow managed to get my gun out that window before I had finished telling Chase that I could see a shooter and I was almost certain it was Cloud 9.


He was just topping the terrace when I came to the conclusion that if I was going to harvest this deer I have worked so hard for, I was going to have to push my Caldwell DeadshotFieldpod out of the way and shoulder the gun. Any hunter knows that shouldering a rifle is the toughest situation to be in. For myself, being hypoglycemic, my body likes to give me an extra shake. So here I am, barely able to keep my crosshairs right where I want them. I took one last shove into my shoulder, got on him, and pulled the trigger. I watched him drop right where he stood. Everything happened so much faster than any other hunt I had been apart of, I couldn’t comprehend anything that had just happened. All I knew was that I had just harvested a buck I dreamed of hunt after hunt. We didn’t have a camera with us that day and in some ways I’m so very thankful for that because this hunt is so vivid in my head and what happened in that blind from the moment we saw him to the moment we climbed out is something that I will cherish forever.



Kaylee and Chase and Cloud 9. Kaylee and Chase and Cloud 9.

As we neared Cloud 9, my body was shaking and the tears were flowing. I was ON Cloud 9. Chase and I can’t explain the gratitude we feel for these amazing animals, it’s indescribable, but we are so very thankful. Every deer, turkey, duck, etc. that we are able to harvest and share on our dinner table, we feel the need to pray over. I stood over my deer in complete shock. When we knelt down to pray over our incredible and well deserved harvest, I couldn’t close my eyes. As the words of Chase’s prayer surrounded me, I touched every inch of his rack, and felt the presence that God had in that very moment. He tested us earlier that hunt and earlier that season, he made us better. He made us better hunters, but most of all, he made us better people. Cloud 9 had one of the biggest capes from this season turned into our taxidermist and scored 158’’ aging at 5 ½ years. He will feed our family and friends for dinners to come and most of all, his story and this hunt will be something we share time and time again with all of our loved ones.


Congratulations Kaylee! On your wedding and the deer.

To learn more about Kaylee and see what other creative ideas she has, please see her contact information below.

Kaylee Crane- Owner & Designer

Little Sprout Design


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