By Steve Wall
Many hunters will go their whole life hunting for a trophy buck. I may have killed the biggest buck of my life (and my first buck) at the age of 16. I am still optimistic, at the age of 30, that I may have the opportunity to harvest a larger buck. Times have changed and I am now hunting mostly public land, so you can see where my doubt of killing a larger buck comes in. Now don’t get me wrong, I was extremely excited when I shot this deer and I still am; However, I may be more proud of my recent accomplishments on public land. That is for another blog though so stay tuned for that!
This hunt takes us back to the year 2001. My dad and I were hunting trophy managed land in Southwest Wisconsin. I was going into my junior year of high school and still searching for my first buck. While all of my friends were probably out having fun on the river during the summer, I was walking through the woods during many hot summer days. I spent time spreading lime and fertilizer on food plots, helping them to grow and provide food and nutrition for the deer. I also spent many hot days looking for deer sign and trails. After finding a few good locations, my dad and I worked on setting up tree stands and trimming shooting lanes. All of this scouting helped me to better understand the deer movements in the area.
With the leaves on the trees changing colors, the archery season had finally arrived. While my friends were all going to football practice or to a game, I rushed home from school to grab my hunting gear and head out to the woods. I always paid attention to the wind direction and would choose the stand I felt gave me the best opportunity that day. I was fortunate to have good land on which to hunt, so I usually saw deer every night. I saw many does and fawns from the stands and a few young bucks as well, but I let them all go waiting for the chance at a mature buck. During late October and early November, I spotted some mature bucks searching for does. However, the mature bucks always seemed to take the trail that was just out of bow range. There were many nice bucks pictured on the trail cameras; however, almost all of the pictures were at night. The early archery season came to a close and there was a week off before the rifle season started. I spent the week thinking about what I could do to shoot a mature buck!
As the rifle season neared, I was hoping all the hard work and dedication I put in during the season would pay off. I had a hard time sleeping Friday evening, because I was thinking about all of the mature bucks in the area. I woke up early Saturday morning; I was excited and ready to get into the woods. My dad and I headed out to our stands; It was a foggy morning, and it took a while for the sun to shine through the clouds. I saw a few does and fawns throughout the day, but I spent most of the day looking for a mature buck. We met back at the cabin for dinner and talked about what we had seen during the day. My dad saw a few does and fawns as well as a small buck. We got up early again on Sunday and headed back out to our stands. I saw a few small bucks and a few other deer throughout the day, but the big buck I was waiting for still didn’t come by my stand. I had to go to school the next three days so my hunt was put on hold.
While at school, my mind was elsewhere, thinking about hunting and everything that I had done throughout the season. The next time that I would be able to hunt was Thanksgiving Day. We went out early and got into our stands; I was sitting in a stand along the edge of a large field, and my dad was in a stand down in the woods a few hundred yards away. We had to leave early so that we could eat lunch with my relatives at noon. I looked down at my watch and saw that it was almost time to leave, just then I heard a gun shot ring out from the direction that my dad was supposed to be coming from. I took off the safety on the gun and got ready. I saw a big mature buck come running out of the woods and into a clearing, and it stopped broadside at two hundred yards. Although it was a fairly long shot with my rifle, I aimed and took a shot at the deer with my Remington .243, but I missed and it took off running. It ran down into the woods; I sat there waiting, hoping it would come out the other side and into the field. Scanning the field, I saw the buck standing broadside again, about the same distance as before. I took careful aim trying to take advantage of this rare second chance, and I fired another shot at the big buck. He dropped right where he was standing, and I yelled out to my dad, “He’s down!” My dad came up out of the woods, almost as excited as I was, or maybe even more than me, and we walked up to the deer. It was still alive, so I had to shoot it one more time to kill it.
I had finally gotten the mature buck I was waiting for. This was the first buck that I had ever shot with the bow or the gun. It was a twelve-point buck with a sixteen inch inside spread. It also had a drop tine, a tine growing down off another tine, coming off the back on the left side. We went back to the cabin to celebrate and take a few pictures. As a bonus, this was a buck that we had pictured on a trail camera earlier in the season. Amazingly, this picture shows the drop tine perfectly! I was very grateful to harvest this spectacular animal after putting in all the hard work throughout the year. This was truly a buck of a lifetime and I may spend the rest of my life trying to shoot a buck bigger than this one.