From Gut Wrenched to Celebration

AJ Gall

For Kurt Kowaleski, the hunt was made well before he saw a giant Wisconsin whitetail heading his way.  As any hunting parent knows, the first time taking their kid out is special.  It was his daughter, Ella’s, first time bow hunting and she was in a stand a few yards down the tree line from Kurt.  The two of them were overlooking a CRP (tall grass) field from a tree line that ran along the edge of a corn field.  It wasn’t long before his daughter spotted a doe working its way towards her.  Unfortunately, the doe never presented a shot, but Ella was natural and even lured the doe a little closer with a few soft mouth bleats.  It was plain to see, Ella belonged in the woods and this made for one proud father.

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The golden hour of hunting was yet to come, but Kurt’s hunt was already made and he could barely keep the grin off his face.  The two of them were positioned perfectly in a transition area between bedding cover and food.  A massive early-season cold front was also pushing its way through the upper Midwest – creating ideal conditions for a mature buck to move during daylight.

Minimal human activity was another factor they had on their side.  Kurt and his buddy, Jason Hamel, have been hunting the property for a few years now and have learned how to hunt and scout it effectively, all while keeping the pressure off the deer.  Trail cameras are only checked three or four times all summer and does aren’t to be shot until late-season, unless by a youth hunter.  Early-season is typically the time the property is at its best because crops are still standing, deer are still on their early season feeding patterns, and the tree line offers plenty of cover for hunters.

2016 Giant Wisconsin BuckKurt with his giant buck after they pulled it out of the creek.

Once the doe walked out of sight, the evening stage was set.  However, despite perfect conditions, deer movement was less than expected on this cool, dreary night, and the next deer didn’t show itself until 15-minutes before close.  From a long way off, Kurt spotted a deer out in the CRP and immediately noticed it’s rack.  It was a good looking buck from what he could tell and it was slowly making its way towards him and his daughter. The giant buck was going to have to close some serious distance in a short amount of time if either one of them were going to get a shot.

The buck was working its way across the neighboring property when it stopped to make a couple rubs.  Time was of the essence, now.  Once it finished marring up the two trees, the buck took a trail that if it were to continue along, would bring him right by Kurt for a 15-yard shot.  Now, the buck was closing in and things were about to get serious.  100 yards turned to 80 . . . then 60 . . . then 40 – it was looking like it was going to be a chip shot for Kurt.

2016 Giant Wisconsin BuckA trail camera caught the giant moving through the property back in August.

By now, Kurt could see just how big this buck really was.  As he tried to remain calm for the anticipated 15-yard shot, the buck had other plans.  Instead of staying on the trail, it veered off at 35 yards and stood in front of the lone bush in the CRP.  With no time to range the buck, Kurt drew back, and let the arrow fly.  From prior knowledge, Kurt had known the distance to the bush was 40 yards, thus, he figured the buck was at 35 yards.  He figured right, but the arrow didn’t hit where he was holding his pin.

Instead, he saw his lighted arrow nock hit way in front of the shoulder.  His heart sank and rather than feeling the instantaneous rush of adrenaline, Kurt was gut-wrenched.  He immediately called into work from his treestand to tell them he wouldn’t be in the next day because he’d be tracking a deer.  He sat the last few minutes in disbelief before climbing down and walking over to his daughter’s stand.  The search would begin tomorrow – or so he thought.

2016 Giant Wisconsin BuckA Wisconsin giant with crazy character!

Later that night, Kurt had to deliver some pipe to a coworker since he wouldn’t be at work the next day.  On his way home he stopped by his buddy, Ben’s house, who just so happened to have a blood tracking dog.  After discussing the shot placement, the plan was to wait two hours before going in to look for first blood and/or the arrow since there was a chance of rain that night.  Once they got to the site of the shot, plans changed.

It didn’t take long to find first blood because it was everywhere!  Immediately, Ben’s dog, Daisy, took the trail and with the amount of blood they were seeing, they figured it was safe to continue tracking the big buck. As they were working along the trail, Daisy shifted gears from go-go-go to proceed with caution.  Usually, Ben can hardly keep up when Daisy is on the scent of a wounded deer, but now she was acting funny despite the carpet of red the buck was still spraying out.

Kurt stayed behind Ben and Daisy, making sure there was still blood, when he heard Ben say, “Come and get your buck!  Wait…. this can’t be your buck, it’s already gutted!?” 

Kurt hurried to the scene, eager to see what the heck Ben was talking about.  They stared down at the giant buck lying in the water of a small creek with its stomach open. Indeed, it was the giant buck Kurt had shot just hours ago, and within the few short hours they left it lay, coyotes had torn into the stomach cavity.  Luckily, that was all they were able to get to.

2016 Giant Wisconsin BuckKurt’s brother, Alan, drags the deer through the thigh-high creek.

What was already a great hunt following his daughter’s encounter with a doe, now, got even better.  It was a fairly quick recovery on the big bruiser, which was lying dead before Kurt ever climbed down from his stand.  Kurt still has no idea what caused him to hit where he hit, but in the end, all that matters is that he found it.  Now he gets to spend the rest of the season filming his daughter’s hunts, which is just fine by him.

Kurt sincerely appreciates the tracking help he received from his friends that night, especially from Ben and his blood tracking dog, Daisy.  He also wants to thank his hunting buddy, Jason Hamel.  If they didn’t hunt with the same standards and cooperation, this buck would have never been possible.


About The Author
From Woods to Table

AJ Gall

AJ Gall's prior hunting and wildlife experiences began long ago and make him the perfect contributing deer hunting guru.  As a habitat consultant under Dr. Grant Woods, AJ has worked on properties in 13 different states, amassing over 25,000 acres of quality deer management. He now uses that knowledge to help clients find their dream hunting properties as a licensed real estate agent in Wisconsin.  


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