Being from the state of Wisconsin and growing up in a rural town, I was fortunate enough to develop a passion for the outdoors with my family. Throughout high school, I was able to make a quick escape on the weekends to hunt or walk my relative’s land, and always cherished and looked forward to that time. Once I made the transition to college, it was much tougher to make this happen. I attended the University of Wisconsin and played football there for the Badgers. Being involved in college football didn’t always allow me to be involved in the fall woods like I would have liked. But in the long run it was just a very minor sacrifice, as I lived out one of my dreams having the opportunity to play for the Badgers.
In the fall of 2009, however, I was able to get out in the woods in the late part of gun season. Coach had given us two days off right around Thanksgiving, so along with seeing family, it was a must for me to make the time to get out into the woods. The 2009 season was right in the midst of the CWD scare in the area and “earn a buck” was still in effect. Not having a buck tag in my pocket, my dad and I hit the woods for some good fellowship and the hopes of seeing some wildlife.
Sitting on a large ridge-top Conservation Reserve Program (“CRP
“) field amidst the rolling hills of Southwestern Wisconsin, I was tucked into a ladder tree-stand along the edge of the woods. Behind me lie some hardwoods and a bedding area, and in front of me is the large field. The field is slightly raised in the middle so when sitting in this stand, you can only see about one-third of the entire field. It is a very good spot for gun hunting as you can cover a lot of ground and often be in the path of a deer looking to escape to some thick bedding cover. When I sit in this stand, I have a typical “looking pattern” that I usually stick to. I slowly scan the field left to right for about 30 seconds and then slowly turn around and scan the woods for about the same amount of time. This outing was no different. The first morning we hit the woods I was fortunate enough to have a nice doe come up over the knoll of the CRP field to my right. Walking toward me, I gave her the time to present a good shot and harvested her around 8AM that morning. It was an exciting day! My dad and I got her registered and butchered up and settled in for the night, because we were planning on heading to the woods the next day.
This was my final day to be able to hunt that fall and now I had a buck tag in my pocket. Sitting in the same stand as the day before, my hopes were high and I was filled with anticipation. These emotions slowly faded as time passed with no seemingly no deer heading my way… But, at around 9:15 a.m., I heard what I thought were grunts over the knoll of the CRP ridge field. I was thinking to myself, “a buck grunting in the later part of the gun season?”… I thought I must have been hearing things. With the time of my hunt running short and seeing as it was my last day in the woods that fall, I reached for my bleat can call. Scanning side to side, I hit the doe bleat can about three times. Not thinking much of it, I put it back away in my pack and continued my typical scanning/looking pattern. About 10 minutes had passed and I was slowly scanning the thick woods behind me, seeing if anything had circled around me. Not seeing any movement behind, I slowly turned back around to start scanning the CRP field in front. As soon as I turned I caught the bright shine of sunlight on antlers about 45 yards out! Almost without even thinking or comprehending, I slowly reached for my .243 and put the crosshairs on his shoulder and pulled the trigger. My heart dropped; he didn’t act like I hit him very hard… So I quickly ejected the shell and squeezed off two more rounds on his shoulder and down he went!!
I quickly tried to collect myself and my thoughts and called my dad! I told him that I had a nice buck down but wasn’t for sure how big just yet. The buck was down within eyesight, but the knee high CRP didn’t allow for me to see much more than just tips of his antlers. I reluctantly waited for around 30 minutes, and hadn’t seen movement since he had initially fallen. When I arrived and saw the buck, I was in awe at how beautiful and impressive he was! Just an absolute beast with so much character! I immediately called my dad and brother, and told them to head my direction. I explained how I probably had just harvested what was the best buck off of the farm in a long time, and that he is definitely a wall mounter! I however, didn’t even realize the magnitude of this 8.5 year old stud. My dad jokingly and unsurely said, “Ok, we’ll see about that.”
When my brother and Dad arrived, I had a great time telling them the story of the harvest and my dad even ran home to grab the camera to capture the special moment. I am very thankful to have had the unique opportunity of harvesting such a magnificent animal! It is something I will never forget!