Story by: Andy Holst | WI Deer Hunter
So, I’ve been reading a lot of posts about what people should or shouldn’t shoot. “Outside the ears”, “4 1/2 or older”, “if it’s brown it’s down”, “don’t shoot does”, I’ve heard it all. I decided to write this in hopes of shedding some light on the topic and maybe make people realize, “Hey, maybe that hunter is at a different point in their hunting career. Or maybe their hunting property requires different management than yours. Or maybe they just like to hunt and don’t care what they shoot.”
I started shooting a bow at age four (37 years ago) and was killing small game soon after. I loved killing chipmunks in my grandmother’s yard with my trusty Proline compound bow and crested cedar arrows tipped with Bodkin broadheads. A true trophy for me at this age was the rare 13 lined ground squirrel, which I did kill a few of.
Author’s first deer kill – a gross Booner!
I was lucky enough to start bow hunting whitetails in Illinois at age 10. I loved it from my first sit when I was busted by two does and had a screech owl come investigate me at about six feet. I hunted when I could for the first two seasons until we moved to a new house. I was able to hunt right in my backyard, which was a big deal since I was only 13 and couldn’t drive. I hunted hard from the opener on October 1st (Illinois) until my life changed on November 7th. I came home from pheasant hunting with my dad and we saw a nub buck chasing a doe in the beans behind the house. At this point, either one of those deer would’ve been trophies. I headed to the tree line and climbed into a bush. Well, I ended up arrowing a gross Booner that night. I was very excited, but didn’t know what I had done. I did know, however, I wanted to do it again.
Pair of 10’s my dad, Chris, and I arrowed in the Shawnee National Forest
This is where the real fun began. I was fortunate to also hunt some public land in southern Illinois with my dad that had a great deer population. I went on an absolute killing spree through my teenage years. I killed does, nubs, small bucks. And you know what? I was in deer hunting bliss. These “teeth cutting” years proved to be extremely valuable to my future success as a bowhunter. I made many mistakes mixed in with some occasional success. I learned about wind, calling, stand placement, field dressing, and the rest of the basics that you need to know as a hunter.
This brings me to my late twenties and thirties. I thought I was ready to up my game and start hunting for big bucks. Well, let’s just say these may have been more mistake filled years than when I was young. As many of you know, targeting mature bucks is not easy and when it came to these awesome creatures, I really didn’t know squat. I spent many hours on stand without much success, but I loved every second of it. I also learned boatloads about mature buck behavior. Then, my buddies and I leased a 270-acre tract in the golden triangle. I did harvest a few good bucks, many 3-½ year old’s, which cover my man cave walls.
Public land 10-pointer
Now to my current situation. I started this bow season telling myself, fully mature buck or nothing. Let’s just say I have unused tags in multiple states, an empty freezer, a wife telling me she wants hot sticks and you know what? I’m fine with that. There’s a Booner in Illinois I’m after and a buck here in Wisconsin that is what bowhunters dream of. I’ve been chasing some serious studs this year and it’s been a blast!
To this day, one deer hunt I think of most was my first doe. It was the year after my Booner and what was so special was I was 14 and I did it all by myself. I hung, hunted, killed, tracked, gutted and drug. I was pretty proud of myself.
Author’s first doe and most proud hunting achievement.
When I see a pic of a young kid holding a basket six, my heart warms thinking of my days hunting the Shawnee. When I see a seasoned veteran arrow a slob, I think to myself, I bet that guy really put his time in. Each deer is a trophy in their own right, DON’T JUDGE! You can’t possibly know the hunters story from one picture on social media. Hunters have enough battles to fight these days, let’s not be our own worst enemy.