Story by: Dan Ryan | WI Deer Hunter
Wednesday Before Opening Day – Nov. 16
Three days before the season, I started looking at the weather and didn’t like what I was seeing. They were saying the wind was supposed to blow all day at 20mph with gusts up to 40mph for opening day. When I saw that, I decided to change my opening day plan of sitting in a pine tree 35 feet up, swaying in the wind on public land close to home, to instead driving 1 ½ hours to a chunk of public river bottom land that I only scouted but never hunted.
Opening Day – Saturday Nov. 19
Instead of sitting in the wind, three of us went down to the river bottom unit to do some deer drives. Two of us made the push, while the other posted up. I think we were all cursed. We ended up with no deer after kicking up five bucks during the drive. We couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. All we could do was laugh it off! Clearly the river bottom deer were good at evading high speed projectiles that day!
Day 2 – Sunday Nov. 20
The weather was perfect for the second day of season, so I went to the public land close to home with great anticipation! I have harvested my fair share of deer here over the years, in what was a relatively dried up, grassy old beaver pond. It had been this way for close to 10 years until the beavers moved back in late last fall. The beavers forced me up to higher ground this year, but I was still able to overlook a good portion of the now, quite wet pond.
I climbed the tree well before sun up and just when it was light enough to see into the pond I could hear deer running, but they were running the edge of the pond on the far side and out of sight. About an hour or so later, after tipping the bleat can a few times, I could hear an animal walking toward me. It sounded like it was only about 40-50 yards away, but I never did see it. The rest of Day 2 was uneventful.
Days 3 & 4 – Monday and Tuesday Nov.21-22
I had to work Monday and Tuesday and I was scheduled to work Wednesday, but we busted our butts to get a job done, so the boss said we could take the rest of the week off!!! Yep, the boss is a whitetail fanatic too!! Thankfully! So, Tuesday night I got home from work and called my cousin to see how they did. They hunted the first four days of the season up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and saw very few deer and came home with unfilled tags. So, I asked him what their plan was for Wednesday morning and he said they were planning on doing some deer drives and they were going to meet up at 10:00 A.M.
I told him I would be there at 10 and hung up. After I got off the phone with my cousin I checked the weather for Wednesday and it showed that we were supposed to have an easterly wind. I figured I had a solid 2.5 hours to hunt in the morning before I had to hook up with them. After contemplating on whether I wanted to take a stand or still hunt (sneak hunt) some public land, I made up my mind that I would sneak hunt a piece of public land about 2.5 miles from the public land I hunted Sunday. I have taken a couple deer using this method in the past on this piece of public ground, so just about every year I try it at least once.
This chunk lies East and West so I figured if I walk down to the west end and sneak hunt into the wind I might get a crack at a buck. Another reason I wanted to hunt this property was because I had a trail camera on there that I wanted to check. I wanted to see if I still had a dandy buck coming in around 3pm, or if the lucky hunter I saw on Facebook got him with his bow. The buck the guy shared on Facebook looked very similar to the buck I had video of on my camera. I was actually losing some sleep over it, not knowing if it was the same buck.
A still taken from a trail cam video Dan got of the palmated buck back in October.
Day 5 – Wednesday Nov. 23, 2016
The alarm went off, I got up, made a couple sandwiches, took a shower, and headed out. I was very excited because overnight we got close to 1″ of snow! Just enough to make everything white! I had plenty of time to get to my location before shooting light, so I took it slow on the drive there. I drove down a couple forest roads checking deer tracks that were crossing the roads. I didn’t see any tracks worth pursuing so I stuck to my original plan. I pulled into the parking area and started getting ready to hunt.
As I was getting ready, another hunter pulled in and headed out in the direction I was planning on ending up while sneak hunting. I thought to myself, “I hope I don’t push a big buck to him.” But I thought about it some more and just figured, “If it happens, it happens. That’s hunting.” By the time I got all my gear on and gun loaded, it was light enough to shoot. I walked out to the road and started heading west. I was going to walk the road all the way around, but then I noticed these knobs that had been clear-cut, so instead of walking the road all the way, I thought, “Why not just walk the top of the knob real slow?” I wanted to see what was all cut and how much it changed the landscape anyways.
I walked about ¾ of the way up the knob and had to take a whiz. I did my thing, looked around, and continued my way to the top. I got to the top and looked east, as I started looking west, down in the bottom in a narrow strip of trees between clear-cuts about 100 yards away, I spot something that looks like a tree or stump, but it isn’t white and it could possibly be a deer. I always say, “When in doubt, Check it out!” So I pull up my gun and scope it out. I couldn’t really tell, so I put the gun down, cranked up the scope from 4x to 9x and look again. Now, I can verify that it is indeed a deer.
The only problem is the deer’s head is about 75% covered up with pine boughs. I can’t just shoot because in this county there were no public land doe tags given out. I put the gun down for a second or two and thought about it. All I can do is look again and hope I can see an antler through the bows. This time I looked and could just make out a bit of antler. I then decided I didn’t care if it was a monster buck or a spike, I was going to attempt to harvest this animal. I realized our freezer was about empty and me and my family love venison!
Luckily for us we don’t have an antler restriction. I settled the crosshairs on the front shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The buck got up, I jacked another shell in and fired again. It was all over. My 30-06 Remington 7600 pump fitted with a Bushnell 3×9 that I purchased brand new when I was 16 did it’s job once again! After the second shot he went down, but I could not see him because of all the brush from the tree tops left behind from the logging operation. I stood on the knob for a good five minutes before making my way down to him. As I slowly made my way down the brushy knob I was thinking about what I saw in the scope on the second shot. I thought I saw a huge rack. I got to him and couldn’t believe it!
The massive public land buck lying in the tangled tree tops.
I actually harvested the buck I had on camera!! I was in disbelief. He was considerably larger on the ground than what he looked like on my trail camera! Finally, my 27th year hunting whitetails I got my chance at what might be the buck of my lifetime, and I got it done! Needless to say, he is nearly 50″ bigger than anything else on my wall! I guess all the hundreds of hours on stand, the hundreds of miles scouting, running trail cameras, and shed hunting finally paid off!
The 14-pointer with a 19-¼” spread field dressed at 180 pounds. The rack gross green scored 181-¾” unofficially.
I am very grateful and blessed. The stars all aligned on this day! While I was checking him out, I found another small fresh bed about 5 yards from his, so I have to thank the doe he was tending! I also need to thank my wife for allowing me the time to chase these amazing animals. I take pride in putting meat on the table that I know where it came from! Lastly, I also need to thank my buddy for driving out with his kids as fast as he could to take some great pictures. That was by far the best photo shoot I ever had. Also, thanks for helping me gut the deer, drag the deer out, haul the deer in his truck, and even caping and scoring the deer for me! Now that’s a great friend! He will be the next guy writing a story for Legendary Whitetails, I just know it! Thanks a million Dan B!