Dodging a Bullet

2018 wisconsin gun season bucks - Tom Gatzke

The patriarch of our hunting party traveled a perilous road to show up at deer camp.

Waking up at 5am opening morning of gun deer season is greeted with high hopes and expectations by everyone in our hunting party. Prior intelligence gathering had revealed some nice bucks are available, and each hunter in camp has a game plan to cross paths with one. One of the seven hunters in camp had already accomplished his goal just by being there. Tom, the patriarch of this group had been told by his doctor, eleven months prior, that he had stage four kidney cancer and had six months to live. An operation and a series of treatments with an immunotherapy drug led to him being cancer free within eight months of his original diagnosis. Cutting edge medical treatment allowed him to “dodge a bullet”. Having Tom at camp lifted everyone’s spirits, especially since we are all family.

Opening morning, no shots were fired by our group, but that changed by late afternoon. A series of shots rang out from a valley where Tom and two of his sons were on stands. It sounded to me like the shots came from a .30-.30. Tom has been a loyal .30-.30 shooter for decades, and in our camp he is nick-named “.30-.30” to differentiate him from a nephew with the same given name, who goes by the nickname of “.270”. Chances were good that “.30-.30” would have a story to tell when we all gathered back at camp that evening.

When it comes to telling a story, ‘ol .30-.30 knows how to spin one. His recounting of how he downed the “big one” had us all in stitches. Five guys gladly tied a long rope to the mature nine pointer and dragged him uphill the half mile back to camp. In a lifetime of deer hunting it was the heaviest buck Tom had ever shot. No one had to mention the fact that this guy, who was just fortunate to be in camp, had beat the odds and downed a great buck to boot. We all felt it. Justice was his and the world was right. Times like this emphasize that hunting is so much more than what occupies the meat pole.

The next day, Sunday, everyone headed out to take stands prior to first light. Again, things were quiet for our group until late afternoon. Around 3:45pm, a rifle barked twice. It had a familiar ring. It turned out Tom had taken a stand in a tree line bordering a picked bean field in a place that just felt right to him. An hour and a half into his post, a nice eight point entered the field 90 yards away. Both of his shots hit the boiler room.

2018 wisconsin gun season bucks - Tom Gatzke

Tom’s opening weekend bucks

Tom commented that downing this buck made for “his best two days of shooting bucks ever”, not his best two days of hunting ever, mind you, because when you look back at all the days put in at deer camp, they’re all good… especially when your doctor tells you that you’ll never see another one.

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