It was my second evening on stand here in Wisconsin on this opening weekend of the 2006 bow season. I had succeeded in earning the right to hunt bucks this evening by successfully harvesting a doe the evening before. The weekend had been full of rain and warm temps to this point, but skies were clearing and temperatures were dropping. It was shaping up to be a good sit.
Earlier in the afternoon I had scouted this spot for worthiness of a hunt. Though subtle, I saw all I needed to see as I walked the overgrown logging road a couple hundred yards into the timber along a ridgetop. There was a natural puddle of water about 4 inches deep and only 3 foot by 3 foot around. This was a new lease for me this year but prior conversations with my hunting partner (and cameraman this night), Shawn, and careful review of topos and aerials revealed to me that the end of this ridge should be a usual buck bedding area. This water puddle was no doubt well known to the local critters and it could be just the ticket to ambushing a good buck in daylight.
With a southwest wind, I knew this spot was right this evening. Anything bedded at the end of the ridge would be laying on the east facing slope and basically have the wind at their back. To get to the water hole they would have a crosswind. I would sit the down and across-wind side of the puddle and should remain undetected to anything approaching.
With my stand and plan set, I returned to my truck to clean up, get dressed and get Shawn, who would be filming me this evening. Shawn brought his Lone Wolf hand climber and setup about 15 feet behind me from the puddle, providing a good angle to any action we may have.
As the evening passed, only a few small critters showed. We saw just about every color of squirrel out there as well as a raccoon, but no deer.
With about a half hour of good light left, I whispered to Shawn in my wireless microphone that it was getting to be about “that time” where we should be seeing something if it’s going to happen. It wasn’t but 10 seconds later that I turned my head towards the end of the ridge and noticed movement.
“Shawn, I see a deer down the ridge.” I whispered without moving. It’s a buck, and it has a rack.” Without binoculars, I couldn’t tell yet whether it was a shooter. Shawn started taping, and as he found the buck in his viewfinder and zoomed in I heard him say, “He looks pretty decent.”
When the buck reached the top of the ridge he made a 90 degree right turn and headed right for us, well, for the water puddle at least. As he got closer, I could see he was pretty wide. I guessed him about 18 inside.
At forty yards, he turned right again and started circling into the puddle a bit more downwind. Now I could see he had pretty good G4’s and long beams. “He’s looking pretty good” I whispered to Shawn.
“I’d shoot him,” I heard Shawn whisper back. I was holding myself to a 140 class minimum on this farm so I continued to remain fairly calm as I wasn’t yet convinced I was going to take him. But as the buck again turned his head another way, I saw a couple stickers coming off his tines and also saw he had really good mass. I’d made up my mind.
“I’m going to shoot him, Shawn.” Those were the last words we’d speak as the drama played out.
The buck turned again and came straight in to the puddle, dropped his head and began slurping down water, facing directly at me only 10 yards away. I stood ready to draw any moment as I waited for him to finish what I hoped would be his last drink. I had decent lanes both left and right of him so I just told myself to stay calm and wait this out.
About two minutes later, the buck started to his right, my left. I drew when he stepped into my 2 foot shooting lane through the thick, early season foliage below me. With a slight quartering towards me angle, I waited for his next step forward but knew I would need to put the pin tight to his shoulder. As he took that step, I let it fly and an immediate “WHACK” ended the silence.
All hell broke loose as the buck busted through the thick cover and downhill. I saw right away that my arrow had found its mark and was over halfway into the chest. “That’s a dead buck Dude!” was my immediate reaction to Shawn as I watched him take out trees on his death run.
3 seconds later it was all over. Though we didn’t see him fall, Shawn and I both felt great about what we’d just seen and knew he shouldn’t be far. We gathered our things after discussing what just happened and then headed back to the truck to meet up with our other hunting friend, Glenn who’d been hunting elsewhere on our lease.
After giving Glenn the good news, we decided it best to return to our other friend Lee’s place where we were staying to get his 2-wheeled deer cart. Neither Shawn nor I had our 4-wheeler with us this weekend and it’s always best to have some help getting deer out of the rugged terrain of Buffalo County.
Upon arriving at Lee’s, we found out our other buddy Dan (Infalt) had been busy whacking does this night, so we swapped some stories and footage, gathered our things, and 2 hours later were finally back at the farm to get my buck.
With a tight shoulder shot, the meat will most often cover up the hole through the chest. I wasn’t sure if my arrow made an exit hole, so I wasn’t very surprised that we didn’t find blood right away. The thick, head-high cover was making staying on the right exit path difficult so I climbed back into my stand and directed Shawn and Glenn from above. They scanned the ground for blood for a short while. As they got to the general area I’d last seen the buck, they started panning farther out with their lights.
One minute later I finally felt the feeling I’ve been waiting a long time to feel. “Come on down, Jarrod, I see a belly,” were Glenn’s words. The buck had pretty much crashed where we’d last seen him. I hurried down the tree to go have a look.
“He’s about everything you described and a little more” Glenn said excitedly as we high-fived. As I took my first look at the buck and put my hands around his rack, I knew I’d made the right choice in shooting. I’d killed a mature, slob buck with a beautiful early season cape and a rack with all kinds of character.
This is my mature, early season slob buck. He has 13 scorable point as a main frame 10 point. He has double forked brow tines and a sticker off his right G2 and G3. His inside spread is 19 3/8″. His live weight was 250 pounds and he field dressed at 193 pounds. The rack scores 144 1/8″ gross and 134 5/8″ net typical.
Fortunately our drag out of the woods was downhill to another old logging road. Then we had just a couple hundred yards uphill with the deer cart. It was 1:30 am before we finally had him out of the woods, loaded up, and back to Lee’s cabin. My 8 hour drive home to Michigan would have to wait until later.
As any completely addicted whitetail hunter knows, when you finally achieve a goal you work long and hard for, you don’t want that moment to end. We took pictures even further into the now cold, crisp night and it was 4am before we finally had supper! I guess that would be breakfast. We relived the moment on video over a few beers for another couple hours and reluctantly called an end to a perfect night in the early bow season of beautiful Buffalo County.