Deer management program pays off big time for father and son.
Each year as I sit in my stand, I daydream of the big bucks that live in our part of the country. I paint a vivid picture of my son, Kevin, holding the rack of a trophy buck as he smiles at me and we share the closeness that only those who have been there can understand.
Another wish was that my son and I would harvest nice bucks together in the same year. Cancer took my father before he had the chance to enjoy such moments with us, and I often think of him and how happy he would be to be part of the bonding at camp.
In today’s world of computers and video games, many of our kids are missing out on the quiet and beauty that nature provides. I know the moments afield with my son have brought us closer and have had a strong impact on his life.
I have been hunting for about 40 years, and Kevin, 27, has been a hunter since he was 12. We hunt in the Driftless area of southwest Wisconsin — rolling hills shaped by glaciers during the Ice Age. The beautiful landscape just adds to the enjoyment of our time together.
I have harvested several nice bucks since we started a Quality Deer Management program four years ago. As a pro staffer for Realtree and Woods Wise game calls, I have met some experienced and knowledgeable hunters over the years and have learned how to manage the land we hunt. With proper nutrition and allowing bucks to grow older, we have increased the size and quality of the bucks on the property.
The 2006 season was a great one for our group. It started in the spring when we planted or food plots. Once they were ready, we shifted our focus to the deer and set up trail cameras. We were able to photograph some terrific bucks cruising the properties, which helped us select the best stand locations.
I couldn’t wait for bow season and the pre-rut. That’s when I like to start hunting bucks; they seem to be more predictable. But because of conflicts with work, I wasn’t able to hunt until the latter part of October. Upon my arrival Friday afternoon before the hunt, I decided to get in some last-minute target practice to make sure nothing had moved on my bow during the trip.
After a couple of shots, I heard a funny sound. I gave the bow a close look and was stunned to find a long crack on one of the limbs. I was crushed. After all that waiting and anticipation, my hunt was over before it even started.
The following week, I made my way to deer camp for the early gun season. The alarm went off, and I wondered if any of us really got a good night’s sleep. I’m always too excited, pumped up by visions of big bucks walking under my stand.
My brother Scott and I began the walk to our stands. Scott’s stand is in the middle of the property in a place we call Deer Central. My stand sits in a fenceline at the top of a hill, which is great for seeing deer, but also feels like a wind tunnel.
After sitting many long hours over several days, Scott and I had yet to see a mature buck. The last day was upon us, and the wind shifted around to the northeast, which carried my scent right to the deer. I didn’t realize the change until I was already in my stand and didn’t have time to move.
A few moments later, I heard something walking at the edge of the cornfield to my left. I peered down the fencerow, but it was still too dark to see. I was sure it was one of the monster bucks we had captured on the trail cameras. I used my deer call a few times and saw a big buck step out from the corn and into the black walnut field. I knew instantly that the deer was a shooter!
The buck was headed toward a bedding area, and I stopped him with a “BAAAH.” At that point, I put the crosshairs on his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The buck went down immediately.
It wasn’t long before Scott came on the radio and asked, “Well?”
All I said was, “He’s big; real big. He’s one of the bucks from the cameras, and he’s down for the count.”
As I got down out of my stand and walked over to the buck, all I could see was antlers sticking up off the ground. As I got closer, I knew it was the biggest buck any of us had ever taken. I got on the radio again and told Scott it was a big one. The huge 8-pointer had 11-inch P2s and P3s and measured 140 inches.
The next time out was the regular Wisconsin deer season in mid-November. Temperatures were in the 50s and the deer just weren’t moving. Nobody even touched a trigger, and we headed home with higher hopes for Thanksgiving weekend.
We were out bright and early that Thursday and hunted the whole morning without seeing a deer. That night, we celebrated Thanksgiving at deer camp for the first time. Over dinner, Kevin announced he had to cut his hunt short because of work and would only be able to hunt the next morning.
After a few uneventful hours the next day, I told Kevin to meet me so we could head to my brother’s stand we call the Maple Tree Stand. I then took a walk to look for fresh deer sign. I watched Kevin get settled in and then started my walk around the back side of a big draw where the deer funnel in from adjoining properties.
As I started down into the pines that frame the valley, I saw a few deer get up and head down the ridge and stop on the other side. One was a dandy buck, but by the time I pulled up to try a shot, it had walked off into the brush.
Suddenly I heard a shot, followed by another. I immediately got on the radio and asked who was shooting. Little Scott, another member of the group, said he had taken a doe.
My brother said the doe ran down the fence line by him and suggested we circle around below the thicket to look. We made a lot of noise finding the doe and yelling to each other before shots rang out again, giving us a start. They came from Kevin’s direction!
I pumped my arm and fist, knowing that if Kevin was shooting, it had to be at one of the monster bucks we had on film. Moments later, Kevin came on the radio and said, “Dad, I got the big one! He’s a monster buck! It’s the biggest I’ve ever seen!”
As I cleared the crest of the hill and walked toward Kevin, I could see the buck on the ground. The antlers were visible from 100 yards, and I ran up to Kevin and said, “Wow, son, that is a dang big buck!”
After a hug and a handshake, Kevin and I just stood there looking down on this trophy with amazement. I almost started to cry and immediately thought of my dad, again wishing he were there to share the moment with us. I hope I have done as good a job of passing on the hunting tradition as he did, and I’m pretty sure he would be proud.
Kevin’s buck was a 10-pointer that measured 154 7/8 inches.
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This article was published in the November 2007 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.