Rack Magazine

Bookends

Bookends

By John E. Phillips

This bowhunter’s 2015 buck is a quarter-inch bigger than the one he arrowed in 2013.

David Wagler never thought he’d top the buck he arrowed in 2013. But it took only two seasons for him to find the bookend to his previous best whitetail.

“My heart was broken when the landowner sold the 60-acre tract where I took my big CRP buck (featured in Rack’s April 2017 issue),” he said. “But my brother, Lester, and I still had about 440 acres of that same farm left to hunt. It, too, had 100-yard-wide swaths of CRP divided by timber.”

Neither thought much of it, however.

“Although I set up trail cameras on the 440 acres, I didn’t get any pictures of big deer. Lester hadn’t seen any trophy bucks there either,” David said.

That left David with his own 35 acres, plus his neighbor’s 200. David had also put out trail cameras on the 200 acres behind his house and had retrieved some photographs of nice bucks, which is why he decided to spend his 2014 and 2015 bow seasons there.

In 2014, he took a mainframe 10-pointer that scored 160.

When the 2015 bow season arrived, David never saw those big bucks, only some in the 130s and 140s, and he didn’t want to tie his only buck tag on those deer.

“The morning of Nov. 13, I decided to hunt the 200 acres,” he remembers. “We’d had more pictures of trophy bucks moving on our trail cameras on Nov. 13 than on any other day. That day always seemed to be the best day to hunt with a bow.

“Soon, I saw two young bucks chasing a doe across the field. I decided to move to a different spot for my afternoon hunt,” he said.

Lester had been hunting the 440-acre farm and seen some does come out of a woodlot and move out into the field. David felt that might be a good place to hang a treestand and decided he’d shoot a doe, if he didn’t see a buck.

Rifle season would start soon, and he still needed meat for the freezer. David didn’t think he’d have a chance at harvesting a big buck before bow season ended.

David set up a ladder stand in a big cottonwood tree and left it for a couple of days before hunting from it. The downside was there weren’t many leaves or branches to break up his silhouette.

On Nov. 25, a south wind was blowing fairly hard, and the temperature was 60 degrees. The weatherman had predicted a late-afternoon or nighttime storm.

David arrived at 4 p.m. and hoped a buck would move before the storm hit. After an hour, he looked over his shoulder and spotted a huge whitetail at 50 yards. Neither David nor Lester had ever seen this buck. There were no trail camera pictures of it.

“The spot I was hunting was a field edge, with a creek running alongside it,” David said. “I’d put my treestand near the bend in the creek.”

Standing with his back to the tree, using the trunk to keep him from being silhouetted, David saw the buck and thought the tines seemed thick, but somewhat short. And the rack was not very wide.

Regardless, David got in position to take a shot. The buck raked small trees with its antlers but still moved toward David. At 40 yards, the buck gave a long, drawn-out grunt.

David surveyed the land around him, thinking he might see a deer that had heard this big grunt, but couldn’t spot any others.

“Then I got concerned that the deer might walk directly under my stand, and I wouldn’t be able to take a shot,” he said.

When it was 20 yards away, the buck turned and started walking toward the north, giving David a clear shot. But there was brush between him and the deer.

The buck then turned and walked to the southern, more woolly side of Dave’s hiding place.

“I became concerned again, because I couldn’t find an opening where I could take a shot,” he said.

He eventually spotted a clear window, but he’d have to shoot over the top of the brush and down on the buck.

He drew his Mathews Z7, prepared to make the shot and studied the opening with one sapling in its middle that might help him. If the buck stopped when its head was behind the sapling, David would have a broadside shot behind the deer’s shoulder.

The buck stepped into the opening, and David bleated with his mouth. Studying the position of the deer and the sapling, he went through his shot routine. Because David was shooting a back tension release, which could be slower than a trigger release, just before David arrived at the point where the mechanical release would fire the arrow, the buck started walking again.

Again, David bleated.

“The buck looked my way,” he said. “Not spotting another deer, it had that look, like ‘If I don’t see the deer that bleated to me, I’m out of here.’ So I released my arrow and double-lunged the buck. Afterward, it did a big mule kick and started running along the edge of the creek.

“I called Lester and said, ‘Will you come and help me retrieve my buck?’ Lester asked, ‘How big is it?’ I replied, ‘I don’t think its tines are very long; it’s probably in the 140 class.’

“The buck ran along the creek, went into the creek and then died on the other side. Lester was working the blood trail out in front of me and found the buck,” David continued. “As I walked up to him, he turned and said, ‘That buck is lot more than a 140-class deer,’ and it was.”

This article was published in the June 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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