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All Trails Should End So Well

By Jason Lehman

All Trails Should End So WellI live in Northern Wisconsin and have been an avid bowhunter since I was 11 years old when my uncles got me interested in the sport. I have always been fascinated by big bucks and the opportunity to harvest one.

I was really jealous of my Cousin Randy because of the quality of antlered deer he’d harvested from my family’s property. I had many opportunities to harvest bucks, and some decent ones at that, but no success. Finally, in my 19th year of bowhunting, I had my chance at what I consider a trophy whitetail.

It was the afternoon of Nov. 4, and I was pondering where to hunt that evening. I decided on a spot I’d never hunted before but always wanted to. The wind was blowing from the right direction, so that decided it. I would hunt this spot on Sunday evening.

I entered the woods quietly around 2:30 p.m. that day. Soon, I seeing a lot of sign — rubs, scrapes and snapped-off branches. When I reached the spot I wanted to hunt, I began looking for a tree to climb with my Summit stand. I finally found what I thought was an ideal spot: a small poplar with a scrape about 15 yards away. I decided to set up a scent bomb with Tink’s #69.

The area was within an older clearcut with tall slash and lots of poplar. The area was a peninsula that came off a finger of high ground into a large tag alder and tamarack swamp. My stand location was pretty much entirely surrounded by swamp so I would be able to hear anything coming and get ready well before the animal arrived.

The rut was just starting to pick up in our area. I’d seen many smaller bucks chasing does the previous week while driving to and from work. I am a physical education teacher at Bruce High School in the town of Bruce. I coach three sports, so I get very little time to get out in the woods except for weekends.

It was about 3:30 when I first heard a buck grunting up on the high ground. I stood up and got positioned in the direction I thought he’d be coming. I could hear the animal moving quickly down the point so I grunted to get him to come in my direction. No luck. The buck must have been trailing a hot doe.

About 5 to 10 minutes later, I heard another buck grunting, this one following the same path as the other. I grunted at him, but he just kept going.

I began to second-guess my stand location as the sun began to dip on the horizon hours later. Then I heard a soft splash in the swamp. I stood up quickly but quietly and got ready.

All of a sudden, I saw a deer’s body emerge from the thick tag alders. Although I couldn’t see horns, I knew it was a buck. It took one step out, and I saw it was a shooter.

I forced myself to stop looking at the rack so I would not get flustered. I quietly and slowly drew back my Mathews bow and held at the spot the deer was hopefully going to go.

The buck didn’t move to where I wanted. After glancing around, he started walking toward the scrape on a more direct line to me. As he neared the scrape, he suddenly stopped and looked directly at me. I knew then it was now or never.

I quickly moved my bow to get a good shot. It was a quick pin set, and I let the arrow go. The deer took two big jumps to the side and stood there looking back at me. I knew I’d hit him, but it was a little back and a little high. I hoped I’d hit the rear part of the lung.

The deer stood in the brush for what seemed like forever. I kept wondering when he would get a little tipsy and fall over. He never did; he walked back into the alders. I was stunned. It was like I’d never hit him.

I sat to regain my composure and then started down the tree. I found my arrow close to where the buck had stood. It had good blood on it, but it also had some with a brownish tint. I feared the worst.

I began to follow the trail and immediately found a lot of blood. My mood went from down in the dumps to almost cheerful. I was finally going to get that first buck with my bow. I marked the spot and went to get my cousins to help me track.

It was now 6:45 p.m., and snow was starting to drop. I told my cousins we needed to go right away or we’d lose the trail. When reached the trail, I took the lead, tracking the deer for about 15 yards.

Then the trail just stopped. There was no blood. I thought, “How am I going to tell my dad I wounded a nice buck? He is going to be pretty upset.” He does a great deal of work around his land for the deer and spends a lot of money growing crops for them. He doesn’t like it much when deer are wounded and can’t be found. Nobody does.

We kept at it. My cousin Brad and I went ahead to a couple of major trails while my Uncle Jeff stayed back, looking for more sign where the trail ended.

After about what seemed like a half hour, Brad found a pin drop of blood on a blade of grass. As we approached it, I raised my lantern over my head to see ahead of us. When I looked up, I couldn’t believe it. The buck was lying 15 yards ahead of us. He probably been dead for an hour because he was already getting stiff.

He was perfect! The rack has 11 points with a 16 1/2 inch inside spread. On the right side is a double brow tine along with an eyeguard. I have always wanted a buck with a drop tine. I guess this will have to be close enough.

I was so happy. It was my first buck with a bow, he was unique, and now I wouldn’t have to tell my father I wounded a buck.

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