By Ryan Allbee
-- Having bagged several nice bucks with bow and gun, I consider myself a true trophy hunter. I even preach the importance of passing up immature bucks to friends, family members and neighbors, though the message sometimes falls upon deaf ears.
I’ve let a beautiful 9-pointer go for three years now, and the fruit of my lip-biting can be seen in trail camera photographs. These prove just how much antler a buck can put on year after year, despite the existence of “brown-it’s-down” neighbors. That buck is fast becoming a deer that I’ll dream about, and having a history with it is even more special.
Last year’s bow season in Wisconsin was a bust for me, but I took a mature, 18-inch-wide 8-pointer during the nine-day gun season. Next up was the 10-day muzzleloader season, and I took full advantage – downing four mature does.
Meanwhile, a group of neighbors and friends had been playing hide and seek with a real hog of a buck. I was after it, too. We devoted days to that deer, pushing thickets and hillsides, but it never offered anyone a shot.
I work as a night electrician at the nearby Rayovac Corporation. I was on my way to work the night of Dec. 9 when I got a phone call from the “Schaeffer kid,” as I call him. He said that a good buck had been spotted that afternoon next to some property that we had permission to hunt.
It was a no-brainer for me; I was IN! I asked my cousin, Rick, when I got to work if he’d like to go with us, and he was also IN! I picked him up the following morning and we headed to the woods.
After the man-drivers gave the standers time to reach their positions, we started climbing a gigantic river valley hillside. About halfway through the drive, we heard a shot and shouting. My cousin, Tickie, shot a buck at 45 yards as it was trying to sneak out the back door. It was the biggest he’d ever taken, a massive 18-inch-wide 4x4.
The drag out was not fun, especially considering I’d worked three straight 12-hour nights and had been hunting every day.
A couple more man-drives after that and following a sausage and cheese break from the tailgate, we decided to try one more push before declaring the 2008 smokepole season finished.
Rick, Tickie and I were the drivers, and everyone else headed to their spots. Before we started pushing, however, we realized we couldn’t do the drive the way we’d planned because of a few other hunters in the area. We came back down, ready to write off the season, when David – who had been saying all season, “You gotta stay after ’em” – told us he’d seen a good buck and some does head into a valley.
We all regrouped and headed over there. This time, David and Tickie were the pushers, and they had the deer’s trail to follow in the fresh snow. Rick, the Schaeffer kid, Steve and I took up positions as standers.
Half an hour later, as we are running short on daylight, I heard a shot in front of and to my right. I was standing where a small finger of woods cuts off from the big valley, hoping the buck would use it as cover. Moments after the shot, it did just that.
I knew I would never get a good running shot through the timber, so I took off running to get on top of a little 50-yard-wide strip I figured the buck would cross next.
Just as I crested the ridge, I spotted it running full tilt toward the timber and a fencerow we couldn’t cross. I pulled up my .50-caliber muzzleloader and unleashed the smoke! To my surprise, I actually saw it go down through the haze.
After a quick and very shaky reload, I took off after it. It’s funny how a few seconds can seem like an eternity to a guy who’s just shot the buck of his dreams. It was lying 15 yards from the fence. Whether needed or not, I administered the insurance shot to make sure it remained on our side of the property line.
As the sun was setting, we were whipping out camera phones and sending pictures and messages to all of our hunting buddies. Upon meeting up with my father at my cousin’s local tavern, Yoders, for a little celebrating, we put a tape to the deer.
It was a great day to be in the woods. I wish my (late) grandpa had been there.
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