By Lisa L. Price
Kyle and Kent Zimmerman pose with their bookend 15-pointers, taken five days apart. Photo by: Nicole Dearmond
Kent Zimmerman and the big buck saw each other at the same time, both slack-jawed over the unexpected encounter.
"All I could see was the buck's head, antlers and neck," Kent said. "Eventually, it blew out of there without giving me a chance for a shot."
Oh well, he figured, that was okay. It was only Nov. 7. The rut was in full swing, and chances were he'd get another crack at the deer. Besides, knowing that a buck of that caliber was in the area would add even more anticipation to the days ahead.
Kent left his treestand a little early. He had a long way to walk to a meadow gate, where he was supposed to meet his son, Kyle.
As the two approached the gate from opposite directions, Kent noticed that his son's hands and forearms were bloody. He knew that the 20-year-old must have taken a big buck, because that's what both of them were hunting. He suspected he knew which buck, too.
"I just looked at him and said, 'I bet I already know what he looks like,'" Kent said.
Kyle Zimmerman made his old man proud by scoring first with this beautiful 15-pointer. Photo by: Rick Busse
As they walked to the downed deer, Kyle filled his dad in on what had happened.
Just a few hours earlier, Kyle had been at work, swinging a hammer.
"A cold front had moved in, and I felt the big bucks would be stretching their legs, looking for receptive does," he said. "I asked my foreman if I could leave work early, and he told me sure, it was close enough to quitting time anyway. In our area, everyone understands a deer hunter and what it means."
Before seeing the big buck, Kyle had been watching a 6-pointer feeding in a grassy field dotted with clumps of goldenrod.
"I was watching that deer, and right as it was passing in front of me about 40 yards away, I saw the big buck walking toward it," Kyle said. "Then they got behind a thick bunch of saplings."
Kyle slipped his grunt tube from his pocket and blew twice, softly.
"Right away, the big buck came toward me," he continued. "It was only about 8 yards from the bottom of my tree, and looking right up at me when I took the shot."
Both Kyle and his father hunt with crossbows. Kyle watched the buck go only 50 yards before falling.
"I'd seen the antlers," he said. "I knew it had a good mainframe. But I hadn't seen all the stickers. When I got to the animal, I saw that it had 15 points. I also realized that I couldn't drag that hawg out by myself."
Kyle says taking his dad to the deer and dragging it out together were special moments.
"My dad had been taking me to the woods all my life," he said. "It was great that we were there together."
After taking care of his buck, Kyle decided to take a break from hunting and save his remaining doe tag for shotgun season. But Kent, who always takes two weeks of vacation time during the rut, continued hunting hard.
"I saw lots of deer - probably 40 or 50. We're blessed where we hunt," he said. "But I didn't see anything I wanted to shoot."
On Nov. 12, a sudden change in weather conditions caused Kent to change stands.
"There was a cold front coming, and the wind was picking up," he said. "The tree I was in was swaying, so I crawled down for safety reasons."
Kent felt that the deer also would be leaving the woods. He walked to the edge of a field and hunkered down against a fallen log. From there, he could see where two waterways connected in a small meadow, a place sheltered from the 40-mph gusts.
"I was looking to the west, toward the setting sun, when I saw two deer heading my way about 250 yards out," he said. "As they got closer, I saw that one was a doe; the other was a shooter buck, which began chasing the doe hard.
"She was running in a watershed that led right into my lap, and I thought I was going to get a point-blank shot at the buck," he continued. "But the doe suddenly turned and darted into the woods, and then ran right back into the field.
"The buck was right there on top of me, but there were a dozen small standing stalks of corn between us. As it turned to follow the doe, I moved about five paces to the other side of the stalks," Kent said. "To my utter amazement, the buck stopped and turned back to see what had spooked the doe - probably my scent - but it was too late. It had given me a perfect 20-yard shot.
"I watched it run. Within about 60 or 70 yards, the deer's gait became less sure-footed. Then I saw it go down," he added.
Just five days apart, father and son had shot 15-point bucks from the same woods. Kent's wound up scoring almost 5 inches more than his son's impressive deer. Also, his was classified as a Semi-irregular (Kyle's was a Typical). There's only a quarter-inch difference between their composite scores.
"Neither one of us had seen our bucks prior to the day we shot them," Kent said. "And the deer actually died only about 400 yards from each other."
Kyle says the key to taking a big buck is to pick a good spot and remain patient and confident in the choice. In 2002, he shot a 175-inch buck with a shotgun from the same tree.
"Everybody else had passed up that tree and said it wasn't a good spot, but I liked it and said I'd take it," Kyle said. "When the rut kicks in and has the deer moving, anyplace can be the right place!"
Lead Photo as reference
Buck at left:
Official Score: 176 4/8"
Compound Score: 199 2/8"
Buck at right:
Official Score: 181 1/8"
Compound Score: 199 4/8"
-- Reprinted from the September 2006 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine