By Paul Thein
Since I was a teenager fresh out of hunter safety class, I’ve been hunting a family farm in Olmsted County, Minn. Our hunting party consists of cousins and close friends, and hunting together is a tradition. Over the years, I have watched many of our party bag the kind of big wallhangers everybody dreams about. Of course, I can’t complain, because I have done well, too.
My hunts from last year were featured in a few magazines and online journals that showcased five mature bucks I was able to harvest for our hunting party of nine (party hunting is legal in Minnesota). Even so, my personal deer hunts have never produced the whitetail of my dreams — the big one for the wall.
This past year, half of our hunting land was sold and developed into a golf course and housing development. I guess you can’t stop urban sprawl, and it finally caught up to our land. There was talk amongst our hunting party that 2007 could be the last hunt due to the continued development. After 25 years of memories, we feared the great hunting and family memories were coming to an end.
I couldn’t help feeling sad that future generations wouldn’t be able to enjoy the hunting experiences I had on the family farm. Hunting is much more than killing deer; it’s a family reunion filled with playful competition over who can take the biggest buck, along with a chance to create lasting memories.
Living in California makes it difficult for me to return to my boyhood home in Minnesota, but I knew I had to be there for the 2007 season. “After all,” I thought, “this could be the year that I shoot the wallhanger of my dreams! And what if this really is the last hunt?”
The weather was ideal when I returned to Minnesota. I didn’t have to fight the bitter cold that can make your teeth chatter. I saw more deer every day than I ever remembered seeing. I enjoyed the familiar noises and sights that brought back memories of past hunts. Squirrels sounded like approaching deer as they dug through the brown leaves, and wild turkeys walked past my stand each morning.
Day after day, I waited patiently for the buck of my dreams. Nearing the end of the hunting season and possibly the end of an era, I actually began to come to terms with the reality that I might not knock down a big buck.
With only two days left in the season, and just when I began to accept that I might never get one for the wall, my dream buck popped its head out of the thick river woods. It came quietly at dusk to scent the does feeding on the clover in the open field.
“Wow,” I thought to myself, “this buck is nice!” It had plenty of rack outside the ears and an old, white face that showed its age. As the trophy took a step cautiously into the open clover field only 60 yards away, I raised my gun. I didn’t take time to count the points or give the buck a chance to scent me. After 25 years of hunting, I was sure this was the one: Mr. Wallhanger!
I put my sites on the buck and squeezed the trigger. The ol’ boy fell immediately in its tracks. I could see the buck from my stand, but I waited a moment to make sure it was down for good.
Before long, I couldn’t hold my composure and used my cell phone to report back to the house that I was sure I had a trophy. I knew it was the one I had hoped to get for 20-plus years and had dreamed about since I was a kid.
In my heart, I knew then that I could leave that sacred hunting place with a wonderful experience and a memory to take with me and hang on my wall. I’ll also have something to keep the memories alive and to tell the next generation about. This is the way it should end — with your biggest buck!
Pulling myself out of my thoughts, I realized I still didn’t know how many points the buck had. So I composed myself enough to approach what I hoped would be at least a 10-pointer.
With each step, I was more and more assured this really was my dream buck. As I got closer, I saw a drop tined. I thought, “Yea! — a drop-tined buck!” No one had ever shot a drop-tined buck on the farm before. As I grabbed its massive rack and pulled one side out of the mud, I finally saw how nice it really was.
When the counting was done, I had a 13-point double-drop-tined buck! This is the one I had dreamt of since I was a boy hunting with a single-shot 12-gauge. Wow, what a way to end it all — a trophy of a lifetime and a wallhanger to remember it all! Thanks, Dad, for the experiences.
This article was published in the July, 2008 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.