For Rio Man, Wisconsin's 2009 Opener Short on Action, Long on Tines.
By Terry Pichler
Maybe my daughter expressed it best: "It was your day to shine, Dad!"
After 35 years of hunting deer in Wisconsin, my 15 minutes of fame came on opening day of the 2009 firearms season. The morning passed uneventfully; the evening hunt was over in a matter of minutes.
I spent four hours the morning of Nov. 21 sitting in my camouflaged aluminum chair near a gravel pit and watching about 3 acres of sparsely covered ground between bedding areas. It was one of my good spots.
Throughout my vigil, I saw nothing and heard only three distant shots.
The whole time, I was thinking about another spot - 200 acres - about eight miles southwest of where I was sitting. I had seen a great buck there during the last two days of the 2008 season, and I'd seen at least two different sets of monstrous hoofprints on the tract.
But it wasn't until I heard venison sausage sandwiches calling my name that I packed up and left.
I ate them while driving to the 200-acre strip at the southern end of Columbia County. It's a long, thin field ending in 6 acres of tall grass, and all but 15 acres of the corn had been cut. The corn harvest had been late because of rain.
Four other hunters had permission to hunt that private property. But after talking with the landowner, I learned that only one other had mentioned hunting that day. The farmer also told me he was going to be inside a combine by 2 p.m., trying to reap some of the remaining corn, though much of it was standing in water.
He wanted to get all he could get before the ground froze.
When I reached the mouth of the property, I finished lunch and checked the 5- to 10-mph wind's direction. I decided to set up at the other end of the field near the southwestern corner - directly opposite where the other hunter was supposed to be or had been. The wind would carry my scent back across the open cornfield toward my truck.
That corner had 3 acres of high marsh grass and cattails that cut into the last of the standing corn. I slipped just inside the grass line and sat in my chair.
Behind me and on the property line was the neighbor's box blind. I stared at it for maybe 10 seconds to make sure nobody was sitting in it.
And when I looked back in front of me, I spotted a large buck bouncing through the grass, running directly into the wind and toward the adjoining land. I have no idea whether the combine scared it, or if it had been bedded in the grass when I arrived.
Without hesitation, I shouldered my .270 and took the 80-yard shot at the biggest - or at least widest-antlered - whitetail I'd ever seen.
It was a mere 20 yards from the property line when I squeezed the trigger.
The buck disappeared instantly, leaving me to wonder whether it had gone down or was just ducking and slinking through the 4- to 5-foot-tall grass. I stood and scanned the area for at least five minutes. I felt good about the shot, but I'm well acquainted with Murphy's Law.
Rather than walk over there, just in case the deer made it across onto the other property (or to keep from spooking it into doing so), I left to look for the owner of the adjoining parcel. I wanted permission to be on his place if the deer took me there.
An hour later, I located the landowner and was granted permission to collect my buck.
I had mentally marked the area by a large tuft of grass and a distant box elder tree. When I entered the marsh, I could see only 6 to 10 feet around me. I didn't mind the wet feet when I saw the deer. When I pulled that giant rack out of the grass, I'm fairly certain the neighbors on all sides heard me hoot and holler.
The buck I shot isn't the same deer I saw there in 2008. Their racks are nothing alike. Apparently, only one person had laid eyes on the big 16-pointer before the day I shot it, and that was the landowner, who doesn't hunt. He recognized the rack almost immediately.
• Hunter: Terry Pichler
• Official Score: 195 5/8
• Composite: 218 6/8
• Modern Rifle
-- Reprinted from the July 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.