By Mike Handley
Bowhunting convert Matt Galewski of Trempealeau, Wis., poses with his first archery buck. The old whitetail had eluded parties of venison-hungry gun hunters for six seasons. Photo Courtesy of Mike Galewski
When it comes to bowhunting, abstinence is not the best policy!
It might be easier to persuade Barbara Bush to vote for Hillary Clinton than to convince a lifelong rifleman to plop down big money for a bow. Dollars aside, try to explain to someone why they should trade a weapon that'll reach out and touch a deer at 300 or more yards for one that's good for maybe 30.
A simple "You don't know what you're missing" will not do it most of the time. But throw in a wall full of trophies, and any red-blooded deer hunter will at least take notice.
Matt Galewski did.
Big brother Brian was the bowhunter in the family, after their dad lost interest. He tried to convince Matt to try it, but his pleas fell on deaf ears for five years. It might've worked a little sooner if bows came with price tags easier on the wallet.
Matt finally broke down and bought one in the spring of 2007. The following September, he shot his first doe. A few weeks later, he tied his buck tag on a world-class rack.
Now HE is the one telling people, "You don't know what you're missing."
Matt was already in love with his new bow before he went over to his friend Mike Wagner's house on Saturday, Nov. 10. Around 3 p.m., he told Mike "We'd better get going." But Mike, who had worked all night, wanted nothing more than to take a nap.
So Matt wound up going to the stand from which he'd wanted Mike to hunt. It overlooks a food plot surrounded by apple trees and, beyond those, crop fields. They call it the Dukes of Hazzard stand because it leans in toward the tree, "like you're poppin' a wheelie," Matt laughs.
He drove to the area, parked and walked the 75 yards to his General Lee in the sky. He was aloft by 4:30. He'd been there for only five minutes when he spotted a massive buck strolling through the woodlot and pulled out his grunt and bleat calls.
"Here we go," he muttered.
"I decided to give one short grunt to try to get the animal's attention, and it worked. The large buck stopped abruptly and started ripping up some nearby brush with its antlers. It was like it took the grunting personally, like it was a threat or something."
With the job of demolishing a sapling completed, the buck started following a mowed ATV trail toward Matt.
Matt's 13-pointer is a mainframe 5x5 with ankle-thick bases, above-average brow tines and four more uprights ranging from 9 5⁄8 to more than 13 inches long. He shot it two days before his 29th birthday. Photo Courtesy of Mike Galewski
"As it got closer, my heart felt like it was going to pop out of my chest," he said.
"I was breathing so heavily, it's a wonder it didn't hear me. I was so sure it would, I tried switching from breathing through my nose to out of my mouth. And both ways sounded too loud to me."
The way Matt saw things playing out, his best plan was to wait until the deer passed behind a cedar tree before drawing his bow. He'd have a slam-dunk broadside shot at 10 yards if everything went as planned.
But it didn't happen that way.
"The buck ended up turning and passing to the left side of my tree. In no time, it was at 5 yards - basically under the stand - and that's when I let my arrow fly. It hit the deer high and just behind the shoulder, lodging in the opposite one," he said.
The last glimpse Matt had of the buck was as it sailed over a nearby fence, apparently heading for a freshly picked cornfield.
Afraid he might spook the wounded deer, in case it was still close, Matt remained in General Lee and called Mike, who arrived in short order. When he got there, Mike asked where the deer had been standing. But there wasn't any blood to be found.
Matt was already a wreck. And hearing that there was no blood did not help matters. His legs were so wobbly that he actually fell while descending the tree sticks.
Since there was no sign, the guys went to the cornfield. They didn't need a blood trail to see the very dead buck lying out in the open.
"I couldn't help myself," Matt said. "I just kept screaming."
The farmer on whose land they were hunting had never seen such a buck on his place, but the neighbor had one trail camera photograph of it. One of the farmer's relatives also had found a shed.
This past season would've been a milestone for Matt, even if he hadn't arrowed the handsome 13-pointer. Not only was this his first buck by bow, but it also was his first season to hunt with one. He'd taken a doe with his brand new bow the very first time he went afield with it back in late September.
"Everyone I knew kept telling me there was nothing like bowhunting," Matt said. "I'd wanted to try it about five years ago, but I just never had the time or cash to go for it."
Matt's older brother, Brian, had long been a huge fan of the sport, and he has many trophies to show for it. Their dad was also a former enthusiast.
When Matt finally decided to bite - or ditch - the bullet, he was the business manager for a car dealership, routinely working 60 hours a week. Now he works for the county's public-access television station and has Saturdays to hunt.
He figured if he didn't like it, he could always sell his bow. But there's no danger of that now.
"The first time I sat in a stand, I had six does come to within 10 yards," he said.
"I wound up taking one of them. The deer are in a totally different state of mind during bow season.
"During the gun season, they're far more skittish. Our area gets pounded. I mean, if it's brown, it's down. That kind of pounding," he continued.
"I once admitted that I'd let a buck pass, and nobody could understand why. I can't believe that this buck survived to be 6 1⁄2 years old there!"
Matt bought his bow from a buddy, Jason Moore, who owns a sporting goods store. Jason helped him set it up, and his dad offered advice on shooting form.
The first bow wasn't a good fit, so Matt traded it for another, which he adored. He practiced with it all summer long.
"Now I'm hooked for life," he grins.
His father has since decided to pull his bow out of the closet as well.
Poor Mike Wagner, the pal who should've been sitting in Matt's stand on the fateful day, will forever curse his luck. But it didn't get any better after Matt shot his buck. The scenario repeated itself during the gun season.
Mike's brother had offered him an opportunity to hunt from a stand. He didn't go, but his brother did ... and shot a 160-incher.
"We gave him a lot of ribbing after that," Matt laughs. "We kept telling him, 'Man, we're trying to help you here!'"
Hunter: Matt Galewski
Official Score: 165 1/8"
Composite Score: 187 6/8"
-- Reprinted from the October 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine