On Friday, Oct. 27, 2006, my husband and I were the coordinators of a "permit-only" archery deer removal at a 1,000-acre regional park in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities Metro area. We had 15 other hunters in the woods, all in stands they’d selected.
I set up my stand around noon that day, getting in and out of the woods as quickly and quietly as I could, leaving as little scent as possible. I returned and was hunting in it by 3:50 p.m., safety harness securely attached. It was a beautiful late fall afternoon, cool, with a light wind blowing steadily out of the southeast.
After waiting for the woods to settle around me, I began flipping my Primos Original Can call.
About a half-hour later, I heard the cattails rattling and looked to my right. Fifty yards away, there was a beautiful, mature 10-point buck slowly making its way toward the higher ground where I was. It took a few steps, raked its antlers in the brush, and then I bleated some more.
No doubt, this guy was a "shooter." The rack had more mass, and the tines were longer than those forming the 131-inch buck I had taken a few years back.
called again. It took another few steps and stopped, looking straight east. The next sound I heard was more loud movement in the cattails. And then another buck appeared.
The new arrival strolled aggressively out of the cattails, halting right at the edge while gazing my way. The buck was looking for a new girlfriend, and she was in my pocket!
This was the largest buck I’d ever seen, even if some of what I saw were cattails dangling from the massive and palmated antlers.
Also dangling was a drop tine, or were there three?
I whispered aloud, "Lord, what are you doing to me?"
The big guy looked at the 10-pointer and walked directly to it. When they were nose to nose, the 10-pointer dropped its head and backed away in submission.
By that point, I was focusing only on the larger buck’s ears, nose and eyes. I did not take my eyes or thoughts off of the deer’s senses, and I did not look at those antlers again.
I tipped the can, and the buck walked casually in my direction. Even though it was almost completely downwind of me at 30 yards, I wasn’t overly concerned. I knew my scent-proof clothing was a formidable barrier.
Suddenly, however, the enormous buck changed direction and began skirting the cattails, walking slowly out of my life!
Desperate, I bleated again, and I almost fell out of my stand when, in response to my bleat, a "PHEWWW" erupted just a few yards from my stand.
Unbeknownst to me, the 10-pointer hadn’t vacated the area. It had somehow snuck back, and it saw me.
I thought the game was over, but, to my astonishment, the big buck actually stopped and turned back toward me. To seal the deal (I hoped), I tipped the can again, which sent the 10-pointer blowing into the distance. But the big buck turned and headed back my way.
I had one basketball-sized window at about 17 yards. I drew. As the buck stepped into the hole, I grunted twice with my voice, and it halted a second before I released.
The buck ran about 20 yards and stopped, looking back. It then plowed into the cattails so hard that every one it hit exploded like a burst of fireworks. It was the most awesome display I’ve ever seen.
All I could do was watch the movement of the cattails to decipher the deer’s route. It had begun J-hooking back toward me when I lost track of its whereabouts.
I tried to locate my arrow by way of my binoculars. I didn’t want to get down from my stand. After all, what if I had actually completely missed the buck and it was standing in the cattails, just waiting to be coaxed back?
I couldn’t find my arrow, so I called my friend, Ron Cormier. I told him that I’d just shot the biggest buck I had ever seen. I thought.
"What do you mean ‘You think?’" he said. "I am on my way."
I told him, "No, let me find my arrow, and then I’ll call you back."
I quietly walked to where the deer had been standing, but there was no arrow. Nor blood.
When I bent over and looked up at my stand, to my horror, I saw no window. What did I do?
It took me all of two seconds to realize I was standing in the wrong spot. I moved four feet to the right, looked at my stand, and then at the ground.
"SWEET … Thank you, Lord!"
I climbed back into my stand and re-dialed Ron.
"I have blood," I told him, before explaining where I was. I then nocked another arrow (you never know when a doe will happen by) and waited.
When Ron got there, I got down and we started tracking. We found my beautiful crimson-covered arrow about 10 yards from where I’d connected with the buck, and then we entered the cattails.
When Ron stopped, we were about 65 yards from point of impact. All that I heard from him was, "Oh my gosh, Deb. He is huge … Oh my!"
Ron picked up the left antler, exposing the right side, and he dropped to his knees in astonishment.
I am not a "trophy hunter," though I believe in quality deer management. I have been bowhunting for 15 years and have taken 70 whitetails. Sixty-five of them have been antlerless.
All of those deer helped prepare me for this God-given opportunity. Everything I’ve done to this point – stand setup, proper scent control, deer attractants, using game calls and, most importantly, patience and shot placement – has played a vital part in helping me take this world-class buck.
Still, I’m humbled.