Every year you hear the stories of someone getting a “trophy buck,” and you wonder when it will be your turn. We watch hunting videos in which “professional hunters” hunt monster bucks on the best hunting ground available, thinking to ourselves, Where I hunt, there are not any deer like that. You accept this fact because the real excitement of hunting is the time you get to spend with family and friends creating memories that will last a lifetime. Like many of you, I went into the 2010 season hoping to get a 150-class buck. My expectations were far exceeded.
Opening morning of the 2010 gun deer hunting season was soon approaching. We would be hunting our normal spot in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. My uncle owns approximately 80 acres of land that my dad, brother and I hunt opening weekend. Leading up to the season, we had only been out scouting once to pick out our treestand locations. This was the first time I had been out hunting on opening weekend in two years since I didn’t hunt opening weekend my last two years of college. For me, the 2010 season was mostly about re-establishing the opening weekend hunting tradition so that my fiancé knew what to expect when we got married. (Thank-you to my future brother-in-law for this advice.) Besides, other than the years I didn’t hunt because I was away at college, we had hunted this land since I was 14, so for the most part we knew where the best spots to see deer were.
The spot I had selected for my treestand was one that I had hunted in previous years. My 15-foot ladder stand faced west, overlooking an area of tall grass. Between the tall grass and me there was roughly 75 yards of moderately populated small and medium-sized trees. Sheboygan County is a shotgun-only county, so I always try to keep my shots between 40 and 60 yards; besides, with all of the small trees, you couldn’t get a clear shooting lane much farther than that anyway. I still use the first gun I ever bought, a Remington 870 Express with a rifled barrel and open sights. There was a heavily traveled deer trail coming from the west out of the tall grass that headed toward my stand until about 30 yards out, then turned and headed south. I was anticipating that the deer would come out of the grass on the trail walking straight toward me.
Usually I like to get out to my treestand 30 minutes ahead of shooting light. That morning, I made it to my treestand at 6 a.m., already a couple of minutes behind schedule. I hooked my gun to my tow rope and climbed up to my stand. I got myself harnessed in and was getting ready to pull my gun up when I noticed that one of the pins connecting two of the ladder sections had fallen out. I figured it would be okay but decided I should go put it back in anyway. I unhooked my harness, climbed down and put the pin back in, then climbed back up and got myself tied off for the second time.
As I began to pull my gun up I noticed that my rope was snagged around one of the ladder rungs; I would have to climb back down for the second time that morning to untangle it. By the time I got tied off for the third time that morning, lifted my gun up and got it loaded, it was past 6:30 a.m.