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Trophy Bucks Typical Wisconsin

The Johnny King Buck: The Wisconsin ‘If’ Legend

by Jay Fish & Korey Schillinger   |  June 7th, 2011 17

On opening day of the Wisconsin firearms season last year, Johnny had taken his position as a stander during a family deer drive when this mammoth buck showed up before the drive even started. Johnny made a killing shot, but it took several hours and a lot of strength to recover this one-of-a-kind whitetail. Photos courtesy of Johnny King.

Deer hunting in Wisconsin is a rich tradition filled with much-anticipated family outings and wonderful memories passed on from one generation to the next. The opening of Wisconsin’s annual nine-day firearms season has generated incredible excitement and many a sleepless nighat for countless hunters young and old. Young first-time hunters can’t wait to get into the woods with their friends and families, and once grown, these same hunters become mentors who relish in carrying on the tradition with their own families.

With expectations running high and visions of large whitetail bucks racing through every deer hunter’s mind, opening day in Wisconsin is magical indeed. But how many avid hunters have actually had the opportunity to harvest a truly world-class buck? As Johnny King, of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, joined his family during the early morning hours of Nov. 18, 2006, that thought was the last thing on his mind. Certainly he harbored visions of downing a large-antlered trophy buck — every hunter has those — but never in his wildest dreams did he expect to come home with a buck that would be one of the largest typical whitetails ever taken!

Johnny was on property in Grant County, Wisconsin, that’s been in his family since the 1950s. Waking up at 3:30 a.m. on that memorable opening day, he gathered his gear and traveled to his mother’s house, where he joined his brother Jeff for the traditional opening-day family breakfast.

Over breakfast the two brothers talked about past hunts. Talk of getting out into the woods dominated their conversation. As Johnny went to the truck to make the drive to the family property, he found himself waiting for Jeff, who, as it turned out, couldn’t find his rosary. Each brother always carried a rosary when out hunting, and Jeff wasn’t going to leave home without his.

Because of the delay, the brothers arrived at the hunting property shortly after daylight. While driving in, they saw their Uncle Dale out in a field, and soon discovered that he’d already harvested his buck, just 15 minutes into the young season. They also noticed that he’d apparently lost a battle with his scope, as blood was dripping from a half-moon cut above his eye. But he certainly felt no pain as he scolded the two for being late, reminding them that they couldn’t shoot a deer if they weren’t in the woods. He declined any help with his buck and directed the pair to get into the woods instead.

After sitting until midmorning and not seeing any deer, both Johnny and Jeff joined the family at a nearby barn, where it was decided to do a traditional family drive through an area known as the “Pine Knob.” Unfortunately, no deer were seen on this drive, so again the family regrouped. The hunters next decided to drive a 100-acre parcel of land about a mile away. Having hunted this property for years, everyone was familiar with the lay of the land.

Johnny, Uncle Dale and a second uncle, Bob, were assigned to post — that is, take stands — while the other family members made the drive. Johnny walked down to a spot near a telephone pole that gave him a great view of a large draw, Uncle Bob positioned himself near a second telephone pole some distance away, and Uncle Dale put himself on a high point overlooking an escape funnel.

Johnny had only been settled in for a very short time when he saw a very large buck. He knew immediately that this was an extraordinary whitetail. At the time the buck was actually headed toward the drivers, and Johnny got only a quick glimpse. He lost sight of the buck as it disappeared into the draw, but he felt good about the situation, as the buck was headed in the general direction of Uncle Bob. A few moments later, he heard the unmistakable report of Uncle Bob’s .308, the loud blast echoing through the woods.

Johnny was now on full alert. Studying the woods in front of him, he spotted the giant whitetail running in some thick underbrush. There was no mistaking this buck for any other buck Johnny had ever seen: It was simply enormous. Johnny then spotted two does, and he watched as the giant buck came to a stop and directed his attention towards the two does. Seizing the opportunity, Johnny prepared to make a shot. Make it count! he thought as he took careful aim.

Steadying his Springfield Arms Model 840 bolt-action .30-30, Johnny lined up the front and rear sights and settled in on the buck’s shoulder. Knowing full well that he might never see a deer like this again in his lifetime, his heart raced as he again told himself to make the shot count.

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