Back in July 2018, I started seeing a special northern Wisconsin velvet buck. I decided to give him the name of “The King” and started to formulate a plan to kill him. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but with persistence, patience and hard work, I felt it was possible.
As I studied the buck’s habits, I found he frequently traveled with the same 2 ½-year-old 8-pointer. Through observation and from a handful of trail camera photos, I was able to pinpoint The King’s travel pattern and had a pretty good idea where he was bedding on a regular basis.
This was confirmed during one of my scouting walks on a hot, sunny afternoon in late August as I jumped The King from his bed underneath a cedar in the woods. The bed was on top of a ridge where two ravines converge. The buck ran about 75 yards, stopped for a few seconds, then slowly walked off to the east. At that point, mid-September's bow season opener couldn’t come fast enough! I hung a number of stands near where I felt The King was bedding and also set up a couple makeshift ground blinds I knew would put the wind in my favor.
Once bow season began, I hunted morning and evening from different spots in which the wind was favorable. Some days I’d come back to the house drenched from heavy downpours. In fact, for a while it seemed to rain daily. However, Mother Nature wasn’t going to stop me from what I’d set out to do.
Prior to each sit, I’d say a short prayer in which I asked my late grandpa and grandma to "please help send the buck my way." I remained confident that is was only a matter of time! I’d had two close encounters with the buck in late September: one during one of those torrential downpours. However, in neither case had The King presented a shot within ethical bow range.
A crisp, cool morning in early October found me in one of my makeshift ground blinds well before first light. I was nestled against a huge maple with just a couple small pines stuck into the ground in front of me. My setup was next to an intersection where two runways converge. I just had the feeling that was where I needed to be. The wind was perfect, coming out of the east.
Shortly after daylight, two does passed through. Not long afterward, here came the 8-pointer that normally traveled with The King. As I kept close watch, out of the corner of my eye I saw more movement . . . then antlers ducking through the alder branches. I instantly knew which deer it was!
With The King walking quickly, I pulled back my bow and grunted in an attempt to get him to stop. But he kept walking. From many years of bow practice, along with a number of other successful close encounters during the moment of truth, I knew I could still make an ethical, well-placed shot. So, I settled my pin right behind the buck’s shoulder, released and heard my arrow punch him.
As the buck ran away, I could tell he was hurt. He then stopped about 50 yards away, and his tail started to twitch rapidly. I remember saying to myself, "I did it, it's over!" The King then walked out of sight.
I began to shake badly, just as I always do after the shot. I called my father and explained to him what had happened — or attempted to tell him, anyway. I don't recall too much of our conversation except for my dad saying, "Slow down and talk.”
I went back to the house, and we gave the buck a little bit of time. Then we headed out for what would be a short and sweet track job. We went directly to where I’d last seen the buck first and instantly picked up good blood. We went only about 50 more yards on solid blood before I saw the back of a deer lying on its side. I took off on a dead run.
Upon getting to The King, I lifted his head off the ground and said, "Dad, here he is!" As if he couldn't tell! We hugged, we cried tears of joy and then we sat there for a while just admiring the buck. We then went back to the house and got my brother to help drag the beast out of the woods.
That perfect morning in the woods actually turned out to be the perfect day, as I was able to share my special moment with my family. My dear mother just happened to be coming for a visit that same day, and the fall colors were at their peak. I felt on top of the world. Most of all, though, it was fitting to be able to share my special moment with my teacher, mentor, hero, best friend and the one I’d begun following around the woods as far back as I can remember – my father.