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John Kjos and Sons: A Wisconsin Whitetail Family

The buck had disappeared for three years, and when he did come back he was there to stay.

John Kjos and Sons: A Wisconsin Whitetail Family

My cousin, Trever, and I decided to both start hunting the farm hard because we knew we had a small window to harvest this buck before the rut kicked in. (Photo courtesy of John Kjos) 

It was October 9, 2020, the day before the Wisconsin Youth Hunt. I wanted to get home from work in time to check my deer cameras to see where the deer had been moving. Mainly, I wanted to know where to sit on Saturday morning with my youngest son. On the trail camera, at 9:45 p.m.  October 8, there was a giant buck with incredible tine length and mass. I realized after watching the video over and over that this was a buck I had had on camera back in 2017. The buck had disappeared for three years, and I assumed that the neighbor had probably shot it. But he was back!

So, my son and I put up a double ladder stand about 25 yards from the nearby pond just before the season opened. On youth weekend we sat over the pond for two days—but no luck. On Monday, October 12, I had my oldest son help me put up another stand on the opposite side of the pond. With the help of my boys, we now had two stands within 25 yards from the pond. I hunted all week. Still no luck.

John Kjos and Sons
Trail cameras can't lie. (Photo courtesy of John Kjos)

On Tuesday night, October 20, I wasn’t in the stand long when I saw some movement above me in the brush. As I sat in the rain, I watched the spot where I had spotted the deer movement earlier. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement coming down the trail towards the pond. It was the big buck I had on camera, a handsome whitetail we named the 16sq buck.

I reached for my bow, but as I moved, he stopped and looked right at me. There was nothing I could do to win this staring contest. The buck spun around and ran away. Then he stopped and turned around, looking back towards me once more before walking away. My heart sunk. I had just let a buck of a lifetime had slip through my fingers.

On Tuesday, October, 27, my cousin Trever convinced me to keep hunting the pond despite my reservations. That night, Trever dropped me off at my stand about 3:00 p.m. The wind was perfect, blowing right into my face. At 3:38 p.m. four does came down the trail to the pond. They drank for about ten minutes and then left. Around a half-hour later, about 4:20 p.m., I heard something again. I was shocked when I looked up and spotted the 16sq buck coming down the same trail the does just used.

I slowly reached for my bow and stood up. I turned my sight to thirty-two yards, hooked my release and pulled back my bow. He stepped out from behind the brush, and I released.

I watched my arrow burry into his rib cage and he ran off, but he stopped for a couple of seconds after the first fifty yards before turning and walking up a steep hill out of sight. I was nervous that I wouldn’t find the buck dead because I had always been told; a hurt buck doesn’t climb hills.

The next morning, four of us met Rob, the owner of a skillful tracking dog named Jager. We showed Rob and Jager exactly where the deer was standing when he was shot. Rob dropped a piece of toilet paper at the blood and then told us not to go past the blood until he dropped the next piece.

John Kjos and Sons
Big bucks don't get big by being stupid. They are always on high alert. (Photo courtesy of John Kjos)

Jager took off up the trail as Rob tracked behind him. It wasn’t long before Rob started dropping more toilet paper marks. We moved forward about fifty yards and Rob found my arrow. As he picked it up and looked it over, he declared the buck would be dead in another seventy-five yards. I looked at the guys and gave them all a fist pump.

Jager and Rob were about 40 yards ahead of us when Rob called down the hill that there was lots of blood, and my 17-year-old son climbed that hill in seconds!

As my son crested the hill to where Rob and Jager were standing, he looked back at us with a huge smile—a smile I’ll never forget. When the rest of us finally caught up with my teenager we looked over the hill and there was the 16sq buck. He had died right where I had last seen him from my stand. I’ll never forget this hunt for the rest of my life, and I’m so happy I got to share it with my friends and family.       

John Kjos and Sons
John's buck grossed 188 0/8, net 179 6/8 nontypical, and will go in the books as a 171 4/8 typical.(Photo courtesy of John Kjos)

To read the full adventure, see more images, and hear fully experience the excitement of John Kjos’ Wisconsin buck, be sure to pick up a copy of North American Whitetail Magazine or subscribe today.


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