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.
It was much colder than I had expected and there was a decent wind blowing directly at me. Around 8 a.m., it was obvious that I had underdressed for the weather, but it was too late now. I would just have to deal with it. It wasn't like I was going to climb down from my treestand after only an hour and a half!
Given how my morning was going so far (I hadn't even seen a squirrel yet), I decided to climb down from my treestand and find a warmer spot to sit. As I was walking to my new spot, I passed about 100 yards from where my brother's treestand was set up. As I walked past his stand I could see him turn and look at me. I could just tell he was thinking, What the heck are you doing? It's only 9 a.m., and if there were any deer near me, they're gone now that you just tromped through."
I sat in my new spot for two hours or so, until sometime around 11 a.m. By this time, my brother and my dad had gotten down from their treestands due to the fact that nothing seemed to be moving. My brother had seen a doe earlier that morning before the season was even open, but that was about it. Usually we would have heard 20 shots by this time. We all met back at the truck and decided to head home for lunch.
It was around 2 p.m. when I got back to my stand. The process of getting into my stand went much better in the afternoon and it only took one try for everything. At about 2:15 p.m., I heard something off to my left. I slowly turned my head and spotted a really nice buck. It must be Old Moses, I thought to myself. We had always joked about shooting a legendary buck named Old Moses, but nobody really believed he existed.
The buck was walking behind a thick cluster of small trees approximately 60 yards away, and I couldn't see exactly how big he was. He was walking quickly with his tail sticking up so I figured he had been spooked by something. My heart was pounding. I was thinking to myself that this must be the big 8-pointer that my cousin saw while bowhunting.
The buck was coming in on the trail that passed in front of my stand, but he was coming from the south, instead of the west, as I had expected.
As I raised my gun to aim at Old Moses, I discovered I hadn't even closed the action on my gun! This was a problem; I knew it would "click" as I closed it. Without any other options at this point, I slowly closed my action.
The buck stopped and looked directly up at me, now about 40 yards away, with his tail still sticking straight in the air. I froze. We stared into each other's eyes for what seemed to be an eternity. Then he put his head back down, walked about another 10 yards toward me (now about 30 yards away) and turned broadside. Now was the only chance I was going to get so I aimed and shot.
I knew the first shot had hit him because his left front leg flinched. He started limping away on three legs, never putting his front left leg down. I have seen deer run extremely fast with only three legs before, but this buck wasn't. He actually wasn't moving very fast at all. I took a second shot at him and he kept limping off to the east. As I was trying to get a third shot off, he turned and headed north. I watched as he continued to limp off to the north. Finally he stopped between two trees. I could only see about a six-inch strip of his body just behind his front injured leg. His head and tail were behind trees. When I aimed my gun to take a third shot and looked down the barrel, the width of my barrel spanned the gap between the two trees.
Great, I was thinking to myself, What are the chances I can shoot in between these two trees? By this point, I was so excited I couldn't even tell you how much I was shaking, but I am almost positive it was quite a bit. I shot a third time, which to my surprise made it between the two trees and was actually a good shot. The buck walked forward another five yards, turned around and fell over.
Heck yeah, I said to myself, I got him! Just to make sure, I stood in my treestand with my gun ready. I wanted to make sure he didn't get up and run without me at least getting another shot off. The last thing I wanted was to be climbing down my treestand and see "Old Moses" take off running.
Meanwhile my dad had heard the three shots I took and showed up after about 15 minutes. "What am I looking for?" he yelled.
"There is a huge buck about 50 yards to the south of you," I yelled back. "Go make sure he's dead before I climb down from my stand."
After walking about 20 yards my dad yelled back, "I don't see him, are you sure he is down? I think you missed."
"I see him down on the ground, walk about 30 yards farther," I said. He walked another five yards and all of a sudden I heard him yell, "Wow, get down here and take a look at this buck!"
I climbed down my treestand and went over to where the buck was laying. I could not believe my eyes! With 18 official points, never before had I seen a buck that big. It had turned out to be an amazing day to say the least!
My parents live in a small town of approximately 2,500 people in Sheboygan County, so my buck soon became the talk of the town. That Sunday, following opening day, there were at least 60 people who had walked through my parents' garage to see the monster buck that I had shot. Everybody had the same general reaction and nobody could believe it. "Pictures do not do this buck justice," they would say.
I later found out that this buck had first been caught on trail camera in 2005 by Errol Jones approximately seven miles southwest of the location where I hunt. Errol has trail camera pictures from this same buck from 2008 and 2009 as well. He also found this buck's sheds from 2007, 2008, and 2009, and it is undeniable that these sheds came from the same buck that I shot. He actually had 28 points in 2009 and the right antler scored 108 2/8. My buck would have scored over 200 points in 2007, 2008, and 2009, making four consecutive years this buck scored 200 points plus!
Following the 60-day drying period, my buck was officially scored by Boone and Crockett measurer Stan Zirbel. The antlers tallied a gross score of 221 2/8 and a net score of 212 4/8, making my buck the new Sheboygan County record. The true uniqueness of this buck is the incredible mass throughout the entire rack. The eight mass measurements alone add up to 49 2/8 inches, with the largest circumference being 7 inches on the left antler between the G-2 and G-3. The smallest circumference was 5 5/8 inches between the G-1 and G-2 on the left antler. The inside spread of the rack was 19 7/8 inches, and both brow tines were over 10 1/2 inches.
The 2010 hunting season is truly one that I will never forget, but I'm still am looking forward to the 2011 hunting season to spend time with my dad and brother. I still believe that is the most exciting part about hunting -- although shooting a monster buck is pretty exciting too!