After spending considerable time hunting in Wisconsin with mediocre results, resident Joe Marshall broadened his whitetail horizons by making a trip to bowhunt on public land in Missouri with friend Nick Frisch.
"Nick had been hunting down there for a few seasons and had taken an outstanding 152-inch buck on public land with his rifle," Marshall said. "We didn't kill anything during my first trip, but I saw a lot of deer. I also called in some bucks, which was a totally new experience for me. Here in Wisconsin, the deer get so much pressure that I've never been able to call one in. For a guy who hadn't previously grunted and rattled in deer, it was pretty encouraging to do so on public land."
Securing the Lease
Marshall and Frisch soon pooled their resources to secure a 100-acre lease in northern Missouri. Their friends, Pete Petta and Dave Cooper, were instrumental in helping them find the property.
"We got the lease three years ago and got everything set up," Marshall told. "The lease has approximately 30 acres of timber, and we run six trail cameras all year long. We keep close tabs on the place."
Though Marshall and Frisch live in Wisconsin, they travel to the Missouri lease three times annually.
"In the spring, we look for sheds, hang stands and set trail cameras," Marshall noted. "We return in mid-October to check trail cameras and move them to scrapes. Our third trip is to hunt in November. We archery hunt for several days before the firearms season opens, and then we catch the first few days of the firearms season, too. It works well for us. We've already taken several very nice bucks from the property."
A Giant Appears
The two Wisconsin hunters learned a big non-typical buck was lurking the lease in 2016 after checking their trail cameras that had been out all summer.
"We didn't encounter the deer on the hoof that year, and we searched desperately for his sheds in spring 2017, but came up empty-handed," Marshall shared.
Fortunately, the monster survived through the hunting seasons.
"Our trail cameras captured many pictures of that same buck leading up to our November 2017 hunt," he said. "We were very optimistic going into the hunt."
Small Bucks and Crummy Weather
During the first two days of the hunt, Marshall and Frisch encountered a lot of smaller bucks.
"I passed up on a 130-inch 8-pointer," Marshall said. "He was a nice buck, but just not what I wanted to put my tag on that early in the hunt. Nick took a similar buck on the third day of the hunt."
Temperatures plummeted, and the mature bucks got on their feet during daylight.
"The conditions were very brutal, which made it difficult to sit all day," Marshall told. "However, I was down there to hunt, so I kept hunting all day."
An Unforgettable November Day
After weathering five days of all-day hunting, Marshall got his break on the sixth day of the hunt while sitting a stand location he'd located one year prior. The stand was located in an island of trees between a CRP flat and a standing cornfield. Interestingly, a good-sized juniper thicket is situated on the other side of the CRP, and deer tend to bed in it.
In 2016, Marshall hunted that spot for the first time ever.
"I'd been hunting another location during the firearms season without any luck, so I tried that new spot one afternoon and killed a nice 150-class buck within the first hour," he said. "Needless to say, I was exited to try it again in 2017, so this past spring we hung a bow stand there.
The weather was miserable last November on the day when everything came together.
"North winds were gusting at 30 miles per hour," Marshall remembered. "However, the conditions had deer moving very well. In fact, I saw nine different bucks between dawn and 2 p.m."
At approximately 3 p.m., Marshall got the surprise of his life when the monster from the trail cameras appeared.
"It was the first time we encountered the buck on the hoof," he told. "He came out of the juniper thicket and into the CRP about 200 yards away from me. He started angling somewhat toward me, but I wasn't sure that he'd come within bow range, so I pulled out my bleat can and turned it over. I can't say whether he heard it or not because he didn't look my way. But, after walking another 20 yards, he turned directly at me."
As the buck approached, tensions were understandably high, but Marshall only looked at the antlers once, then focused on the opportunity unfolding in front of him.
"The buck stopped at the edge of the cornfield 35 yards away, and I took the shot. I'm not sure if it was the wind or me that caused it, but my arrow caught the front half of the buck's shoulder. It still penetrated deep enough to get both lungs, which resulted in a fairly short recovery.
"It's difficult to describe the emotions I felt when I found the buck," Marshall continued. "I'm not a professional scorer, but I tallied up a gross score of 183 7/8 inches. Missouri has treated us well, and I plan to keep hunting there as long as we have our lease."