October 17, 2018
If you picked up the December issue of NAW, perhaps you read “Third Chances,” an article I wrote on the 190-class buck Gordy Weiss took during Wisconsin’s 2017 muzzleloader season. Weiss is the owner/broker of Weiss Realty located in Durand, Wisconsin. His 240-acre Buffalo County property that he and his family manage produced the world-class buck.
What you didn’t know while reading that article is that Weiss’ then-17-year-old son, Fletcher, also claimed a giant buck while bowhunting the same property just a month earlier. He’d been hunting the buck persistently during the 2017 season, encountering it several times before finally connecting.
Interestingly, the story dates back several years to when the buck was only 2 years old. Let’s lean in as Fletcher recounts the chase for his once-in-a-lifetime Badger State buck.
Born with the Passion
“Dad introduced my siblings and me to archery at very young ages,” Fletcher remembered. “I started bowhunting when I was 10 years old and shot my first buck that season. My brother, Brody, and I were hunting together, and he didn’t want to shoot, so he passed me his bow and I shot it. It wasn’t a huge buck, but it was my first deer, and I’ll always remember that hunt.”
History in the Making
As stated earlier, the story of Fletcher Weiss’ 2017 buck began several years earlier when it was just 2 years old and showing above-average potential. “We took lots of trail camera pictures of him that year and every year after until I killed him last fall,” Fletcher said. “We also found his sheds every year. He was a very familiar deer.
“As a big 3-year-old 8-pointer, our family elected to pass on him,” Fletcher continued. “The following year, he was a 160-class 8-pointer, and we all had opportunities to shoot him, but we really felt he could push the envelope a bit more if he reached 5 years old. We let him go.”
Cat and Mouse
As summer 2017 unrolled, the Weiss crew captured trail camera pictures of the impressive buck. “He looked really good and got us all excited,” Fletcher said. “Then, bow season opened, and he vanished until mid-October. With his velvet gone and the rut approaching, his antlers and body looked very impressive — characteristics of a mature buck.”
Fletcher began hunting the family’s hotspots in mid-October and soon encountered the buck one evening nudging some does. “He stayed about 70 yards out,” he told. “I was just thrilled to see him moving during daylight.”
A week passed before the next encounter. “A hot doe appeared with five bucks behind her,” he shared. “The last one was my target buck. All five bucks were chasing that one doe all over the field I was hunting for half an hour or so, but once again, I didn’t get a shot.
“I hunted that same location the very next morning,” Fletcher recalled, “and around 9:15 a.m. I saw him chasing the same doe in my direction. He made some scrapes and then started angling away from me. I grunted at him twice, which brought him on a string to a scrape 20 yards away. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a clear shot.”
Fletcher was unable to hunt that afternoon, so Gordy decided to hunt the stand. “On the way to the stand, I busted a deer out of the area,” he said. “I felt it was probably the buck Fletcher had been seeing. We let the stand rest for a few days.
“A few mornings later,” Gordy said, “I hunted the stand again. The buck came to the same scrape 20 yards away, and just like Fletcher’s encounter, it didn’t present a shot. It’s crazy that we both came so close but couldn’t get him killed.”
Another Close Call
Three mornings later, Fletcher was off school and hunted the stand. “This deer was really getting under my skin,” he told. “He was so visible, but we just couldn’t get him on the ground. That morning, I saw a lot of deer and substantial rutting activity. I knew a hot doe was nearby.”
Moments later, Fletcher spotted the giant buck. “He appeared 50 yards away chasing a doe,” he said. “Suddenly, he vanished for about 15 minutes. I was watching some other bucks in front of me when I heard a grunt from behind. I turned around, and he was breeding a doe 30 yards away. I drew back and hollered as he continued after the doe, but he didn’t stop. He ran right by me about 15 yards away — another encounter with no shot.”
Closing the Deal
Inevitably, Gordy and Fletcher had a friendly argument over who’d get to hunt the stand the following morning. “Since I’d seen the buck so many times, it was getting under my skin,” Fletcher said. “I really wanted to keep trying, so dad agreed.”
The following morning met Fletcher with drizzly conditions and pitch darkness. “Dad and I sat in the truck until 10 minutes before daylight so we could stay dry and find our stands without flashlights,” he continued. “It felt strange approaching my stand in the daylight, but it worked in our favor. Walking in was nice and quiet, and there weren’t any deer by my stand.”
Oddly, movement was slow for the first part of the morning. “I texted my dad late in the morning to tell him I hadn’t seen as much as a squirrel, and that I was thinking about getting down,” Fletcher remembered. “Before I sent the text, I spotted a group of 15 deer with five or six bucks. I got excited.
“There’s a waterhole about 30 yards out from the stand, and I suddenly spotted my buck making a beeline to it,” he continued. “He came in and drank for about 5 minutes. Two does were right beneath my stand, and I knew he’d come to scent-check them. About 10 minutes later, he started grunting and walking right toward the does.”
The buck soon entered Fletcher’s 20-yard shooting lane. “I mouth-grunted to stop him, and he stopped after taking two more steps, which put him slightly quartering toward me,” he added. “I felt very confident in the opportunity. I tucked the arrow tight behind the shoulder, and the buck bolted before stopping 50 yards away.
“I was confident my first shot was lethal, but I nocked another arrow and drew back,” Fletcher continued. “I remember seeing one little twig in the way, but I figured chances were slim I’d hit it. Well, my arrow hit it, deflected and buried in a tree right beside him. The buck bolted again and went out of sight. I called Dad to tell him what had happened.”
An hour passed when father met son at the scene of the impact. “We were unable to find the arrow, but we located some blood,” Fletcher recalled. “It was starting to wash away in the rain, so we became nervous. Since the buck had been quartering toward me, I figured the worst-case scenario was a liver hit. We didn’t want to risk pushing him onto a neighboring property if that was the case.”
Recovery and Celebration
The following day, the two Weiss hunters returned to recover the buck. “We created a game plan,” Fletcher told. “I’d walk the ridge where I’d last seen him, and Dad would walk the valley below. We decided to sneak along and see what we could find. Off we went.”
Just before cresting the ridge, Fletcher spotted a spike buck pawing at something on the ground. “He was really focused on something,” he said. “I sneaked in closer, and sure enough, he was pawing at my expired buck. I screamed to Dad, ‘I shot a booner!’ Best of all, the shot had been perfect, and the buck died just beyond where I’d last seen him.”
Few 17-year-old hunters can say they’ve killed a buck grossing more than 170 inches, especially with archery equipment. “My buck gross-scored 176 6/8 inches,” Fletcher shared. “We believe he was 5 years old. My friends at school were pumped when I showed them pictures and told the story. Even though a year has passed, everything’s still fresh in my mind. I’ll never forget it.”