New Wisconsin state-record non-typical by bow.
Bob didn't know that the trophy buck he had shot was the much-acclaimed Field & Stream buck until he recovered the deer. Although there was much speculation about the deer possibly being a world-record typical, it was later scored as a non-typical. Nonetheless, the Buffalo County monarch was declared a new Wisconsin state record by bow!
It seemed like every deer hunter in North America knew about this great buck, and avid bowhunter Bob Decker knew the deer lived in the area where he was hunting. But never in his wildest dreams did Bob think he would actually encounter the buck, much less get a shot at it!
In late August 2008, a friend e-mailed me the link to a video of a huge buck filmed in velvet. Taken in Buffalo County, Wisconsin, the video was posted on Field & Stream magazine's Web site. Videotaped at over 400 yards away, the buck appeared to be a giant typical (although it looked like he had some non-typical points). The deer soon became known as the "Field & Stream" buck. Within a very short time, much speculation began to circulate that its typical score could surpass that of Milo Hansen's world record of 213 5/8 typical points.
Since I lease land in Buffalo County, many people who know me were compelled to send me the link to the video. My response to all of them was the same. "Buffalo County is over 600 square miles in size, so don't expect me to run into him." Little did I know what was about to happen!
AN INTERNET SENSATION
Thanks to the Internet, the speculation about this buck became big news nationwide.
Local media ran several stories on the deer. In the following weeks, I began to hear rumors that the video had been made in the general area where I hunt. Then, just prior to the start of archery season, my hunting partner Paul Olson was able to pinpoint the exact location based on terrain features, foliage and some power lines in the background. Even though we knew the buck was roaming within a couple of miles of our lease, neither of us seriously thought we had a chance of ever seeing the buck, much less harvesting him.
I was excited about the 2008 Wisconsin archery season long before the video of the Field & Stream buck ever surfaced. Paul and I made numerous trips from Eau Claire to our hunting lease in Buffalo County in January and February 2008 to check trail cameras and to fine-tune stand locations. Trail camera photos revealed that a number of good bucks had survived the hunting season, including one that appeared to be in the 170 class.
Paul and I have leased this same 200-acre parcel since 2003. During that time, we've each taken several good bucks. Even though Paul and I have exclusive access to the lease, we allow friends and family members to hunt with us, primarily during gun season.
Going into the 2008 season, Paul and I had set up 20 stands. We use hang-on stands, and each is equipped with a bow rope, a safety rope with a Prussic knot, a bow hook and a pack hook. Of the 20 stands we hung, 10 were in new locations and 10 were in proven spots. The property we lease is approximately 100 acres of woods and 100 acres of pasture. There are no crops or food plots on the property. We do not hunt over bait or do any kind of supplemental feeding.
A LATE START ON THE '08 SEASON
Even with the knowledge that the Field & Stream buck was roaming near my hunting area, work and family commitments kept me from getting out much during the first part of the 2008 bow season. I'm married with four children, and my job as the manager of a paper mill is very demanding. I made several trips to the woods to sit with my son Joe, who was bowhunting for the first time.
Prior to November, however, I only hunted once by myself. Since I do not get as much time in the woods as I'd like, I try to focus on hunting the rut. I planned to hunt the entire first week of November or until I harvested a buck. My good friend Mark Hoehne was scheduled to join Paul and me later in the week, so I was excited about spending a week in the woods with two close friends.
On the morning of Saturday, Nov. 1, Paul and I drove to our lease. On the way, we talked about which stands would be good to hunt with an east wind. We joked around about holding out for the Field & Stream buck, but we both agreed that we would take the first good buck that came along. By good buck, I mean 130 inches or better.
Paul knew where he wanted to sit, but I was undecided. I was leaning toward a stand that we call the Garbage Dump, but I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to go to the Pulpit. The Pulpit got its name after Mark (who is a pastor) shot a nice buck from that location in 2004. I ultimately chose the Pulpit that morning because I was tired and it is a very easy stand to access.
A FAST-PACED MORNING HUNT
I climbed into the Pulpit just as it was getting light. I spent my morning watching squirrels while enjoying the thought that I would be spending the next week in the woods.
Several rattling sequences elicited no response. I had not seen a single deer all morning long, and at about 9:30 a.m. I was getting hungry. So I stood up and started digging into my backpack, looking for a candy bar. The pack was hanging on a tree hook.
My search for a candy bar was interrupted by the sound of an approaching deer. I was facing the tree at the time. I looked up to see a definite shooter about 50 yards away heading directly toward me with his head down.
At the time, I had no idea that the buck heading my way was, in fact, the very buck that had generated so much publicity. I really didn't have much time to look him over since I had to pivot 180 degrees to grab my bow, which was hanging from a tree-mounted bow holder.
Bob's Buffalo County giant was scored as a main-frame 5x5 with three additional abnormal points on each side. The abnormal points tallied almost 50 inches. The longest tine was 14 inches, and both G-2s were well over 13 inches in length. Although the much-renowned buck is not a world record, it certainly is world class in every sense of the term!
Once I had my bow in hand, I pivoted into position and immediately drew back. The buck stopped about five yards from the base of my tree and was quartering toward me. I could have taken a shot at that point, but I didn't like the angle. After about 15 seconds, the buck started walking again and passed behind my tree. I had to let down so I could reposition myself to shoot on the other side of the tree.
A SHOT HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD
My safety strap was hindering my movement, so I unclipped my release from my bowstring and adjusted the strap. At this point the buck stopped at about seven yards from my tree and was quartering away, giving me a perfect angle. I drew back again and placed an arrow directly into the buck's boiler room. After the shot the buck ran about 50 yards and stopped. Then he went down. He got back up and made his way another 50 yards or so downhill and out of my sight. After that, the woods were quiet.
Even though I was confident the buck was down, I decided to back out of the area and go find Paul. When I arrived a Paul's stand, I told him that I had just shot a very good buck.
I said I thought it would definitely be my best ever, but I also concluded that it wasn't the Field & Stream buck and that he could keep hunting for him. Paul laughed and offered to help me recover my deer.
We decided to move a trail camera to kill a little time. After that, we had lunch and then headed back to recover my buck. As we approached the spot where I had last seen the buck, I could see his white belly about 30 yards away. As we approached, his rack kept looking bigger and bigger. I had clearly underestimated the buck's antlers!
AN AMAZING DISCOVERY, A GRUELING 60 DAYS
Paul approached the deer and said, "It's him!"
I replied, "It's who?"
"It's the Field & Stream buck!" he answered.
At that point, Paul held up the buck's head, giving me the profile view that I recognized from the video. We were both in disbelief. To this day, I still can't believe that I didn't recognize the deer's size when he was under my tree. Thank God for this, as I would have likely lost my composure. Instead, I had made a perfect shot. The arrow had entered the buck's ribcage and pierced his heart. The broadhead was stuck in his sternum.
The Eau Claire Leader Telegram ran a story about my buck two days after I got him. The media circus that followed was overwhelming. There was so much publicity about the buck when he was alive that it was no surprise that his demise generated even more publicity. Deer hunting is a religion in Wisconsin. It seems that everyone in the state was familiar with the Field & Stream buck. A photo of me with the buck appeared on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel above photos of John McCain and Barack Obama on Election Day! Only in Wisconsin!
My phone rang constantly. I had more than 20 interview requests in the first week following the Leader Telegram story. While it may sound like fun, it was very disrupting to my family life. There was still much speculation that the buck might score as a typical.
On the advice of a friend who'd had experience with having a large typical buck scored, I chose not to green-score the rack. My feeling was that the buck would score as a non-typical because he wasn't perfectly symmetrical, but I wasn't certain.
The criterion I was aware of regarding scoring a typical buck was that the points must originate separately from the top of the beam. The rack seemed to meet that criterion, so it seemed there might be a chance my buck would qualify as a typical. By the time the 60-day drying period ended, I really didn't care how he scored. I just wanted it done.
Even though the buck is very symmetrical and appears typical at first glance, the rack was judged to be non-typical. All but one of the buck's 16 measurable points was determined to originate separately from the top of the beam. Two separate rows of tines were declared for each antler, resulting in a non-typical designation. At 233 2/8 inches, the buck was declared a new Wisconsin non-typical archery state record.
I seldom make an effort to hunt a specific buck, and the 2008 season was no different.
Most of the good bucks I've harvested over the years were deer that I had never seen before. Even with trail cameras out, we are often surprised by what wanders by during the rut. Sharing trail camera photos with neighbors in recent years has been very enlightening. We have learned that many of the mature bucks we are seeing are covering a lot more ground than we ever imagined.
A friend who hunts a couple of miles away gave me a number of trail camera photos of the Field & Stream buck dating as far back as July and as recent as Oct. 29, just three days before I shot him. This was the second time the same friend has given me trail camera photos of a buck that I subsequently harvested. The same thing had happened in 2003. In both cases, the deer traveled several miles in the span of a couple of days. This was not unexpected, however, since both bucks were taken in November. This same friend gave me the buck's shed antlers from 2007.
Amazingly, tooth samples indicated the buck was just 3 1/2 years old. He weighed 200 pounds field dressed. The sheds from 2007 grossed 155 inches assuming an 18-inch inside spread. That means the buck put on an incredible 85 inches of antler bone in a single year. Hopefully some of his genes were spread to the local deer herd! Only the future will tell!
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Replicas of Bob Decker's Field & Stream buck are available from Artistic Antlers. For more info, go online to www.artisitcantlers.com.