Because of a fast-paced schedule, avid bowhunter Barry Rose had only one afternoon to make something happen last October. As things turned out, that afternoon was pure magic!
For many residents in my home state of Wisconsin, hunting season is as much of an anticipated event as any major holiday. You might go to your parents' house for Christmas and all of your relatives might gather at one location for Thanksgiving, but come hunting season, you hit the woods. That's a given!
Barry's hard-earned purple tag looks awfully good on his 16-point giant. Much heavier on its right antler, the main-frame 6x7 Wisconsin megabuck grossed 214'‚6/8 typical points before deductions.
As I learned more about Barry Rose's great 2006 buck during our interview, I couldn't help thinking about the fact that this could be the story of any typical hunting family in Elmwood, Wisconsin. Barry's mother and father, Kathy and Jerry, both hunt, as do his two brothers and his sister, Brenda. Toss in Barry's three sons -- Cody, Brady and Payton -- and you have a typical Wisconsin hunting family.
OK, I'll admit that most Wisconsin families don't own a Super Bowl ring like the one Barry received while playing wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills in 1992. However, along with deer hunting, football is also about as "Wisconsin" as you can get. I'm even fairly sure that most of Barry's neighbors have forgiven him for not playing for the Packers.
After all, he played at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point during college, and it wasn't his fault that the Bills drafted him in 1992.
<b<a WALKING STATE RECORD
Barry's first look at his dream buck was even a family event. On a late September afternoon in 2006, he'd taken his youngest son, Payton, to the woods with him.
"Hunting has always been a family thing for us," Barry said. "It was that way growing up, and I keep it that way with my family today. However, when taking an 8-year-old boy hunting, it's important to remember that the hunt is about him. When I'm hunting this property, I usually go to the back side, but I didn't want to put Payton through all of that work. So we took the easy way.
"Thirty minutes before dark, Payton started getting antsy. Rather than make him miserable and ruin the hunt, we sneaked out early. We'd just started driving out when we spotted the huge buck crossing an open lane. I won't pretend that I knew he was a B&C record, but I knew he was bigger than any of the four bucks I had on my wall. He had good mass and long tines, and he was definitely in a class all by himself!
"That one glimpse changed the way I approached the season. With three boys in our household, we go through a lot of venison. I usually shoot a couple of does every year.
The year before had been Brady's first year to hunt, and he shot two does. After that I decided we had enough meat, so I didn't shoot one myself. But as the 2006 season got under way, I realized that I didn't have a purple sticker that would give me the right to shoot a buck. Since our area (Dunn County) is in an Earn-A-Buck unit, I had to first fill a doe tag before I could get my purple sticker.
"What's more, if Payton hadn't been with me I would have gone in the way I usually do and I would have stayed in my stand until dark. Either way, I never would have seen that buck. I knew right there that I didn't want to see him again until I had my buck sticker."
SETTING THE STAGE
Over the next couple of weeks Barry hunted other areas and focused on filling his doe tag.
"It was starting to get to me," Barry admitted. "I wanted to go after that buck, but I couldn't seem to shoot a doe. As bad as I wanted to hunt that area, I didn't want to mess it up or have him walk under my stand and not be able to shoot."
Everything changed on Oct. 7. As mentioned, Brady already had earned his purple sticker because he had taken two does the year before. Being 13 years old, he also qualified for the youth hunt. Since the 2006 youth season was the first opportunity for Brady to buck hunt, father and son went back to the property that held Mr. Big.
"I'd thought about that buck a lot since seeing him," said Barry. "I was pretty sure he was living on that ground. It has everything -- cover, food and water. There was no reason for him to leave. So when the youth hunt came along, I couldn't think of a bigger thrill than to let Brady be the one to shoot him. Hunting is all about building memories, and what a memory that would make!"
Climbing up into the same tree, Brady was armed with a gun and Barry had his bow. The goal was for Brady to kill the giant and for Barry to shoot a doe so that he could get his buck sticker. However, one spent shell and a quiver full of arrows later the giant still lived. But having a purple sticker was no longer an issue. Brady shot a doe and Barry arrowed two. Mr. Big was not seen that day, but he was now fair game for Barry.
A TWIST OF FATE
With football behind him, Barry now serves as the superintendent of Elmwood schools.
For him the job is a labor of love in small-town Wisconsin. Though it's not a job requirement for Barry, residents expect to see him at most school events, and they enjoy seeing him at those events. Between concerts, plays, conferences, meetings and sporting events, not many afternoons are left open for hunting.
"We don't have school activities on Wednesdays," Barry noted. "So, that's the one day when I typically try to get out to hunt."
Things got a little crazy in the Rose household in the fall of 2006. On the weekend of Oct. 21, Barry was inducted into the football Hall of Fame at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Add that to all of the normal school events going on, and Barry needed a break.
"I go to almost every school functions and I felt guilty even thinking about skipping the high school concert," Barry admitted. "But with everything else going on that weekend and a cold front moving in on Monday, Oct. 23, I really wanted to unwind in the woods.
After checking with the high school principal to be sure he planned to attend the concert, I decided to go hunting on Monday afternoon. I still felt guilty the whole time I was driving to my spot."
A HUNT TO REMEMBER
Barry's guilt faded quickly after he encountered a 140-class buck on the way to his stand.
Any other day this buck would be a shooter, bu
t with Mr. Big etched in his mind, Barry was unsure if he'd unleash an arrow at the smaller buck. However, he stalked to within 40 yards of the buck just the same. He was nearly faced with having to make that decision when the buck made the decision for him and went south. As exciting as the stalk had been, Barry knew he needed to get to his stand.
"Before I went in, I filled a film canister with Wildlife Research Center's No. 1 Select Estrus. Because I was in a rush to get up the tree, I didn't think much about where I hung it. I hastily put it close to one of my shooting lanes, but I was more focused on hunting than precise placement. It was already 4:45 p.m. and deer were moving!"
That factor played heavily into the events that followed. Barry's stand location screamed of being a "big-buck hotspot." With a large opening 75 yards to one side, the stand faces some thick cover. A bedding area lies on one side, while food borders the other. Mature woods run up to the edge of the stand, with several openings and shooting lanes in the thick stuff. Deer trying to get from bedding to feeding areas naturally travel the edge of the cover and pass by the stand within easy bow range.
"After climbing into the stand, I sprayed a little cover scent on the tree," Barry said.
"Then, after getting settled in, I did some light rattling. I finished off the routine with three to five grunts. That's my way of covering any sounds I made on my way in.
"At 6 p.m. I started my third rattling sequence. About five minutes after I finished, I spotted a body moving through the thick stuff. When he hit an opening, I saw his rack and I knew it was him!"
RARE SIGHT, TENSE MOMENT
"The next time I saw him he was leaving and it didn't look like he was going to give me a shot. Luckily, though, he smelled the estrus and he turned and came in on a string. Once he reached the canister he really put on a show. There, standing 20 yards in front of me, an incredible buck was inhaling the airborne scent and raking his antlers on a branch! The scent had him totally captivated."
Barry had come to full draw by the time the buck started to move. Crossing the first shooting lane, Mr. Big was slightly quartering to the hunter. Confident the buck would hit his second shooting lane and offer a better shot, Barry waited. That's where his hurried placement of the film canister comes into play. Barry had forgotten that the canister had been placed just before that second shooting lane.
Now the buck was right in front of him working the scent, but Barry didn't have a shot! This went on for several minutes. With Barry's arms now shaking from the strain, he had to let down. Luckily, a large tree blocked the buck's view.
At last the bruiser sensed that something wasn't right. Turning in the direction from which he had come, the buck began walking away briskly. As he did, Barry came to full draw again with his Mathews bow. Knowing it was now or never, Barry let the arrow fly as soon as the buck entered his shooting lane.
"The arrow went all the way through," Barry recalled excitedly. "As the buck kicked and took two big bounds, the one thing I'll never forget is how he looked like an elk smashing through the thicket. In an instant, he was gone.
"Nervous, shaking and blood pumping, I sat down and looked at my watch after he was out of sight. It was 6:27 p.m. I struggled to regain my composure. The first thing that went through my mind was, 'Oh, my gosh!'
"Next, all I could do was hope I didn't shoot too far back. After five minutes, I couldn't take it anymore and climbed down. The arrow was covered in bright red blood! That was very exciting for me."
Leaving the woods, Barry couldn't wait to share the news with his wife, Tammy, and the boys. They all knew how badly Barry wanted this buck. Barry then called his brother, Jerry Jr. Two hours later, the brothers were following a good blood trail, only to have it disappear 30 yards from the shot site. To play it safe, they slipped out and waited for morning.
"That night I called my dad and my other brother, Cary," Barry said. "I knew they'd help us the next morning. I was confident that the buck was dead, but I worried that the coyotes might get him. I didn't sleep at all that night!"
Believing it would be a short, simple tracking job, Barry began the search with his family members at 8:30 a.m. However, having had no luck as noon approached, Barry decided it was time to pull out, get some lunch and resume the search later.
THE BEST KIND OF NEWS!
"I was sitting on the tailgate of the truck, depressed and thinking we were not going to find him," Barry said. "Dad and Cary were still in the woods looking. Suddenly Cary came running around the corner, yelling his head off. It was such a shock that I grabbed my bow. I didn't know what was going on. Finally, I understood. He'd found the buck!"
Handshakes, hugs and a few tears followed as an elated father and three brothers stood over what was destined to become the new Wisconsin state-record typical buck by bow.
Grossing 214'‚6/8 and netting 187'‚2/8 typical points, this 16-point split-brow-tined giant edged out the previous state record of 186'‚5/8, shared jointly by Ken Shane's 2000 Buffalo County buck and Fred Hofman's '94 Langlade County buck.
Not only had Barry Rose taken the largest typical whitetail ever shot with a bow in Wisconsin, but the entire pursuit had been a family affair from start to finish!