On Sept. 20, 2009, Wayne Schumacher arrowed the buck of '¨a lifetime...
Wayne Schumacher's gnarly Fond du Lac County buck racked up 243 6/8 inches of antler, with 29 measurable points and a 20 5/8-inch spread.
Six days into the 2009 Wisconsin whitetail season, I would have normally been in the woods, waiting and watching for the buck of a lifetime to emerge. As most avid hunters know, the first couple of weeks can present some of the best opportunities of the entire season for bringing down a mature buck.
Instead, on the morning of Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, I found myself not perched among the tree tops, bow at the ready, but sweating under the weight of my son Adam's belongings, helping him move into his new house in Des Moines, Iowa, so that he could get situated for his season opener. The things we do for our family'¦
Even as I lamented my absence from the deer woods and focused on the task at hand, the hands of fate were working their magic on my deer season. By the end of the weekend, my perspective on deer hunting and, indeed, the Wisconsin whitetail record books, would be rewritten.
The move went well on Friday and Saturday, so I mentioned to Adam that I would like to get back early on Sunday to allow for at least few hours of hunting that evening. On the way back to Wisconsin I called my brother, Pete, and asked where he was hunting that night. He informed me the wind was bad in St. Peter, where he hunts, and if we went to Princeton, where we lease land, it would be awfully late when we got home.
In the end, we decided to go to an area west of Fond du Lac because it was closer and we had not yet hunted there. I called Pete back a half-hour later to see if we could leave earlier than planned to pick grapes for the homemade wine we use for celebrating either during deer season or in the winter when sturgeon fishing.
Arriving at our friends' house, we picked the grapes with them, talked for awhile, loaded up the truck, and headed out hunting about 4:30 p.m. Pete and I, along with my nephew, Jeremy, had established three food plots on the property in July, and we had placed stands by all three plots. Most of the stands had been set 12 feet off the ground. I have read that some hunters prefer stands as high as 20 feet off the ground so there is less chance of being winded. Although that could be true, I don't like the angle presented by a shot from that elevation, especially on deer that venture close to the stand. After arriving at the property and getting dressed, Pete and I agreed on where we'd sit and headed afield.
Shortly after that, I climbed into my stand, put everything into place, hung my bow and began the inevitable waiting game. As I settled in and focused on my surroundings, my thoughts drifted to big, mature deer, and I considered how I might respond if a true trophy emerged. I had heard reports of a big buck being spotted two miles away during the 2008 season, but I hadn't heard anyone speak of the buck in the immediate area that I was hunting. My trail cameras had been operating for three weeks on the property, and they had yet to provide any proof that the rumors were true.
From my stand, I could see all three food plots, as well as my brother, who was set up 175 yards away. An hour-and-a-half into the hunt, I had yet to see anything in any of the food plots. Then, around 6:45 p.m., my daydreams were interrupted by the unmistakable sound of a branch snapping under my tree. I couldn't believe what I saw. Only 10 inches of antler were visible from behind the tree, but I counted at least eight points and a lot of mass to this deer. Instantly, I assumed it was the big buck I had heard about from last year. I slowly started to reach for my bow. He stopped about eight yards from my tree and looked toward the food plot in the open field. I stopped moving and waited for him to continue. Because I knew the wind was coming from his direction, I knew he was unlikely to catch my scent.
Earlier that afternoon, I had shot six arrows at a target. On the last arrow, I flinched and it flew off course by about 10 inches. As I pulled back on the bow and lined up the sites. I told myself, "You don't want to flinch on this one." At that point, I triggered my release and watched as the arrow hit right where I was aiming. With the buck quartering away, the arrow entered behind the right rib cage and exited cleanly by the left front leg. He bolted away, and I caught my first glimpse of the entire rack; I couldn't believe how big it was! As his head rocked with the massive antlers, he reminded me of an elk.
The massive buck ran about 70 yards, stopped, dropped his head, buckled his front legs and tipped over. I could not believe it! At that point I got light-headed, held onto some branches and started to take some slow deep breaths. After a minute, I regained my composure and started to gather my equipment.
I didn't know what to do. Should I wait until dark and let my brother finish hunting or go get him while it was still light out? I decided to go get Pete, but as I started walking toward him, I reconsidered and walked back a ways. My brother could see me and knew something was wrong because normally I never get out of my tree early. I knelt down, took a few more deep breaths, and decided to go tell him. Since we have hunted and fished together for many years, I wanted to go look at the buck I had just killed with my brother.
Once I got to Pete's stand, I apologized for ruining his hunting and told him, "I just got a dandy." We decided to go get the truck and then retrieve the deer. We parked the truck near my tree, and I told Pete I had left something under my tree and needed to get that before tracking the deer. When I returned to the truck, I realized he had gone ahead to look for the deer without me. When I caught up with him, he was already walking back. I'll never forget the first words out of Pete's mouth: "I counted 28 points!"
When I finally approached the buck, I couldn't believe what I saw. It was awesome! We recounted the points again and came up with 31 points, then 30. We decided to tag it and dress it out before it got too dark. I was shaking so bad at this point, Pete had to cut the tag information for me.
Together, we dragged the deer back to the truck and attempted to lift it onto the tailgate. It would have been a comedy show for anyone watching us try to get that massive buck on the truck. We could not get him more than six inches off the ground, and there seemed to be no way we would be able to hoist him onto the tailgate. Finally, we put the head on the tailgate; I climbed in the back of the truck and pulled while Pete lifted. It took some work to organize the truck to fit him in with the grapes and equipment and to get the tailgate closed.
While on the way to Pete's house, his son, Mark, called to find out where we were, because there were a lot of people already waiting for us. Once we arrived, no one could believe what they saw. People started calling their friends, and about 50 people visited throughout the night to see the deer and celebrate with me while enjoying beer and homemade wine.
We decided to weigh the buck, but our scale only went to 200 pounds. We estimated his weight at least 225 pounds. The next day, I went into work and asked for half of the day off. I called my brother to let him know about the buck and to see if he could get off work as well to join me in registering it. He was glad, because it seems he celebrated with more homemade wine and beer than I did.
Once we got to Dutch's Sport Shop in Fond du Lac, craziness ensued. They knew we were coming, and a big crowd had gathered already and was continuing to grow. We were there about two-and-a-half hours until we had to leave to get the deer back to our cooler. Once we got to my brother's house, it started all over. The driveway was always full of cars, and people began parking on the road.
A number of people said that due to the publicity during the first two days, the buck should be caped out as soon as possible and put in a safe place. I was not able to find anyone to cape it right away so a friend of mine, Tom Burton, offered to stay with me overnight in the building to be sure it wasn't stolen. I called my wife to give her the news. "Honey, I'm sleeping with the deer!" I said. "What?" she asked incredulously, but she knew I was serious.
The next morning came too quickly. I went home, changed, called work, and was able to take a second day off. Needing to get the deer caped out, I called Bruce Zuehlke, a taxidermist in St. Peter, to find out if he could help me. He called his friend, Ray Groff, who assists him when he needs help caping deer. After about three hours of careful cutting, the cape was complete.
After the 60-day antler-drying period, I found out through a friend that there was a certified scorer in Fond du Lac named Mark Miller. Miller and I met to talk about what needed to be done in order to have the buck officially scored.
Time constraints and wind conditions forced Wayne Schumacher and his brother to hunt a property in Fond du Lac County that they had not yet hunted in 2009. The result: Wisconsin's new state-record non-typical archery buck!
Based on Miller's initial measurements of the rack, the buck would score at least in the top five Wisconsin non-typical bucks, meaning it would need to be panel measured by four certified measurers. We decided to have it panel scored right away. He took over from there and contacted the appropriate people.
At 11:45 a.m. on Dec. 5, 2009, I arrived at Miller's house with my wife and son. There we met the panel that consisted of four certified measurers representing the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club, Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett --Steve Ashley, Brian Nitzel, Brian Testman and Miller. Joining them was a retired measurer Bob Hults.
WBBC is the official scorekeeper for the Wisconsin State Record Book. After some small talk, we were told we needed to leave and they would call us after the measuring was complete. Two people would score it first, and then the other two would take a turn. Then, they would all compare notes and come up with a score everyone agreed with. At 2:45 p.m. my phone rang and I was told they were done.
Steve congratulated me and said I had broken the Wisconsin state record. The record for a non-typical buck was broken in 1979 with a score of 231 5/8. In November 2008, Bob Decker of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, killed a buck that scored 233 2/8 in Buffalo County. Now, 11 months later, I was fortunate enough to kill a buck that scored 243 6/8 with 29 points and a spread of 20 5/8 inches.
Currently I have plans to make replicas for myself and others that would like to own one. The original will be kept in a safe place unless someone would show interest in the purchase of it.
There have been many people throughout this ordeal who offered help and gave advice and suggestions on what to do. I want to thank my son Adam, my brother Pete and my nephew Jeremy, as well as all of the family and friends who celebrated with me. This made for a once-in-a-life time hunting season. That's why this story is dedicated to family, friends and hunting.
(Editor's Note: For more information e-mail Wayne Schumacher at firstname.lastname@example.org)