September 12, 2022
We started saving pictures of the buck I called “Whopper” in 2018. I do remember even taking notice of a deer with his genetics in 2017. It was obvious that he had a lot of potential, and he needed the time to grow. Our hunting party agreed to let him go to see if he could reach the potential we saw in him.
I started bowhunting Whopper a little bit in 2020, as we had decided he had reached “shooter” status. Bow season came and went with no live sightings, but the trail camera pictures continued. My cousin did see him during rifle season, but he didn’t get a shot at the buck. After rifle season ended, I had high hopes that he would make it through. Thankfully, just days after the close of season, he showed back up on our cameras.
It was a very exciting off-season knowing Whopper was still alive. We all couldn’t wait to see what kind of rack he would grow in 2021. As spring turned into summer and antler growth was in full swing, we received great pictures of him. Whopper had put on more mass and grown a 10-inch second-row tine. Our excitement was high!
I always set and adjust my stands in the spring since the woods still look like fall. I then go back in during the summer months to do any trimming necessary with leaves on the trees. Many stand adjustments were made using intel from our trail cameras and hunting encounters. I felt comfortable that we would have a great chance in 2021 at Whopper.
We did not apply a lot of pressure to Whopper early in the fall. We monitored our cameras, and I felt we had a pretty good pattern on the buck. However, there was one problem: His pattern shifted, and I did not have a stand in the location where I knew I could kill him. I purchased a couple new stands and came up with a strategy for a spot later in the season. There was heavy rain in the forecast for Thursday, so I asked my uncle and a cousin to come along an hour before the rain to set it and go. This way any scent we left behind would be washed away in the storm.
The three of us arrived, and there was some cordial disagreement about exactly which tree and how much trimming should get done. My uncle knows the farm like the back of his hands, so he pointed out the trail he felt was most likely to give me a shot. I was very hesitant to do much disturbance with trimming this late into the season. After we were set, we got out as quickly as we could on the UTV, and the rain started soon after.
The morning of Tuesday Nov. 2, 2021, (only five days after setting the stand) was the morning that I would have the best wind to hunt the new stand. I had to wait until about an hour after light to go in because of an expected wind shift. I sat all day, and just before 4:00 p.m., I saw Whopper coming up the ridge road like I had hoped he would. I got ready, and when he was five yards from my opening, he suddenly turned and went around my trail camera. The shock and disappointment poured over my body.
Whopper was walking away, and I was not going to get a shot. I could not figure out why he had decided to walk around the trail camera!
Luckily, things changed for the better. He got on the trail my uncle had pointed out and started coming back toward me. I couldn’t believe it, and my uncle’s words about the need to cut a shooting lane to that trail rang loud in my head.
Had I made a terrible mistake? Fortunately, I didn’t. I picked the best spot for an ethical shot, and when I took the shot, I knew I hit him hard!
I called for help, and we decided to back out until the morning just to be safe. A group of family members went back with me the next morning with a tracking dog. I felt that Whopper was just too big to take any chances. We found him shortly after we started looking, and excitement filled the woods!
He’s definitely a buck of a lifetime, especially since I shot him on a family farm in Southwest Wisconsin. And none of it would not have happened without the help of my family. Whopper ended up scoring 189 3/4.