The morning of October 28th 2011 I found myself loading all my Archery gear into my truck. After work I was headed north to Jackson County Wisconsin for a three day weekend. My good friend and longtime hunting companion live on a small farm there, and we lease another farm across the road. My hunting buddy always keeps me up to date on the deer activity and up to that point it has been slow.
Shortly after I started my work day I received a text message from him. It read “things are heating up”. I knew that if patterns held true to what previous years have done, the next couple days were going to be exciting. The last couple days before Halloween on our properties we always see a big increase in deer activity. Especially bucks. By Halloween day we are catching bruisers on camera during the middle of the day.
Thankfully I was able to leave work early that day. I was able to make the three hour drive and be there to make the evening hunt. I arrived at the house at 2:00. Took a quick shower and changed into my Scent lock. Got the bow out and took a few shots to ensure my sights were still dialed in. I drew back on The Mathews Switchback and drilled the bull’s eye at 30 yards. I double checked all my broad heads to make sure they were in good working order and sharp blades.
I sprayed down with some scent away spray and started discussing which stand I would head to for the evening hunt with my buddy. He told me the “deer crossing” (which got its name from the little yellow deer crossing sign we point at the trail crossing) had some action that morning. He explained he saw a few smaller bucks pushing some does and the bigger bucks were bound to show up sooner or later. So I headed out to the deer crossing stand.
I wasn’t on stand for more than an hour when a nice mature doe strolls in at 15 yards. It was tempting to take the shot but come the 3rd week of October we no longer shoot does off the farms. We try to keep them around to bring in the bucks. We do practice doe management in the early part of the season, we just back off one it gets near the rut. That doe fed below me for about 40 minutes. Munching on acorns and drinking from the small water pond we put out for the deer.
Then I heard the leaves rustling, and the sounds of a heavy bodied animal running towards the doe. I looked over and seen a 2 ½ year old 10 point heading towards the doe in hot pursuit. The doe bolted out of there. She wanted nothing to do with that young deer. He scrambled around smelling the ground where she had been walking, then eventually ran off in the direction she headed. I saw 3 more scrub bucks that afternoon, a little 8, a small 6, and a fork horn. All 3, with their noses to the ground, in search of a hot date.
The next morning I awoke extra early. I ate a quick breakfast, showered up and threw on my scent lock. I told my buddy I was heading back to the same stand. He let me know he was going to his pine tree stand, which was almost 100 hundred yards down the ridge from me. As I was walking in to my stand I could hear a buck grunting and running a doe around. So I crept as quietly as possible up the ridge to my stands. I climbed up in my stand about an hour and a half before sunrise that morning. I wanted to be there early and ready to go by daylight. After being on stand for about 20 minutes I heard some grunting and heavy running headed right towards me. Although it was too dark to see, the action gets my heart racing. A few minutes later another buck came grunting and running in the same direction. My morning was starting off great. Now I just needed the sun to rise.
Finally day light has come; it has been quiet in the woods for some time. I decided to reach down and grab my Primos can call and give it a couple turns. I suddenly heard some wrestling coming from my left. Down the trail comes the 10 point 2 ½ , I saw the previous evening. He had beautiful mass. Just no height or width to his rack. I again decided to pass on him. Knowing he would bring more potential in years to come. He walked in about 22 yards to investigate the sounds of what he thought was a lonely female looking for a suitor.
After not finding the female he was looking for he slowly walked off down the ridge. The woods had got quiet again. Nothing was moving. About 8:15 am my buddy text and said he just had a tall tined 3 ½ 8, point come through by him and was heading my direction. He said that it wasn’t a buck he was interested but it would make a nice buck for myself. I told him I would judge it and choose wisely if it comes my way. About 8:30 I hadn’t seen the buck yet, so once again I pull my can call out and give it a few turns, then hit the true talker grunt call a few times to see if I could get some action.
All of a sudden it sounded like a freight train running down the trail from my left side. I looked over to see this massive bodied tall tine 8 point running right to my stand. I grabbed my switchback and put my release on the string in hopes he was going to stop in range. At 19 yards this buck came to a halt. Once glance at his massive body and tall tines I knew he was a buck I would happily take. I drew my bow back, waited for that buck to turn broadside and I released a spitfire tipped carbon express right at his boiler room.
Upon my release of the arrow, the buck had spun towards me,causing the arrow to hit in front of the shoulder and not behind the shoulder where I was aiming. He took off running and stopped at 50 yards. He lay down and started to lick the entrance wound of the arrow. I thought to myself, “this is awesome; he is going to expire right in eye sight of my stand”.
All of a sudden the buck stood up. He slowly started walking towards me. I hurriedly knocked another arrow and readied myself for a second shot. The buck turned and ran down the hill and out of sight. I text my buddy and told him what had happened. We both agreed that we would wait until 10:00 and give him about 2 hours before trying to track him. During that 2 hour wait I had seen 5 more bucks troll through. All 2 ½ or younger but, it was fun to watch and helped to stay in stand long enough to give my buck time to expire.
Finally 10:00 am rolled around and I packed up and climbed down. I went to the spot of the shot and immediately started following the blood. 20 yards down the trail I recovered my arrow. There was blood covering the fletching’s so I knew it was a clean pass through. I continued to where the buck first laid down. There was a lot of blood and it left me scratching my head as to how this buck got up and walked off. We started following the blood down the hill and about 300 yards away we briefly lost the blood trail. I was down on my hands and knees until finally picking up a pin drop of blood which gave us the direction we headed.
We had reached the neighbors fence line where the blood trail started to increase again. The buck had jumped the fence and ran into a marshy area along the neighbor’s creek. I pulled out my bino’s and started glassing around. I caught glimpse of him bedded but still conscious. We decided to back out, go have lunch and track down the neighbor in order to get permission to continue tracking him. Luckily for us, the neighbor is a big bow hunter as well and was eager for us to continue tracking my deer. After lunch we snuck back to the fence line and glassed the buck again. He was still conscious.
I knocked an arrow and decided to make a slow stalk. I got to within 30 yards but the buck caught me moving. He jumped up and started on a very slow pace up a hill top. We glassed him reach the top and saw him lay down again. So we slowly crept our way up the hill. I came to within 75 yards of where he was bedded and stopped. There was a big rock mound he was laying by, so I decided to use it as a barrier from his eye sight. I crept up to 40 yards of the rock pile and slowly peaked my head around. He was still bedded with his head facing the opposite direction. I crept up to within 35 yards of where the buck was laying.
I knocked up and arrow and came to full draw. I slowly stepped out from behind the rock pile. I laid the pin dead behind his shoulder, took a deep breath and let it fly. It connected perfectly. The buck jumped up again and ran down the hill. The buck went down at the bottom and finally expired. It was a huge sigh of relief and gratification. My buddy ran up with excitement because this had been the biggest buck I had shot to date. I began to field dress and tag him and my buddy went back to get the 4 wheeler. To this date I still look at that buck hanging on my wall and smile. It was hard work but well worth the rewards. I was not giving up until I recovered him. <—–<
Edward Mathis- NMO Regional Director.