Beginner's Luck Buck
Kenosha, WI

I have a friend that owns a residential property in Kenosha, WI, and he allows me to hunt deer on his property. He has only about 20 acres of land; 50% swampy wooded land, 50% grassy field. His property has a creek that flows through it and it lies adjacent to 600 acres of corn fields. During the 2000 season I hunted his property with a muzzleloader. There was a lot of deer sign in the area so I thought I might get lucky. I had hung a tree stand in a tall maple that overlooked the swampy area and sat in it each morning before work each day of the one-week muzzleloader season. I also did some stalking of the bedding areas. Unfortunately, I never saw a deer during the 2000 season; however I did see lots of deer sign and that I had pushed some deer out of their snowy beds, never actually seeing them.

I bought my first bow this year (2001). The guys that I gun hunt with each year are avid bow hunters and they have been trying to get me to buy a bow for several years. So I did a little research of the market and decided to buy myself a Matthews SQ-2. On October 2nd I took my bow out to a local archery range and sighted in my 20, 30 and 40 yard pins. I was amazed to see that, once my pins were sighted, I could consistently keep them in a 6 inch grouping, even at 40 yards and elevated 15 feet. My friends were pleased to hear that I finally bought a bow. They assured me not to feel bad if I did not get a deer the first year as it is extremely difficult to get close enough for a good shot.

Two days later, Thursday, October 4, is a day I will never forget. It was raining and cold all day. I was driving by my friend's land at about 5:30 pm. I thought that the rain would be good cover, that I had at least 30 minutes of hunting time left, and that it was a good opportunity to go scout out the area. So, I put on my camo/raingear and stalked out to the edge of the swampy area and just stood and watched for about 15 minutes. The tree stand that I hung during the previous muzzleloader season was still up, but now there was a lot more cover, and I figured it to be more of a bedding area while there were still leaves on the trees. So, instead of going to my tree stand I decided to stalk out to the edge of the corn fields facing the swampy area and the bedding area beyond.

Standing next to some tall grass that would help break up my profile and with twenty minutes of legal hunting time left in the day, I saw two does pop out of the brushy bedding area 75 yards away. Shortly thereafter I saw a buck emerge and chase one of the does around. I figured that with only 10 minutes until closing and 75 yards of open field to cover, there was no way I could close the gap without being detected. So I took my buck grunt and blew in it softly, just once. Thirty seconds later he stopped chasing her and raised his head looking in my direction. Then he put his nose to the ground and started trotting directly at me! At 50 yards he stopped and raised his head looking directly in my direction. There was no way I could move without being detected! He stared in my direction for what seemed an eternity and then, with a little flick of his tail, started walking towards me again. He quartered away 45 degrees and at 35 yards walked behind the only tree in the field! This gave me the opportunity to draw my bow and at 30 yards he was walking perpendicular to me. I focused on his vitals and let my arrow fly. Everything happened so fast that I was unsure if I hit him or not.

He jumped into some tall grass nearby and ran off. I played it back in my head....did I hit him? I remembered hearing a thump but was unsure of what it meant. Quietly I walked to where the deer stood. A little bit of blood turned into a lot of blood. I decided to give him some time. I walked back to my truck and waited for about 25 minutes. I would have liked to waited longer but the rain kept coming and I thought it might wash away my blood trail. So, I grabbed an extra flashlight and headed out to find him. I followed the trail about 15 yards and found my arrow. It was covered tip to tip in dark red blood. The trail was heavy for another 30 yards and then I could see that he stopped and stood there for a while as the blood had pooled in two spots as though he was bleeding from both sides.

There the blood trail ended. Nothing more. I looked ahead...nothing. I did a 5 yard perimeter around the two pools of blood....nothing more....a ten meter perimeter...nothing...a twenty meter perimeter....nothing. I looked up to see what was ahead, and there he was! Unbelievably, he was standing 20 yards away, facing me. I was shaken for a second because we were in an open field and all I had was a small knife and a flashlight. Images of him charging me raced through my mind. I just kept the light shining on him. He was not showing any signs of panic, aggression or injury. There was no blood on him. Could this be a different deer? Then he just walked off into the brush. Unsure whether this was the same deer, I figured it best if I came back in an hour or two.

I called my brother and told him the story and asked him to help me find him. Two hours later we were out in the brush looking for him. It had rained the whole time. The blood trail had nearly disappeared. We found enough blood where the deer I saw had stood to figure that the deer I saw was the deer I shot. The brush he had walked into had red leaves. Everything was red and glossy, making it nearly impossible to discern any blood. So at 10:30, I through in the towel. I left a flashlight at the last spot of blood and went home. I hardly slept that night.

The next morning at first light I resumed trailing the deer. It had rained all night. I walked the whole blood trail from the beginning and was disappointed to see that it had nearly washed completely away. I found my flashlight that I left the night before, but no blood was to be seen. This is when I said to myself, " If I was a deer, which way would I have gone?" I walked in the direction my intuition suggested. Ten yards further I found a piece of an organ but no blood. I knew he was nearby but the cover was so thick. Again, " If I was a deer, which way would I have gone?". Twice more I followed my intuiton and there he was! The entrance wound was not where I had intended on hitting him. I had aimed for a heart/lung shot but ended up hitting him through his liver. He had run a total of 65 yards before falling, only 20 yards from where I had left off the night before!

He was the biggest buck I have ever seen while hunting with gun or bow. Grunting him within range, shot from the ground, with the first arrow, with my first bow, in the first hour of bow hunting. Beginners luck, I know. He weighed in at 190 lbs., field-dressed, and green scored at 126 6/8. I hope that come Dec. 4 he scores above 125 to make the Pope & Young record book!

How did my hunting buddies respond?: "There's no justice".