I have hunted deer for more than 45 years and have read countless deer hunting stories in magazines like ‘Big Buck’ for even more than that. Perhaps it’s an ego thing, but like a lot of guys, I have always wanted to hunt and take a buck that would be worthy of one of these articles. I always assumed the story would highlight my skills as a hunter, or my understanding of deer behavior, or possibly my accuracy with a bow. But like many things in life, it didn’t go as planned. And so I am writing a story about luck.
My story begins on the deck of our home in rural Minnesota three days before the opening day of Minnesota’s bow season. My wife Juli and I were having supper on our backyard deck where we could watch a foodplot to see what deer would arrive at sundown. Several does and yearling bucks were regular visitors and provided constant entertainment as we ate. But the one I was interested in was a 3 ½ year old 8 point. He would score around 150 and was a rare deer in the heavily hunted area where I live. These deer would usually appear on the far end of the foodplot and slowly work their way towards the house as the sun set and darkness settled in. But on this evening, a new buck arrived.
He came out of the tall grass on the close end of the field and began to feed only a hundred yards from the house. He was a big bodied, old buck and carried a heavy wide 12 point rack. As usual, we had the spotting scope already set up on the table, and we wasted no time focusing on this deer. “That’s what a B&C buck looks like,” I told Juli with great confidence, having looked at hundreds of them in all those articles I read. Juli, understanding as always, agreed. He only stayed in the foodplot for a couple of minutes so I didn’t have time to accurately score him, but I saw enough to know. The big 8 point buck would have little to fear from me that fall. The next day, I went down to the field edge to set up a stand. The trail he had used came through some thick brush and grass with no good options for a tree stand, so I knew that I would have to hunt him from the ground. I cleared a small depression at the base of a young walnut, set up a ground blind and got out of there as quickly as possible. The Saturday opener was now less than two days away and I was fired up!
On Saturday, the wind was all wrong so I spent the evening of the opener sitting on my deck, watching with great frustration as the 8 point chased all the other deer around the field. I didn’t want to mess things up. The big 12 didn’t show anyway. On Sunday evening, the wind was perfect, blowing from the East, across the field, and directly at our house. An hour before sundown I went down to my blind and settled in, hoping to ambush my backyard buck. A half hour later with 10 deer, including the 8 point in the field to give him confidence, he stepped out into the field and began to feed. At 30 yards he was at the far limit of what I will shoot, but the shot was open–albeit somewhat uphill and quartering away—and he was calm. I took the shot. The arrow hit just in front of the hind leg and passed the length of his body but did not exit, leaving no bloodtrail. Nevertheless, by early afternoon the next day I was standing beside the biggest buck I had ever taken. A 6 ½ year old 12 point typical that scored a fraction of an inch under 180, gross. And I had invested less than an hour of hunting time to get him. That’s skill!
Two months later, in mid-November, I was on my way to hunt Kansas with my good friend Bill Brannan. Bill was off on a hunt of his own, which meant I would be hunting alone for the first day or two. I had hunted Bill’s land before and so I was okay with that. The first buck I saw was a big non-typical. He was with a hot doe and disappeared into a small woods next to the creek I was hunting. Things were looking good already. Soon I spotted another buck, a big typical, but he was downwind about 200 yards away. Considering the wind, he was unlikely to approach, but I kept an eye on him anyway. He wandered around for a while and then turned my way and began to close the distance. A few minutes later and he was almost under my tree, close on the other side of a small creek. My scent stream now blew over the top of him. Still I was not too excited, I had the big non-typical on my mind, and I was vastly underestimating the size of this buck. I figured he was somewhat smaller than my backyard buck. After several minutes he was still just hanging out in range and it was decision time: hold out for the non-typical or take a nice 12 point on the first morning. Soon, my rising adrenaline levels made the decision for me. I just couldn’t pass this buck, so I took the shot. It was a clean pass through from a high angle and a bit far back but almost certainly good. He spun around and ran back to where he had first appeared. I found him shortly thereafter in the high swamp grass, just out of sight from where he had run. Another big 12 point, scoring 185 gross typical. My Kansas hunt lasted about an hour, and I had another new best buck for the year. In an amazing coincidence, both deer had a bit over 17 inches of deductions but only had one non-typical point between them. That point was only an inch long.
So there you have it—my two best bucks, both taken on the first hour of the first day of my two hunts that year. For a while I tried bragging to all my hunting friends about my skill level, but they all said I was lucky. Some even suggested I start buying lottery tickets. I promised them all that I would do the same thing next season. I had those big bucks totally figured out, and I intend to prove it–just wait and see.
Epilogue: One year later—my friends were right. . . I got lucky!