Central Wisconsin - At 1am after we were let off work in August of 2012, a buddy of mine and I decided to go out shining and to check trail cameras on one of my favorite pieces of public land in central Wisconsin. The night started out uneventfully with little on our cameras or out in the fields. However, our luck changed when we went down one of our favorite roads for shining. We pulled up to the first field, turned on the spotlight, and 20 yards off the road stood a nice 9 point that looked different than most bucks at that time of the year. I pulled out my video camera and started recording. I zoomed in on him to see why he looked odd; lo and behold, his velvet was hanging, and blood was all over his face. It seemed strange, considering that it was mid august. It was a little early for him to rub his velvet off.
Weeks passed, and hunting season arrived. The year started off slowly. Seeing only an occasional deer, I decided to make a change in my game plan. When I was out in the woods, I kept seeing deer in a little opening in the middle of a cat-tail swamp, so the following day, I decided to go sit in a lone tree out in the middle of no where to see what would happen. After sitting for half the day and not seeing anything, my hopes of getting a nice buck were on the decline. At last light, I heard a stick snap in front of me about 200 yards away, so I kept watching where the sound came from. A rack emerged out of the cat-tails, heading my way. He went 100 yards and stopped. After looking around for about 10 minutes, he decided to turn back to where he came from. My heart fell.
A few more weeks and hunts passed without seeing much, so I decided to go give the aforementioned spot a shot again. I climbed into the stand and waited. After only 30 minutes, I heard something approaching from the trail I walked in on. I grabbed my bow, stood up, and got ready. All of a sudden, I saw the biggest buck of my life at 15 yards, making a scrape in the thick red brush. I thought my heart would explode out of my chest. That buck did the same thing as the first one; he did a 180 and walked back the way I had come from without giving me a shot. I felt sick to my stomach. I hunted that stand three days in a row and never saw so much activity. There were lots of little bucks and does, but it was the tail end of archery season. I told myself that the next big doe that came through was headed for the freezer and that I would just start to focus on getting ready for gun opener the following week.
I headed to my stand again with high hopes for deer activity, but it was dead as could be until the last hour when I finally heard something in the cattails in front of me. A doe popped out at 20 yards broadside, so I grabbed my bow. I got ready to draw back and take the shot when a big nine pointer also popped out 10 feet behind her. So instead, I drew back and focused on him. In doing so, the doe got spooked and took off. The buck stepped out but then took off after the doe. There was a little opening in the brush that I knew he would cross, so when he got to the opening, I yelled to get him to stop. I put the pin on him and took the shot. Being in tall grass and cat-tails, I guessed he was about 35 yards out. I settled the pin and let the arrow fly. I thought that I had missed him as I watched my arrow disappear in the grass right at belly height.
I waited a half hour to get down and look for my arrow, not having high hopes after seeing the deer run off. I found my arrow right where I took the shot, but there was blood everywhere at the spot of impact. I backed out and went home to give the deer a few hours to make sure that he expired. I called a few buddies to come out and help me trail him. We got to the arrow and found signs of a good hit, but we lost the trail within 30 yards. There were just little spots here and there, which was surprising to me after seeing all of it by my arrow. My buddies stayed as I walked the trails, looking for any sign of blood or a deer. I heard my friend yell that he had found a little blood, so I turned around to head back to him, and my buck was laying right at my feet! I had practically walked right past him in the thick cat-tails.
After some celebration and high fives, I realized that this was the first buck that I had seen in this spot, and it was the same deer I had on video from August with the blood on his face and hanging velvet. Up close, I was even able to see that he had holes in his neck and head from fighting and was even missing his left eye! This was definitely one of the most memorable hunts and seasons I ever had.