Wisconsin, 11/8/2017 - Despite growing up as a hunter in a hunting family, my bow-hunting journey began just 3 years ago. My brother Derek is a year older than me and got me into bow hunting after I graduated college in 2014. For the first 10 years post-hunter safety, I exclusively gun hunted with my dad and brother on about 13 acres of wooded land my grandpa owned. Hunting was tough to say the least. Typically, the only shot we had at any deer was when one would run by on a dead sprint from the neighbor chasing it over. Because of this, prior to this year I had only killed two does in all my years hunting.
Unfortunately, this past year we lost access to the little private land we had, so Derek and I were essentially forced to exclusively hunt public land. I'm not sure about other states, but public land in Wisconsin is extremely pressured with very few bucks making it past 2.5 years. With limited encounters in early season, our two-week rut vacation began on 10/28 and we set off to Missouri for an OTC hunt on public land down there. The hunting was good, but I ultimately missed and hit a tree on a very good 2.5 year old our last day there.
Fast forward to the morning of November 8th, back in Wisconsin. I was perched in a tree 20 yards off a main runway where we found a buck consistently traveling on a west wind, the same wind we had that day. At 7:50 AM, a buck came in from behind me on my left side, nose to the ground. I couldn’t identify him as one we had on camera, but immediately knew he was a shooter. Since he came in from behind me, I didn't have time to stand. So, I grabbed my bow and began pulling back when he became broadside to me at 15 yards over my left hip. Before I got to full draw however, he smelled something he liked and cut down a trail directly behind the tree I was in, forcing me to stand and pivot to get a shot over my right shoulder. I grunted at him to stop and released my arrow tipped with a fixed blade-Muzzy Trocar when he was slightly quartering away at 26 yards.
The shot was not good, I hit him back, way back. My heart sank. I immediately thanked God for the opportunity given but was not overly optimistic I would recover this deer. I knew I had to give him at least 10 hours because of the shot, so I backed out because all too often you hear of people rushing in and pushing a gut-shot deer. An hour before dark, Derek and I took up the blood trail. There was blood and shaved hair at the spot of the shot, but no arrow. We eventually found the arrow 40 yards from the point of impact where he had to cross an old fence. The arrow looked good, surprisingly with no guts. We followed the heavy blood trail another 80 yards to where he crossed a river. It was getting dark so we backed out and came back three hours later with two extra guys to help track. We found where he crossed the river, but the blood trail was not good on the other side. We heard a very large pack of coyotes howling about 100 yards in the direction the blood trail was headed. They found my buck (or so we thought). We scared them off, and after more searching with no success, we made the hard decision to come back in the morning light where it would be easier to follow blood.
The next morning, my brother, cousin Brandon, and I headed out and had much of the same trouble from the previous night finding blood. As a last resort, we began grid searching. Fittingly, about 30 minutes after we started grid searching and 40 yards from where we saw last blood, I saw my buck piled up under a fallen tree. The 'yotes never touched him! He was in fact gut shot and was still warm, so I'm glad I decided to wait the 12+ hours, as hard as that was. I am so grateful for clean recovery of this deer and even more thankful I got to share it with my brother. Against all odds, my first buck ever is a 3.5 year old 10 point taken on public land with a bow and is now at the taxidermist.
The Author with his mature, 3 1/2 year old 10 point taken on Public Land