-By Brandon Wikman
The opening weekend of deer archery proved to be one of most memorable weekends I’ve ever experienced at Bluff Bucks Outfitters in Buffalo County, Wisconsin.
Friday night was exciting. The camaraderie at hunting camp was truly the definitive of what hunting with a bunch of good ol’ boys is all about. We shared tips, tricks, and success stories, as well as the all too familiar failures. Everyone dug into the memory bank and passed a few good ones for the entire camp to hear.
We all stayed up a little later than normal from the anxiety that deer season was only hours away. By twelve in the morning everyone, including myself, finally began dreaming about big bucks.
The owner, Butch Fox, woke up everyone from their slumber and began making breakfast. The first thing I did was jump into the shower to minimize my scent before scaling up a tree. After a nice morning refresher, I grabbed a small snack and ventured into the bluffs with my cameraman. The morning setup was tailored just for morning hunts. We had to swing in from the back entry route up a bluff, which sloped down to a field. We anticipated intercepting deer that were on their way back to bed.
Saturday morning’s temperature was in the mid-70’s and the humidity was through the canopy! It was not only a sticky day, but a soggy one also. The rain drizzled on and off the entire morning, which made things extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant. Regardless, we still spotted a few does and small bucks. We sat for a solid 3-hours before sneaking out and off the bluff.
My cameraman and I began to discuss the evening setup on our way back to camp. We had a full day ahead of us to determine where we were going to be perched that evening. There were a lot of options that needed to be narrowed down.
We made a decision to hunt a soybean field because of wind direction. The stands were hung 100-yards in the woods in a white oak tree. This was a perfect staging area because deer kill time by browsing in the acorns before venturing into the field.
We were in the stand by 4:30 that afternoon. Both my cameraman and I took every necessary step in being silent to not spook any game. There isn’t anything worse than spooking a deer and having it blow down the entire side of a bluff. It’s happened to me before.
An hour into the sit, I spotted the first deer. It was a young 8-point with red antlers. It must have shed its velvet within the last day or two. The immature whitetail hung below my tree stand for almost twenty minutes scrounging up every acorn in sight. After stuffing his belly, that buck was satisfied for the moment and moved toward the soybeans for the second course meal.
The sun began drooping down the hillside and light shadowed. It was getting to be primetime. I opened my bag and grabbed a grunt tube. I mimicked a young buck grunt from every direction around the tree. I refer to the strategy as blind call casting. As I softly whispered to my cameraman about where a deer may show up, I caught a glimpse of antler in that very spot! The buck stood statue-like for ten minutes, motionless. His eyes were pegged to the base of our tree. My cameraman managed to roll footage, while I tried controlling my fluttering heart. I couldn’t tell how big the buck was; yet I knew it was by far the biggest I’ve ever seen in the wild from a tree stand.
At a mere thirty yards, he stood behind some bramble brush. All I could see was his head and top of his back. The buck needed to take a few steps forward before I was comfortable with firing an arrow. He didn’t. Instead, he stood with his eyes laser focused in my direction. The giant buck couldn’t take it anymore and lost interest. I watched him take a few hops back into the nasty thickets he called home.
When we brought back the footage to show everyone at camp, we estimated the 10-point buck at 165’ inches. A near Boone and Crockett whitetail stood in front of me and there was nothing I could do. I made the humble decision to let him walk instead of praying my arrow would blow through the tangled brush and into his vitals for a clean kill.
I will never forget the feeling of being so close, yet so far away. I hope my decision will reward me with another opportunity at this trophy class deer. I just feel honored to have the opportunity to see a buck of that caliper.