Last year I was very fortunate and harvested a buck we called “the wide one” (pictured in my avatar above). I considered it “a buck of my lifetime” and never in my life did I think I would be blessed with having an encounter with another deer of that stature and most certainly not the following year. Well over the last two weeks, not only did I end up having another encounter with a “buck of a lifetime”, I had several encounters with one. This is my story of “Stallion” a giant mainframe 8 pointer with a small 2 ½ inch sticker on his left base grossing 156 ¼ inches and with an inside spread of 22 1/4 inches. He emphatically got his name because he had a long 6 inch mane on the back of his neck just like a horse and in one of his trail cam pictures he’s standing up on his hind legs.
I first talked about this buck in my last IDO report, “Late October Buffalo Cty. Deer Hunting”. There I mentioned that I did some mid season scouting and walked a brushy fence line that connects two major woodlots. The fence line basically crossed in a valley with crops on both sides of it (hay and corn) and is surrounded with a pretty steep ridge of hardwoods. One side of the fence was on my lease and the other side was on the neighbors which I did not have permission to hunt. As I walked the fence line that October day, I soon discovered a lot of buck activity and found numerous scrapes and rubs. I thought to myself, why hadn’t I checked this out before? I quickly walked the 500 yards back to my truck, retrieved one of my trail cameras and made the hike once again thinking if there was a shooter making this sign, that I would set up a ground blind.
Two days later I checked the camera and captured 7 different bucks hitting that scrape including a good 8 pointer in the mid 140’s. I was pretty excited about this buck because he hit the scrape 2 different times and one of them was on Oct. 25th at 6pm! I decided to go all the way back to the truck once again, grabbed my Command Post Ground Blind (that I bought from Dartman on this site) and brushed it in right along that fence line. I didn’t have much to work with for cover and ended using a bunch of burr brush. It took me all of two hours to blend it in but I was finally happy with the way it turned out. My plan was to entice this 8 pointer into a buck decoy set up. I knew it was not going to be easy but I thought at least it was worth a shot.
Later that night (Oct. 26th), I entered the blind with high expectations. Several does started pouring out of the neighbor’s ridge and from the standing corn. About an hour before dark, I noticed a good buck following a doe coming down towards the field on the neighbor’s property about 300 yards away. I quickly pulled up the binoculars hoping to see the same 8 pointer I captured on camera the day before. However to my surprise, it was not him. It was a bigger 8 pointer! This buck was a lot heavier and wider and had 6 inch brows! The big eight pointer eventually made his way into the cornfield and out of my sight. About a half hour later he reappeared again on the neighbor’s property this time about 200 yards away from me in the hayfield. I quickly grabbed the video camera and captured him on film for the first time. I tried some rattling, but due to the high winds, I don’t even think he heard me. The other 8 pointer did not show up that night but I really didn’t care. That buck made my night and he was all that I could think about.
Check out the videos here:
Later that night I showed the video of the big buck to my good friend Kirk Peterson who owns Peterson’s Taxidermy in Arkansaw, WI. He was as excited as me as we watched the video several times. Kirk is the best deer hunter I know – hands down. I’ve learned so much from him and truly need to point that out. If it wasn’t for him, I would not be writing this report and most certainly would not be hunting in the Buffalo Cty area. He has helped me a lot along the way and I have the utmost respect for him and his taxidermy business.
That night, I was supposed be home after dark (I live in Maple Grove, MN). I called Tina right after I got into my truck and told her about my exciting encounter with the big eight pointer. I really wanted to hunt him in the morning but was a little afraid to even ask her if I could spend the night again since I hadn’t been home all weekend (Fri, Sat and Sun). However, once again Tina supported my obsession with hunting big bucks and without hesitating she suggested I stay overnight so I could try and get him in the morning (our home is 115 miles away). I asked her several times if she was OK with that and she said “Brad, just go get em’!” She truly amazes me and I don’t know how many other women would put up with a guy who is away from home as much as I am during the deer hunting season.
The next morning I set up in the corner of the woods where it connects the brushy fence line hoping I would get him cruising back to his bedding area. However, he did not show himself and must have headed before daylight. Time flew by fast as I watched 7 does go into the bedding area and soon it was 10am and I had to head out. As I made my way home, I decided that I would be spending all my time in the next couple of weeks along that fence line just trying to get a crack at one of those 8 pointers and hopefully the bigger one. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I also knew I was on to something. These bucks were active and showing themselves during daylight hours.
Mon night and Tues night I could not hunt.
Wed (Oct. 29th) I was back at it and made the drive again to Buffalo Cty. I quickly made my way to the brushy fence line, switched out the SD Card out of my Trail Camera (about 70 yards away from me on a scrape) and once again hunkered down for the evening hunt. The swirling SW wind was a little risky but I felt confident that I could get a shot off before the buck would be downwind of me. The night started out very quickly as I saw a 2.5 year old 8 pointer cruising the fence line. A couple of grunts and it didn’t take long for him to jump the fence and come straight in to the buck decoy and a mere 20 yards from me. He eventually circled downwind and caught my scent. After a few jumps he stopped and stared at that decoy for over 15 minutes finally losing interest and walked off.
Check out the videos here:
About a half hour later, I spotted some does cruising the same fence line with another 2.5 year old buck on their trail. I decided to have some more fun and grunted several times at him and eventually got him to stop. Soon after, he saw my buck decoy and put on a pretty good show.
Check out the videos here:
The night was action packed even though neither 8 pointer showed up that evening. I was still happy and my plan was working. I decoyed in two other 2.5 year olds and both were within shooting distance. As soon as I got back to my truck, I downloaded the pictures of the SD Card and was elated to see the same 8 pointer in the 140’s hit the scrape again during the night.
Thurs morning I sat in the same adjacent woodlot however this time a little higher up on the ridge. The morning was uneventful as I only saw a small fork and 2 does. Thurs evening I was back in my ground blind once again. The wind was ideal and I was excited. Just like clockwork, the does started showing up. I kept my focus on the trail where the big eight pointer had shown himself before and watched doe after doe use this same trail as they headed into the field. Now keep in mind this ridge and trail is on the neighbor’s property where I do not have permission to hunt otherwise I would have been sitting right on that trail. Then just like it was scripted, here comes the big 8 pointer down the ridge. It was 5pm and he was already showing himself. He casually walked into the hayfield and made it known to all the other deer that this was his domain as a couple of other smaller bucks quickly got out of his way. I quickly grabbed the video camera and captured him on film for the second time.
Check out the videos here:
Once again I tried rattling but couldn’t get him to cross the cornfield strip. I soon lost sight of him as darkness approached. I quietly slipped out of the blind and was happy not to get busted by other deer along the way. Back at the truck I quickly checked the trail camera and neither buck showed himself. As I was changing clothes, one of the landowner’s son (Jake) who also hunts the property stopped by and we chatted for awhile. I showed him the video of the big buck and he agreed that was a special deer. He invited me over to his house and we started swapping some trail cam pics. He was pretty excited to show me a buck he got on camera and I soon found out why. It was a huge 8 pointer with a small kicker coming out of his left beam. I wasn’t sure if it was the same buck that I had just captured on video since the video footage was so far away. Later that night, I spent a lot of time examining the trail cam photos with the video footage freezing it by frame by frame. Kirk and I finally determined that this was indeed the same buck! I was ecstatic because these trail cam pictures were on our property and in the same woodlot that I had been sitting in the morning. The buck was cruising this during the night just like I had expected and making his way back up to the neighbor’s ridge before sunrise. It was then I gave him his name “Stallion” because he had that six inch mane on the back of his neck and one of the photos he’s on his hind legs just like a bucking horse trying to reach licking branch.
The next morning (Oct. 31st), I hunted the corner stand down by the fence line once again but never saw a deer. Halloween night, I was back in the ground blind. I had a good feeling and thought maybe I would receive a Halloween present! As 4pm approached, and with my eyes glued to that ridgeline, I saw a doe running through the woods. I quickly pulled up my binoculars and once again spotted the big 8 pointer right on her tail chasing her hard! It lasted all of 5 seconds and then they quickly bounded back over the ridge. Even though I was happy to see him again, I had a bad feeling that he would stick with that doe and that I may not see him again that night. I was right, and he never showed himself again. The night dragged on forever and finally it was over. As I made my way back home to Maple Grove, I was feeling kind of frustrated. I just spent 4 nights in that blind and the closest that 8 pointer ever got to me was 200 yards. I started to think I was crazy. I knew the odds were against me but maybe this was impossible! First I needed him to show himself in daylight, then I somehow had to get him to cross a 100 yard cornfield strip, then a 100 yard hayfield strip, then hopefully he could see my buck decoy, then I needed him to jump the brushy fence line, then he had to come into my buck decoy set up and of course within bow range without me getting winded! Are you kidding me??? What was I thinking??? But soon after, I realized that at least I was seeing him and I had to be patient. I also knew when that cornfield got picked, odds would raise in my favor due to then he could see my decoy.
Sat morning I was home and could not hunt. The plan was to arrive at the camper later that afternoon with my son (Ian) and meet two other buddies that hunt with me. They were bringing their sons along too and we were going to all spend the night in the camper after us dads got in an evening hunt! I told my hunting buddy Nick all about the big 8 pointer I was chasing and showed him all the videos and trail cam pics. We decided to hunt together that night in the blind and he would run the video camera. As we made our way out to the blind and walked over a knoll, we got a surprise – the corn was finally being picked! Maybe now he could finally see my decoy! Obviously, we couldn’t hunt the blind that evening so we went to another stand and ended up only seeing three does.
My spirits were lifted once again since the corn was going to be off. I knew my best chance to kill that huge 8 pointer was going to be Sunday night! When we arrived back at the camper, we learned that my long time buddy Rick (the dairy farmer where we park our camper at) took our boys coon hunting! Little did we know that they would be out until midnight! When they finally came home, the boys were wired and excited because they had killed three coons. We stayed up celebrating with the boys and eventually all went to sleep around 1am.
The alarm went off 4 hours later and I felt like my head just hit the pillow. I was really tired and was only getting 4-5 hours of sleep each night. I actually thought about sleeping in since Ian was with me but then I started to think about that big 8 pointer and couldn’t sleep anyways. I jumped out of bed and was soon on my way to the hunting property about 20 miles away.
I decided that morning I was going to hunt across the road on another ridge about a ¼ mile away from the brushy fenceline. One of the landowners mentioned that he had seen a big buck out in the field two nights ago. I thought maybe it was the big 8 and he was now cruising over there overnight. I could also glass the entire valley along with the brushy fence line to see if the deer were in the picked corn and maybe, just maybe I would get a glimpse of Stallion.
I arrived at the farm kind of late and was kicking myself a bit because of it. Daylight was breaking fast and I finally got to my stand at 6:15 am. I was there for only about 15 minutes when I saw a buck running down towards the field. I didn’t get a very good look at him but I was sure it was a buck. Why was he running like that all by himself?
About 10 minutes later I saw another buck making his way towards me from the same exact direction. It ended up being a small fork. He scooted along and came within 40 yards of my stand. Well at least I was finally seeing some good buck movement in the morning. About 5 minutes later, I caught some movement about half way down the ridge and see a good buck with tall tines walking the side hill parallel to me. I quickly grabbed my binoculars but he disappeared out of sight. I tried the can call and grunted a couple of times hoping to draw him in. I even did some soft rattling but he never showed himself. As I continued to hunt, I thought maybe that buck had chased that other one off. It was in the same general area. I then started to look at the stand placement and thought maybe it should be about 30 yards down the ridge. It would certainly be a better vantage point from there. Never satisfied…
I continued the hunt and in the meantime was glassing that valley where my ground blind was set up. I counted at least a dozen deer or so eating out in the fresh picked cornfield. I tried and tried to look for Stallion but it was just too far away to see any antlers. I was having a really good time. I had already seen 3 bucks by 7am and was getting really excited about the evening hunt.
About an hour later I heard some rustling in the leaves directly behind me. I slowly turned my head and immediately saw a good shooter buck walking right towards my stand and most likely the same deer that I had seen earlier that morning. I slowly spun around, grabbed my bow and decided right then and there that I was going to shoot him. The trail he was on was going to pass about 5 yards from my tree – almost too close because of the wide open woods. When he got within 15 yards of me, he stopped, looked at my climbing sticks and then he looked right up at me. Thankfully, there was a small limb between me and him and he could not see my face. As I stood frozen still, I could only see his left side of his rack. It was then I noticed the little kicker coming out of his base and realized it was Stallion! However, my stomach just sank and I thought he was going to blow out of there. 15 seconds had passed by and he was still staring right at me. Just when I thought it was going to be all over, he slowly turned and started walking behind my tree and mere 10 yards away. I didn’t want to turn my back to the deer so I raised my bow above my head and slid it between the tree and me so I could shoot from the other side of the tree. However on that side, there was another large limb coming out that I was going to have to deal with. Fortunately, earlier in the morning I had practiced shooting between it and I knew I could get a shot off. As I drew back my bow, I thought the buck was going to give me an easy 10 yard broadside chip shot but I was wrong. He was now quartering hard away from me at a sharp angle. I couldn’t believe it. He was heading back up the ridge and most likely not going to offer me a broadside shot. It was now or never. Could I slip a shot in there right ahead of his right hip and into the vitals? I decided to go for it and released the trigger on my release. The shot hit exactly where I was aiming. Amazingly, the buck’s front legs collapsed on impact and he went face forward right into the ground with his hind end high up in the air. As he jumped back up and bounded away I could see my tracer nock sticking out about 1/3 of the way. He jumped the fence and went onto the neighbor’s property. I didn’t like the fact that I didn’t get better penetration with my 3-blade rage but I was still hoping it was enough. Then the doubts set in… Did I just hit this deer too far back? Was it enough to get into his vitals? Then I got a sick feeling in my stomach and shortly after I got down from my stand and went back to my truck. This buck needed to be left alone for awhile.
The first person I called was my best hunting friend – Tina. She was leaving later that afternoon for a business trip in San Francisco. She was extremely excited for me but she could also tell I was very apprehensive about the shot. She was also very bummed out about not being able to be with me at this time. Even though she doesn’t hunt deer, she accompanies me on many trips and supports me every way possible. Last year when I shot the wide one, happened to be one of those times when she was with me and she was right in the middle of the celebration.
The next person I called was Kirk and I ended up going over to his taxidermy shop to explain the shot. After a lengthy conversation, Kirk felt confident that my shot was good enough and that we would find him. That made me feel a whole lot better.
I then called Jake – the land owner’s son and informed him of the situation. He told me another buddy of ours (Chad) had just killed the Unicorn Buck! Wow – what a morning! Jake said he would talk to the neighbors to see if we would be granted permission to go on their land to look for the buck. About an hour later, he called me back and said we had permission! YES!!!
About 1pm, I headed back up the ridge with Kirk, Jake and Hank. We could see where the buck fell down face first but we couldn’t find any blood. After about 15 minutes of searching, Kirk finally found a pin drop of blood. He went a few more feet and found a couple more small drops. And this is they way it was. Inch by inch we followed the blood finding a tiny spot every 5-10 feet. We did this for over 200 yards and you couldn’t fill a shot glass with the amount of blood we had found. We were literally down on our hand and knees scanning every single leaf. Along the way I kept looking up with an arrow knocked in my bow, thinking maybe the buck was bedded down nearby. As I was starting to get sicker to my stomach, I looked up and saw him laying dead on the same trail about 50 yards ahead. I pointed and yelled “THERE HE IS!” He was facing away from us and his right side of his rack was sticking high up in the air. The guys quickly ran over to where he was and I just kind of collapsed right where I was standing. Emotions took over and tears started to roll down my cheeks. All my friends knew what I was experiencing and they just left me alone by myself which was exactly the right thing to do. I eventually made my way over and then I finally realized …….that I had just killed Stallion. I actually felt kind of sorry for him. I know that’s kind of weird but he looked so majestic lying there on the ground. It was right then and there I realized that this was a very special deer and I said a little prayer to myself thanking the lord above for his gift.
We took some quick photos and dragged the buck out of the woods. As soon as I got in cellphone reception, I left a message with Tina telling her that we had found him (she was in flight). From then on, my emotions were held pretty much in check. There was certainly a lot of celebrating the next couple of days but for the most part I was pretty even keeled. It was also really great to have my 9 year old son with me on this special day. You could tell he enjoyed every minute of it and we captured a photo together with Stallion.
In the meantime, Tina kept begging me to send her a picture but I was having trouble getting any internet access. Finally on Tuesday, I sent her an email with a picture of Stallion. She sent an immediate response back from her cell phone that read;
“Oh my Gosh! What an awesome buck! He’s beautiful honey! I am so proud of you, your passion, your commitment and the respect you show for hunting and the harvest. You are a true sportsman!”
As soon as I read her message, it hit me like a ton of bricks – I broke down and cried hard. Here I’ve been home only one night in the last eight and this was her response. I have a tendency to get so focused on a buck that everyday life stops all around me. Tina you are truly an incredible person and I’m very fortunate to have you in my life. Thank you for all your support and I can’t wait for our wedding so that we can celebrate our lives forever.
As I started telling this story, little did I ever think that I would shoot a buck of a lifetime again – and most certainly not the very next year! A big thank you goes out to the land owner and his sons for letting us lease their land. If you want to harvest trophy caliber bucks – you must hunt them in an area where they exist. Another big thank you goes out to the neighbors who granted us permission to retrieve the deer on their property. You are the true sportsmen in my eyes and I will forever be grateful to you. And lastly I need to thank the deer itself “Stallion”. I feel very fortunate that I was able to cross paths with him and I feel very honored and privileged it was me that took his life.
I said it before and I’ll say it again. Make the most of your hunts. Expect and prepare yourself to harvest a trophy buck every time you are on your deer hunting stand. Hunt each time like it’s your last one. And then when your day finally comes and when the buck of your lifetime is on the ground, it will certainly mean a whole lot more to you.