April 02, 2021
The hunt began November 7, 2019. It was cold with a light snowfall, and I happened to look out my living room window at a doe running across the yard on the 10-acre property where we live. Shortly after that, my dogs were going crazy, so I peeked outside again, and saw the biggest buck I’d ever seen in person. From that moment on, my hunting career would never be the same.
I frantically ran to grab my phone to get a video of this giant, because I knew my husband, Jason, would never believe it. Actually, I should have been out hunting that day, but I accidentally left my bow in our truck, which Jason took to work. So, I stood there helplessly watching this enormous buck as he trailed a hot doe in our backyard. I got some great footage of him, and after he walked away, I realized what had just happened and my obsession with this buck began.
In my mind, I had already come to grips with the fact that what I’d just witnessed was most likely a once-and-done encounter with the big buck, and I’d probably never see him again. Little did I know that assumption would prove to be dead wrong. Jason and I set up multiple trail cameras, hoping to get pictures of this giant buck and maybe figure out his movement patterns. We immediately got pictures of him, but never in daylight hours.
That year, I hunted our property hard through gun season, with my bow, praying I’d be lucky enough to just see him again in person. Unfortunately, that dream never came to fruition, and I feared the giant buck might have been killed by another hunter.
My mood quickly changed, however, when we got multiple trail-cam pics of the big buck after Christmas. I was so happy knowing he had made it through hunting season, and the possibility of seeing him again the following fall kept my obsession going.
I didn’t grow up in a hunting family, so my first introduction to hunting began when I met Jason at age 18. That was a gun hunt. Ten years later, I decided I wanted to try bowhunting; a natural progression since Jason is a diehard bowhunter. The first time I shot a bow, I absolutely loved it, and my new passion was sparked. I now consider myself an avid bowhunter, and I will choose carrying a bow over a gun, even during the firearms season. And that is why I’d already made up my mind that if I ever got an opportunity at the giant buck, it had to be with my bow.
As we waited to see if the giant would show up again, Jason, who had tagged out earlier on a different property, and I started to strategize on how to increase our odds if we were lucky enough to see him again on our small acreage. We made the food plot on our property bigger and better, set up an enclosed blind, made a mock scrape, and added more trail cameras. The reason for the enclosed stand was so I could be out there in any weather, and also to help with scent control.
The giant buck made his first appearance of 2020 on October 2 — and he was bigger than ever! On that fateful day, Jason was working from our home office, when he happened to see a deer in our front yard at 8 a.m. There was no doubt it was the big guy, and he was huge! Jason watched as the buck just casually walked up the side of our driveway, and then raked a tree for a few seconds before disappearing.
Jason and I were both ecstatic, to say the least. Just knowing this buck was still around our place, and that I might have an opportunity to kill him with my bow, was all the motivation I needed. So, I decided right then and there to devote every available opportunity I had to getting out in the woods that season to hunt that buck, and only that buck…and I did!
After Jason’s brief initial sighting in 2020, we started getting trail-camera pictures of the big buck. The pics were random at best, and mostly at night, but a few of the pics were in the light of early morning. As a result, I had a strong gut feeling that if I was going to get it done with the giant, it was going to happen in the morning.
Late October arrived, and on one of the few mornings up to that point that I was unable to hunt, the buck showed himself on camera during daylight. While I was disappointed over possibly missing my one and only opportunity to kill him, I took solace in the fact that he was still around.
The first week of November, the weather turned very warm — not ideal hunting conditions for that time of the year. However, the bucks were rutting, and I told myself that anything was still possible. That week, I woke up three different nights dreaming about that buck.
On November 9, 2020, it was cloudy, very windy, warm, and rainy, but a cold front was forecast to move through the area that afternoon. I had a good feeling with this weather change and wanted to be 100-percent confident in my shot, so I went out to fling a few arrows just to be sure I could consistently hit my mark in the 30 mph winds. My windy practice session made a huge difference in my mindset. Just going through the motions, talking myself through each step, and launching arrows, left me feeling more confident than ever in my ability to seal the deal.
Late that afternoon, the forecasted cold front started to move through, bringing with it a variety of weather conditions, including thunder and sleet, so I was grateful for my enclosed blind. I’ve always had my best luck when cold fronts get the deer up and moving, so my optimism was high! Just before dark, I spotted BIG antlers in the distance through the tall grass. My heart started racing, as I knew it was the buck that I’d become obsessed with since the first time I laid eyes on him. He was there for a few seconds, and then poof, he was gone!
More excited and hopeful than ever before after having caught that brief glimpse of the buck of my dreams, I was back at it the next morning. I remember being so tired when the alarm went off that morning, but nothing was going to keep me from getting out there. The weather was absolutely perfect — overcast skies, a slight north wind in my face, temps in the 20s — with a rain/sleet mix scheduled to arrive in the afternoon.
As the sun came up, a doe arrived on the food plot. This got me excited, because during the rut, one never knows if a buck might be following her. Unfortunately, I sat almost two hours after the doe showed up without seeing another deer.
It appeared the doe wasn’t in heat, and I was feeling a little hungry, so I ate a granola bar and checked my phone. It was only about five minutes later that my luck would drastically change, and my dreams would come true!
I’ll never forget that moment — going from seeing nothing, to suddenly catching movement to my left and spotting large antlers. The giant buck was right there in broad daylight, and I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes!
The buck had come from an unexpected direction and caught me off guard. I tried to stay as calm as possible as the buck fed in our food plot to within 30 yards. He was facing me, and would occasionally look at the blind then put his head down to feed again.
With the buck still facing me, I slowly brought my bow up, set it on my knee, and waited. After what felt like an eternity, the buck finally started to turn. When he did, I began drawing my bow but barely made that happen with the adrenaline I was feeling at the moment.
As soon as I came to full draw, the buck turned and started walking away from me. I placed my pin where I felt it needed to be on the now sharply quartering-away buck and let my arrow fly.
When my arrow connected, I immediately thought my shot was too far back, especially given the hard angle, but the visible spray of blood upon impact told me my broadhead had struck a major artery. Still, the perfectionist in me was disappointed, even though I knew he wasn’t going far. He ran just 35 yards and tipped over at the edge of the woods.
As a hunter, the emotion I was feeling at this point was the best feeling ever! Something I’d been hoping and dreaming about had finally happened. It didn’t feel real. I literally sat there in tears, as I could see the buck of my dreams laying there not 40 yards away.
“I got him. He’s down! Grab your binos and look in the corner of the woods!” I immediately texted to Jason. The emotions were as high for Jason as they were for me, as my husband wanted nothing more than to have me connect on this giant deer.
I waited for Jason to arrive, so we could recover my buck together. Walking up to this deer, we quickly realized he was even bigger than either of us had originally thought — a true monster, with a whole lot of character to his antlers! We were both in awe and so very grateful, that you would have never been able to guess which of us had made the shot.
Looking back, I’m thankful my instincts kicked in and I didn’t hesitate another second on the shot. It couldn’t have been more perfect given the hard quartering-away angle. I don’t take hunting lightly. Making a good shot is my main priority.
Patience, persistence, strategy, and good faith all played a part in my success, and I’m forever grateful to have had this special opportunity. To this day, Jason and I still talk about how fortunate I was to have it all come together the way it did.
As a side note, word quickly spread about me killing this buck. We were shocked by the number of people in the area who also had trail-camera pictures of him. Apparently, he was a bit of a “celebrity!”
This hunt has meant so much to me; more than words can even describe. It reminded me that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. We planted the food plot, hung the cameras, and placed the ground blind. I take scent-control showers and keep my clothes scent-free, and I hunt every chance I get. You don’t need a large parcel of land, or have to know everything about how to kill a big whitetail buck. You just need to make the most of the resources and knowledge you have available to you.
There’s no doubt 2020 has been a rough year, but it couldn’t have ended any better for me. We made it happen — against all odds — and for that I will be forever grateful.
On this hunt, I used a Hoyt Vicxen bow, Carbon Express Maxima Red arrows, Slick Trick broadheads, Nikon rangefinder, ScentLok clothing and Irish Setter MudTrek boots. My buck grossed a score of 195 2/8 inches.
The author lives in rural Pierce County, WI, with her husband, Jason, and two dogs, Shandy and Miley.