January 03, 2024
It was October 26, and my son, Jacob, and I were hunting our 30-acre woodlot behind our house in southeast Michigan. The sun had set, and we had entered that magic time of the evening when deer just seem to appear out of nowhere.
I was set up in the southeast corner of the property, along a ditch that separated our woodlot from a standing cornfield. Jacob was in a ladder stand in the middle of the woodlot, with a standing cornfield to the north and a cut beanfield to the south.
Suddenly, my phone started buzzing in my pocket. It was a text message from Jacob that read, “I just shot Clubber!”
“Clubber,” as Jacob called him, was the dominant buck on the farm, and my son had just arrowed him. Jacob was not 100-percent sure of his shot placement, so we snuck out of the woods and left the buck overnight.
Jacob had to work the next morning, so shortly after sunrise I headed out to take up the track. Jacob clearly explained where the buck had been standing when he shot, and where he had last seen him after his shot.
It didn’t take me long to find Jacob’s blood-covered arrow. The trail was easy to follow, and I found Jacob’s buck exactly where he told me he had last seen him — and Clubber was a giant!
The buck was a fully mature nine-point with a huge body. He didn’t have great tine length, but he did have a 19 1/2-inch inside spread and great mass. His right main beam was long, bladed, and forked at the end. It was this beam that had earned him his moniker. He really was a great deer!
Six days later, on the morning of November 1, I was sitting in one of my best stands. Said stand was located in the northeast corner of the woodlot, in a treeline that separated two standing cornfields and butted up against the woods. It’s an inside corner on the edge of a traditional bedding area, with great access from the north along the treeline.
I got into the stand undetected, well before daylight. Just before sunrise, I spotted movement in the thick bedding cover 100 yards southwest of my stand. It was a buck — and a good one!
The buck was moving away from me, so I grabbed my grunt call and let out a single grunt. That got the buck’s attention. A second grunt sealed the deal, and the buck was now headed my way.
A few minutes later, I was at full draw. My shot was true, and I watched the eight-point go down quickly.
My buck was nowhere near the size of Clubber, but he was a good deer, and knowing Jacob had taken the dominant buck on the farm less than a week prior, I was happy to put my tag on him.
In early August, I had planted a long, rectangular food plot with Whitetail Institute’s Pure Attraction seed. This plot was located on a thin strip of open ground between the edge of my woods and the standing cornfield to the north.
On November 8, at 3:19 a.m., I got a picture from one of my Cuddeback cellular trail cameras of a great buck in that food plot. I immediately recognized the buck: He was a big 10-point with a very distinct rack. His G-2s were shorter than his G-3s, and he had a sticker point on his right G-3. I had numerous camera pictures of this deer in August, but none since September 7. Based on this intel, I figured the 10-pointer had relocated — possibly because of Clubber.
The next morning, the wind was out of the south/southeast. I knew I needed to be in the “Killing Tree.”
The Killing Tree got its name for a reason, as I’ve taken several bucks from that stand over the years, including a 142-inch buck in 2007 that I wrote a story about for Bowhunter Magazine titled, “A Third Time Charm.”
The stand is on the north edge of the woods at the eastern end of the woodlot, not far from the house. There was a cornfield to the north, and the deer tended to move in and out of the woods around that stand.
I was in the Killing Tree well before daylight. Just before dawn, I caught movement in the woods. I immediately recognized the deer as the big 10 I’d named “Stickers,” and he was heading my way!
Stickers walked to within 18 yards of my stand. My shot was true again, and Stickers ran 50 yards before tipping over. He, like Clubber, was a huge deer. Stickers (pictured at the top of this article) was a mainframe 10 with incredible mass. His antler bases were over five inches in circumference, and he maintained over four inches of mass between his G-3s and G-4s.
It had been a very successful archery season in my home state of Michigan, but I wasn’t done quite yet.
I had drawn a Kansas deer tag and would be bowhunting in northeast Kansas with Tony Bell’s Bullets and Bowstrings Outfitters, November 17–23. I met Tony while bowhunting elk in New Mexico several years prior, and this was the first time I had the opportunity to hunt whitetails with him in Kansas.
The first morning of the hunt, Tony set me up in a ladder stand in a strip of woods well before daylight. As the sun rose, I could clearly tell that I was sitting in a heavily used funnel. There were rubs everywhere, and I saw several deer that first morning, including a mid-120s 10-pointer, which I elected to pass on.
The wind wasn’t quite right for that stand in the evening, so Tony moved me to another stand on the same farm. Unfortunately, the wind almost blew me out of the stand that evening, and I only saw a few does and fawns.
The next morning, I was back in the ladder stand in the funnel. I had a beautiful, dark-horned 10-point come through that I considered shooting, but the buck never presented me with a good shot.
That evening, the wind was again poor for my stand, so Tony decided to move me to a different farm. My evening hunt was incredible. I was covered-up in deer almost the entire time, and I saw two bucks I would have definitely shot — a wide 150-inch nine-point that was chasing a doe, and a 10-pointer that I figured was roughly 140 inches. Neither buck gave me a shot.
The next morning, I elected to return to the stand I had hunted the previous evening. Much like my last sit in this stand, I was covered-up with deer. I saw several bucks, including the 140 10-pointer, but once again I couldn’t get a good shot opportunity.
That evening, I returned to the same stand…but this hunt was very different from the previous two. It was as if someone had flipped the “off” switch — I didn’t see a deer!
Just as the sun was setting, I caught movement. There was a deer heading my way, and it was a good buck!
As the buck closed the distance, I made two observations. While this 10-pointer probably would have made book and was a shooter for sure back home in Michigan, he was not the deer I came to Kansas to kill.
I could also easily see that the buck was limping badly. There was definitely something wrong with his left front leg. I was now faced with a decision to make, and I did — if the gimpy buck gave me a good shot, I would take him.
The buck came in to 18 yards and stood slightly quartering-to me. I was confident I could make the shot — and I did! I watched the buck go 50 yards before collapsing in a heap.
When we recovered the deer, we noticed a fresh wound on his left front shoulder. While skinning the deer, we recovered a four-inch piece of a crossbow bolt with a 150-grain broadhead wedged between his shoulder blade and his spine. The “autopsy” made me happy with my decision to shoot him.
My son had taken his best buck, and together we had killed three mature deer on our little 30-acre farm. I had also taken my first Kansas deer, and he was a good buck, too.
It was truly a season to remember!
The author and his son are avid bowhunters from the great hunting state of Michigan.
I used a Bowtech Prodigy bow set at 60 pounds, Carbon Express Piledriver DS arrows, 125-grain Magnus Stinger broadheads, HHA single-pin bowsight, QAD Ultrarest, Treelimb quiver, Leupold binoculars, and a Bushnell rangefinder. My clothing was from Browning, Cabela’s, and NOMAD, and I wore Cabela’s boots.
My son used a Mathews Triax bow set at 70 pounds, Gold Tip Airstrike arrows, SEVR expandable broadheads, QAD rest, Trophy Ridge sight, and Vortex optics.