When I was young, I was introduced to whitetail hunting as a family tradition. Much like a lot of WI hunters we learned of deer hunting through the 9 day gun season. Not many people I knew at the time hunted with bows. I credit my dad for getting me out there at a very young age lighting a fire that burns to this day.
Most of my family was relatively casual about deer hunting, it was more of a social gathering. I had one Uncle that was different, Uncle Tom. He was the first influence I saw that took hunting very seriously and truly was encapsulated by the ground he hunted. His hunting property was his greatest treasure and what he did with that land was his greatest passion. I was infatuated with the bucks that hung on his walls and even more captivated by the stories that came along with them.
My dad lit the fire but my Uncle Tom threw gas on it. Whitetail Hunting now is my greatest passion and I thank them, this buck was for you guys!
I will write a blog someday sharing some of the memories I have about my uncle, one of the best hunters I have known.
But for your times sake I will rewind two years.
The day was November 10th, 2017 and it was brutally cold. Temps in the teens and winds in the 20s. I had talked Robson, a tagged out buddy to come along and film.
We started the brutal morning in single digits with a stiff SE breeze at 15-20 MPH in our face. It was approaching 9 o’clock with absolutely nothing to show for it. I had a throbbing headache because the wind was so cold on my face.
I am woken from a daze when Robson announced excitedly “Big Buck”, sure enough straight ahead at 60 yards in the woods we caught a glimpse of a mature buck. A second, that was all… and he was gone.
We spent the day driving around trying to warm up. I had been hunting hard for a few weeks and still worked full time as a cop.
My routine those days was get off work at 11pm, go to sleep, up at 3:30 am and drive the hour to my family farm, hunt, drive back an hour, start work at 3:00pm and hopefully get off by 11:00 to do it all again.
That can truly wear on a person.
SO needless to say I needed a little shove from Robson to climb back in the saddle for the afternoon.
Temps started creeping towards twenty but the wind did the same and was steady over 20mph by the afternoon.
We setup in a stand that had the most buck movement but was wrong for the wind. On the way in we kicked multiple deer out and I was cursing the idea from the start.
We settled in the best we could for the sit and saw nothing. Two hours we sat, and all we did was get colder and colder.
It was nearing shooting light and leaned back to Robson and said “lets go”.
As I said that I heard a twig snap. I whipped my head around and saw a big buck cruising through the brush. We both jolted into action and the buck opted for a trail along a field edge that was going to produce one opening, at 25 yards.
The buck moved into opening and I let out a “Baa” and I squeezed my trigger simultaneously. I forgot to consider a rutting buck not automatically stopping from the noise.
As the arrow was in flight he took a full step and it went from being a heart shot to a way far back shot.
The next two days were spent following a blood trail and grid searching. The rest of the season was spent hanging trail cams in search of this animal. He was a beautiful 8 pointer that was pushing 150+ inches.
It was at my lowest point as a hunter. I had wounded a deer that anyone in their right mind would’ve dreamed of seeing let alone getting a shot at. But, it lit a fire.
I did end up getting him on trail camera a month later and went into hunt him but never saw him again.
I made a pact then that I was going to hunt mature deer and only mature deer. Also, the next time I had a shot at one I would not make the same mistake. To up the ante even more I was going to kill a mute buck on film. Simple right?
2018 rolled around with high hopes. I had a buck I called the “Split G2 Buck”. A 165 inch 5+ year old bruiser. I saw him 4 different times from the stand and had countless trail cam pictures. He was killed opening day of gun season.
Again, I failed. I had my opportunities to kill him and I dropped the ball.
Now I am feeling the pressure.
I found a mature 8 point the first time I hung cameras. He seemed to be active and aggressive. As time wore on I noticed he wasn’t shy of daylight and he was a bully. He wasn’t a high scoring deer but he was fully mature and sure seemed like a fun deer to encounter.
I coined him “The Big 8”. I believed to have his core range and bedding nailed down to the very East end of farm #1.
I only got pictures of him in a large ag field that was directly behind the farm. I knew bucks that live in that area can also move into the central region of the farm.
I started to get aggressive on my sits the last week of October.
I made two sits with “The Big 8” as a target but ran into a problem.
Yep, someones dogs were running free on the farm I was hunting. I had them on trail camera dating back to the summer.
During a morning sit on October 28th where I felt really good about laying eyes on “The Big 8” those dogs appeared. Chasing a doe through the woods and making enough noise for any deer to hear within 3 miles.
We saw no additional deer and I began to think that one of our best areas on the farm was in trouble. I checked trail cameras in that area and noticed a lot of nighttime movement.
I spent a few sits in other areas looking for different deer.
Not seeing the deer movement nor any rut activity I decided to observe the night of November 3rd.
I noticed a lot of the movement was pushed further West away from the area the dogs had frequented. I was excited to see 15-20 deer come out of a known bedding area. 3-4 of those deer were either mature or close to mature bucks.
I had my cousin Jeff booked to film for me the next day November 4th. We had to get in to this movement.
I selected my favorite rut spot on the farm and a stand I had not sat in yet.
Jeff and I moved into the stand location a good hour before dark and let the woods wake up around us. At daylight we started seeing deer in the nearby ag field.
The fawns followed our tracks into the base of the tree and started to play right under our setup.
This was good for two reasons.
- I started to suspect there was a doe in the area that popped early or was dang near. I really do like seeing lone fawns during this time.
- The more noise they made the better.
As these thoughts move through my head I hear a twig snap. A really nice 3 year old is on a trot right at us. He crosses the food plot with his nose to the ground. Good sign.
Right behind him another 3 year old, follows right on the same trail. Great sign.
As I turn to Jeff and the camera saying “pretty good start to the morning” I catch more movement in the timber.
A really nice racked 3 year old trots through at 45 yards with an additional 3 year old right behind him making all sorts of rut noises. Unbelievable sign.
After they move by I tell Jeff “We will see one of the mature bucks here this morning”.
As often happens it was a flurry of 8-10 deer with 4 of them being 3 year old bucks in 20 minutes followed by nothing..
8am to 9am produced nothing except cold feet. Time for a rally chew. Jeff and I tossed a round of red man in and I declared between 9am-11am we would see a mature buck.
Jeff turns to me and asks “are you planning on rattling at all today?”
I respond by grabbing my antlers from my pack. I was going to use to a cord to tie around them and dangle them from my stand to rustle some leaves.
As I am preparing the cord and antlers Jeff says “I am pretty sure I just heard a grunt to my left”.
I considered the location and got excited. It was a large ditch where a tornado had gone through 5 or so years a go. It was a major doe bedding area.
We were on the downwind edge of it, exact reason for the stand placement.
I begin peering down the hill where he said he head the grunt.
Sure enough through the smallest of gaps in two trees I see a set of antlers raking a bush.
The buck was walking a 1/4 of the way down the ditch making rubs and scraped while scent checking the ditch, exactly what you would expect.
He wasn’t as crazed as the three year olds, hopefully because he is mature I thought.
Soon he showed more of himself and I knew exactly who he was. “The Big 8”.
After initially contemplating whether or not I would shoot him my mind was made up. He is a really cool mature deer, lets see if we can get him in.
Remember, we are downwind of the buck, he is 1/4 down a hill looking over a ditch and he cannot see the area below our stand.
Jeff hands me the grunt tube and I let out a series of grunts. No reaction, he just continues making a rub.
Finally, I put additional air behind a blow and he whips his head around.
“Alright we got his attention” I update Jeff.
Not for long, he continues to move away. I tickle the antlers together and give another grunt.
He thinks about it again, but continues to move on. Just as he is about to go out of sight, possibly forever…
I let out a grunt followed by a snort wheeze.
He stops… does a 180 and stares a hole through us.
Knowing he could not see anything below us I let out another one.
Now he begins the loud walk up the hill towards us.
I announce to Jeff “he is going to try and get downwind of us”
He moves up the hill and tears apart a tree in some thick bushes and makes a scrape. We found the scrape later and it was the size of a truck hood. I am still not sold he will actually come in, being 80+ yards away.
He gets on our side of the hill and stops.
I grab my bow.
He continues to look what seemed like right at us.
He finally had enough… picked a trail and started a trot.
I do a quick range of a stump, 33 yards. He will either come in front or behind that.
He swiftly moves in front of the stump, I let him clear two trees and I let out a “Baa”
I give him the second to stop.
He is quartering too.
I elect to put the pin dead center of his shoulder blade… This new Matthews packs punch…
I squeeze off the trigger and WHACK!
We can see blood pumping out as he runs away and he crest the same hill he trotted along.
“That’s the big 8! Thats the big 8” I yell at Jeff.
We give the old boy sometime, review the footage on a tv and come to the conclusion he was dead shortly after the shot.
We pick up an unbelievable blood trail and locate the 4.5 year old 8 pointer right where we last saw him.
I was lucky enough to recover the animal with a lot of friends that had gone through the struggles with me and we soaked it in. We just killed a mature buck on film.
Thanks to everyone that followed along on my journey this year, it isn’t over yet! Also, huge thanks to my family and land owners, without them none of this is possible. Even bigger thanks to my cousin Jeff, we are starting to rack up the successful hunts after years of being dumb kids with a camera.
Now some pressure is off. I can’t wait for gun season!
About The Author
Taylor is the Owner and founder of 1080 Outdoors. He founded the company from his drive and passion of the Outdoors. He thoroughly enjoys Turkey and Deer Hunting in midwest. He runs a digital marketing company after he recently left the Law Enforcement profession. Follow along on Taylor’s hunting journey this year.