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Wild Side: Big bucks are on the move

Brad Smith of Mondovi with the antler rack of a buck he bagged while bow hunting. Dan Wilcox photo

My friend Steve Clark from Hammond is an avid bow hunter who has hunted on our land for many years. Steve, his wife and three children all like to eat venison, so Steve tries to put some in the freezer. Steve buys extra tags to supplement his regular archery deer hunting license. This year, he has already shot three does and a yearling on our place. He has seen at least four bucks.

A few weeks ago on the opening weekend of pheasant season, we started hunting on the west end of our planted prairie. Not 30 yards into the tall grass and quite close to the road, a big eight-point buck jumped up from where it had been bedded down and bounded away.

Now with some meat in the freezer, Steve is hunting for a trophy. He has put in many hours in tree stands on our property and has seen that big eight point buck a number of times. Last weekend Steve got "busted" when the buck passed 60 yards downwind. Like many bow hunters, Steve enjoys his time in the woods observing deer. His persistence pays, often with a trophy buck.

In early November in Wisconsin as the weather cools down, bucks are on the move breeding does. We see normally nocturnal bucks lust-struck following does during the day and chasing other bucks to guard their harems. This is prime time for bow hunting. It's also football season so conversation in Wisconsin is often about the Green Bay Packers, who are having another phenomenal season, and about phenomenal bucks.

Our friend Sue Covill of River Falls grew up on a farm north of Mondovi in Buffalo County, renowned for large deer. The mix of dairy farmland, oak forest and limestone rock there consistently produces big bucks with large racks.

Sue and her husband Ty are avid Badger and Packer fans. Carol and I joined them and other Packer faithful last Sunday at Johnnie's Bar in River Falls to watch another exciting football game. During the game, Ty showed me a photo on his cell phone of a monster buck shot on Sue's home farm near Mondovi.

It's one thing to see a photo of a trophy deer; it's another to see the trophy antler rack. Brad Smith, who is married to Sue's niece and lives on her home farm near Mondovi, was the lucky hunter who bagged the big buck. Brad was watching the football game at Johnnie's. He had the antler rack from the big buck out in his car and showed it to a number of us at halftime.

Smith was more than just a lucky hunter. He has gone bow hunting for deer for seven seasons now. He had observed the trophy buck for several years and found its shed antlers last year. Trail cameras that Brad set out this year revealed that the four-year-old buck had grown a massive 12-point set of antlers.

Brad said that the big buck was following a doe last week and came within 20 yards of his stand. After a good shot and a clean kill, it took three guys to drag the deer out of the woods. Brad estimates that it weighed 250 pounds before it was field-dressed. The preliminary Pope and Young score on the antler rack was over 150 points, even though one of the tines had broken off in recent weeks.

I've seen some big bucks around home and in the Flambeau River country where we hunt during the gun deer season opening weekend, but I've never had the opportunity to shoot one. I go deer hunting to be out in the woods in the fall, to get some venison to eat and for the camaraderie.

Maybe I should take up bow hunting again and try for a trophy.

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