I’ll Never Top My First Bow Buck


Help from wife, friends and in-laws lead to rare experience

After the sudden unexpected passing of my father-in-law Dave Eckes last November, my mother-in-law Donna and brother-in-law, Dustin, presented me with the bow that Dave had hunted with in years past. Dustin invited me to prepare the land owned by Rock and Dawn Stone in Adams County, Wis. for bowhunting this season. I had never bowhunted before and was excited to take on a new hobby. The next several months consisted of heading to “Dave’s Lodge,” named after my father-in-law for all the hard work he put into preserving the hunting location. We prepared deer treestands, food plots, checked game cameras and saw what the woods had to offer us for the hunt, increasing our excitement.

It was a beautiful weekend for opening bow season and my first experience. Equipped with the Mathews Drenalin bow and anticipation, I was ready to enjoy the thrill of the hunt. My hunting partners Dustin, Dave Schultz and John Schmitt had taught me as much as they could to get me in the best locations for deer.

As we woke up early to head to our stands, I was as exuberant as a kid in a candy store. I was so happy to be sitting in a stand taking on this new hobby, and couldn’t wait.

But that first day was more a lesson in patience.

The sun came up and the morning dragged to the afternoon and evening with no sight of a buck anywhere. Back at Dave’s Lodge, my hunting partners told stories of the deer they saw that day. Dustin showed a video of two little bucks sparring in front of him, while John said he saw some does and fawns. Dave Schultz said he didn’t see a single whitetail either.

I wondered if I had done anything wrong and asked the guys for some advice. They came up with a plan to put me in a different stand the following morning, and one where Dustin had seen the small bucks. I looked forward to seeing some movement and shooting off an arrow.

Sunday morning came quickly and I was in the stand again. Fog settled in and not a leaf on a tree moved. I sat there and waited. And waited some more. Nothing came around in these eerie, silent woods, not even squirrels. By midmorning I headed back to Dave’s Lodge and was ready to go home, convinced that I had bad luck. My excitement was drained. The guys did everything they could to get me to stay for one more hunt, and my wife encouraged me to stay for a few more hours, too. So I did.

The guys all decided to take a nap, but I couldn’t fall asleep. Something was telling me to get out in the woods. I kept checking the time and the urge to get back up in a stand grew. So, I headed to the stand near the water hole. I decided to walk instead of drive the four-wheeler. Once in my stand, I could feel the warmer wind blowing and the tree swaying. I sat there for three hours before I finally got the glimpse of my first deer, a little forked buck.

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Soon, a few more appeared—first another buck and then a few does, all headed to drink water. My adrenaline kicked in. With all this activity, I decided to get my bow in hand.

Down the trail right in front of me I saw movement and a big doe presented herself. Does apparently can infect new hunters with “buck fever,” too. I was shaking now. I had every intention of taking a shot, but I noticed more movement behind her up the hill. I suddenly stopped shaking and became still. I saw a bigger-bodied deer coming toward the water walking slow and with more authority than any of the other deer I had seen. As it got closer, I glimpsed antlers through the saplings. About 15 yards out he finally cleared the saplings and revealed his tall beams. I knew this was my chance. Dave’s bow in hand, I drew back, lined up the sights, and as soon as he stepped toward the water, I let the arrow fly.

The arrow headed toward him and made impact, and off he ran. I sat there for a few minutes to gather myself before climbing down. I called Dustin, who was close by, to tell him I hit a buck. He didn’t believe me. It took some convincing, but he told me to head to Dave’s Lodge to get the other guys to help track.

Grabbing some lights, we returned to the watering hole to look for blood. John picked up the trail and we began to track. After 100 yards of zigzagging through the briars, suddenly, we saw a massive deer laying mere feet in front of us. We practically climbed over each other to get a look.

Standing around this deer we knew he was the big one we had seen on camera. Everyone was speechless. Dustin broke the silence to congratulate me; Dave and John followed suit. We drug him out of the briars to a clearing to get a better look at his mass and count—21 points.

We loaded him up to show the landowners and everyone was smiling. Beers were consumed and I was still in shock of what had just happened. I couldn’t believe this beast that lay in front of me was the result of my first time bowhunting.

I know my father-in-law was with me in that stand. I believe his presence had compelled me to get out to the stand in the first place. While the doe had me rattled, when that big buck approached something just kept me calm enough to line up my sights on the massive deer without a tremble. I’m convinced it was my father-in-law, teaching me the sport of bowhunting as I held his old weapon.

I can’t thank everyone involved enough for all the help, guidance and generosity. And, to my wonderful wife Diana for helping convince me to stay for that last hunt and also to my father-in-law Dave for his guidance. Without all of them this never would have happened.

My first bow buck was a 21-point, 200 2/8-inch green score. I will never top this once-in-a-lifetime buck, but I will be back in the stand again. And I can’t wait.