Last Fall’s Deer Hunt



Turkey hunting is my passion, but I hunt other game as well. Last fall was my 66th year of deer hunting. I started when I was eight years old. Back then, classic Wisconsin deer drives normally started on the Monday after opening weekend. I did not have a gun at age eight, so I was used as a driver for my uncles, cousins and friends. Standers would go to the edge of woods or fields, and the drivers would walk toward standers and scare the deer to them.

When I was 12, I was allowed to use a gun (my grandfather’s old Winchester model 12 shotgun he had given to my dad) after what I call German Hunter Safety. My entire family has German heritage on both sides. German Hunter Safety was, in a nutshell, when you did something wrong, you never did it again. My dad or another adult would reprimand with a swat to the back of the head. I learned fast and still do what I was taught. This was not child abuse; it was being taught how to be safe.

I have been blessed to hunt some great private properties for many years. My best turkey and deer spot is about three miles from my house. I can be in a stand in about 30 minutes. Most of my hunting stands end up getting a name: Killing Tree, Killing Rock, Red Roof (yes, this one had a red truck box cover as its roof), North Blind, House Blind (I can see the owner’s house from the blind), Doughnut Blind (blind is in the center of sort of a rotary) and many others. I use chains on my ladder stands when I put them up. Most of my tree stands have been up so long that the chains have grown over.

My favorite stand of all is Killing Rock. I think I harvested nine bucks off this stand. Since Fond du Lac is close to the Niagara Escarpment, we have many rock formations and rock quarries around Fond du Lac. The Killing Rock is on top of a rock ridge about 15 feet higher than the valley below it. I sit in a ground-level chair and have put brush and old tent fabric behind me to break up my silhouette.

I bow hunted for as long as I could. When I realized I could no longer shoot my bow accurately enough to make a clean kill shot, I had to go to a crossbow. Because of my bad shoulders, I must use rests for both my gun and crossbow.

Now to the crossbow hunt of 2022.

The weather was too warm for deer hunting for most of September and early October, so my first deer hunt was Oct. 21. During the hunt, I saw a doe and yearling. We do not shoot does on this farm. You always do what the owner says; it is his property.

The next time I had a westerly wind, which is what I need to hunt this blind, was Oct. 30. The deer coming into this stand come from the north 99 percent of the time.

After about three hours of sitting, I got that feeling you get when something is close. I was sitting on the ground, so movement must be very minimal. Facing west, I moved my eyes to south. There was a buck at about 15 feet. I never set up to be able to shoot to the south because deer never come from the south.

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But a buck walked about 18 to 20 yards out in front of me, broadside. I took my shot. The buck didn’t give the “hit jump” and immediately went through fence line into Dying Field (yes, I name the fields too). He walked along the fence line like nothing was wrong.

I got out of my stand to look at the area where the buck was standing when I shot. No hair and no blood. I went home to wait my normal two hours before I start tracking if I do not see the deer go down and came back to track in the dark. I’ve been hunting there for about 30 years and know the area well. I tracked for three hours and no blood. I return the next morning for four hours and find nothing. I feel terrible.

On Nov. 6, there was a westerly wind again. I went back to the Killing Rock and made sure I could shoot to the south if a buck comes in that way again. Sitting on my ground-level chair, looking between the cleft in the rocks, I saw a speck of color in a tree in front of me. But I did not go in the valley to see what it is because it would contaminate the area. The spot in the trees does keep bugging me, however.

After about three hours, there is a buck to the south again. It is not the same one I shot at last week. Seeing a different buck, I am thinking, “Did I wound the one last week?”

Today, I have good rest for the crossbow. The buck is full broadside. I put my red dot right behind the right shoulder. I shoot. No jump hit by the buck, and it runs away. Not another one! The buck goes through the fence line and I see him making 20- to 25-foot leaps in Dying Field. I get up and go to inspect where the buck was standing when I shot. No hair and no blood again!

I started for my car to do my two-hour wait before tracking and stop. What was that spot of color that was bugging me? I walk over to the area where I saw the spot of color. The spot of color is my crossbow bolt stuck in a three-inch diameter tree. Fan-absolutely-tastic! I didn’t hit the first deer. I came back a few days later to cut the tree off and made a hunting trophy out of it with a stand. LOL.

I began my two-hour wait time to start tracking again and go back when it is dark. I know where the buck ran through the fence line. Nothing. Then I went out in the Killing Field where the buck was leaping. Nothing. Then I walk the entire length of the fence line edge to try to find if the buck cut back into woods. The fence line has high grass in it. If the buck is bleeding, I will see blood on the grass. Nothing.

I go inside the woods about 30 feet and make my way back up the fence line toward my stand. The woods have grape vines, heavy brush and downed trees—not easy going. I look forward, right, left and behind me; it is slow going. After about 300 yards, there is the buck! Thank you, Lord! The buck is laying on his right side. The crossbow bolt is sticking out of the left rear hind leg. That is why there is no blood trail. I roll the buck over to see where the entrance hole is: exactly where I shot. The crossbow bolt made an almost 90-degree turn inside the buck. This buck would have been lost and ended up as coyote food if I wouldn’t have put the effort into tracking—and been so lucky.

Now the work begins. I gut the buck. The farm owner helps me drag it out and go to the barn to wash it out. I register the buck using my cell phone. The Wisconsin DNR’s online registration makes registering game very convenient. I take my buck to the butcher for processing. The Voss family will have venison baloney again.