As seen on MyBuckStory.com
When I was a little boy, I would wait for my dad, now a 51-year retired member of Machinists District 165, to come home from deer hunting just to see if he had shot a deer that day. My mother would put me to bed, but it didn’t matter because I would lay awake staring out the window waiting for my father’s headlights to appear down the long driveway. Even at that young age, I was infatuated with deer and deer hunting. My father guided me through the years and taught me not only how to hunt, but more importantly, he passed down his passion for deer hunting.
Forty years later, we are still hunting together and recently had one of our most memorable years. It all started in the spring when I decided to invest and put a lot more time and effort into our Minnesota hunting property. I planted food plots, created mineral licks and made an overall healthier deer herd. Thanks to a buddy of mine – Bob Bergeson and his son Bobby – we planted six food plots covering about 12 acres. Bob is one of the most knowledgeable hunters that I’ve ever met in regard to food plots. I’ve learned so much from him. Five of the six food plots had corn, beans, turnips, rape and winter wheat. It was a lot of work and there were plenty of rocks that needed to be picked along the way. Bob and Bobby did an outstanding job and made the food plots turn out excellent!
I, also, created seven mineral sites using Bob’s homemade formula. Soon after, I started to get pictures and video of some mature bucks that were on our property. One of the bucks was a mainframe eight with bladed G2s. I had a picture of this buck from the previous year, and he had really put on some inches and mass. I was guessing he was around 140 inches. We named him “Blades” because of his bladed G2s, and he was now on the hit list.
Another buck was a big 6-by-6 that I, also, shot video and pictures of last year. This buck blossomed from a 130 inch 10-pointer one year to having 7 inch G4s and 1.5 inch G5s the next year. “Digger” was a beast with a big block head and just had a mean look to him. He was always digging a scrape on camera (hence his name) and was definitely the number one buck on the hit list.
I almost spent my entire time bow hunting over in Buffalo County, Wisconsin. I let the cameras soak for over three weeks to ensure not to disturb the area. I was hoping to get a buck down there first and then go after Digger with my bow, but it didn’t work out that way. On the Friday before the firearm opener, I quietly sneaked in and checked the cameras. They were loaded with pictures and video, and Blades was appearing on six different cameras! One of the areas he cruised the most during daylight was only 300 yards away from the hunting cabin. I showed my dad all of the videos of him and suggested that he set up in an old permanent stand just north of the beaver pond. He said that’s exactly where he was going to sit anyway since there was a lot of water in the swamps, which the deer would be using as a natural funnel.
On opening morning, my dad ended up shooting Blades at 10 a.m. This became his personal best buck! That is no small feat because he has probably killed over 100 bucks. As we walked up to him, he stated that he wished I had shot Blades rather than himself. I was puzzled by the comment and asked him, “Why?” He replied, “Because you work so hard at it, Brad, with planting all the food plots, making mineral licks, checking trail cameras, hanging stands and scouting.” I stopped and put my arm around him and said, “Well, Dad, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.” It was truly a special moment and one that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Blades, as an 8-pointer, ended up scoring 139 5/8 inches and dressed out at 230 pounds! He sure was a brute.
Now that we had one good buck down, it was time for me to go after the other big boy – Digger. I wasn’t even sure if this buck was killable or not since every trail image of him was always at night. He only appeared on two different trail cameras, and they were just 150 yards apart. His core area seemed very small, and I knew I would have to wait until the time was perfect. With opening night, the wind was not in my favor to sit in that stand, so I decided to hunt another location. It was not easy because I really wanted to hunt that buck, but I knew better. The night was uneventful, and it was very hard to sit there knowing that seeing Digger there would be just plain luck.
Finally, on Sunday night, I got a break. The wind switched, and I knew that this would be my chance. I was dying to check the two trail cameras earlier in the day that he was seen on, but again I didn’t want to disturb the area. At 3 p.m., I quietly and methodically walked to my stand that was placed in a staging area between the bedding spot and one of our food plots. It was fairly open with high grass, some scattered brush and big oak trees mixed in. As I settled in for the evening hunt, I looked down at one of the old dried up mineral licks and remembered that was where I first got a photo of Digger in velvet. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool if I could kill him right here?
Shortly after, a few deer appeared from out of the bedding area. It was a small buck, and he was pushing a doe and her two fawns around. They eventually made their way to me, and I watched them for over 45 minutes until they made their way out to the food plot. The path they took is exactly how it was supposed to work.
At 4 p.m., I heard the inevitable crunching sound of hooves walking through the leaves east of me. It was not the direction I had anticipated a deer to come from since there wasn’t much bedding. The deer finally appeared only 30 yards away out of a thicket walking directly towards me. It was a buck and, at first, I thought it was a 10-pointer that we had named “Ranger”. He had been on the hit list until the other two big boys showed up. The buck finally turned its head and that was when I saw the short G5. I knew it was not Croc… it was Digger!
I couldn’t believe it. I was now in lock down mode because he looked right at my tree. I didn’t dare make a move. He slowly looked around, smelled the air and finally started to walk behind the tree I was in. I carefully raised my rifle but by the time I got it up, the tree was in my way. I had to rearrange my shooting position to the other side of the tree.
Some tense moments passed, and he was now a mere 20 yards away and in the open. I successfully made the move and thought this was going to be way too easy. I squeezed the trigger and then… nothing happened. The rifle didn’t fire! Did I not take off the safety? I double checked, and it was off. My gun had to be jammed, or I didn’t have a shell in the chamber. I couldn’t believe it. I’m so very careful about details, so how could this be happening to me?
By now, Digger was right on top of me and in the open slowly walking by. I said to myself, don’t you #$%^&* panic Brad! I had to let that buck get away from me and then figure out why the gun was not firing. Digger slowly walked by me, and I didn’t dare make a move. It seemed like slow motion, and my heart was pounding. Finally, he was at 40 yards and still walking away from me. This was my chance, but I had to hurry because in another 30 yards or so, he would be in the brush offering me no shot.
I turned my rifle upside down and got the clip out without making much noise. I checked to see if there was a shell in the chamber. I thought to myself how was I ever going to chamber a shell without making any noise? I had no choice and continued on. Again, I turned the gun upside down, pulled back the handle and saw there was actually a shell already in the chamber! The reason it didn’t fire was because it was not shut all the way. I knew I had to shove it forward. This move was going to make a loud click, and I needed to make a quick shot. I mentally practiced it in my mind once and then I went for it. As I kept one eye on Digger who was now walking away from me at 60 yards, I shoved the operating handle forward. Of course, it made a loud click. I quickly shouldered the rifle, found him in the scope and to my surprise, he didn’t even stop. He just continued walking. Aiming at the base of his neck, I pulled the trigger, and he dropped in his track. Whew… I got him! I was more relieved than happy at that moment.
As I got down out of my tree and approached him, it finally hit me that I had just killed Digger. As I looked at him lying on the ground, emotions took over, and I broke down. I had been hunting for three weeks straight and had passed on so many bucks. I was physically and emotionally worn out. I would have been proud to shoot many of the bucks, but they were not the goal. I thought of all the time and work I had put in just to have an encounter with Digger. I actually started to feel sorry for the big old boy because he was no longer the king. It’s kind of weird. As hunters, we spend hours and hours thinking about killing a big buck… Then, when it happens, we don’t know what to do with ourselves and there’s an empty feeling inside. I just sat there for several minutes replaying the entire season through my mind. Finally, I paid respect to Digger for taking his life. I felt honored to be associated with such a great deer.
I’m truly grateful that I have a father who introduced me to deer hunting. It’s our one time a year that we get to spend quality time together, and I look forward to it so very much. You see, my Dad is 72 now and I know that his hunting years are limited. I know that day will come sooner than we want, and it will eventually end. As the years pass, I treasure our time together more and more and when that time comes when we can no longer hunt together, the memories that we shared along the way will live on forever. Thank you, Dad.
Check out a video I made about both of these bucks with additional harvest photos and a lot of trail camera video footage. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vb5JW2otS6o