My First Monster Buck

zach_burton_fieldjournal_picOn October 11th 2012, I woke up at 4:30 AM, made coffee and watched the news. After seeing the weather, I knew it would be a good day to hunt one of my favorite tree stands. The wind would be right in my face at around 5 MPH. It was 28 degrees and the first light frost in my area. So I took the dog for her morning walk and came home to gear up.
I live in Eaton County Michigan and hunt a pressured area. But I practice quality deer management and “let them go, let them grow.” My neighbors also practice good management. I don’t have food plots on my land, but the crops are corn, wheat, and soybeans, with the remainder woods.
I climbed into my stand by 7 AM and waited for light. I’m not a fan of heights, so my stand is only about 12 feet up. I’m hunting a fairly open area in my woods, about 25 yards from the edge of a cut wheat field that has sparse grass growing in it. I’m at a narrow point between the woods and a wood line that the deer tend to favor for crossing the field.
At first light I had a doe and her fawn cross the field and go through the woods, at about 70 yards. I waited about 10 minutes and rattled lightly with a rattle bag. Within about 3 minutes, a bachelor group of small bucks came into the field and started sparring. I watched them for about 10 or 15 minutes and they finally worked off on the tree line in the other direction.
It was now about 8 AM. The bachelor group had just gone out of sight; I scanned the field and the wood line with my binoculars to see if there was anything moving, and saw nothing. As I turned my head and looked into the woods, a slight movement caught my eye. I watched for a few minutes and saw nothing more, so I lost interest and looked back to the field. I then scanned back into the woods and that little movement had turned into a very large set of antlers at 70 yards and headed to me.
This deer was wide and tall, one of the largest I had ever seen in my area. He took his sweet time coming, stopping often and smelling the air. Any seasoned bow hunter knows that this is a bad thing! It gave me plenty of time to get buck fever. My adrenaline was flowing and I was getting the shakes. He finally came in at about 25 yards and stepped behind a tree. Knowing that this was the time to draw my bow, I drew slowly and with as little motion as I could, but he still heard it.
So now we had a stand-off, and I was already shaking from the adrenaline. He stood there blocked by a tree, frozen motionless. I held my bow at full draw for what seemed like an eternity (in actuality it was probably only about 1 minute). He finally started to walk forward and didn’t stop, but he was moving cautious and slow. When he cleared I released and with a thump he fell right to the ground and started to roll on the ground. Before I could even take a breath he jumped up and ran full speed into my woods.
I looked down and my arrow was stuck in the ground, a sign of a full pass through. I waited about 15 minutes (still shaking) and climbed out of my stand. I checked where he had rolled and there was one drop of blood. When I inspected the arrow there was nice bright blood, but no sign of blood on the path he had taken. I decided to wait at least an hour to start tracking him. So I went home and had some coffee while I called a friend to help me track him.
We went out about an hour and a half later, following the hoof prints for about 60 yards until we lost them. We started walking back and forth through my woods looking for any sign of him. After about an hour of searching, I was starting to get a little sick to my stomach, finding no sign and thinking I had just wounded the best deer I had ever had a shot at.
I was just walking out of the woods with my friend, about to give up, when I looked down and in between my feet was a puddle of blood. I instantly got the shakes all over again. There was a good blood trail! We took up the trail and followed it back through my woods to a cornfield. It then went up the edge of the field and into my neighbor’s cornfield. I had my cellphone on me so I called to make sure I could go look for my deer. No answer. But I knew my neighbor would rather I get the deer so I went after it.
We tracked it for about 80 yards and the blood stopped, no more sign or anything. So we backtracked for about 40 yards and found where he had come back on his tracks and then turned off on a different route. After about another 40 or 50, he did the same thing. Three times he backtracked on his trail. Then we started seeing signs that he was confused and going everywhere. By this time, the blood trace was disappearing, and we were on hoof prints again.
Then, finally, we stepped between corn rows and looked up, and there he laid, about 40 yards away. I was elated! I was shaking so much I could barely hold my bow. I gave my friend a hug of thanks, and told him I could have never done it without him. He helped keep me calm while tracking it.
I knew it was a big deer when I took the shot, but I had no idea he was this big of a monster buck. It took 3 of us to drag it to the end of the field to get it with my tractor. He had a 19 ½ inch spread with his G2’s and G3’s all over 10 inches. This truly is a monster for this part of Michigan. The buck’s green score grossed 161”. By far the biggest ever taken off of this property.
In conclusion to the story, please let them go, let them grow. It really does work. I have proof of it! And never give up hope, they are around. I have hunted this property for 15 years, an average of 70 days a year, 8 to 10 hours a day. This is the first deer of this caliber I’ve had a chance at. So be patient, it can happen to anyone.
-Zachary Burton