Going deer hunting in Wisconsin is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager in high school. Every year, I told myself, “this will be the year I go,” only to have that year pass me by. One of the issues was that I never had a mentor who would take the time to teach me what I needed to know. When Kristin Alberts offered to mentor me and give me a spot to hunt during this deer season, I jumped at the opportunity.
We trained for two days solid on the range, looking at a variety of rifles from the GDC Vault before I finally settled on the Remington 700 in 7mm Rem Mag. I felt good about the rifle, the ammunition, and the groups I was shooting. Even at 200 yards, which is a short shot for a seasoned hunter but felt like a mile for me, I was confident in my ability.
I was ready to get some deer on the ground and meat in the freezer.
Driving to the deer camp, there was a profound stillness and tranquility in the air. It was cold outside, barely breaking 20 degrees. I saw a few deer moving about in the morning on my 20-minute drive to the camp. There was lots of nervous energy and heightened anticipation for my first hunt. When I arrived at the camp, it was still dark outside as we walked to the stand. I was reminded of what Kristin told me earlier in the week, “We’re going to sit in the stand from dawn until dusk, no breaks.”
As the sun rose over the trees, there was an otherworldly silence and stillness in the air. It was a welcome departure from the 20 to 40 mph winds gusts that we trained in. Stillness like this isn’t common in Door County where 20 mph gusts are the norm. The air was so quiet that we could hear deer crunching leaves under their hoofs as they walk through the field. Immediately in the morning, we spotted a young four-point buck. I lined up my sights on him and could’ve taken him. I didn't feel the “buck fever” though. Perhaps he was too small. While it was tempting to get a deer on the ground right away, we ultimately decided it was best to pass and let him live another day.
We sat for another three hours, and we didn’t see a single deer in that time. Suddenly, we were second-guessing whether or not we should have passed on that four-pointer. Time seemed to be dragging, we saw lots of turkeys but no deer. Just about the time I started wondering whether I was going to get a buck, I saw him.
A majestic beast came barreling out of the field to the north like a horse out of the gates. I spot him and after telling myself “that’s no horse,” I tell Kristin “we got a big buck out there.” We both spot him with our binoculars and confirm, this is the buck we’ve been waiting for. His run came to a slow trot and to my delight he started to turn toward our stand, putting him in a more comfortable distance.
Under my breath, I was asking him to slow down and stop, just for a second or two. He wasn’t really cooperating though, and I was afraid he was going to run right into the next field. While the four-point buck didn’t give me any heart palpitations this one was different. When I saw the rack, even through my old $30 Simmons scope, I knew this was a big buck. My heart started racing. My breathing became heavier and I tried to tell myself to calm down. It worked a little, but I knew in the back of my mind, this might be a once-in-a-lifetime buck. I needed to make a clean shot and ethical harvest.
Being a new hunter, I wasn’t comfortable yet taking a shot at a moving animal, so I really wanted him to settle down and stop. Just when I thought he wouldn't stop, Kristin let out a couple of calls behind me and that made him stop. It presented me with the opportunity and I knew I wouldn’t have another chance, so I took the shot. To my delight, he dropped right away. It was a clean shot. An ethical harvest is something I wanted more than the buck itself.
As the buck faded, I was filled with emotion. Waves of adrenaline and elation rushed through me as I tried to decipher exactly what had just happened. The reality of what had happened hadn’t really sunk in, but as we approached the big buck, it started to. Kristin told me that this one would have to be mounted and then commented that it might have beat her record on the property.
It wasn’t until then that I realized just how special this deer was and will continue to be.
When we drove back to her dad’s farm to field dress the deer, it was once again reaffirmed that this was a special buck.
“I’ve been hunting for 40 years trying to get a buck like this,” Kristin’s dad told me. I started to realize how blessed I was to have taken such a spectacular animal.
It was then that I also started to feel a sense of regret. How could I, this newbie hunter, come out and get this big buck while someone like Kristin’s dad, who has been hunting for 40 years, hasn’t been able to? Was I wrong for taking it? Mixed emotions came flooding over me, perhaps because her dad had missed an 8-pointer earlier that same morning. It was something that he was clearly distressed about at the time.
Once we got the buck field dressed and loaded up in my car, I flew home, racing to get to my local butcher before they closed for the day. The earlier feeling of regret had faded, and I was on cloud nine again, not sure if my tires were even touching the ground. When the butcher saw the deer, he congratulated me and reminded me just how lucky I was to score such a nice buck on my first time out.
I never thought I would get a buck this big my first time out. In fact, I really just wanted a deer to put food on my table for my family. I would have been happy to get a big doe on the ground. For anyone who has been thinking about deer hunting but hasn’t been able to, I would say reach out to your local Boone and Crockett club and try to find a mentor. Kristin was more than happy to take me under her wing, and I think the same thing could be said of many seasoned hunters.
One of the main ways to support conservation and ensure we still have hunting in the future is to introduce new hunters to the sport. I’m so happy I’ve now been introduced to this lifestyle, and I hope to enjoy it for the rest of my life.