It was Monday, early November 2015. The prolonged warm weather allowed me more time than usually to get everything battened down for the upcoming winter. If fact, I just helped the septic guy pump our tanks when I settled in for what was to be just another day in the office. It was shortly after 10am when all heck broke loose.
Not more than 10 minutes into my work, I was startled by what literally sounded like a bulldozer moving earth in the heavy woods near our house. I’m not exaggerating! It was as loud and intimating as anything I’ve ever heard in the outdoors. It had my FULL attention.
I grabbed the camera, and as a backup the 7mm mag, and cautiously walked to the wood line to see what the heck was going on. I remember briefly thinking a wolf or bear must’ve taken down a beef cow.
As I walked 10 feet or so into the woods, out of the river bottom came a forkhorn buck. He looked like death warmed over. He was to the point of hyperventilating and could barely hold up his head. And while he was curious about me, he certainly kept a watchful eye on whatever was lingering deeper into the woods. Shortly after, he sauntered off in that direction.
Realizing I was safe, I returned to the house where I swapped the rifle for the crossbow. In the excitement, I set down the camera and didn’t realize I’d forgotten it until I was about 100 yards into the thick woods. I wasn’t going back to get it.
What happened next was right out of the cool category. I unintentionally walked into a sparring match between a fork horn buck and a massive 10-pointer. Although the smaller racked deer had an impressive body, he paled in comparison to his jousting partner. Still, both animals had necks so swollen they looked like they could be lineman for the Green Bay Packers. Whether or not they knew I was there remains a mystery, although they soon separated as I got to within ear shot of their contest. The forker went to my left, and the 10-point crossed the river bottom and silhouetted himself on the far side.
In the past, I had seen young bucks in playful exchanges, but nothing that looked or sounded as serious as this. My heart was racing, but I knew I had experience, the wind, and a whole lot of time on my side. I hunkered in tight next to a fallen tree and watched and listened.
The woods were eerily quiet. No birds singing, no red squirrels chirping, and no bugs annoying me. As I gained control of my breathing, I remember closing my eyes and purposefully soaking in everything that just happened. But as I did that, I heard the unmistakable grunt of a buck needing some attention. I approximated his location and stood up to get closer, and at the same time, the 10-point bolted from a hide. Apparently he’d heard the forker too and was on his way to get another piece of the action.
Thinking the gig might be up, I opted to grab another stump and cob a squat. It seemed like eternity until I heard some leaves rustle. Soon I heard the distinctive crunch crunch of hooves crushing leaves that lay on the forest floor. It was easy to tell a deer was closing in on my location. Not long after, the forkhorn passed within 15 feet of me, his full attention on the far side of the river bank. As fast as he’d come by me, he crossed the river and he too was on the far side.
As I strained to keep eyes on the forkhorn, off to my left I caught a glimpse of a deer jumping over a dead fall. It was the 10-pointer, and he was hot on the trail of the forker who obviously wasn’t welcome in the area. All I could do was sit there and watch as the massive buck used the dense cover to weave in and out of possible shooting lanes. It was like he knew where and where not to step. He was cunning, yet very bold. And just like that, the two bucks disappeared.
As I returned to the house, I was filled with excitement and rejuvenation to the point I was unable to work. I could not believe what just happened–my mind in a perpetual loop, strategizing on how I want to kill that big buck. Historically, I’m not an archery hunter, but this incident has left me questioning that train of thought.
Now I have a choice. Dust off my bow and get back in the game, knowing full well that buck will likely be back. Or do I risk losing the opportunity to harvest my biggest buck ever, pinning my hopes to the upcoming Wisconsin gun opener, still a solid 2 weeks away?
Writing is on the wall folks. I’ve frantically searched the internet looking for information on buck sparring–specifically, if they’ll fight in the same locations time and time again. I also have found myself with renewed interest in hunting deer in Wisconsin, an opportunity I’ve overlooked for far too long.
Until next time!