A Bowhunter’s First Whitetail Buck

Regardless of your current whitetail hunting accomplishments, always reflect upon and cherish your inaugural whitetail success.

A Bowhunter’s First Whitetail Buck

When the young, symmetrical 10-pointer turned perfectly broadside in the wide-open alfalfa field, I drew back confidently, settled the correct pin behind his shoulder and released. I’d shot well, but my arrow whizzed just over the whitetail’s back.

Perplexed, I glanced at my brother in the tree beside me, and he advised that the buck had simply ducked. Bummer! My would-be first buck had slipped from my grasp.

Beginnings

I started bowhunting 18 years ago when I turned 12-years-old, Wisconsin’s then-minimum hunting age. At least 7 years earlier, I began shooting cheap department-store compounds and even tried to construct my own recurve bows from string-trimmer line and maple saplings. Everything about archery fascinated — and continues to fascinate — me.

Now, I didn’t bow-kill a deer during my first hunting season. But, I had a few encounters and even passed up a spike buck.

During my second archery season, I had the misfortune of missing the 10-pointer mentioned previously. To add insult to injury, I encountered a beautiful 8-pointer with kickers from the same stand approximately 1 month later, after an October snow squall. Chilled to the core, my shivering arms couldn’t get the bowstring to full draw as the buck passed by at 20 yards.

First Bow-Kill

Prior to my third archery season, I’d been watching a mature buck with a 20-inch-wide 6-point frame visit the same alfalfa field where I’d missed twice the previous season. But, when season opened, the buck disappeared.

So, on a cold and drizzly late-September afternoon, I opted to haul an early model Double Bull blind to the opposite end of the field and hunt from it, immediately after brushing it in.

Shortly after, a young doe appeared. She was oblivious that I was a stone’s throw away. I was just about to draw back when she randomly bolted across the field, fading into the timber. I set my bow down and awaited another four-legged visitor.

Surprisingly, only 20 minutes had elapsed when the same young doe reappeared in my blind window, 15 yards away just as she’d done earlier. This time, I drew my bow immediately, hovered the pin on her side and shot. My shot was money, and I became an adrenalized fist-pumping mess. I’d just killed my first deer with a bow — it only happens once.

I passed up a few little bucks later that same season. I wanted my first buck to be at least 2.5 years old. That was my goal.

Things Begin to Click

The following year, I started to understand more about stand placement and identified some mistakes I’d made the previous two seasons.

On the second afternoon of the season, I doubled on mature does from a stand I’d hung in the corner of another alfalfa field. That was one of my fondest hunts as a teenager. But, antler still eluded me.

Less than a month later, I was hunting a different stand when I arrowed another large doe. Looking back, those three shots and three doe kills boosted my confidence greatly. That November, I took full advantage.

Being homeschooled, I hunted as often as my teacher — Mom — allowed. Often, I’d check in with my eldest brother, who’d moved out of my parent’s house a few years earlier, to discuss locations and strategies. He provided guidance and assured me that I’d get my chance to kill a 2.5-year-old or older buck, if I kept after it.

During a late-October doe-only hunt, my father took me to a property where I’d helped him position a ladder stand for the previous year’s rifle season. He hadn’t seen any bucks from the stand that year, but thought it might be a likely spot to shoot a doe. Inevitably, a beautiful, 130-class 8-pointer strolled by within bow range. Guess where I wanted to bowhunt a few days later?

The author double-lunged these two does one afternoon from a treestand he hung himself. To this day, it’s one of his most memorable hunts.
The author double-lunged these two does one afternoon from a treestand he hung himself. To this day, it’s one of his most memorable hunts.

Pulling Out All the Stops

November 2 dawned overcast and mysteriously still. Temperatures were cool but bearable. Hopes were high, and one buck burned holes in my mind as I kept watch.

An hour into the morning, I hadn’t seen a single deer, so I dug out my grunt call and rattle bag from my backpack and began calling. My calls went unanswered, so did my second attempt a half-hour later.

By 9 a.m., my view was still deerless. With nothing to lose, I started my third calling sequence. It began with three estrous bleats, and then transitioned to several buck grunts, followed by a couple snort-wheezes. Next, I violently rammed the rattle pack together for 1 minute, then set it down, and grabbed my bow and watched.

Soon, movement across the bog I was watching caught my attention. I saw nice antlers and immediately thought it must be the big buck that I’d seen several days earlier during the doe-only hunt. Thus, I ignored the antlers from there on out and focused on preparing for the shot.

As the buck approached, his ears were laid back and his posture stiff. I can still envision it now. He quickly nosed the scent trail I’d dispersed on my way to the stand earlier that morning, and then followed it away from my stand. This put him quartering away at 30 yards, confirmed by my rangefinder.

When I drew back, I noticed he was behind a branch, but that the branch was only 15 yards away from me. With my 30-yard pin, I burned a hole through that branch and onto the buck’s ribcage. A split second later, my arrow lobbed over the branch and hit its intended mark.

The buck ran in a half circle, and then directly away from me, stopping exactly where he’d appeared earlier across the bog. His tail flickered several times, and then it appeared that he’d laid down.

I called my father, and we agreed that I’d quietly slip out of the stand and meet him back at the vehicle. There, we discussed the shot, and I told him I wanted to give the buck at least another hour just in case my shot wasn’t perfect. He agreed.

Once-in-a-Lifetime Buck

About 2 hours later, most of my immediate family members had assembled to trail the buck. When we arrived at the stand location, I climbed up and had my father and the others walk to where the buck was standing when I’d shot. They immediately spied the blood trail.

We followed it across the bog and it led right to my first-ever buck. It turned out to be a different buck than the one I’d seen a few days earlier, but that mattered little to me. We all admired the buck for a few moments. Finally, I field-dressed the downed buck and we drug him out to the vehicle.

A teenager, the author admires his first buck from more than 15 years ago. He coaxed the buck within bow range via grunting, snort wheezing and rattling.
A teenager, the author admires his first buck from more than 15 years ago. He coaxed the buck within bow range via grunting, snort wheezing and rattling.

Final Reflections

More than 15 years have passed since that hunt. I’ve matured substantially as a hunter, and God has blessed me with some beautiful bucks much larger than that one. But, I’ll never forget where I came from and how my deer hunting passion was born. That’s why I often recall the hunt when I killed my first buck.

The author has tagged bigger bucks, but none more special than his first.
The author has tagged bigger bucks, but none more special than his first.
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