The story starts on October 25th 2009. Camera man Bryce Kish and myself were hunting central Wisconsin. We were in our stands waiting by 2:30pm. By 6:00pm Bryce calls out, “shooter buck!” As I turn around I notice a beautiful buck heading our way. As many big bucks do, he quickly changed course and walked approximately fifty yards out, too far for my effective range with a stick and string.
While Bryce was filming the buck, I noticed movement about thirty yards behind the first buck. It was a second buck and he too was a shooter. Bryce zoomed in on the second buck with the camera, he stated that the second buck was not as high as the first buck but definitely had more mass.
As both bucks walked away from our set up, my heart was pounding. I knew that there was going to be no shots taken that night, however we knew that the rut was just around the corner and good mature bucks were starting to become more daylight active. After the evenings hunt we headed back to my house to review the video of the bucks. While watching the video, I noticed the back buck had matching set of crab claws off of his front part of his main beams. Now I’m not good at scoring deer, so I wouldn’t even try, but what I can tell you is that he was definitely a mature deer and one that made my heart pound. That night I went to bed dreaming about another opportunity at the Crab Claw Buck.
Fast forwarding five days later, October 30th. I woke up at five in the morning. As I lay in bed I could hear rain hitting the roof and water dripping off the eves. I wanted to lie in bed where it was warm and dry, but I knew that the bucks were on the move, because the pre rut is in full swing. I met cameraman Chad Holdorf at the hunting property where he was standing with his hood synched tight around his head. Chad looks at me and asks, “Tell me again why we are doing this?” as rain was just pouring down on us. By looking at the radar it appeared that shortly after daylight the rain would stop.
For the second time in my hunting career I was also going to be using a buck decoy, so I wanted to be able to slip into our stands using the rain to cover up our noise and scent. When we reached to our stands, Chad was busy setting up the camera equipment while I was setting up the buck decoy. I was using the EZ-Buck by Carry Light Decoy Company. I took one antler off from the buck to make it less intimidating to the challenger. I had the decoy placed ten yards from my stand just incase a buck hangs up; he will still be well within bow range.
An hour went by and the rain stopped. All of a sudden Chad called out, “There’s a deer.” As I turned around I watched a wide, dark racked buck get up from his bed in some thick black berry brush a mere sixty yards away. The buck stretched, and soon started walking in our cardinal direction. After several steps the heavy horned buck stopped and locked eyes on the EZ-Buck. His deep eyes peered at his archrival, he immediately started rubbing his chocolate stained horns on a wrist-sized tree. After working the tree over and showing his dominance, he turned and came right on a b-line to the decoy. His ears tipped back, legs went stiff, and his back fur stood strait up. Staring at the decoy with every step, the big buck made it closer to the decoy. Only ten yards from my stand the big buck did a stiff leg side step looking over the decoy.
With his attention off from me and on his opponent I drew my bow and came to full draw. The buck circled to the back of the decoy and stuck his nose right into the decoy’s synthetic tail, immediately the buck caught a whiff of my scent from setting up the decoy and jumped about five to ten yards before he stopped broad side, staring back at the decoy. I settled my twenty-yard pin and released the string. I herd a loud “Crack” and the big bruiser did the best reaction, the mule kick.
I observed my tracer nock flashing from the shoulder blade as the buck was trying to break the land speed record to the thickest cover. As he reached the farthest point of which I could keep visual on him, it appeared that his legs were fighting to keep him up. Within nano-seconds he disappeared down into a deep draw. I turned to Chad with my knees shaking, saying, “I think we got him!” I knew I needed to check my arrow, due to the fact that it broke off several steps after I hit the buck. I told Chad that the shot was not perfect because I hit the shoulder blade. I needed to know how much penetration I got with my NAP Blood Runner, to know if I hit vitals.
I got down from the stand and recovered my arrow. You would have thought I found gold by my reaction when I observed that over half of my arrow blew threw his shoulder blade producing a bubbly blood coating my arrow. I looked at the leaves around my arrow and immediately there was a tremendous blood trail pointing the direction to the pot of gold. I marked where I found my arrow and returned up to the stand to talk with Chad.
As I got into the stand Chad delivered the bad news. He informed me that he hit the record button but the camera is not allowing us to review the shot to confirm our hit location. We were crossing our fingers that it was just the camera not playing it back instead of it not recording. We switched tapes in the camera and decided to try a new tape. After filming our post roll explaining what happened, it began to mist.
As an hour went by, it felt like days. Soon we took up on the blood trail. As soon as we began following the blood trail it was clear that the NAP Blood Runners did their job. It looked like some one tripped while carrying a five-gallon bucket of red paint. Approximately seventy yards later, I noticed a white belly down at the bottom of a big draw. With both of my arms in the air and some shouts of joy, my feet never touched the ground as I walked up on the heavy horned brute!
For the first time in my life I was honestly speechless as I picked up the head of this beautiful creature. I am not a guy who judges his hunt by the size of horn rather the sound of my heart pounding, and I was in shock that both were happening at the same time! As I admired the heavy horned ten point, it struck me like a bolt of lightning. I just harvested the crab claw buck. His duel front crab claws appeared to me like diamonds in the sand. Not only did I just harvest a truly magnificent buck, but also it was the buck that I dreamed about every night since I laid eyes on him five days earlier. This was the perfect ending to my fairy tale hunting adventure, and for as long as I live I will always remember the day that I met the crab claw buck.
After we took photos, rehearsed the hunt, we brought him home. Chad and I were excited to watch the video. As we tried to play the video we realized that the camera did not agree with the high moisture, as the video did record the buck coming in but it was extremely distorted and almost unable to view. However the recovery with a new tape did record.
Our hearts sank, I felt so bad for Chad, because I got my dream buck, however all the hours and hard work that Chad had spent all season long to bring us great video documenting our hunts did not record at the moment of truth. However Chad did say it best, “Even if we didn’t get the shot on video, it will always be in my mind and that made it worth the work.” He couldn’t have been more accurate, and a special thanks to Bryce and Chad for all their hard work behind the camera to bring our hunting season to your TV and computer screens.