More Than Just A Button Buck

Contributed by Scott Niemeyer

This story begins in November of 2002. I was 14 years old and was on my 3rd year of bowhunting and my first season going by myself. My dad had hung a treestand for me and instructed me not to hunt it until a few days later. Not because of any conditions or strategy, but because he had gotten busy and was not going to have time to help me get a deer out of the big timber if I shot one. As most 14 year old boys do, I didn’t listen.

I skipped school one afternoon and after 20 minutes on stand I let the air out of my first ever buck; a 120″ 8 pointer. I was ecstatic to say the least and literally sat on the dead deer for 4 hours, completely clueless as what to do next. I waited until my dad would be getting home from work and sprinted home to let him know. He was probably just as excited as me, and I never heard any type of complaint as he did all the dirty work for me while I sat and watched closely through the night. He was obviously worn out, but you wouldn’t have known from watching and listening to him that night.

He would return to this same stand a few days later and kill his biggest buck with a bow, which also turned out to be the last deer he would take with a bow. Dad always hunted with a recurve, and as age crept up on him and Lyme’s disease began to take hold on his health.  Time spent bowhunting was judged more on how his body felt than on weather fronts, rut activity, and spare time to go. Despite my attempts he refused to trade in his recurve for a bow with wheels. He still gun hunted however and in January 2009, during Illinois late antlerless only gun season, he harvested what was supposed to be the last deer of his life.

On the morning of May 7th, 2009 my dad suffered a very serious stroke that would leave him in the ICU for 6 weeks, most of which were spent in a coma. He had bleeding in his brain, which resulted in 2 separate drains being drilled into his head to relieve the pressure. There were other numerous complications that resulted during this time, including blood clots spreading rapidly through his body, that even further put his future in doubt. On June 2nd the doctors came to us that morning and informed us his condition had worsened and they were going to do a procedure, but that it was a risky one and he probably wouldn’t survive through it.  I said my goodbyes to him just before I walked out of the room. Just as they were due to start the procedure he made a very slight flinch to a pain test and they called it off.

A week later he was out of the ICU and beginning his long journey to recovery. It was truly a miracle. I still remember one of his doctors telling him that his body and brain never read any of the books on how to act, and without missing a beat he quipped back “Yeah, but they never wrote a book on a country boy!”

The first diagnosis he got was that he may likely never make it out of the Nursing Rehab Facility he was transferred to after the hospital. He was there for a month. He went to a true Rehab Center after this, and on September 11th, just 4 months after the stroke, he came home. At this time he was in a wheel chair most of the time. He wanted to get out of that thing, and he did. In fact, he worked so hard in rehab that during one of his sessions he gave himself a heart attack.  on October 30th that year he got another night’s stay in the hospital.

Just a few days later On November 3rd, I killed my biggest buck ever, and probably the most special deer I’ll ever take. A 155″ 12 pointer. I’ll never forget that night pulling into the driveway and helping him outside to look at it.

All in all, considering every doctor said he should have died, he’s in great shape. He has some double vision, trouble with the right side of his body and uses a cane to get around, but he is still here.  Over the next few years he would come sit with me during gun season. We never saw a deer, but that wasn’t really the point for either of us. As a few seasons passed, he began to accept the realization that his days of hunting how he used to were in the rear view mirror, and he finally was willing to try out a crossbow for the 2013 hunting season. I prepped him up a hidden little food plot tucked back in the timber where I could drop him off with the 4 wheeler right at a blind. Our own pastorandrew and the late Paul Knox from the QDMA forums were unbelievable resources for me as I ventured into the food plot task for the first time.

view-from-blind

A view from dad’s ground blind, overlooking our small food plot

The 2013 season on our farm was terribly tough. EHD hit us and deer sightings were tough to come by, but dad did see 2 deer on one of his sits.  In his eyes the season was a success regardless…he was hunting again. As we headed out the door for his first hunt, we stood there bickering at each other, like only a father and son can do, and my mom made the comment “It’s good to see you 2 have picked up right where you left off”. She was right. Except now, it was him telling me where he should be sitting, instead of me telling him what I thought.

Our 2014 season was upon us before I knew it, and the plot was back and going along with another blind location on a big bean field. One afternoon, after getting several deer on camera during daylight, dad was dropped off at the new blind and at last light he unleashed his crossbow at a very nice buck I had pictures of.  The bolt sailed over his back and the buck was gone.

A short week later he got a chance at redemption. In his food plot a doe offered him a 20 yard shot and he drew blood. I tracked for a day and a half and never found her though. The bolt was recovered and had fatty slime on it with just a little blood. I pulled the card the last day I looked, and had a picture of a doe that had gotten a trim on her back from the old man’s bolt. She survived.

2015 brought yet another new season. I had accepted a new job over the summer and have been working a lot of overtime night shifts. I was able to get his plot in again but haven’t had much time to get him out there to hunt. We were waiting for me to have some time off so I could have some time to help him out when he needed it, but his anxiousness finally caught up to him and he was done waiting.

Last night he hobbled out to his Ranger on his own and loaded up all his gear for what would be his first hunt of the season. I had made him leave his food plot alone until there was a perfect South wind, as I had 3 nice bucks visiting it and they were inching closer and closer to daylight with each check of the camera. Last night he got his South wind and at 4:30 a deer entered the plot. The deer fed towards his blind and as it turned broadside at 30 yards it was met with a crossbow bolt through it’s lungs. Unfortunately I was headed to work a 12.5 hour night shift so he employed the help of his cousin to recover the deer. The track was short; roughly 50 yards, and at the end of it was a dead button buck. I got the phone call last night and couldn’t have been happier other than wishing I was there to share the moment.

My trail camera captured this deer moments before it walked within bow range of dad's ground blind, seen in the background.

My trail camera captured this deer moments before it walked within bow range of dad’s ground blind, seen in the background.

I got off work this morning and quickly gathered my butchering supplies as temps were going to reach 70. We snapped some pics, relived the story, and I got started as he sat there and watched me. At the end of it all, I realized I had been up nearly 24 hours straight and that there was nothing that I would have rather been doing. It instantly brought me back to that moment 13 years ago when I was just a kid, sneaking out when I wasn’t supposed to, and thinking how the roles have reversed and how much life has changed over those years.

Life has changed a lot for dad and I over the last 13 years. However our love for bowhunting and enjoying nature is one thing that has remained the same.

Life has changed a lot for dad and I over the last 13 years. However our love for bowhunting and enjoying nature is one thing that has remained the same.

You hear a lot of people say things like “Yeah it’s just a doe”, or in this case something along the lines of “Why’d you shoot a button buck?”, but this is truly the definition of the size of the trophy not always being about antler size. This isn’t just a successful deer hunt. It’s a “Look at me doing what you told me I would never do again”, a story of perseverance and hardships that culminated last night on a small 1/3 acre food plot in rural Illinois. As far as I’m concerned, this button buck was the biggest trophy walking in the woods that night.

Dad cutting up some backstraps to enjoy for dinner. The fruits of a successful hunt.

Dad cutting up some backstraps to enjoy for dinner. The fruits of a successful hunt.

Comments

  1. Mark Johnson says:

    What a great story!! Congrats!!!

    Reply
  2. Javier Galloza says:

    Congratulations, that is what is all about!

    Reply
  3. David Foster says:

    Love the article! Great story!

    Reply
  4. Brian Evans says:

    Awesome story nothing amazing than seeing a man like get back out there to do what he loves!!!

    Reply
    • Brian Evans says:

      I meant there is nothing more then seeing that!!

      Reply
  5. Debby Rook Faulkner says:

    This is beautiful! One of the best story’s I have heard in a while!

    Reply
  6. what a great story

    Reply
  7. Will Russell says:

    I like to see these stories that show that hunting’s not all about getting a big buck.

    Reply
  8. Jef Rose says:

    What a great story! Brought a tear to my eye! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  9. Marion Phipps says:

    Awesome story! Congratulations, Dick!!!

    Reply
  10. Ivie Baker says:

    Fantastic story. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
  11. This is an amazing story, but sadly when I saw it on facebook, there were too many people commenting on it stuff like, shouldn’t be shooting small bucks, and that crossbows shouldn’t be considered archery equipment. Guess people will be mean just to be mean, no matter what.

    Reply
    • Timothy Gravely says:

      Great story. Loved it. And I’ll admit I myself is guilty of the things you mentioned . I don’t like to be that way. And I’m stopping now. I want friends not enemies. Time for a change. Again ,I loved the story. Could make a nice movie of that. Good Hunting.

      Reply
  12. Amazing story Scott. Loved how it completed the circle of life. So proud of your whole family and the faith you all have.
    Love brought your Dad though all of the obstacles places before him. Congratulations Dick on getting your deer!!

    Reply

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