TREVOR SNYDER, 31 – WISCONSIN
This is the story of not one, but two bucks and the 19 year journey to fill my first WI gun tag.
I, like many other kids, grew up with my Dad as a hunter. He mainly hunted on a 40 acre lease that he had with some of his friends. I used to idolize the concept of going away hunting for a weekend. To get away from the house and spend a weekend with just the guys. When the time came that I could take hunters safety and go hunting, I could not wait. Unfortunately about that time I could start to hunt, many of my dad’s friends that were part of the lease had kids who also had started to hunt in the few years prior. The 40 acres that once only housed a couple of guys, soon became home to eight plus people wanting to hunt on the property. Although I was never told it directly, I learned pretty quickly that there was not going to be room for me to hunt on the property. The idea of me having my own stand that was called “Trevor’s Stand”, was just a dream. It was at that time that I started hunting public land in the surrounding area. This began my journey as a public land hunter.
Anyone knows that hunting public land in Wisconsin is not always the easiest, and can get quite a bit of pressure. I learned pretty quickly that I was going to have my best chances bow hunting versus gun hunting. I spent many of my first years trying new spots, walking different areas, all with little to no success even finding a deer. I remember there were years I would have seen double the amount of hunters in a year than I saw deer. Like everything should be in life though, you learn from your mistakes/failures and hopefully come out the other side better for it. As I learned and grew as a hunter I had some success on bucks bow hunting that grew my desire even further. Gun hunting season however continued to be my Achilles heel. Me buying a tag every year seemed more like a donation towards conservation than a tag that I was going to be able to fill. That was until this year.
I entered this hunting season with a new six month old daughter, and I knew adding another child to our family was going to put a strain on my hunting season that much more. Every weekend I was away, I could tell that it got that much harder on my wife, and I could tell that no one wanted me to get a deer anymore than she did. Unfortunately after two close encounters bowhunting, where I was at full draw, I was unable to seal the deal on a buck. Even though the Wisconsin bow season goes until January, I knew gun hunting weekend was my last chance to get out hunting in Wisconsin.
Opening morning I decided to go to a similar area I had hunted earlier in the year, where I had a close encounter with a nice buck. This area is about ¾ of a mile walk back in on some public that only has a real path for about 100 yards of it. Even if you have walked a path 100 times, I swear anytime you do so in the dark I feel like a toddler learning to walk again. This area of public is bow only, so I grabbed my bow and away I went. By the time I actually got to the spot I had picked out and set up, I felt like I should have been there 30 minutes earlier. Setting up my platform I was able to turn off my headlamp and have my eyes adjust enough to finish my set-up. I was soaking wet from sweat from the hike in but excited about what the day might bring.
The weather was mild enough that I was ready to sit in my saddle all day if I had to. Fortunately for me I did not have to wait that long. Maybe a half hour after sunrise I catch a deer moving about 150-200 yards out through the marsh grass. I get my binoculars on him enough to tell that he is a decent buck. From there I am just watching him to see what direction he seems to be moving. He is slightly heading my direction, but not enough that would lead to me getting a shot. I pull out my grunt call and give him a few grunts. This gets his attention but he does not seem to turn him at all. Just when I think he is about to walk out of my life he starts to turn my direction and goes into some tall marsh grass. I lose him in the grass and am sitting with the anticipation of where he is going to pop out.
He pops out about 75 yards from me and is headed in my direction! I reference a tree that is in front of him that I had ranged as a spot to draw and a known distance. As he reaches that tree you can tell he is looking for the source of the grunts. As he does not see anything, he slowly continues to walk out into the opening and my shooting lane but starts to angle away. As he stopped to look again I let the arrow fly. I can remember the arrow flying like it is in slow motion but as it hits the deer the black out of my adrenaline kicks in. The way the arrow was going it looked like it was going to be a perfect shot, but then the doubt started to kick in.
The deer takes just two steps from where I shot and acts as though nothing is wrong. More doubt, I think I can see a red spot forming on the heart area, but then again maybe that is just his hair color by his brisket? It does not seem to be growing at all. The deer takes another two steps and drops in his tracks, not 10 yards from where I had shot him. I did it! I filled my gun tag! I shot a deer on opening gun hunting weekend, something I had never done since starting hunting. And to top it all off I did it with my bow! I could not believe it, all those years and I finally got it done. I could end the story here, and this in itself would be a great accomplishment for me, but the story is not over there.
With everything happening so early I decided to sit for a few more hours to see if the opportunity would present itself for another buck to walk by and allow me to fill my bow tag. I mean what are the chances, but never say never. Not 5 minutes had passed and I spotted another deer walking about 150 yards out. By the time I could get my binoculars up it had disappeared. Shortly later it reappeared and I could see that it was a buck. Same as before, I gave this buck some grunts to try and call him my direction. Sure enough he cuts and starts heading my way! Here we go again, this really might happen. The buck gets to about 75 yards from me and must smell the first buck I had taken and hangs up. You can tell he does not like him there and circles around the buck but in my direction. The buck continues and walks into my shooting lane 15 yards away and the rest is history! Two bucks with my bow in about a half hour, hunting public land from my saddle on opening gun hunting weekend in Wisconsin. A year I will never forget!