NATHAN HICKS, 26 – MICHIGAN
SADDLE GEAR: Phantom saddle, Predator Platform
My grandpa was the person in my life who introduced me to hunting. I shot my first deer with him when I was 12 years old. He had forty acres in mid-Michigan, and I can so clearly remember hunting by his side. I love hearing the stories told to me from my dad of how grandpa’s farm was purchased back in the day on a handshake deal at the front porch of the local farmers house. For as long as I can remember it has been my dream to own my own farm just like my grandpa; a place with a house, a barn, and of course a bunch of big deer running around so my kids and grandkids have something to hunt. I feel like that’s the American dream.
After years and years of saving every penny I had, I finally had enough money in the bank to start looking at properties to purchase near the end of the 2020 hunting season. I walked dozens of different properties but never had that gut feeling telling me to pull the trigger on any of them. On December 23rd, 2020, I was in the truck on my way to view a new property that came up for sale that fit all my criteria. As I drove down the road frontage of the property, just before pulling into the driveway, I looked out into the field maybe 50 yards from the house and saw a big set of white antlers sticking out of the grass. A massive buck was bedded right next to the house…
I pulled in the driveway, got my phone out and deliberately walked out and jumped this buck up out of his bed and filmed him running away at 20 yards. No does around, no injuries, just a super wide Michigan 10 point bedding right next to the house I came to look at. I noted where he ran to, finished walking the property, got back to the truck and called the realtor and made an offer on the property the same day. From that very moment, when I pulled into the driveway, I was completely captivated by that deer and took it as a sign from God that this was the place I was supposed to buy. The deer sold the property and I nicknamed him the “Holy Spirit” buck. I knew that the deer had made it to the next season and I knew where he felt most comfortable and I knew if I played my cards right I would get an opportunity to shoot the buck of my dreams in the fall of 2021.
Fast forwarding through some time after I bought the property, I had a decent idea of where he was living and found a lot of sign from the 2020 season. I put a camera over a main scrape area in what I thought was his core area in March and didn’t go back down there to check the data until a day in early June. While down in the area the same day in June, I trimmed 2 shooting lanes out of a cottonwood tree where I planned to hunt come fall. I got a handful of pictures of him after checking the camera and really felt like this deer was going to be rutting and bedding in this area come bow season. After that excursion in June I started seeing this deer quite a bit on the neighboring farm, about a half mile away throughout the summer; Once while on the way to work in a drainage ditch, once mowing the lawn in the beans, and once on the road while out for a jog.
On September 22, I saw this deer for the last time before the season opener across the field just before dark eating yellow soybeans. I was pretty worried because I knew he wasn’t bedding on my property. On September 30th I was down in Ohio on a piece of public and remember hanging from the tree looking at the weather report for the next morning which was opening day in Michigan. It was calling for a South East wind, which was the ideal wind for the set in this core area that I prepped in early June. I was struggling to make a decision on whether or not to go into this core area in the early season or wait until later in October. It was a sign from God himself to go hunt the core area when I saw that wind direction because we literally never had southerly winds since I had been living at this farm. I kept track, believe me.
On the morning of October 1st 2021, my first ever hunt on my new farm, 48 degrees, true SE wind, I was jacked to say the least. I was so jacked that I actually got all the way down to this core area, nearly 600 yards of walking and I realized I had completely forgotten to put my Tethrd saddle on my waist. I walked all the way back to the barn and put it on then tried again. I finally got in and settled about an hour and twenty minutes before first light.
At first light I heard a deer at the scrape where I had the camera hanging to my right about 35 yards. On my left was the core bedding area and any deer going to that bedding area was going to have to walk past me first. A handful of minutes later the Holy Spirit read the script and came right to me in 5 foot tall grass at 18 yards. I pivoted around the tree in my saddle, drew back, anchored, exhaled, and let the arrow go. I hit my mark but the shot didn’t sound great like you want it. I saw where he bedded and backed out.
After 10.5 hours of waiting we went in to track this buck that evening, and when we got to the last bed he was still not dead and I put another arrow through to make it official. The initial shot entered back but exited on the opposite shoulder and got liver and one lung. That was tough to swallow after waiting that long. I did also get photos of him on that camera minutes before I put an arrow in him that same morning.
Crazy beautiful Michigan buck, once in a lifetime type deer in this area as far as I am concerned and done on the first ever hunt, on my farm, on the first day of the season, in the first minutes of legal shooting light. Gross score 163 6/8 inches, 21 inch inside spread, 12 points.