Nov 15, 2015- 4:30 am. I woke up to my alarm ringing and jumped up in anticipation of what the RUT being in full swing would bring this morning as i had been watching a buck our family had seen several times with his harem of does as if he was the King. I hurried and got ready and headed to my stand by the house. I took my time in the dark and slowly made my way through the sunflower stubble careful not to make a sound. The temp was 23 degrees and there was a very heavy frost which helped quiet the noise of my steps as i made my way down the 300 yard trek to get to what i had named The Killing Tree.
We had moved to this farm house during the summer and I told my wife i would kill a big buck out of that tree this coming fall. Hence the name. It was the biggest tree in the strip and was setup perfect for a stand. But I elected not to hang one. I just climbed up about 20' that morning and there was a fork in the tree and a limb coming straight off the trunk that made what I thought to be a perfect perch. As i was getting settled in to wait for first light I nocked an arrow and hung my bow on a broken snag sticking out. The sting of winter began sitting in on my body and remember thinking to myself what a perfect setup and what a perfect entrance I had made.
Then things took a turn for worse.
I dropped my glove for my right hand. I had taken it off and tucked it under my arm while getting my bow ready. I thought to myself climb back down and get it or just put my hand in my pocket to keep it warm. Since I had no steps or ladder i elected to leave it and just put my hand in my pocket. As daylight approached it was eerily quiet. You could here the frost cracking. As soon as shooting light approached I reached in my call pack and pulled out my Extinguisher grunt call and made a few shorts grunts followed by one long one. I sat very still and listened. I heard the brush rustling to my right. As I looked, I couldn't believe my eyes.
There he was covered in frost, eyes glazed over from being asleep, walking on a string right to me. He was bedded only 60 yards away and had snuck in and perched right above him undetected. I thought to myself this it! I'm going to kill a monster!! It was so perfect as I grabbed my bow and picked my shooting lane. He never wavered. He was locked on to the sound of what he thought was an intruder and he was the King. As he approached the killing tree he was only 20 yards away but he was still walking. So I told myself to wait until he passed and got to my left side so I would have a quartering away shot. He disappeared behind the giant cottonwood i was sitting in and I drew my bow as I anticipated him coming out the other side at 7 yards and I would release my carbon express piledriver tipped with a two-blade 100 grain Rage broadhead into the pocket behind his left shoulder.
Remember, this deer had not stopped since he stood from his bed and made his way to me. I waited but he never came out. Remember that glove I dropped earlier? I looked down at the base of my tree and all could see was his horns and his black shiny nose smelling my glove. In that moment he bounded straight away out to 70 yards and stopped and looked back at me. Then he just walked away. I don't think I have ever been so heartbroken in my life. My mind was in pieces. I tried to be patient and wait till the time was right in hopes of being on top when our meeting was over. But I wasn't. He won that day. I made one mistake and that's all he needed. I climbed down and never hunted in The Killing Tree again that year.
He had seen me there.
He had beat me there.
I couldn't bare the thought of letting him see me there again. I looked for the next few months hoping to catch a glimpse of him but to no avail. I figured someone got him during rifle season the next week and I would never see him again. I was just heartbroken. I ended the season with the harvest of a small buck to ease the pain as well as put some meat in the freezer and fill my tag. Plus my 10 year old son was with me and shared it all. So that numbed some of the pain and stress.
The next year I decided to hunt a different property that had never been bow hunted before. I hunted everyday from Sept 24-Nov 1st. Had a ton of encounters with several deer. I learned so much in that time. Then as I was getting tired and worn down my wife called me and said they were on the way home from the grocery store and she said they just seen that big pretty buck by the house. I said what buck??? She said the one we saw last year with those does. She said hes really pretty and really big this year. I thought there's no way its him but she insisted it was.
Between Nov 1 to Nov 15 everyone in my family had seen this big buck by the house several times, except for me. At that moment I named him Showdown.
On Nov 15 around 3:00 pm my wife asked me if I would go out to the tree strip and see if i could find a shock collar from one of our golden retriever pups because she had borrowed it from a friend and the pup come back without it on. I went outside and thought well I'm going back there without my bow. So I put my camo on and sprayed down with Scent Killer Gold from Wildlife Research Center and grabbed my Hoyt and headed down the field edge by the strip. Not very far down a huge wide-racked 10 point (5x5) jumped up out of the fence line and bounded away. I thought well that's the buck they've been seeing. That's not the buck I had the encounter with last year. But I also knew that if I had the opportunity to take him, I would. As I made my way to The Killing Tree, shock collar mission abandoned at this point, I saw some does out in the field on the other side of the strip about 150 yards out. So without hesitation I climbed up in the cottonwood for the 2nd time.
Undetected, I stood on the same limb I had encountered Showdown on exactly 1 year ago. I felt good about the evening. Eventually the does made their way feeding through what was a harvested corn field this year, right to the base of The Killing Tree. They hung around for about 20 minutes and never had a clue I was 20' above them. Then I heard something in the heavy brush. I looked over and all I could see was a huge side of what looked to be a monster 8 point (4x4). The does made there way out to the field edge away from the base of my tree. I got ready and sure enough he walked out of the strip 40 yards away and headed right to the does out in front of me. I got ready and drew my bow as he walked right out in front of me and stopped broadside. I released the arrow and he spun and took off. I shot under him. Without even thinking I had already grabbed another arrow and nocked it in my bow as he made a circle and trotted back to the same exact spot I had just missed at. My Nocturnal Lighted Nock on my arrow was stuck in the dirt shining like a lighthouse. He was standing right on the other side of it. I drew back my bow, settled in behind his shoulder and let the 2nd arrow go. The familiar "thwack" as the arrow hit the mark this time and he spun again and bound away but this time I had high hopes that I had won. So elated but not sure, as everything happened so fast and right at dusk, I climbed down and walked back to the house to tell my family the news. My wife said she had went to town this evening and on her way back she saw that big pretty buck again. I knew it was Showdown. I told her that I had just put an arrow through him. Ill never forget her stern words- "Waylon you did not shoot that buck did you?! Me and the kids see him all the time".
I felt a little remorseful but assured her that now we would see him everyday because I was gonna have him mounted. He was a true giant for me. I released that 2nd arrow at about 5:45 that evening. I waited until 9:30 and my son and I bundled up and walked over with flashlights to where he stood when I shot him. Almost instantly we found a small amount of blood but no arrow. Despite the little amount of blood, we were able to follow his tracks and he was losing blood the whole way.
We tracked him for about 250 yards over to another tree strip and come to a spot where I couldn't find any tracks or any more blood. My son was so cold by this time he was laying on ground curled up in a ball begging me to go back home. So I said ok. It was cold enough to leave him overnight and I nothing to follow him on anyway.
We were at a standstill...So back home we went went.
We woke the next morning, with what little sleep I did get, and I did the usual tasks of taking my son to the bus stop before daylight. He said if you find him dad come get me from school. I said OK and waved him off on his bus. I proceeded to the approach of the field where I could park and walked the 250 yards back to the spot where I had marked the last blood we found. I looked but could not figure out which way he went. So I just decided to head North over a fence and across the railroad tracks to another field with a dugout and low-lying cattails all around it.
I never made it there.
As I climbed up the hill across the tracks there laid the monster I had arrowed the night before. It was Showdown! He scored 177 3/8 and he now hangs above my chair in the living room and my wife still looks at him and tells how pretty he was prancing around those does and tell her how majestic he looks hanging above my chair in our home.