As Wayne Schumacher sat in his stand watching the late afternoon shadows steadily darken, he briefly daydreamed about a huge 24-point buck that had been photographed near the property he was hunting. The thoughts that went through his head were not unlike those that go through the minds of many hunters who hope for a one-of-a-kind encounter with a special buck.
Wayne thought: What if the big 24-pointer comes by my stand today?
Although he knew it was entirely possible, he also knew the odds were against it. It would be like winning the lottery.
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It was Sept. 20, 2009. Wayne was hunting with his brother, Pete, on a new piece of property the two men had leased in Fond du Lac County, Wis. Wayne had traveled down to Dubuque, Iowa, the day before to help his son move. Having returned home in mid-afternoon on Sunday a little sooner than he expected, he called Pete about trying to squeeze in an impromptu bowhunt on another tract he and Pete had hunted several times since the season opener eight days earlier.
“The wind isn’t right,” Pete told him. “Why don’t we go and hunt the new piece instead?”
“That sounds good,” Wayne said. “I’d like to get there early enough to pick a few grapes.”
Although they had not yet hunted this property during the fledgling 2009 season, the two brothers had planted several food plots there. Wayne also had planted some grapes that he intended to use for producing some homemade wine.
The buck that had captured Wayne’s imagination was a huge irregular with a massive rack. The deer had first been seen in the area in 2007 as a 13-pointer. At that time, the rack was considerably smaller, but the buck was still well worthy of being pursued.
Several hunters knew about the deer via trail camera photos. One bowhunter had actually hit the buck in the front leg with an expandable blade, but the deer had recovered from the wound. The following year (2008), the buck had gone from 13 points to 24 points, and several more trail cameras had photographed the now record-class whitetail.
By the ’09 bow opener, Wayne and Pete knew the big buck was probably still in the area, but neither man expected to see it.
“We’d had our own trail cameras out for about three weeks, but we hadn’t hunted this tract because we hadn’t found much fresh sign,” Wayne said. “As soon as I got back into town, I grabbed my gear and Pete and I met at the property. I quickly picked a few grapes and we went to our stands.
“We were about 150 yards apart, just inside the woods overlooking a food plot. We didn’t have much time to hunt. From my vantage point, I could turn around in my tree and see Pete but he couldn’t see me.
“I hadn’t been sitting there long when my thoughts turned to the big 24-pointer. Half an hour before dark, I heard a branch snap within a nearby thick area out to one side of my tree. I looked and saw part of a huge main beam with six or seven points on it. I couldn’t believe it. I knew it was the big one!
“The buck walked to the edge of the woods and looked out into the food plot. Then it started walking out into the open. I grabbed my bow and prepared for an 18-yard shot.
“Earlier, I had taken six practice shots at a target before going into the woods and on the last shot I had flinched and that arrow was way off. ‘You certainly don’t want to do that again,’ I thought, as I came to full draw with my Mathews and released the arrow.
“It looked like a good hit, and the deer bolted. It ran about 70 yards across the food plot and went down in some brush.
“After the shot, I got very lightheaded. I actually had to hold onto the tree with my hands and try to catch my breath. I sat down. I didn’t know what to do. ‘Do I keep sitting here until dark, or do I go and bother Pete now,’ I wondered.
“We hunt and fish a lot together, but I didn’t want to ruin his afternoon hunt. I tried to call him, but his phone was turned off. Finally, I decided to get down and walk to his stand. I knew the buck was something very special, and I wanted us both to walk up on it together.
“When I got there, I said, ‘I apologize for ruining your hunt, but I just got a dandy!’
“We went and got the truck and pulled it as close as we could get it. As we started walking toward the deer, I went back over to my tree to grab some gear I’d left on the ground under it.
“Pete didn’t wait for me. He went over and found the deer. As I was walking toward the spot where it had gone down, Pete came out of the brush on a narrow four-wheeler trail and yelled, ‘You son of a gun ... I just counted 28 points!’
‘“Why didn’t you wait for me?’ I asked.
‘“Because I wanted to see how big it was!’ Pete answered.
“After marveling over the rack for a few minutes, we tagged the buck, and I got out my knife to start the field-dressing job. But I was shaking so much that Pete had to do it for me.
“We finally dragged the buck back to the truck and tried to hoist it into the bed. I wish you could have seen us trying to manhandle that deer. Later on, we took it to Dutch’s Trading Post to be registered. While we were there, at least 250 to 300 people must have come by to look at it. They just kept coming and going. It was unbelievable.”
The deer weighed 235 pounds, field-dressed, and was believed to have been 5 1/2 years old.