I had actually seen this buck, which I named Breath Taker, last year once while driving to work. He was in the high 150s last year, and I had heard of a couple of other people who had seen him and were even trying to hunt him and a big 8-point he roamed with.
By Tyler Florczak
I knew I had to locate a nice buck nice to go after this year. The only other buck I had ever shot at with a bow (this is my fifth year of bow hunting) was a 140-class buck I slightly wounded and it got away. Even though I drew my first black bear tag this year, all I wanted to do was hunt that buck from the moment I saw him this summer.
In late July I got permission to hunt a small parcel next to where I had been seeing him feeding each night. The thing is, there’s public land nearby. I knew other people had seen him and they were going to be hunting him too (he wasn’t shy about showing himself this summer). Another side note is this is the first time I’ve ever asked anyone personally to hunt on their property. I was pretty nervous when I asked the older gentleman that didn’t live in the area, but it was obvious he was the type of guy that would do anything to make someone happy.
Once I got permission, a buddy of mine and myself hung a stand. We didn’t really scout much or penetrate the property very far after seeing beds quite close to where we had entered from the road. I figured I had seen him enough with my own eyes so I really didn’t need any trail cameras in there; that would’ve just tempted me to check them and add more scent near his core area.
I snuck into the stand opening night (Saturday, Sept. 12) and had probably my best night ever in a stand as far as action. I didn’t even have my bow pulled up to my stand and two bucks were instantly out in the open and began sparring. As they filtered toward me, more deer kept funneling out. I had roughly 25 deer, and six were bucks by 7 p.m. The bucks must have just shed velvet in the days leading up to the opener because all of them were testing out their head gear, sparring with one another.
With about 45 minutes of light left, I heard some tines tinkling behind me. I turned and there was Breath Taker sparring with a tiny fork buck! He was just bullying him around and eventually ran him off. However, in the next 45 minutes, the wise old buck never presented a shot closer than 60 yards and all I could do was marvel at him.
I eventually ran out of light and was kicking myself badly for not flinging a prayer out at him. I ended up having to sit in my stand until 9 p.m. because there were so many deer around me, and I couldn’t risk getting busted and revealing my stand location. My phone died while waiting in the stand, I didn’t have a flashlight and decided to leave my bow in the stand since I couldn’t see my rope. I finally busted through some briers and raspberry bushes and got out unnoticed.
Long, Restless Night
After a sleepless night, I woke up the next morning with just a strange feeling like something was about to happen. I really can’t describe what I was feeling because it’s not something I ordinarily feel. I kind of shrugged it off because I didn’t feel like there was anything happening that day all that special.
My wife and I had some people over for the Packers/Bears game (I’m actually a Bears fan) and we smoked a ham, cooked brats and had some beverages. Two of my friends showed up before the game, and I told them I was planning on winning all of the money on the Packers boards—a bar in town has boards you can win money on if the score matches your numbers—and shooting the big buck that night. It wasn’t that I was being arrogant or cocky, I just felt like the feeling I had when I woke up was a sign that it was going to “my day.” They laughed at me and cracked a few jokes.
Even though my Chicago Bears lost, I got a text from one of my friends saying I ended up winning $1,100 on the football boards! I was so pumped up and everyone was heading out on the lake pontooning to celebrate the Packers’ win. But I knew I needed to get back to that stand instead of partying with the gang. That night, I had a super slow night in the stand compared to the day before.
Only one small fork buck showed early and things looked relatively bleak. An ambulance drove by with its sirens on about 6:45 and a coyote about 30 yards from me started howling to the ambulance. I instantly assumed this was why I hadn’t been seeing anything. I still hadn’t seen anything besides a small fork (buck) until I texted a buddy and said I was getting down from the stand in 5-10 minutes; I figured the deer must have heard me getting down the night before and it was a bust. Plus, I didn’t want to get stuck in the tree again in the dark.
Lady Luck Is Smiling
I then turned around to the exact same spot Breath Taker appeared the night before and there he was, thrashing some overgrown grass with his tall-tined antlers. I drewand put my 40 yard pin a little high, estimating he was at 45 yards. I watched my arrow sail right over his back and my heart dropped. He didn’t spook much, but I think he assumed that something was behind him.
He then moved closer and circled me slightly as I nocked another arrow. My second shot was at 20 yards and I made it count. He went about 40 yards, and I was just speechless. I was shaking like a leaf in the stand—so bad I couldn’t even use my phone—and couldn’t believe what had just happened. It almost felt like I was in a dream, it was so surreal.
After I shot him, he mule-kicked and crashed into a large tree nearby. I heard branches and sticks snapping but still was wondering if I hit him well or even hit him at all? Was that even Breath Taker? Did all of this happen to me today?
I instantly texted my buddies and told them I shot the big buck. They didn’t believe me! Hahaha! Once we all finally saw him on the ground a few hours later (he only went about 45 yards), it was just the most special moment I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone was giving out high fives, chest bumps and hugs.
I’m so lucky and fortunate that I got a second shot, and I truly believe my uncle who passed away last year was with me on that one. Between the money and the buck, it was the best day I’ve ever had besides marrying my wife. I was so thankful how everything fell into place and all of my best friends were around to help me find him.
A few days later, I bought a gift card and brought a bag of walleye I had caught earlier this summer to the man whose land I had hunted on. Instead of calling him, I decided to show up at his work unexpected. I wanted him to know how much I appreciated him allowing me to hunt his land and show him the buck I had harvested there. Both him and his grandson were very happy for me and in awe at how big the buck was. It was definitely gratifying to meet the man face-to-face and hear him say that he was proud of me and that I could continue to hunt his land.
Since harvesting Breath Taker, it’s been a pretty crazy month for me. I’ve told the story a million times and have had a lot of kind people reach out to me. I still look for him near the property where I got him and in nearby fields when driving home from work… it’s actually a little sad to look out and expect to see him, but knowing he’s not there anymore. Watching him grow up to be a 180-inch buck this year was something I’ll always remember. I’m so fortunate to have experienced the four-month journey this year and cap it off with my first bow buck.
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