There’s something about the sight of a buck in the back of a pickup truck. To me, it doesn’t matter how big the deer is, either. As long as there’s a happy hunter behind the story — and there always is — a deer in a truck is cause for celebration.
As Deer & Deer Hunting freelance videographer Nate Winters and I were making the early morning drive to Buffalo County for our hunt with Mark Schuh of Schuhter’s Outpost, that’s exactly what we ran across. And it was only a couple of hours into opening day of Wisconsin’s archery season.
We were still an hour from Schuh’s camp when Winters interrupted our casual conversation with an exclamation.
“Whoa!” he shouted as we sped past a roadside pawn shop in Juneau County, Wis. “There’s a 180 in the back of that truck!”
I couldn’t take my eyes off the road, so I had to believe him. I immediately slowed down and pulled safely into the next driveway.
“You sure?” I asked.
“It’s worth driving back for,” Winters said. “Trust me!”
He was right. As we pulled into the parking lot of Big River Pawn & Gun, we immediately knew we were looking at the buck of a lifetime. There, in the back of a pickup truck was a clean 10-pointer with daggers for tines. We stood there and gawked for several minutes and chatted with a crowd of other hunters who had also stopped to admire the buck. Before long, the happy hunter behind this story came out from the pawn shop. It just so happened to be the shop’s owner, Russ Molinaro. He had been watching this buck all summer (via trail cameras) and got the break he was looking for as sunlight filtered into the swamp this opening morning.
After snapping several photos and burning some videotape, we were back on our way to Schuhter’s Outpost. The diversion delayed our arrival in camp by about an hour, but it was well worth it.
I’m not sure if seeing a big buck on my way to hunt big bucks is a blessing or a curse — or possibly both. You see, I had already been more than primed to hunt Buffalo County’s picturesque whitetail country. This landscape is unmatched by anything I’ve experienced in the other 18 states I’ve chased whitetails. The steep, wooded bluffs and massive working farms provide everything a deer could want or need. The county is sparsely populated, and come September, you’ll see more camouflage than coveralls.
As we rolled into camp, met Schuh and unpacked our gear, one of the first images we saw was of the incredible 9-point Brandon Wikman shot while hunting the early season last year. If Wikman’s name sounds familiar, it should. This young man has accomplished big things ever since taking a bow and arrow to the woods when he was a teenager just a few years ago. He’s appeared on several outdoors TV shows, including Bass Pro’s “Next Generation,” and he now works full time for Providence Marketing, an outdoors company that represents such companies as Carbon Express, Sitka Gear, G5 Outdoors, Gorilla Treestands, and Quest Bowhunting.
To hear Schuh talk about how Brandon’s September 2011 hunt came together in less than an hour, I couldn’t help but slip into ODD mode — half listening while scurrying about the porch to assemble my gear, double-check that I had my rangefinder and spray down my boots, pack and jacket with my fresh bottle of Scent Killer Gold.
A few words he spoke, however, did stop me in my tracks.
“I actually think I’ll put you guys in the same draw where Brandon killed his buck last year,” Schuh said. “The wind is just about perfect for that spot.”
Good grief. Talk about an adrenaline surge. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. There would be no need for Diet Coke or an energy drink to keep me alert for this hunt.
This is a five-part series. Previous posts:
4. Today: The Year’s First Monster Buck
Up next: The D&DH-TV Crew Scores on a Nice Buck