I have been on the road for weeks hunting and filming for the new 2017 season of BIG DEER TV. While I was out, I have received many great hunting stories and pictures from hunters across the country, and I will be posting every one over the next weeks. Send me your buck story and pictures and I’ll add it to the lineup.
First up, a well-written story from Nicholas that pretty much epitomizes all that is good and real in deer hunting:
Mike: My journey for a Nebraska public-land buck started back in 2012 when I was notified I was getting stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, which is located about 15 miles south of Omaha. I am a 15-year active duty Air Force Security Forces (military police) member.
I arrived to Offutt in the beginning of July. Right away I began to research the local public hunting spots. I stumbled on an archery/muzzleloader only location. It was relatively close to the base, which made things easy for me since my wife was 3 months pregnant at the time with our daughter.
I didn’t realize it at the time but this hunting spot was a draw-only area. I had three days to submit my name in hopes of being picked. About three weeks later I received a congratulations welcome package! I was super excited and couldn’t wait to start scouting.
This is when the work began. Opening day wasn’t till September 1, and they didn’t allow access to the hunting area till August 15. When the 15th came I was in the woods hanging trail cameras and stands. There is one main road into the area and you have to park in the designated areas. This creates a great opportunity to walk and get off the beaten trail.
I started hunting roughly 200-300 yards away from the parking spot. My walk in was easy but I noticed multiple treestands close by to the area I was hunting. There were countless times that season when other hunters that showed up late would come walking by only to sit 50 yards or so from me. I know this is a part of public land hunting, but I prefer to sit where I can’t see anyone. Well, that first season came and went with only a single doe being harvested.
The next few years were very similar to the first. I was getting a few small bucks on camera but couldn’t seem to connect with any mature bucks. In 2015 I wasn’t able to hunt because I was deployed to Afghanistan from October 2015 to May 2016. That year was very special for me. When I left for Afghanistan my wife was 8 months pregnant with my son, Chase. He was born about 3 weeks after I left. Luckily for me the war zone now has wi-fi, haha. I was able to virtually be in the delivery room with my wife when my son was born. I was overcome with emotion and super excited to have a son born during the rut (November 10)!
While deployed I decided to take advantage of the tax free money I was making. I ordered my brand new Hoyt Carbon Spyder ZT. Each day before going on missions I would stare at the photo of my bow and my newborn son Chase. If my wife asked, I would always look at my son first then my new bow!
After returning home from my deployment and meeting my son for the first time it was time to get back after it. I began shooting my new bow every day. I couldn’t wait for archery season and I was counting down the days. July came around and once again I put in for the lottery hunting area. To my amazement I was selected again.
When August 15 came I was ready to implement my new hunting strategy for this area. This year I was going to get off the beaten path; I decided to go as far back on the roughly 1800 acres as I could. This new walk took me 1 hour and 25 minutes to get to my new honey hole. The Missouri River flood in 2011 caused this area to become extremely overgrown. As I began to walk this path everyday hanging trail cameras and treestands I had a feeling this would be my year.
October 30th is when I first captured a big buck on camera around 2:35 in the morning. My heartbeat began skipping beats the moment I laid eyes on him! I was overcome with obsession to go after this monster buck. I waited until I had a perfect southeast wind before going after him. I knew I couldn’t control other people from hunting this spot, but I hoped the long walk would keep people away.
Finally the perfect wind came on November 13. The night before my hunt my wife told me, “Babe you have to get this buck!” There was nothing I wanted more than to connect with this deer.
That morning was a brisk 31 degrees with slight SSE wind. As I began my walk to the area I stared at the image of that buck over and over on my phone. I just wanted an opportunity at seeing such a mature buck in the wild. Having been stationed in the southern part of the United States most of my 15 years I hadn’t harvested a buck over 100″. This was definitely not due to a lack of hunting. For 12 years I was stationed on the gulf coast of Mississippi and Florida. Whitetail deer there just don’t have the environment to grow really big like they do in Nebraska.
As I climbed up my tree that morning I conducted my normal routine. I reconfirmed all my shooting lanes and all the various distances to specific trees that I had picked out in my area. Due to the long walk I worked up quite a sweat. As the sun began to rise I started to get cold. I stood up to put my sweatshirt and jacket on when I heard a deer walking. I froze as I was pulling my sweatshirt over my head. A mature doe started to walk out. Soon enough three more does were following the lead doe down a trail at 23 yards. I slowly grabbed my bow, hoping a buck would be following them.
As the does walked on and nothing seemed to be coming behind them I hung my bow and sat back down. About 25 minutes later I heard a twig snap from the same direction the does came from. Instantly I stood and grabbed my bow thinking it could possibly be another deer. As I stood waiting I finally heard it. A deer was walking in the brush towards my direction. Moments later I saw deer legs. Then I saw a big body. Next a flash of antlers. Oh my gosh a buck was coming!
I began looking at the various routes this buck could possibly go. Would he take the same path as the does? Would he sneak in behind me? As I looked back towards the thicket I saw a long G3 attached to a huge set of antlers. I knew instantly it was a shooter buck. I didn’t know anything else about the deer after I made my mind up he was a shooter. I began to only focus on one small 2-inch spot of brown hair behind his right shoulder. With his nose to the ground he started to take the same trail as the does but then suddenly changed his course and took the 30 yard trail. I had one chance and one window to make it happen.
The buck started to walk behind a thick cottonwood, and I came to full draw. As he stepped out into my lane I grunted to stop him. I watched my green pin slowly make its way down his back to the 2-inch brown spot I was focusing on. Once it settled in I slowly began to squeeze the trigger. Suddenly my arrow was in flight and there was no turning back….no do over. I wasn’t going to get another chance. Seven years of bowhunting, never having a mature buck standing within range, it was my time to connect.
Thwack! My arrow found its mark, and as I watched the big whitetail lunge forward and began to run I was overcome with adrenaline. Suddenly I began to shake. Oh my gosh what did I just do? Is this for real? I looked at my watch. It was 8:01 am and I wanted to do nothing but sit and enjoy the adrenaline high!
As I waited I replayed every moment of what just happened over and over. Some 2 ½ hours later I decided it was time to go look at the impact site. I found my arrow covered in bright red blood. I found splattered blood along the trail that I last watched him run down. As I sat there looking for evidence of a good hit I began to question where I hit him. I don’t even remember seeing my arrow impact the deer. I was roughly 45 yards from where I shot him when I looked up and saw a white belly and giant horns sticking out of the ground.
I fell to my knees overcome with emotion. All I could think of was my family. How my loving wife has supported my passion for bowhunting for years. How I missed the birth of my son while being deployed…and losing a friend to a coward suicide bomber. All I could think, Is this really happening to me?
As I approached the buck I soon knew this was the big 10-point I had on camera. When I grabbed his antlers the only thing I could do was thank the Lord for allowing me to harvest such a magnificent animal. I sat there for 20 minutes holding his antlers before I sent my hunting buddies a text that simply read, “Oh my gosh….I got him!”
Thank you for the opportunity to share this great buck’s story.–Nicholas Whitney
No, thank you Nick for allowing me to share it. Your passion for family, God, country and bowhunting are evident.
Please join me in thanking Nick for his service, and send your congrats for such a fantastic buck and story.