There comes a time in a man's life when he finds and shares an experience of a lifetime. That situation came to fruition for me last year during gun season with my son Kevin.
Each year, as I sit in my stand and daydream of the big bucks that hide out in our part of the country, I paint a vivid picture of the situation that every father dreams of having. It's a life changing moment, and the event brings a father and son closer together. One of those wishes was that my son and I would take two nice bucks together in the same year. These thoughts pass through me like the spirit of my father. His spirit is always with me at deer camp. Sadly cancer took him before he had the chance to see all the bucks we've taken since his passing. I constantly drift his way in my thoughts because I know how happy he would be to be here and part of the bonding at camp between fathers, sons and grandsons. The sportsmanship of the hunt we could be sharing makes me thank the Lord that I am able to have this time with my son.
In today's fast passed world, with games that take the younger generation away from the quiet and beauty that nature provides each day as the sun rises and sets, I truly believe these moments bring a stronger bound between families who spend time together in the outdoors.
As a father I am proud to have these experiences with my son. I have been hunting for around 40 years and my son who's 27 years old has been hunting since he was 12. This season would be special. We hunt in southwest Wisconsin, a part of the driftless area because the glaciers from last Ice Age left this land untouched. This year we have been following two nice bucks we caught on trail cameras, and the bucks are getting better since we started our QDM program 4 years ago.
THE QDM WAY
I have met a lot of experienced hunters since my time as a Pro-staffer for Realtree and WoodWise Game calls. We have learned how to manage the lands we hunt. With proper food nutrition with the help from Plot Spike and the practice of quality deer management, we have increased the size of the antler growth and the quality of deer we are seeing on our properties.
Bow season was a bust of sorts for Steve Foate, but gun season is where the pre-season work came to fruition.
For starters, 2007 was a great year for our group. It all began in the spring with getting the food plots ready for planting. I can't say enough about Mike Massey of Plot Spike. Mike has been instrumental helping us decide on what the right mixture to plant. Mike suggested two blends, one of them Premium Blend, and the other Forage Oats.
Once our plots were completed, our focus changed to the upcoming season and where to set trail cam's to determine good stand placements. With the help of Stealth Cam trail cameras, we were able to capture some decent bucks cruising the properties. After setting up the stands in the appropriate areas, all we could think about was getting a chance at one of the bruisers we had zeroed in on.
As the bow season approached, my thoughts were consumed by the pre-rut activity on the farm. Unfortunately, because of conflicts with work, I wasn't able to hunt until the latter part of October during the early stages of the pre rut. Finally the weekend arrived, and I was on my way to deer camp. Upon my arrival Friday afternoon before the hunt, I decided to get in some target practice in to make sure my bow was sited in properly. After a couple of shots I heard a funny sound coming from my bow when I released an arrow. I new something wasn't right. After close examination I was stunned to notice that my limb had a large long crack in it! Talk about the sinking feeling that went though mind. The anticipation of my first weekend hunt and the realization that I was done hit me hard. Now, all I could do was wait for the up coming early gun season hunt.
GOING WITH GUN
The following week I headed to deer camp for the early gun season. I checked out the trail cam I had set out the week before and my thoughts of shooting one of those big bucks crept back into my head.
On the first morning, we woke to clear skies and temps in the 30s and winds out of the southwest at 5 to 10 mph, but in my stand the winds really ripped through. It seemed like the wind was blowing 30. In the pre-dawn light, my brother Scott and I set out to walk to our stands. Scott's stand ----in the center part of the property --- is known as deer central because all the deer seem to run from one side to the other through this part of the land. We are very fortunate to have this opportunity because the land we hunt belongs to a great friend of ours that grows black walnut trees. He calls the deer on his land tree munchers.
Just what the trail cameras ordered! Foate's monster 8-pointer sported 11-inch G2s and G3s!
After sitting out long hours on the stand for a couple of days and only seeing a couple of nice borderline shooters we started to get antsy. Then, on the last day the winds were blowing out of the northeast at 5 to 10 mph. Blowing right over the area the deer like to move through. My scent was flowing right in their direction. It didn't look good.
While sitting patiently thinking about the foul wind, I heard something walking at the edge of the cornfield to my left, but I couldn't see what it was. All I could think about was whether or not what I was hearing was one of the trail-cam bucks. With a couple of calls on my Breeding Bellow call, I saw the big buck step out from the corn and into the walnut field. Immediately I new it was a shooter. The buck was walking passed his scrape line toward the bedding area and as he cleared some trees I stopped him with a Baaahh... At that point, I steadied my 7mm model 70 Winchester, put the crosshairs on his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. Down he went.
Soon after, my brother called me on the radio and I told him the whole deal. As I got down out of my stand I started to walk over to the buck and all I could see were the antlers sticking up off the ground. As I got closer I started to shake knowing this was my best buck ever. I got on the radio again and told Scott about the huge 8-pointer with 11-inch G2s and 3s that would likely gross in the 140s, which I was standing near in complete awe.
THE NEXT HUNT
Let's fast forward to the next hunt which began with the regular Wisconsin deer season in mid November. The opening weekend was warm in the mid 40s to 50s. Deer just didn't seem to move because of the warm weather.
The first weekend went by with no one taking any deer so we closed up camp and headed back for home to work until Thanksgiving weekend. When the group got back together the Tuesday before the Thanksgiving weekend hunt, we had are hearts set on the three big bucks we had on the trial cams. We were out bright and early and hunted all morning without seeing a deer. That night while we celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time at deer camp, my son Kevin said he had to cut his hunt short because of work and head back and only be able to hunt early the next morning, We planned that the rest of us would sleep in and had out mid-morning and that we would set up in the usual stands because some of our neighbors would be out on deer drives pushing deer.
I headed to my stand on the fenceline, Scott who is another member of our hunting group set up down the same fence to the north in the hole-in-fence stand. My brother Scott hunted in an old stand north of us. After Kevin's morning hunt I told him to come to the main farm and hunt with us so we could set up and cut off all escape routes we new of on that corner of the property. I told him to take his uncle's stand we call the Maple Tree and I would take a walk-about to see if I could get the deer to move out of the bedding areas. When I could see my son from my stand and after he got settled in I started my walk around the backside of a big draw that the deer funnel into from adjoining properties.
As I started down into the pines that frame the valley I saw a couple of deer get up and head down the ridge, then stop on the other side. One was a dandy buck, a shooter, but by the time I pulled up to try a shot the buck walked off into the brush. I got on the radio to let Kevin know what was up and told him to watch for the big buck. He said, "Dad I have a real nice 8-point under the tree me." I said, "Is he a shooter?" He told me it was a good buck, but not one of the monsters and that he would pass on the shot. All of a sudden I heard one shot and then a quick follow-up. I immediately got on the radio and asked who was doing all the shooting? It was Scott---the other hunter, not my brother--- who said he'd tagged a doe. I told him that I was on my way to help out.
Kevin Foate no doubt had a special someone looking after him during the Thanksgiving hunt.
My brother Scott said the doe ran down the fence line by him and we should circle around below him in the ticket. Once we found the doe, my brother Scott yelled out for me to come over to his old stand, which was 35 yards passed the doe Scott shot. As I approached his stand, Scott was getting down and started to walk out toward me when he tripped on the fence and fell with a crash.
We made a heck of a lot of noise down in the small valley below where Kevin was sitting. All of a sudden we heard shots fired. We could tell they were coming from Kevin's direction! I knew if Kevin was shooting, it had to be at one of the monster bucks. All went silent. I looked at my brother when Kevin get on the radio and said, "Dad I got the big one! He's a monster buck! It's the biggest I've ever seen!"
As I cleared the crest of the hill and walked towards Kevin, I could see the buck lying there. The antlers were visible form 100 yards away! My excitement was at an all time high so I began to run up to him as a proud father and looked down and said.
After a hug and handshake we just stood there looking down on this buck with amazement. I almost started to cry and I prayed and wished that his grandfather could have been here to complete this wonderful feeling my Son and I had experienced together. I was thankful to have my brother there and relish in all of this because we did shoot him out of his stand!! The 10-point monster buck green scored 154 7/8. What a deer!
Author's note: In memory of my Father who took the time to take us hunting. I hope I have passed the same hunting experience on to my son, as my father did for me.