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WI 2023 Gun Season


Well-known member
Jul 15, 2018
Brookfield, WI
Well, I had started to write this up from the blind during season, but life happened and I never got much done. Now I’m sitting at a swim meet so I’ve got a good four hours to get this done. I’ll start back at the top.

Gun season here always opens the Saturday before thanksgiving. That meant working from home on Friday and packing the truck during break time. After getting the kids off the bus and squaring things away at home, I pointed the truck north and made the hour and forty five minute drive to my parents. Upon arrival, I began the task of getting things packed for the next day. As some of you may recall, my Dad is pretty well disabled with MS. This means that getting things ready takes about 3-4 times longer than if I were just worried about myself.

Some time well after 10 pm I finally got to bed - not ideal given the 3:45 am alarm. Shooting light was around twenty minutes after six and our spot was a ten minute drive down the road. Unfortunately things got off schedule. I texted my buddy @ 5:22 that we were late. We had just finished loading up the UTV and were about to start the half mile drive.

The spot we were hunting is a small piece of private land very close to town. Additional folks had permission to bow hunt the property but we were given sole permission for gun season. However, given the all the activity during the season, small neighboring parcels and small property size, our spot hunts something more like public than private.

Due to all this activity, I don’t feel comfortable setting up my blind in advance. This obviously isn’t ideal for a hunting situation because the deer aren’t comfortable with the blind and I have to spend 5-10 minutes setting up opening morning. Hence my concern about our timing with a solid hour until first light.
We got to my spot and I worked as quickly as I could, but things just take time. As soon as I was set up we went 300 yards back up the fenceline and got my Dad set up. I got the UTV positioned just right, set the shooting sticks, and loaded him up. Then it was time to hoof it back to my blind.

I think I finally closed the bolt and settled in with maybe 10 minutes to spare. Again, not ideal given all the commotion the set up caused. It would have been nice to have another half hour to let things settle.
You too, huh?
I’m going to blow my brains out. Everybody and their brother wants to take a shortcut up the bleachers right next to me. I’m junking my bottle of water at this point because about two dozen people have either kicked it moved it for me - WTF! And what the hell is with $3 for a heat sheet - just charge $8 to get in! But I digress, I’m hot, cranky, and have a bad back. Oh, and when are parents going to realize their kids can’t hear them in the water! Quit yelling in my ear! Back to the story, which is also making me cranky at this point.
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On the bright side, it’s opening morning! I was in before shooting light, temperatures were just about right, and skies were clear. I had my gun set up in the tripod and pointed in a safe direction. This direction was also the area I was most likely to have a shot. All very important given the small properties and houses nearby. I shift my position and then notice this:

So now I have to adjust everything because this clown put himself in a terrible spot. And by terrible, I mean a solid 40 yards on the wrong side of the property line and theoretically within my possible backstop. Not to mention the fact that he’s royally screwing up the funnel I was counting on.

It’s all the more frustrating when this is the only semi decent spot on the property. In years past, I had always put my Dad in this spot for that reason. However, over the past year MS had taken enough of a toll that he could only cover about a third of it, so he insisted I sit there. Now this guy was throwing all that away.

I spent the next hour plus watching for deer that never showed. Just a tom at fly down and a house cat meandering through. All the while I passed the time deciding whether to confront this guy and what to say if I did. And of course I sent angry texts to all my buddies about this clown.

As I was busy contemplating helping this trespasser find some religion, I caught movement across the field and just inside the woods. A spike stepped out and made his way nervously into the cut corn. He was moving N to S and hadn’t quite made it halfway across when he really started getting antsy. And now I could see several more deer behind him and still in the woods. My wind was good, but the trespasser’s wasn’t! He spooked back the way he had come and took everybody else with him.

As I sat there I thought about how this guy was screwing things up for my Dad and I. Then I thought about how next year I hoped to bring my son out for his first opener. Mind made up - this guy was getting a talking to. I sat and thought and decided I’d head down there at dark or when he started climbing down, whichever came first.
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About 45 minutes after the first deer showed up I looked over to my left. A doe and fawn had stepped out and were moving across the field south to north. I texted my Dad, but he didn’t see them. For those of you keeping score at home, that puts it just before 9 am. I was still trying to maintain some hope as it was November 18th and some late rut action was still possible. The doe and fawn moved relatively quickly and slipped into the woods about 125 yards away.

An hour later, a doe and fawn worked out from the north. The does often bed just inside the woods in this spot during the day. I assumed this was the same pair from earlier. They fed around for a bit and then headed back in for a nap.

At 10:45 I looked over to my right to check on my buddy. He was gone. Kinda. He had just started to climb down. I grabbed my rifle and stick and hopped out of the blind real quick. I definitely wanted to catch him before he left the property. Right about the time he was turning to walk out, he noticed me and stopped. Based on the situation, and the no trespassing signs 80 yards on the wrong side of the line, I had a strong suspicion this fellow was a neighbor.

My approach to these situations is that I can always be a “jerk.” Even though I was right, once that jerk is out of the bag, there’s no putting that toothpaste back in the tube. All that to say, as much as I maybe wanted to lay into the guy, I almost always start off nice. You don’t know what you don’t know.
Well, come to find out this guy was in fact the neighbor and knew the landowner. He did not have permission to gun hunt on the property. He indicated he was on his property. I pulled OnX and pointed out the tree he was in was four times the circumference of any other tree we could see from that spot - so clearly visible on the imagery.

He more or less acknowledged he was over the line and asked if he should move. I said it wasn’t my call, it was the landowner’s decision. I also pointed out that he was messing up my backstop and put himself and a dangerous situation. Not knowing how well he knew the landowner I didn’t want to run the risk of this guy pulling rank and trying g to get us booted.

We continued to chat and I found out he has private access in MT along with some decent public adjacent. Turns out he shot a muley and a 5 point bull earlier in the fall. Dude knew he was over the line! And here he is pushing his luck back home! So frustrating! I relayed to him that I hoped to come back later in the hunt with my young son and his presence wouldn’t do us any favors. We parted ways after 45 minutes on amicable terms. Unfortunately, I don’t think the landowner will push the issue with this guy and with any luck I’ll have the same frustrations this year.
Back to the hunt. Unfortunately my Dad had had a slow morning. The spot he was watching was a bit of corner in the field. Two weeks earlier I watched some does come out of that corner and eventually an eight pointer came out and pushed them around. I was hoping for replay.

Now that my buddy was gone I decided to reposition again. By this time all this mental chess and frustration had me hungry. It was time for the traditional Hershey bar with almonds. After that quick snack I settled back in and continued scanning the field.


Twenty minutes later, and a little after noon, as I started looking to my left, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. It appeared to be the same doe and fawn from earlier. They were moving quick, west to east, and looked like they had been pushed. They were on high alert and so was I.
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My guess was either a coyote or a buck had them on the move. At this point, either was one was likely to get the business from me. I scanned the tree line infront of me. Finally, I caught a flash, and then another. Whatever it was was also moving west to east. Based on the way the does were acting my gut told me it was a buck. Then I saw the brown. It was definitely a deer.

I caught bits and pieces as it paralleled the field edge. As it was approaching the corner of the field it seemed to be getting closer to the edge of the field. Roughly 20 yards from the inside corner, I could see antlers coming in to the field. Not huge antlers, but antlers nonetheless. By this time the doe and fawn had moved off the field and the buck was pointed towards the corner of the field off to my right.

I watched him as he trotted and noticed two things. The first was the antlers looked familiar. Not wide but not narrow. Not tall but not short. Not heavy but not thin. It was the same buck I had seen a few weeks earlier. The second thing that stuck out was his gait. Something was amiss.

He was a good looking buck and was two or maybe three years old. I debated as he trotted along. He covered about 40 yards with the terrain shielding his legs from view. Once he cleared the roll in the field I watched him cover about 20 yards and it appeared he was carrying a front leg. Decision made. I tried to stop him. He slowed. It was a gimme with the tripod, in the wide open, and just 100 yards between us.

Now we’re at the point where I attempted to start the first thread.

I took the shot and recovered from the recoil. He was moving like I missed. The shot felt good - how was this possible? But you know what they say, if he’s not dyin lead’s still flyin. I sent another one. Coincidentally the buck was right in line with that trespasser’s tree, which was now unoccupied. He disappeared into the corner before I could see what happened.

I texted my Dad. He had his muffs on and was unaware I had shot. I gave the buck 15 minutes and decided to sneak down to the impact site. I kept my eyes on his direction of travel in the event he needed one more. Once I got there I found his tracks, but no blood and no hair. Twenty yards slow and quiet and still nothing. Twenty more yards to the edge of the field and still nothing. The doubt was starting to become overwhelming. I moved up another five yards. I texted my Dad - he’s hit.

I found a few splatters in the leaves. I looked around and concluded this was likely the impact from the second round. I thought about backing out, but he was hurt and I had a BAR and a Leupold on 3x. A few more yards and I had a blood trail. I worked the next 30 or so yards fairly quickly. The property line was fast approaching. I looked around and up few yards up and to my left was a main beam.

So, another swim meet and some time to wrap this up.

By the time I found him and took some photos it was early afternoon and getting warm fast - low to mid 40s maybe. I waffled on whether or not to gut him right away or if he could lay for four hours until dark. I decide that the only sure thing was that getting him gutted right away was the best thing I could do, so that’s what I did. I felt pretty good about my gut job and getting him propped open and propped up - enough so that I took a picture.

With that done I hopped back in the blind to finish out the day. It was pretty uneventful. The neighboring trespasser showed up with a couple hours to go. My buck was propped up about 30 yards from his stand and I think he must have noticed it based on the way he stood there looking at it for five minutes trying to figure out what in the hell he was looking at . . .

My brother was pretty eager to come out and help get him loaded up. He arrived at dark, hopped in the UTV with my Dad and motored on down. A short 30 yard drag and then it was time to tighten the core and straighten the back.

Sunday was a good day for a sit, but pretty uneventful.

I saw a doe and some fawns about an hour in and then another one after lunch. I think my Dad saw a couple as well. Unfortunately the highlight, or rather lowlight of the day was the five alarm fire less than a mile away. About 45 minutes before dark my Dad saw a massive tower of black smoke and shortly thereafter after the siren parade started. Well over a dozen emergency vehicles sped by on the road a few hundred yards away. I think all that commotion, coupled with the intrusion the prior day pretty much killed any action.

I took my son out a few days later for a couple of sits, unfortunately I think all the activity killed any hope of action given the marginal spot.

Found out this guy had canines. Which according to the interwebs, is pretty rare. It was the first time I’ve seen it. I thought that was pretty neat.

So I’ll wrap with this: I started to tell this story back in November as a “what would you do?” because I was conflicted about pulling the trigger. On the one hand, he was younger than what I was looking for and a deer I would have loved to have seen my Dad or one of my kids get a shot at, either this season or next. On the other, the limp made my decision. Upon a brief inspection, there was nothing obvious as to why he was walking that way.

Did I make the right decision? I don’t know. But as time has gone on, I’ve come to feel better about it. He was a unique buck, that was taken cleanly, and provided some lifetime memories.

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