The Buck Of A Lifetime: Hopes And The Reality Of Hunting


By Ron Weber | November 20, 2019

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White-tail buck (Photo by Steve Gotcher)

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Wisconsin’s deer hunting season is underway with bow hunting lasting until January. Hunters plan for this time all year long, imagining the challenge of the hunt and the thrill of bagging their prey. Ron Weber dreamed of hunting for the perfect buck since he was a young boy. Decades later, that day finally came. Ron shares what happened with us.

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I was seven-years-old the first time I saw my buck.  He was a ten pointer with a wide sweeping rack and long tines stained dark brown from spruce pitch. The buck hung in my grandparents’ guest room above the bed. I slept in during our visits. Each night before the lights were shut off, I’d stare up at him, the gleam in his eyes hinting that his spirit was still alive. In the morning, as daylight slowly lit the room, I’d be waiting as he materialized out of the darkness. Even then, I was a hunter and dreamed of the day I’d be able to join grandpa for the annual pilgrimage to deer camp.

A month before deer season — when I was thirteen — grandpa spent the day at the hospital visiting grandma, who was sick.  He returned home, went to sleep, and never woke up. I wish I could’ve hunted at least one season with him, but that wasn’t where the trail led. Grandma moved a couple of years later, and my buck went to an out-of-state relative. From then on, the buck lived only in my memory.

By my early twenties, I’d learned that getting my buck probably was not going to come easy. It’s funny how one year can turn into five and soon decades. Though I crossed paths with many nice bucks, none fit the mold of the buck that once hung on grandpa’s wall.  That would change on November 8, 2015, four decades from when I’d first laid eyes on him.

It had been a windy day with temperatures in the fifties. Though the rut was in full swing, it hardly seemed like November when only light clothes were needed. I didn’t climb into my stand until 3:00 in the afternoon. I’d only have a couple of hours to hunt, but with high deer numbers, I was confident.

At 4:15, I caught a glimpse of a deer moving through an opening in some balsam firs. I thought I saw horns, but the deer melted into the balsams before I could be sure. From the shadows, I could see a deer start to materialize out of the darkness like those mornings at my grandparents. Suddenly there, he stood. He was magnificent, the buck I’d waited for my whole life. The sweeping rack, long dark tines, a perfect 10 pointer, and he was going to walk right past me.

At ten yards through a veil of pine branches, I watched him rub his antlers on a hawthorn tree. Two does moving along the edge of the cornfield caught his attention. He followed the does, and the cornfield swallowed him up. After waiting for forty years, he was gone in less than five minutes.  I never moved, never even considered drawing my bow.

Five years earlier, I’d harvested a small buck and pledged to myself the only deer I had left to shoot was this buck that lived in the shadows of my memory. Now, I realized I had no more deer left to shoot. That’s a tough thing for someone — who has been a hunter since they were seven — to admit.

Two weeks later, on the second day of the gun deer season, my buck of a lifetime became the same for one of my neighbors.  I was happy for him, but part of me wished the buck could’ve stayed swallowed by the cornfield forever. Still, each of us has a vivid memory of when our life’s path crossed with that majestic animal. My neighbors hangs on the wall of his den; a beautiful mount, I’m told. My buck of a lifetime hangs where it always has in my mind’s eye. It looks just fine there.

Ron Weber

Ron Weber is a Wisconsin DNR Forester living in Weyerhaeuser. He writes outdoor essays for several Wisconsin publications.
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2019-11-20T21:29:16+00:00Tags: , , , , , |

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