Jersey bowhunter picks perfect day to ditch camcorder.
In more than 25 years of bowhunting, I’ve been fortunate enough to take nine mountable deer, each buck larger than the one before it, which is my personal yardstick. The last whitetail I carried to the taxidermist was a 12-pointer I harvested in December 2007. It grossed 164 6/8 inches, which is one heck of a deer for New Jersey.
Central Jersey doesn’t have many prime hunting areas. Public park lands are extremely overhunted, and gaining access to private property is becoming increasingly difficult. Big deer live here, but they generally thrive in small pockets of off-limits woods between housing developments.
That’s why I assumed my 12-pointer would be almost impossible to top, and my 2008 and 2009 seasons offered no reason to believe otherwise.
Frustrated because there weren’t any shooters among the many bucks I saw, I began carrying a camcorder to film all the animals I let pass. It was fun, and I eventually began filming a friend, getting footage of him taking his first couple of deer with a bow. Another reason I started filming my hunts was because everyone was kidding around with me, saying I’d lost my touch, that I was probably sleeping in the woods when the big bucks came by me.
I wound up with more than 100 videos. It was amazing to watch the deer’s behavior and to see the reactions of non-hunters seeing what deer are like in their real habitat.
When the 2010 bow season rolled around, I saw several whitetails, as usual, but nothing I wanted to arrow. Then my son, Craig, took me to where he’d been hunting for a while, a place where he’d just taken his biggest deer. He’d seen some exceptional bucks there, and he wanted to set me up where I would see something to at least get my heart pumping again.
I left work at 3 p.m. on Oct. 19 and was home by 4:00. Thirty minutes later, I was crossing a small field, carrying my bow, and spooked three deer already feeding. As soon as I reached my stand overlooking the field, I noticed movement in the woods around me, and I figured I’d arrived too late.
The wind was another concern. It was swirling all around me. Strike two, I guessed.
Strike three never came.
An hour after I settled into the stand, I saw a deer coming my way through some very heavy brush. It wasn’t having an easy go because its antlers were getting snagged on everything. I knew it had to be as big as the 12-pointer on my wall.
When it finally strolled into a small clearing, I was ready. I never looked at the rack again.
The shot, which I’d pegged for 25 yards, was actually at 34 yards. Luckily for me, the arrow struck only a little low, still punching the vitals.
When I recovered the deer 75 yards away, I was amazed at the size of the rack. I wasn’t nervous at all while drawing and releasing, but when I reached the downed deer, I started to shake. The buck was by far the biggest I’d ever seen, in both body and antlers.
When I called my son and sent him a picture from my cell phone, he was so excited that he left work and drove straight there to help me load the deer. Even with two of us, getting the buck into the back of his truck was a struggle.
It had to weigh well over 200 pounds, field-dressed. It’s a shame the check station, which is the local butcher, didn’t have a scale.
The only blemish on that wonderful day was that I forgot to take the camcorder with me. It would have made an exciting video.
I doubt I’ll ever have an opportunity to harvest a larger deer.
I owe my gratitude to Craig for setting me up in a special place. Beyond that, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Hunter: Steve Walkiewicz
Official Score: 177 1/8
Composite Score: 194 3/8
— Photos Courtesy of Steve Walkiewicz
This article was published in the July 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.