Jeffrey Euler was beside himself with glee as he registered the 10-point buck he had shot shortly after the Wisconsin gun deer season opened at dawn Saturday.
“This is truly the biggest deer I’ve ever shot in my life,” said the 61-year-old West Salem man, whose dad took him hunting for the first time when Euler was 12.
“Ironically, my very first one was a decent eight-pointer,” he said as he and his son, Josh, of Holmen, queued up with other hunters registering their kills at Neshonoc Sports in West Salem.
Between that first deer and this one, “I’ve shot little bucks and does, but it took me many years to get this one,” Euler said.
The 6½-year-old deer, with a respectable 23-inch inside antler spread, weighed an estimated 200-plus pounds.
Euler said he went out at
6:30 a.m. on the same farm in the Irish Coulee area of La Crosse County where he has trekked since his first hunt.
“I set up and was enjoying the sunlight and the birds,” he said. “There was a lot of shooting in the area,” and all of a sudden, his prize was in his sights.
Appearing tongue-tied as he recalled the scenario, he said, “I really don’t know what to do next.”
Well, one of the next things he did was drop his buck and Josh’s 10-pointer off at a meat processor.
The Eulers were among thousands of hunters who ventured out on the first day of the nine-day season. License sales by opening day totaled 614,435, 10,522 ahead of last year.
Hunters can expect to see more deer and, if they can shoot straight, kill more this season, by some accounts.
Heading into the opener, Ron Lichtie of Holmen, a state Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist who covers La Crosse and Monroe counties, had predicted a higher kill rate.
Lichtie mentored his 11-year-old son, Talon, on an early outing Saturday before he reported to Neshonoc to measure and gauge the ages of the deer for a statewide population estimate.
“We didn’t see any, but there were a lot more shots around us than in the past,” he said of his quest with Talon.
The first hunter to register at Neshonoc rolled in at 8:05 a.m. with a 13-point buck, said Lori Anderson, manager of the sports/service station who was keeping track of the registrations. By 4:30 p.m., the kill count there was 170, including 94 bucks.
Hunters also were registering their deer at Charlie’s Inn in the town of Shelby, where Matt Kammel of La Crosse said, “I got the unicorn.“
He explained that all of his buck’s antlers had been broken off, leaving it with just one.
Also at Charlie’s Inn were Tom Albrecht of La Crosse and his son, Joe. Both bagged eight-pointers, although Tom’s probably would tilt the scales at 180-190 pounds, while Joe’s was in the 140-150-pound range.
The registration count at Charlie’s as of 4:30 p.m. was 55, including 20 bucks.
Several hunters said mating season doomed many bucks who ended up in their cross hairs as they chased does.
Among other hunters who registered their kills at Neshonoc’s in West Salem were:
nNathan Becker, a 10-year-old who shot his first deer, a buck fawn, in the Black River bottoms. “First year, first deer,” said his dad, Scott, who described his role as Nathan’s mentor “to teach safe and ethical hunting.”
“I hit him in the shoulder, and he wiggled and bobbled” before toppling, Nathan said.
Asked how he felt about his first kill, Nathan politely corrected a reporter, saying, “It wasn’t my first. I shot a 22-pound turkey in the spring.”
nLarry Stanhope of Mindoro, who shot a 10-point buck weighing about 180 pounds in the town of Burns. “A doe came through, and he followed,” Stanhope said. “I wanted to wait for a buck.”
Acknowledging the need for patience, Stanhope said, “I was tempted to let this one go through, but you never know if you’ll see another one.“
nMike Johnson of Bangor, who shot a nine-point buck a little after 7 a.m. while hunting with his sons Sam, 15, and Drew, 12.
Johnson said he had had a run-in with the same deer while bow hunting a couple of days before. The deer saw him and escaped, Johnson said, adding, “But he didn’t get away this time.”