As David Briggs methodically climbed down from his tree stand, he mulled several things over in his mind.
His field of view was fantastic, the wind direction was in his favor, yet it didn’t matter as he only saw two white-tailed does in a 3½-hour sit. The temperature had dropped considerably as dusk was rapidly approaching, which often triggers whitetail movement.
Nope, nothing happening. No heart-pumping thrill of a buck trailing a doe this time. Nothing to film, or send footage to the TV show “Hardcore Pursuit,” an outdoors program he has appeared on, with his brother, five times.
What had typically been a successful time of the season for him — a few days after the Sept. 18 opening of the Wisconsin archery season — had turned into a surprisingly quiet outing.
Still, he wasn’t giving up hope. A hunter driven by never-ending conquest rarely does.
“I thought I might as well creep down to the edge of the field to see what was out there,” said the 52-year-old Onalaska man, a longtime bow hunter. “I was originally doing a little stalk to see what was out in the field, so I crept down. I had my Predator camo on, and I was in the shadows and darkness of the woods.”
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In other words, he was difficult to see — for anyone, or anything, even a deer.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of two bucks. One, with a noticeably larger set of antlers than the other, was about 40 yards away. Shockingly, it didn’t bust him.
“He was standing at 43 yards when I first noticed him. He tried to get downwind of me, and that ended up putting him in my range. He didn’t come much closer, but more parallel. He got about 30 yards from me, broadside — I was doing the math in my head, as there (a spot) is 15 yards, that (spot) is another 15 yards,” Briggs recalled.
“I could see how wide his rack was — it was way out past his ears — and his body size, you could tell it was a mature deer right there. His curiosity got the best of him. Once he made the decision to walk, he came in my direction to get my wind. He went behind a tree, and I drew. Once he cleared that opening, a wide opening, which was a great thing, I shot. I had a lighted nock and saw it bury into his shoulder.”
Because of that lighted nock, Briggs could easily follow the deer’s direction, and its balance, which would be directly impacted by a precise hit.
If you’ve never used a lighted nock before, this is a great selling point for one as Briggs admitted he likely wouldn’t have seen the deer’s escape route without it. Chalk another one up for technology.
“He ran straight away from me to the bean field. I could see the lighted nock all the way down the bean field,” Briggs said. “A few minutes later, I saw him tip over. I could see the frame of the rack (as he ran away), but without the lighted nock, it would have been hard to see him.”
About 200 yards from where he fired his arrow, Briggs found a large-bodied, nine-point buck with an 18-inch inside spread that he estimates would score 140-plus inches. He had double-lunged the big buck.
This highly productive 220-acre parcel of land between Ettrick and Beaches Corner, owned by his uncle and the place where Briggs and his twin brother, Darrin, grew up, had produced another trophy whitetail.
“It was a crazy hunt. I was at the lowest of lows (climbing out of the tree stand). I had the perfect view, a north wind, it was cool, and I usually do so well in that type of weather,” said Briggs, who works as a sales consultant at Dahl Automotive in La Crosse. “I was really dejected, then I made it happen. I snuck down there and got lucky.”
Perhaps, but having hunted whitetails with a gun and with a bow since he was 12, Briggs’ 40 years of experience paid off. He knew his hunt wasn’t necessarily over once he climbed down from the tree stand. If you’re a seasoned archery hunter, you’ve likely got plenty of stories about seeing, or coming oh-so-close, to a buck as you go into stealth mode leaving the woods.
I would bet few steal hunts, however, end like that of Briggs.
“It has happened to me a few times now,” Briggs said of seeing deer while exiting his stand. “A few years ago I missed a giant buck doing the same thing. I was using a new sight and wasn’t familiar with it. It was 15 yards away I used the sight (pin) set for 30. It was a flipping giant. I just totally became unglued.”
Despite very warm, sometimes even downright hot temperatures, the first 10 days of the Wisconsin archery season produced 25 antlered deer and 92 total harvested deer in Trempealeau County, according to the Wisconsin DNR website. Statewide, there were 1,445 bucks and 3,669 total deer during the first 10 days of the Wisconsin archery season.
There may soon be others to add to that total, too, as David’s twin brother, Darrin, hunts the same land. In fact, David freely admits that Darrin does much of the work when it comes to scouting, setting up trail cameras and checking them periodically.
“My twin brother hunts with me. We hunt together and his son, Landon, hunts with me along with my son, Cameron,” David Briggs said of Darrin, who is an elementary school teacher in the Blair-Taylor School District. “He checks the trail cameras more often than I do. He does a lot of the hard work.”
Hunting, it seems, is a family affair for the Briggs clan, as David’s wife, Amy, has harvested a deer with a rifle, and is pursuing her first whitetail with a bow. Son Cameron, 17, has shot eight deer in his five years of hunting, while daughter Karli, 16, started shooting a bow for the first time last year. Stepson Gaven Smith, 18, has shot three “wall-hangers,” as David said, two of which scored in the 140s. Gaven also has arrowed a buck that scored in the low 130s.
“We fish, we hunt. The hunts we have together, it is amazing,” said David Briggs, who said his latest deer with be the 10th mount to an already impressive wall of antlers. “Now I will take them (family members) out. I don’t need to shoot another one with my bow.”
Besides, he’s already shot a bull elk in Colorado with a bow, and has nine whitetails that meet Pope & Young (archery magazine) minimum qualifying standards.
WHITETAIL STORIES: With the Wisconsin archery and crossbow seasons for white-tailed deer having opened on Sept. 18, there is bound to some tongue-wagging tails to be told. Drop me a line and send me a photo of your big buck at email@example.com and it may end up being the topic of a Thursday column. I’ve been hunting for 45 years and writing for more than 40, and never tire of hearing a good deer story.
The same goes for the Oct. 2-10 deer hunt for hunters with disabilities, or for those who participate in the Wisconsin youth deer hunt on Oct. 9-10. Just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Brown, a former longtime sports editor for the Tribune, is a freelance outdoors writer. Send him story ideas at email@example.com