Deer Hunting for the Heart and Soul

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Sometimes We’re Reminded That Deer Hunting Is Far More Than a Sport

Deer hunting is not all about shooting a big buck. Far from it. Sometimes it's easy to forget that. Occasionally, we need to be reminded about the truly important things in life. In my years of blogging about deer hunting, I've received numerous stories from readers. These three really stood out.

​A Buck For Jayme  

In July 2008, Jared Gonzalez’s only sibling, older sister Jayme, passed away after a 4-year battle with breast and lung cancer. She was 36 years old. “It took a huge toll on my family, and three years later, it still is,” Jerad says. “It doesn't seem like we will ever be the same.”

Jared with his buck. (Jerad Gonzalez photo)Jared’s first daughter was born three weeks after his sister passed away.

The 2009 Wisconsin gun season opener was the first time Jerad and his father, 62, hunted again on their family land after Jayme’s passing. “My grandfather handed that beautiful land down to my father," Jared says, "and in time he will pass it to me. I will do my best to keep it going if it takes everything I have."

Jared and his dad sat side-by-side in the Tower of Power, the coolest, best and most cherished stand on their land. They sat in silence, a million thoughts pulsing in their minds. It was getting late when a buck walked out about 140 yards away. Neither hunter said a word; didn’t have to. Jared raised his Ruger M77 in 7x57 and fired. The buck kicked his hind legs and Pops watched him in the binoculars. The deer jetted out of the shooting lane and into thick brush.

Dad and son waited 15 minutes and then walked to the deer, which lay under a pine tree in a beautiful snowy scene. “It was a good buck, not the biggest we’ve shot on our land, but by far our most special,” says Jared. “It let us celebrate, if just for a time, a very rough year. It let Dad and I forget for a few minutes about losing a daughter and a sister, and being a part of something that is bigger than all of us.” 

A Buck for Baby Henry

David Hermon with his buck. (David Hermon photo)On Oct. 6, 2010, David and Dana Hermon gave birth to their son, Henry David. Less than two hours later, little Henry was given a helicopter ride to Children's Mercy Hospital where he was diagnosed with Heterotaxy, a rare disease that required Henry to have open heart surgery at less than a week old.

One weekend last November, David’s brother, Dan, finally coaxed Dave out to the woods. “I wanted him to get a break from the routine of waking up, eating breakfast, and heading to the hospital to sit with Henry all day,” says Dan. “I wanted him to spend a day in the woods with his big brother.”

About 9:30 that morning, a crazy-tined buck rolled in past David's stand, trailing a doe. David made a perfect shot. By 9:35 a.m., the brothers were standing over the deer, crying and hugging and thanking God for letting it happen. 

“I'm sure that while my brother was sitting in the stand that morning all he could think about was his little boy lying in that hospital bed,” Dan says. “I'm sure every inch of him wanted to climb down and drive up to the hospital and be with his wife. But I would like to think that for three hours that day, hunting put a smile on his face. It was something I hadn't seen for about a month. It lifted him up when he had been down.

Baby Henry smiling for the camera. (David Hermon photo)“Seeing him standing next to that deer with his little boy's name camoed on his face (if you look close at the photo you might be able to see HENRY in black) helped reassure me of the strength my brother has, and why we do what we do out in these woods.

“That's what this sport can do for a person. It's something inside of us hunters, something that not everyone understands. This was a special hunt I will remember for a lifetime; a gift from God.”

Author’s Note: Dan Hermon sent me an update in October of 2011, saying that Baby Henry was doing great, and that they were about to celebrate his 1st birthday. He also included a picture of a buck he’d recently shot—his first with traditional archery equipment. “Henry didn’t know what to make of the deer when he first saw it, and neither did my new son from Ethiopia. That Henry, he’s a happy one. It’s been a blessed year to say the least.”

A Buck for Jeff

A trail camera photo of Wedding Crasher. (Tom Taylor photo)Wisconsin bowhunter Tom Taylor has more than one reason to remember Sept. 26, 2009. That was the day he was married — and the day a giant buck stepped in front of his trail camera. After Tom returned home from his honeymoon, he retrieved the camera and couldn’t believe the image he saw. He named the gnarly-racked deer “Wedding Crasher.”

The 09 season came and went. Tom never saw the buck. Last spring he looked for the sheds, to no avail. He worried the buck might have died over the winter. 

Tom thought a lot about the buck and how to hunt him during the off season of 2010. But in August, he became consumed with something much more important. He learned that his oldest brother, Jeff, who had never missed a deer season, had kidney cancer and would have to have his kidney removed. “As I was hanging my stands that summer I decided to dedicate my deer season to Jeff,” Tom says. “I prayed every day I was in a stand that my brother would recover.”

As an afterthought, he hoped the Wedding Crasher had somehow survived the winter and might still be in the area.

Tom got his answer Oct. 6, when the tremendous non-typical posed for another picture on his camera. “At least I knew he was alive,” Tom says. “But I kind of forgot about him after that, figuring I would never see him in daylight.”

Tom Taylor with Wedding Crasher. (Tom Taylor photo)That would all change on the morning of Nov. 2. Around 7:45 a.m., Tom heard a deer approaching from downhill of his position. He figured it was a small buck, but he got up, readied his bow and turned to look just in case.

The Wedding Crasher was point blank! Tom put the sight pin on the buck’s vitals. When the giant stopped at 15 yards, Tom hit the release and watched the arrow hit behind the shoulder. The monster ran about 50 yards and bedded.

Shaking, Tom watched the behemoth with his binoculars for about 10 minutes. Suddenly the deer got up on wobbly legs, walked five yards and lay back down. A few minutes later he got up again and wobbled out of sight! Tom began to second guess. “I was just numb,” he recalls. “Did I really shoot that big deer? Will I get him?"

He stayed on stand another hour, hoping to give the buck plenty of time to expire, and then decided to leave his stand altogether for a while to clear his mind. 

Finally, around noon, he went back. He couldn’t find the arrow, so he followed the blood trail toward where he last saw the giant. He didn't have to search for long. The Wedding Crasher was even bigger and more impressive on the ground!

After getting the buck out of the woods, Tom had one thing on his mind — go show his brother. But when he got to Jeff’s house, no one was there. Jeff had been readmitted to the hospital. Sadly, on the day Tom Taylor was to share the most exciting day of bowhunting in his life with his best friend and hunting partner, the doctors told the family that Jeff would have precious few days left on Earth.

Jeff Taylor died six days later at the age of 52, and although he never laid eyes on Tom’s buck, he saw plenty of pictures before he passed.

The giant non-typical gross-scored 233 6/8, with a Pope and Young official net of 226 4/8”, making it one of Wisconsin’s top five all-time archery non-typicals. But for Tom Taylor, the Wedding Crasher represented a lot more. “I know that somehow Jeff had a hand in all of this,” he said. “It’s all for you, brother.”

Editor's note: This was originally published January 5, 2012.

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