Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Woman in blaze orange with big buck © Photo submitted by Harriett Breunig

Harriett Breunig with her buck of a lifetime, recorded as a 13-pointer.
Photo submitted by Harriett Breunig

October 2012

Grandma's hunting tale

Tagging the buck of a lifetime.

Harriett Breunig

I am 69 years old (at the time of this writing) and I have been one of the lucky ones. I've hunted as far back as I can remember. I went out with my dad hunting before I could even carry a gun. Helping on drives or just being outside was a passion for me.

I love being out in the woods even if it is snowing, freezing rain, windy or hot. I hunt. Even with having 10 children I've hunted.

In fact, I helped many of my children and grandchildren get the hunting bug. I have hunted geese, duck, raccoon, turkey and deer. I am sure that most people think I am crazy because even though my husband has stopped hunting, I continue going out.

And my husband encourages my love of hunting. The last two big gifts he gave me were a crossbow and a range finder! At this point in my life, I may move a little slower and know that I need help with the gutting and carrying, but that doesn't bother me because at least I get to be out in the woods.

All of this history brings me to the most exciting hunt of my life. As one of my boys put it, this hunt and buck "were 69 years in the making." Boy, was he right!

It was the Monday after the opening weekend of gun-deer hunting 2011. I was going to participate in some drives with my sons, one daughter and a grandchild. With my trusty 29-year-old .30-06 rifle and being the senior member of the group, I was to be the "stander" of the group.

I was set up overlooking a field with one son on the other end of the field. There was a drainage ditch in the middle of the field going down to the woods. Deer tend to like to run out of this area. On the other side of the woods, there was another open field that I could see from my lookout. If anything was in that field first, it would give me a head's up that the deer would be traveling into the woods in front of me and hopefully to the field where I was.

The drive had just started when a group of does came running through the first open field into the small woods in front of me. My adrenaline started pumping. Then the does came running out of the woods and into the second field. There was only one nice doe and, of course, it was the farthest from me. I was disappointed, but knew that I would still be able to make a good shot at that longer distance. I just had to wait for a clear shot and when I did . . . I missed. Adrenaline breaker.

The drive was still underway, so I kept my eyes glued to the field and stayed in my spot, hoping that more deer would be pushed out. A couple of minutes later, another group of does came out. They were all pretty small, so I just stood there and watched them.

Then with the drive winding down I didn't really expect to see anything more. Little did I know that the next few minutes were going to be the start of one of the greatest hunting adventures of my life.

Suddenly, out of the woods, burst the biggest buck of my life. He was high-tailing it across the field, but even at that speed I could tell that he was bigger than anything I had ever seen in the wild. I had thought these deer only existed in pictures. I told myself to focus on the body and not on the rack.

The buck took the same path as all the other deer, so when I had a clear shot, he was about 100 yards away. While focusing on the body, I took a deep breath and slowly pulled the trigger. I saw him go down on the other side of the tall grass. I couldn't believe it!

I started to walk towards him when, all of a sudden, I could see his breath steaming up behind the grassy hill. He stood up and ran. I quickly shouldered my gun and took two more shots. I missed. He disappeared into the neighbor's woods.

The drive finished and I regrouped with my family and told them about the buck.

We didn't have permission to hunt the woods that the buck ran into. So I started to make phone calls so that I could track and recover the deer.

But I am semi-retired and I drive a school bus in the mornings and afternoons. So by the time I got permission from the very gracious landowners to go after the buck, I had to go on my bus route. My four sons took to tracking the deer. They followed the trail for the next two hours without any luck. It was getting dark and they gave up the search for the night.

To say it was a sleepless night for me would be an understatement. I kept replaying the hunt. Morning couldn't come fast enough. I had to drive the school bus again, so after I got home I called up the neighbors and got permission to go back after the buck. But another sleepless night followed. And it was a sleepless night for my boys, too. They had spotted the buck while tracking him and said that when I described it as the biggest of my life, I was not doing the buck justice – not even close.

On Wednesday the hunt for the buck of a lifetime continued. My family found him first. Meeting up with them was the longest walk of my life. When I got down to the ditch where the buck was laying, I saw that my family had covered the rack only to prolong my excitement.

When it was finally uncovered, there were many tears of joy, yells and tons of high-fives. This "69 years in the making buck" deserved it. After many pictures we took it to the landowner who we have been friends with forever. More pictures and then we got it registered.

It was a crazy afternoon and night. People stopped by to hear the story, give me a hug, shake my hand and take pictures. Friends, family and even people I didn't know stopped in just to touch and hold the rack. I had another sleepless night, but this time it was worth it.

The buck was recorded as a 13 pointer since the brow tines and other points were broken off. The rack has a 19 and 7/8-inch inside spread and 25 and 2/8-inch outside spread. After the 60-day drying period, the rack ended up with a gross Boone and Crockett Club (the official scoring system for North American big game trophies) score of 184 3/8 and a final score of 167 3/8 (A minimum score of 160 is needed for a whitetail deer to be recognized by the Boone and Crockett Club).

Another farmer gave me a trail camera photo of the buck when it still had its brow tines. The buck I shot was amazing, but to see these photos with the brow tines made me shake my head in awe.

Truly a buck of a lifetime.

Harriett Breunig lives in Sauk City and when she isn't hunting she is busy with a big family. Her buck of a lifetime was shot on land in Dane County on November 23, 2011.