Imperial Winter-Greens and a BIG WISCONSIN BUCK

By Brad Rucks

Have you noticed the power of a new food plot? From my observation, deer hit new plots harder than established plots. I cannot explain it except that whitetails are creatures of curiosity. I experienced firsthand the power of a new plot this past fall. Deer started checking out the plot as soon as the herbicide turned the vegetation brown. Then with each step of creating the food plot, more activity occurred.

I had decided to establish a new plot on the northwestern corner of the property so we would have a food source under our control. My neighbor has a 40-acre field in front of the plot, but he often harvests that field first because if we have a wet fall, it’s almost impossible to get the crops off. I knew if the field were harvested early, deer activity would shift to another part of the property, where the prevailing autumn winds wouldn’t be kind. Right after I sprayed the vegetation for the first time, I hung a trail camera on what would be a new plot to see how many deer were using the property. As the vegetation began to die, the amount of deer activity increased. After my second application of herbicide, I had absolutely nothing growing, yet deer were constantly walking through the plot. To my surprise, there was a mature 4- year-old supporting a main-frame 10-point rack with some “junk,” I call sticker points. I named him “Brow Tine” because he had the longest eye guards I had ever seen on a deer at my place. After the ground was worked up, even more bucks began to appear, including another mature 10-point. To say I was excited would be an understatement.
It was late July when I planted a crop of Imperial Winter-Greens and Fusion. I wanted to use the Winter-Greens as a cover to let the other seed get established, and even though we didn’t have a lot of rainfall, the seed took off. Soon after the seeds started sprouting, I caught Brow Tine on film during daylight for the first time. I estimated him to gross 155 to 160 inches. The archery season in Wisconsin starts early in September, and that buck was definitely using the new food source. Better, I knew he always visited the property in the morning. Every picture I had of him near or in the plot was from 4:30 to 5:54 a.m. I figured he was bedded directly south of the plot, where a thick cedar swamp started. I hung a stand early in August and just had to wait for the season and some north winds to arrive. The best-laid plans often go afoul, and this wouldn’t be any different. Bow season arrived with extremely warm weather. I had no chance to hunt Brow Tine opening weekend, and it seemed that was the case whenever I could hunt. In previous years, I probably would have become as scent-free as possible and took my chances, but knowing my batting average was 0, I stayed out. As the weekends passed, I had not caught the deer on film since early August, and I thought he had moved to a fall pattern.

That was about to change. The second weekend in October, rubs started popping up around the plot, and one was promising. I’m six feet tall and 240 pounds, and the tree getting hit was as large as my thigh. I placed a camera over the rub with hopes of catching the maker in action. I switched out flash cards one morning before work, and as I was checking the card, there he was. He sure looked a lot bigger than in the last photo. I checked the weather for that Saturday, and it called for a north wind. Finally, I could take my chance. I remember waking up at 4 a.m. taking a shower and heading to the spot, which is only a few minutes away. After I was there, I put on my clothes and headed to the stand. I knew I had an hour of sitting in total darkness, but I had to beat him to the spot — or did I? As black transformed into gray, I saw a mature buck headed my way. It wasn’t Brow Tine but another deer that frequented the area—a 3-year-old 8-pointer, with a G-2 that was bent downward like a drop time. That deer had a free pass on my farm, so I elected to videotape him. As I moved forward to turn on my video camera, I heard an extremely loud grunt. It’s only the second time in my life I’ve heard that sound so loud. There, only 18 yards away, was Brow Tine. I immediately went into hunter mode — or should I say blunder mode? I forgot about the buck walking toward me, and in my haste to prepare for a shot, the other deer snorted and abruptly ran off. I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and watched in horror as Brow Tine lunged forward, taking a trail that angled directly in front of me. But after 10 yards, he stopped offering me the perfect shot. In an instant, the arrow was gone, and the two-blade Rage broadhead entered right behind the front shoulder. The deer bolted off, but after he was out of sight, I heard the telltale crack and dead silence.

I quickly climbed down, gathered my gear and headed to the truck. After a quick 10-minute walk and drive home, I was at the front door. My son, age six, stood peeking out the front door. I had the trail-camera picture in my hand and gave him a thumbs-up signal. I heard him screaming in the house, “Dad shot the big 10! Dad shot the big 10!” Soon after, I had my three children helping me track the buck, and it didn’t take long to find him. The woods exploded with screams and hugs, and to this day I’m thankful none of my neighbors had picked that morning to hunt. There isn’t any doubt we made enough noise to make every deer in the county run for cover. Later that day, I gross-scored the deer at a bit more than 166 Pope and Young inches, which made him the largest buck ever taken on my property. Even though my tags were filled, I continued to run cameras in the area and got multiple photos of mature bucks in the new plot. I had pictures of 26 bucks, of which five were three years old or older. I also run cameras on my other plots, and even though others are larger or even in better areas, I got more photos of mature bucks from the new plot. Granted, not all things are equal, but you can bet I’ll be establishing another new food plot with Winter-Greens and Fusion on my property this season.