Editor’s Note: If you found a buck of a lifetime – a monster that would score more than 200 points – had seen him on trail-camera pictures and dreamed about him at night, would you give the opportunity to take that buck to your 9-year-old son? Doug Carlson of Coggon, Iowa, did.
“I knew this big buck would mean more to my son, Hunter, than it would to me,” Carlson says. “I’d already tried to take this huge buck for 3 consecutive years and hadn’t been successful.” Carlson prefers to bowhunt more than he likes to gun hunt. “I had trail-camera pictures of this buck for 3 years, and I attempted to take him with my bow during bow season,” Carlson remembers. “But by the time bow season arrived, the buck’s rack was all busted up from fighting. The first year I had a chance to take the buck, the left side of his rack was broken off about 10 inches above his head. His brow tine was still intact, but the rest of the antler was broken off at about the same height as his ears, when they were standing straight up, and the buck was alert. So, I knew the first time I saw him, even though he was probably only a 3-year old, he was a warrior and had fought hard. He had two white spots – one on his chin and the second a little farther back. I easily could identify him on trail-camera pictures, or when I saw him when hunting.”
The next year when Carlson saw Warrior, his rack was all broken-up again. Carlson knew Warrior wouldn’t score very much then. But he’d seen trail-camera pictures of Warrior before the rut when he sported a really good set of antlers. Carlson had leased this same 80 acres for the last 8 years and had taken some nice bucks there that would score 150 or more. However, once Carlson looked at Warrior’s trail-camera pictures, he decided that Warrior was the buck for Hunter. “So, I decided to wait one more year and try to let Hunter take Warrior when the buck had all his antlers during youth gun season,” Doug Carlson explains.
In 2014, Doug Carlson’s dream of being able to hunt with his son came true. Hunter was old enough to hunt during youth season with a muzzleloader. Hunter had been shooting the Thompson Center (https://www.tcarms.com) Omega with 100 grains of powder pushing a .245 grain PowerBelt (http://powerbeltbullets.com/) bullet while practicing. If Warrior showed up, Doug was confident Hunter could take him. Doug Carlson kept checking his trail cameras to make sure that none of the points on the buck’s rack had been broken off. “I built a ground blind out of wood that would hold four people,” Carlson says. “I wanted to be able to take my wife and children hunting with me, and I wanted them to have plenty of room to sit comfortably in the stand.”
On October 19, 2014, only Doug and Hunter were in the blind together. They had gotten up early, grabbed something to eat, gone to the blind 30 yards off an old logging road and gotten in the blind. They were set-up and ready to go by 6:00 am. Doug had been showing Hunter the trail-camera pictures of the big buck – Warrior – that he was hoping Hunter would take on the first day of youth season. When Hunter finally got to hunt the big buck he’d seen pictures of for so long, he was as excited as he would be on Christmas morning. Just as the light started opening up the forest floor, Hunter Carlson whispered, “Dad, there’s a buck.”
Later Hunter explained that he was so amazed at the big buck’s size, he couldn’t think of anything else to say. “When I looked off to my left, I spotted Warrior – now with a perfect rack – no broken points and no sign of damage to his rack,” Doug Carlson recalls. “I told Hunter, ‘Get your gun ready son.’”
That’s when fate stepped in and nearly blew the hunt for Warrior. As Hunter picked up his gun and moved it to the front of the blind, the sling on the Thompson Center brushed the side of the blind. “The buck spooked and ran away from us,” Doug Carlson says. “I was hoping that the buck wouldn’t run far. I was afraid I’d never get to see him again,” young Hunter remembers.
Doug Carlson later observed that the buck’s spooking actually helped them. “Hunter was able to get his gun up to his shoulder, put his cheek on the stock and look through his scope for the buck – only 53 yards away.” Hunter, who waited until the buck turned broadside before he squeezed the trigger, reports, “I aimed right behind the buck’s leg and squeezed the trigger. But after I shot, I couldn’t see the deer, because a big cloud of smoke was in front of me.” Since Doug Carlson was sitting off to the left of Hunter, he saw the bullet hit the buck. Due to the chill in the air, when the bullet hit Warrior, Doug Carlson spotted a little cloud of smoke come out of the buck. Warrior went down in the same tracks he’d been standing before Hunter pulled the trigger.
Doug and Hunter Carlson both were very excited about taking Warrior, and there were numbers of high fives and father and son hugs. Hunter couldn’t quit saying, “I got him; I got him!” Then Hunter walked up to the deer, put his hands on Warrior’s antlers and said, “Holy crap!”
The buck for Hunter may not be the end of this story. Doug Carlson has been watching a buck he’s named Tank, a typical 10 pointer that should score in the 190s, for the last 5 years. When I asked Doug Carlson if Tank would be a buck for Hunter, Doug smiled and answered, “Hunter has his buck of a lifetime. Tank will be mine.”
* BTR Score – Buckmasters’ Composite Score – Number of Inches: 225
* Official Buckmasters’ Score: 208 (doesn’t include inside spread of main beams)
To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, available in Kindle, print and Audible versions, “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows” (http://amzn.to/11dJRu8). If necessary, copy and paste this link into your browser.