John Erickson Jr. was on his way to McDonald’s for breakfast a few years ago when he saw a giant buck. He knocked on a door and gained access to 20 acres of whitetail paradise
|Rack Report Details|
|Time of Year:||October 6, 2023|
|Place:||Brown County, Wisconsin|
|Weapon:||PSE DNA compound bow|
Erickson’s buck grosses 166 3/8 inches. He had hunted the buck since 2021. Image courtesy of John Erickson Jr.
Who would think that breakfast could play a role in killing a monster buck? It certainly wasn’t even a thought in John Erickson Jr.’s mind as he and his daughter, Alexis, pulled out of the driveway and headed for McDonald’s. A short distance from their home, however, Erickson spotted a huge-bodied buck in a field. He pulled off the road, and he and his daughter watched the big buck feeding on beans. The property the buck was on has just 20 acres.
“My friend’s stepdad owns the property,” Erickson explained. “So, I called my friend and asked if his stepdad allows anyone to hunt. He replied, ‘He doesn’t have anyone hunting, but he’ll let you if you ask him.’ So, I stopped in. The only stipulation to me hunting was that I had to show the landowner the buck once I got it.”
Man, if only all requests to hunt on someone else’s property could go so smoothly.
“I set trail cameras on one side of the creek that runs through the property,” Erickson recalled. “I got pictures of does and small bucks, so I hung cameras across the creek. I immediately got a picture of the buck I’d watched in the field and another huge one. These bucks were larger than any on the 160 acres I usually hunt, so I switched gears.
“Those bucks stuck together all season long,” he continued. “I’ve never seen two fully mature bucks do that. On the last day of the season, I shot the older buck. Unfortunately, he’d busted off about 30 inches of antler. I really wanted to shoot the other buck since he wasn’t broken up, but he didn’t come out that afternoon. Interestingly, a friend found the part of my buck’s rack that had broken off more than a mile away. I was able to re-attach it almost perfectly.”
In 2022, Erickson’s focus was on the remaining big buck. He stalked the buck twice in one day during the rut. On the first attempt, the buck was bedded with a doe, but Erickson couldn’t get closer than 50 yards. The doe spooked and the two deer bolted. Only hours later, Erickson spotted the buck out there again.
“I got the wind in my face,” he said. “I was getting pretty close, and then I suddenly spotted the doe right in front of me. She jumped up, snorted and ran off. The buck stood, looked at the doe and then followed her. He came through a few more times last fall, but I didn’t get him.”
Wisconsin’s John Erickson Jr. arrowed this tremendous buck on October 6 during a cold front. His son, Emmett, helped follow the blood trail. Image courtesy of John Erickson Jr.
As the 2023 season approached, Erickson switched to cell cams so that he could stay off the property as much as possible. He had the buck’s movements absolutely pegged.
“I had probably 2,000 pictures of him this year,” he told. “He was on a pattern. He would walk by my blind, through some corn, into a pumpkin patch and then bed about 100 yards from my blind. Then, he’d come right back through. He did that all summer and into the season. I sat there toward the end of September. I saw some deer, but shooting light ended, so I packed up and headed for my truck. By the time I reached the truck, my cell cam texted me a photo. Guess which deer was in that photo?”
Temperatures dropped and the wind shifted to northwest on October 6. Erickson headed for the blind. A nice 8-pointer came through. About an hour later, shooting light was fading fast. With about 10-15 minutes left, a little 6-pointer walked through without slowing down.
“It seemed like he was being pushed,” Erickson said. “I quickly looked at the trail camera pictures on my phone. I noticed that the big one was with that 6-pointer in lots of the images. I picked up my bow and set it on my lap. I knew it was go-time. Two minutes later, I caught some movement. A buck stepped out and stopped to look around. I barely glanced at the antlers. I knew that it was either my buck or another one equally as big. I drew my bow, and he took one more step and looked the other way.”
With the buck slightly quartering away, Erickson said that the opportunity couldn’t have been better.
“I didn’t have to take a breath or think twice about it,” he said. “As soon as I drew, my pin was right where it needed to be for the 28-yard shot. My shot felt good, and the buck spun around and tore off. Rain had been sprinkling for the last half an hour, so everything was wet. I walked out to where he’d been standing, and my arrow was right there coated in blood.”
John Erickson Jr.’s son, Logan, loves to hunt and fish, so he was thrilled to see his dad’s awesome buck and share in the excitement. Image courtesy of John Erickson Jr.
Erickson called a buddy and asked for help with retrieving the deer.
“He was so excited that he left the high school football game that he was at with his family and immediately came to help,” Erickson said. “Meanwhile, I picked up my son from home so that he could come along and experience the recovery. We found the buck 100-120 yards from where I shot him. He weighed 215 pounds (field-dressed), and I was thankful to put the finishing touches on a 3-year quest with this buck.”