Dec 10, 2018

The Final Chronicles of A Buck Named Styx

Good things come to those who are patient and persistent in the woods

By Chase Larson

The 2016 archery season taught me many things. No matter how much you practice for that shot of a lifetime, there’s always something that knocks you back to reality. I had that shot at the buck of a lifetime, and I had that dose of reality that haunted me throughout the following spring and summer because of the buck named Styx.

If you don’t recall the details from the previous article published in the September/October 2018 edition of Badger Sportsman, let me fill you in. During my 2016 archery season, I had the opportunity to hunt a 50-acre piece of heaven owned by a family friend near Sparta. During the second day of the hunt, the buck of a lifetime came into my shooting lane at 28 yards.

As I drew back my bow, my arrow popped off my string and fell to the forest floor. With a near-heart stopping and hopeful attempt, I was able to nock another arrow and pull off a 32-yard shot. The arrow sang through the air toward its destination, but it hit just to the left and into a part of this mammoth buck’s shoulder. Barely fazed, he pulled the arrow out from his shoulder and walked back into the deep woods, away from my grasp for the rest of the 2016 season.

For the rest of that 2016 bowhunting season, I suffered a lot of sleepless nights and spent many hours searching for this buck named Styx, but there was never any sign. I started to think I would never get another opportunity at Styx or a shot at the same caliber buck again. That was until opening weekend of the 2017 gun season came around.

On the hunt again

November 18 marked the opening day of the 2017 gun season. It’s when the orange army hit the woods for a week and you get to see some true giants taken. To me there’s nothing that compares to the thrill of shooting a deer with a bow at close range. But it’s a whole new form of excitement knowing you have a shot opportunity at a trophy that could be potentially out of bow range.

With a quick prayer to my grandfather in heaven – as I always do when I get into the stand – I told him, “Grandpa it’s gun season. I don’t want to see a single deer unless it is Styx walking in front of my stand.” Knowing the great rutting activity in and around the property, I knew it would be a difficult request to fill.

After a full day of sitting, I saw one doe across the ridge well out of gun range. My father, on the other hand, had a good amount of rutting activity with many encounters of upcoming and potential shooter bucks. I hoped this was a sign my prayers were being answered by my grandfather.

As dusk seals the end to your hunt and you hear the last shots ring out, I soon meet up with my father on the trail to talk about our day and swap out trail camera cards. Checking the camera cards in the warmth of the truck, I notice a familiar buck that has been a ghost since the beginning of the 2016 archery season. It was Styx!

A blurry but definitive photo of his double main beam confirmed his identity and gave new hope to both my father and I. After some time spent checking weather reports and wind direction, we came up with a game plan for the next morning. We both knew the chess game has begun once again.

Sun rises on Day 2

Lying in bed with my eyes wide open, the clock finally turned to 4:00 a.m. An already perfected routine of getting up and ready made for a quick drive to the property we were hunting.

On the way there my dad told me something I wouldn’t forget. “Chase,” he said, “This buck has a story. Its story starts and ends with you.”

I laughed. “Well it definitely started with me! We will see what grandpa will help me with today,” I said.

We gear up and head down the hill to our respective stands. I realized that with an all-day sit, there would be countless fake distractions from squirrels and a tremendous amount of waiting.

During the final half hour of the second day sitting out in my stand, I sent my father a text message asking if he saw anything worthwhile all day. As I waited for his response, I heard a crashing sound down the ridge in the creek bottom 500 yards or so below me. I grabbed my gun and just prayed it was my desired target.

A few minutes later I could hear more than one deer walking in my direction. As the sound grew louder, I eventually saw the one deer haunting me since last year – Styx. He was hanging out in the brush with two does, and with every step patiently and effectively scanning his surroundings for any sign of danger.

Styx walked five steps and then stopped for what felt like an hour. This was the same game he played with me during archery season more than a year earlier. All I could see is his double main beam with everything else covered by brush and other trees. Finally, there was movement. The wind was right and the two does continued on from my left only to end up directly under my stand. A recipe for success! All I had to do was make the shot.

Victory ends the haunt

Styx made his way to 30 yards, still not allowing me a clean shot. Then finally, he stepped into a lane and I line up my sights behind his broad shoulder. Bam! The first shot rang out of my Tikka 270. I glanced away from my scope and saw Styx start to run.

Bam! I let out another shot. Bam! A third shot on the run and down went mighty Styx.

I was overwhelmed with emotion. After taking some time to collect myself, I finally contacted my father and the landowner, Scott, to tell them the news. I gathered myself enough to climb down the stand. As I stood at the base of the tree, I couldn't help but to pray and give thanks to both God and my grandfather for keeping me safe and answering my prayers.

Anxious emotion ran high with each step I took toward Styx. The buck of a lifetime was laying there right in front of me.

As I put my hands on his antlers, I noticed this buck added more mass than I could have even imagined, and he added more points. Styx was a 14-point buck in the 2016 season and grew to a 19-point buck when I harvested him a year later.

Off in the distance I heard the land owner, Scott, and my father driving the 4-wheeler in my direction. They arrived and I had them walk down a trail just 20 yards away to the buck. Scott went first, followed by my father. I walked behind them, watching their excitement and joy as they celebrated this trophy along with me.

With a story that will last a lifetime, I truly thank the land owner, Scott, for giving me an unbelievable memory on a truly diverse and beautiful piece of Wisconsin property. Scott, if you’re reading this, I look forward to seeing what’s in store for the next giant that wants to haunt the woods that you, my father and I call home.

-To Another Adventure

Chase Larson is a graduate from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. His passion for the outdoors and love for media has brought him to work as the media specialist at Badger Sportsman magazine for the past two years.