Sep 10, 2018
A Buck Named Styx
Second chance pays big dividend for trophy of a lifetime
By Chase Larson
Every hunter has their kryptonite. Mine is the time starting in early September and extending through the first week in January – archery season in Wisconsin.
The back story
Rewind to the 2016 archery season. My father and I had an opportunity to hunt a new piece of ground in Sparta, Wis. thanks to my father's longtime friend, Scott. Scott’s 50-acre piece of heaven can only be described as a football stadium.
The sides of this property consist of what seemed like 80-degree slopes that have a mix of hard and softwoods. There’s a flat ridge line at the top that bucks and other deer love to cruise upon. Directly in the middle of the property there’s a creek hidden by some swamp and marsh grass. On either side of this creek are food plots and trails that have apple trees scattered throughout. As any hunter would know, having the three basic needs to survival on a piece of property - food, water, shelter - is a recipe for success year after year.
The night before archery season is always my favorite. It’s about getting together with your friends, swapping old and new hunting stories, and coming up with a game plan for everyone that is hunting in the morning.
Opening weekend for both my father and I doesn’t focus on harvesting deer. It presents us with some much-needed tree stand therapy. It’s a time to get away from the regular routine. It’s about being slowing down, being in the moment, and enjoying what nature offers to you.
Opening morning of the 2016 bowhunting season couldn’t have come soon enough. As I stepped out of the truck, the morning dew wet my boots and the chill of the morning reminded me of the cold weather to come. I set off to the stand with my father, talking and joking until we split up to head to our separate stands. A quick fist bump and a “go get ‘em” set the tone for the morning ahead.
Without seeing much on my end during opening day, it was time to look forward to another opportunity on the second day of the season.
Day Two was a cool but buggy morning, as the transition to fall weather and changing leaf colors hadn't quite arrived, yet. As the sun started to rise and the symphony of song birds emerged from the night, I looked across the field to see a buck I would have never thought I would see on hoof.
About 70 yards out from me, this buck was walking the trail headed right in front of my stand. I could feel my heart starting to pound faster and faster with each step he took. As I watched him, all I could think about was calming myself down and taking the most ethical shot I can on this beautiful giant.
As I study this buck, I notice movement behind him. There were two more deer the same size – if not bigger – browsing in the grass along the tree line. I then redirected my attention to the buck I’m after.
At 40 yards, I make out just how massive this animal is. With an impressive 14 points and a double main beam on his right side, he was something you only see on a television program.
This buck proceeded forward, but took his time – three steps and then a halt for five minutes or so – studying his surroundings, checking scent, and watching to see if anything is out of the ordinary.
For me, the pressure of anticipation just kept building. I knew this was the moment I have been practicing for my whole life. The wind was perfect. It was time to grab my bow from its perch to my right. At this time, I had my bow in my right hand and my release on the D-loop.
The screw up
After what felt like hours, this buck finally came into my shooting lane at 28 yards. I knew this was my time to take the shot I’ve been practicing my whole life. I start to draw back. Once I got to half draw, I saw my arrow fall off the string and smack each rung of my ladder all the way down to the forest floor below me. Darn it. I must have pushed the nock forward to a point where it wasn’t locked into my string any longer.
I immediately froze my motion and turned my attention to the buck of my dreams looking directly back at me. It’s just me and the buck looking at one another. I knew my only chance now is that he continues grazing and ignores my mistake.
The buck makes his move and turns back to the direction he came from. I grab another arrow, quickly knock it, and draw. He stops at 32 yards, giving me a quartering away shot.
I settle my pin on him and release my arrow. Thwap! The arrow hits just to the left, a corner of the shoulder shot. He bounds five feet or so, looks at me and proceeds to bite the arrow out of his shoulder.
In shock at what I’m witnessing, this monster buck lets out a huge, angry growl and walks out of my sight with the other two bucks. I take a moment to watch, listen and gather myself enough to where I could climb down the tree stand and wait for my father to meet me.
Once my father arrives, I told him the events that had just passed. As we wait to track, giving the buck time to expire, we search for the arrow and just pray it had enough penetration to hit the vital organs.
With a good amount of blood at the outset, we soon realized this buck wasn’t slowing down. We went from nice-sized pools of blood to pin drops in a matter of 50 yards. After long hours searching for this buck, we found his last pin drop of blood trekking up one of the huge ridges on the property. Each step without any promising sign making me more and more sick. Every hunter knows the pain of losing a deer, but to lose a deer of a lifetime ends up haunting you every single day.
After a full 2016 archery season and no further sign of this buck, I could only assume he did one of either two things: he found sanctuary on a different piece of property, or this buck expired and we couldn’t retrieve him.
The 2017 campaign
When the 2017 archery season rolled around nine months later, there was excitement and anticipation of what buck might show up on our trail camera. With thousands of trail camera photos, there was no sign of life for the buck we now called Styx.
During the time between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, I asked Badger Sportsman readers on our social media outlets what name to give this buck. Some were funny and some fantastic – but the most popular for this buck was Styx.
Hunting almost every weekend in September and October, I had the haunting image in my mind of the shot I made on Styx a little more than a year earlier. Try as I did throughout the 2017 bowhunting season, I never did see Styx again.
November soon came and the gun season was here. 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 gun season came around…
-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.