Burnett County hunter arrows buck of a lifetime

Greg Widiker of Webster hoists up the buck of a lifetime that he shot Sunday, Sept. 17, during the first weekend of archery season. The deer has 16 scorable points and could be one of the largest bow bucks ever taken in Burnett County. – Photos submitted

Archery buck has potential to be one of Burnett County’s biggest

Marty Seeger|Staff writer

WEBSTER – What’s it like to walk up on a buck of a lifetime? Webster High School science teacher Greg Widiker knows.

The Wisconsin archery season opened over the weekend and on Sunday, Sept. 17, a three-year dream was realized by Widiker when he arrowed a 16-point buck that has the potential of being one of the top bow bucks ever taken in Burnett County.

Widiker had the deer on trail cameras and was scouting it since 2014. At that time the deer was a smaller, 10-point buck, but the following year, 2015, the buck got a lot bigger and was estimated to be 4 years old.

Widiker said some neighbors had found shed antlers from the buck in two consecutive years, in 2015 and 2016, but never a matching set. By 2016 the buck had grown a drop tine and this year, with it now estimated to be 6-1/2-years old, was sporting a drop tine on both beams.

“I was definitely very aware of him and the last two years the focus was definitely on him. He was the only deer I was going to shoot,” said Widiker, who has taken his fair share of big whitetails but hadn’t shot a buck on his 80 acres just outside of Webster since 2010.

The hunt begins

Widiker spent the Friday before the opener at a hunting shack on the 80-acre property, a tradition he and his friend share every year. Conversations around the campfire of big bucks often take center stage at deer camp and, like many other hunters, Widiker talked of someday shooting the buck of a lifetime, never realizing that two days later the opportunity would present itself.

“Besides my family and my priorities, he’s been the dream and the focus and the priority as far as my passion, as far as hunting goes,” Widiker said.

One of the last trail camera photos taken of Greg Widiker’s buck shows just how impressive the rack is compared to a 1-1/2 old buck. The photo was captured in the early morning, across the road from the 80 acres where Widiker eventually arrowed the buck on the same day. A neighbor also captured a photo of the buck at first light on its way to a bedding area on the 80 acres.

He and his friend, Seth Pearson, hunted the opener on Saturday and Widiker’s luck was limited, while his buddy had a night to remember, seeing seven different bucks and many other does and fawns.

On Sunday, Widiker decided to go on a scouting mission at around midday. He said that during the summer months, area bucks don’t frequent the property that often and tend to prefer chowing down on the neighboring bean fields. But on years when acorns are plentiful, bucks migrate back to his property.

“One thing I do have is white-oak acorns,” Widiker said, and began scouting the property for a spot to hunt that evening.

One of those spots was an area he knows well, and acorns were falling, but they were red-oak acorns. Widiker knew that whitetails prefer white-oak acorns, so he continued to scout a couple of locations until he found exactly what he was looking for.

“It was a white-oak ridge and it was just raining white-oak acorns. The sign was hot, with fresh droppings. There was a fresh scrape and buck rubbings already. So, for September, it was like, hello!”

At around 5 p.m., Widiker settled in for the hunt, using his Lone Wolf climbing stand. He was strategically located near a small oak ridge between popple slashes. Deer, he said, tend to funnel out of the slashes toward a bigger oak flat.

Constant commotion

Before catching sight of the large whitetail he’d eventually arrow, Widiker had a busy evening ahead. He’d see 15 deer before the big one made its presence known and at one point, while being surrounded by does and fawns, a buck came charging out of the popple slashing behind him, emitting a buck roar. However, Widiker couldn’t move as a doe below was watching his every move and stomping the ground.

The doe moved away far enough for Widiker to grab his bow and do a soft, contact grunt at the buck behind him. The buck heard it and Widiker could hear his steps coming right toward his tree; however, the doe had other plans.

“I got to pick up my bow and she’s still standing behind me and blows the whole place out. So I didn’t even see that buck,” Widiker said, adding that he didn’t think it was the same buck he killed.

Not long after the deer took off running, Widiker tried a snort-wheeze call in an attempt to see if the buck that was coming from behind him was still in the area. Nothing happened initially, but he then spotted a lone deer in a different direction, very slowly working its way toward him.

“Just about the time you’re thinking that was a good night, I hear a buck coming out and I put the binoculars on him and see lots of tines, but I’m not that excited yet,” Widiker said. But once he saw the drop tines and massive brow tines he knew right away it was the one he’d been after.

Widiker watched the buck for awhile, admiring it through his binoculars. For a moment, he had forgotten that he was even hunting, mesmerized by what was unfolding in front of him.

“I watched him in the binoculars for so long that I forgot I was hunting. I realized that my angle was right down when I was looking through my binoculars,” Widiker said. “I was just soaking it in and watching him. I could hear him sniffing the acorns and I could hear him crunching them, it’s amazing.”

By then the buck was at just 15 yards and there was still no shot opportunity. Widiker readied his bow, but at that point, buck fever hit him.

“I got buck fever and started shaking out of control,” he said. “I just closed my eyes and looked away and just focused on my breathing and talked myself down, and it worked. And I regained my composure.”

After refocusing on the deer, Widiker said it moved into a perfect shooting lane to his right, with its head down, eating acorns.

The next thought that went through Widiker’s mind was whether or not he’d be able to draw his bow, not only because of the nerves, but because the deer was so close. His movements alone could be enough to send the buck running. But, he was able to come to full draw without alerting the deer.

At full draw, Widiker took his eyes off the antlers and focused on the chest. He said he didn’t even think about it at that point, and in seconds the arrow, tipped with a Rage Hypodermic broadhead, found its mark.

The buck didn’t immediately go down in sight.  Widiker, Pearson and another friend, Mike Kurkowski, waited until 10 p.m. to go after the deer. Widiker said they had little trouble finding blood or the buck, but once they found the animal it was a surreal experience.

“My friend Seth says he’s right there,” but at that point, Widiker thought he was just messing with him. “I was in denial. I couldn’t look at him,” Widiker said.

At that point he said he simply broke down.

“It was overwhelming for me. It took me awhile to touch him. I just have tremendous respect for the animal. He’s just been what ruled my hunting for years. Part of me felt bad. Actually the first thing out of my mouth was that I apologize,” Widiker recalled.

Eventually, Widiker began to take it all in, coming to the realization that a quest many hunters can only dream about finally came true.

The buck was even larger up close than Widiker imagined and he isn’t sure how the buck will score. If it is scored as a nontypical, it could be one of the largest ever taken by bow in Burnett County. There’s also a chance that the deer could be scored as a typical, which could reduce the score, given the amount of deductions. Widiker said they planned to put a tape on it soon to get a green score, but the official score won’t happen until the mandatory 60-day drying period. At that point they’ll know for sure, but you can bet Widiker won’t be upset. His hard work, attention to detail and persistence for the buck of a lifetime has become reality.