The Donnelly Buck
Genesee County 10-Point

By Matt Donnelly

I'm going to start this little story off with the birth of my baby boy. My wife gave birth to my boy, Jackson, on October 5, 2016. Every hunter I talked to said I was screwed for hunting season... but hey, they were wrong!

I had not gone hunting at all until October 22nd because of the baby and priorities. On Saturday the 22nd the wife wanted to go to her parents (who happen to own a small farm). So, I said, "Can I finally go hunting?" Next thing I knew I was up in my brother in-laws stand and within an hour I had a monster buck about 35 yards from the stand. He was tucked behind leaves and branches and I couldn't get a shot. I texted all my hunting buddy's to tell them I just saw a 140 to 150 class deer. After that I was hooked on that spot. I normally don't hunt over there much, I hunt the woods across from my house.

I got out again Sunday morning and Sunday evening and could have killed a couple doe and a smaller buck, but I wanted the giant. On Monday my father-in-law went through his woods with a CAT D6 dozer to clean up all the tree tops from when they logged it a couple years ago. My brother-in-law was chopping wood to sell. I know they say equipment doesn't bother deer, but I was thinking because of the time of year and the size of the buck he may move away. Then on top of that Tuesday they started combining the 50 acres of corn on the property and I'm really upset thinking the buck is going to go to the next property because he was living in the corn.

My brother in law finally gets out to hunt Friday morning and evening and tells me he saw a big buck in the field. But, the way he told me made me think maybe my eyes were big last Saturday and this buck wasn't as big as I thought. I finally was able to get back in the woods on the morning of Saturday the 29th using my green LED head lamp (doesn't spook deer). I sat and stared at a 120 class 8-point at 20 yards about 2-3 minutes. Thinking I really messed up and should have walked the field instead of the woods! I finish the morning off seeing nothing I wanted to shoot.

That evening I saw a buck in the corn. As I look with binoculars I can see a nice tall 8-point rack. Right away I knew he was a different buck thsn the morning buck because his rack was much taller and not as wide. As he got closer I could see that one side was either messed up from an injury or broken off. But, I was still gearing up to shoot him because he was well into my standards for bow hunting. Unfortunately he cut down wind from me and was gone like flash.

I went home and washed all my clothes because I had sweated a bunch and that buck didn't hesitate when he got down wind he just took off like flash. On Sunday morning October 30th I sat in a stand in the woods near where I saw the buck the previous morning while walking in. I swear the field was glowing with eyes from my headlamp with the amount of deer that were in it. I counted twenty plus deer just eating that newly combined corn.

At about 8 a.m. I watch that wide buck I walked up onto the morning before at about 200 yards for about twenty minutes. Now I'm excited except for the fact that my brother-in-law had picked the smallest tree ever to put a double wide stand. I felt like a sitting duck and decided this stand wasn't going to work for me. I remembered his half-brother left his climber up all year and it was maybe fifty yards from where I was.

As I got out of stand at 10 a.m. I hear my brother-in-law bringing the backhoe to the woods to gather the wood he split. I went and checked out the climber and decided I wasn't going to move it because liked the spot. I went home to watch the game and hang out with my new son, Jackson. My other brother-in-law was bringing lunch and coming over to see the baby. I wanted to get back out into woods around 3:30, but the wife was nagging that I'd been hunting and working so much that I was never around... blah, blah, blah ... you all know.

So I was feeding the baby at 3:45 thinking there was no way I was going to get out. Finally the baby was done eating and I said to my wife, "Babe, I have to hunt. I'm so close to getting one of these bucks!" She didn't agree, but let me go.

I got into the woods at 4:20 climbing up the tree. I was screwing in my bow hanger when a doe, fifty yards downwind from me, caught my scent and went hopping back into woods. I finally got situated and saw four doe just chilling, eating leaves here and there. After a couple minutes of searching for the buck and range finding all around me I see him appear about 100 yards away. I said to myself, "Yes there he is!" After a few minutes I realized this wasn't the 2 1/2 year old 120 class buck I had been seeing and that last Saturday my eyes didn't lie. I finally could tell this was a no joke buck.

I was shaking so bad watching the buck. I was still as the six or more doe mosey around my stand under 35 yards away. Most of them went up wind thank God but one decides to go downwind and I thought I was caught. But she just kept going to the field with the rest of the doe. Now I can see the buck on the path my father-in-law bulldozed days earlier standing next to two does about 30 yards away. He was behind a bunch of branches with leaves and I could barely see him. The does started moving. The buck was facing me and started to follow a doe that just crossed 20 yard in front of me, then he turned around and my heart sank. I said to myself, "This isn't going to be an easy shot at 35 yards. Red pin, don't screw this up."

The buck was about to come into the lane when I drew. He looked my way and all I saw was a head and rack. "Please don't sit here for five minutes.", I thought. Nope, he just started walking again. I had to stop him... but I was shaking so bad I couldn't get a steady aim. I took two deep breaths and finally let her fly. THAWAP!! I knew I hit him good.

I pretty much jumped out of the tree stand. I called my brother-in-law who was sitting 150 or so yards from me. I could barely talk. He said he heard me hit him and then heard crashing and said he heard him gurgling blood... I was going to wait an hour until he said that.

I got down to check my arrow which was no longer black... it was red. Blood was everywhere. I knew I did it... I finally did it! Fourteen years of hunting and never seeing a buck this big in woods. Many years of getting picked on because I wouldn't shoot yearling bucks and some 2 1/2 year old bucks. I FINALLY did it. This was all pure luck, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I had done no scouting and never had this guy on camera. 

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