Opening day of gun season is a special time in the Northwoods for those that take to the deer woods. For 11-year-old hunter Brock Walkowski of Eagle River, the special day would end early and end well. He would put a tag on his first deer.
Brock was hunting with his Grandpa, Richard Walkowski, on Richard’s land in Vilas County opening day. This was Brock’s first year of hunting.
Grandpa and grandson arrived before daylight to the stand that Richard built for the purpose.
“It was a mixture of [oaks and] pines, it was not swamp,” Brock said, describing the woods around the stand.
Richard built the enclosed, elevated stand so his grandsons can hunt in relative comfort, making the stay on stand more tolerable. Windows all around afford a good view.
At 8:15 a.m. opening day, the action started. The first deer of the day arrived. It would also be the last.
“It came from beneath the tree stand and went to the corn,” Brock said. “My grandpa told me to wait until it turned broadside and then fire.”
The deer was close at first, but they allowed it to move out further, hoping it would offer that broadside shot.
Richard also thought that allowing some distance between animal and hunter would allow his grandson greater freedom of movement while readying for the shot.
The deer was walking away from grandfather and grandson. When it got about 70 yards out, Richard, grunting with his own voice, got the buck to stop and turn broadside.
Brock got his .243 Sako ready for the shot.
“It turned broadside and I ended up like cutting the bottom of its heart off,” Brock recalled.
While Brock didn’t see the deer go down, his grandfather did.
“It went a little ways, but not very far,” Brock said. It was an exciting moment, he said.
It was soon time for the field-dressing chore. Brock didn’t complete the task, but it was a learning experience.
“My grandpa showed me how,” Brock said. He’d get more hands-on with the next step.
“I helped my grandpa, but we didn’t have to drag it far,” Brock said about getting his deer out of the woods.
Brock wasn’t the lone Walkowski youth to bag some venison this year.
His father, Dwayne Walkowski, said Brock’s older brother, Skyler, also had a successful 2012 in the deer woods, scoring during the youth hunt.
“He shot a doe and then we stayed maybe about a half-hour, 40 minutes ... we just stayed right in the stand and a buck came through and he shot that one also,” Dwayne said. Skyler’s buck was also a spike.
Grandpa said he likes taking his grandsons hunting.
“I took Skyler last year and he got a deer, too,” Richard said. “This year I took Brock and next year I’ll probably take Trevin, the youngest one.”
He said Brock did well in his first year of hunting. He showed patience when he got his chance.
“I told him just take your time and don’t get excited and don’t jerk the trigger and he listened really well.”
The Walkowski kids are introduced to shooting at a young age, something that undoubtedly helps lead to success in the woods later on.
“All the kids, ever since they were little, we bought them a BB gun first, then I bought pellet guns and they’re always practicing here off the deck, shooting at stuff on a log – I put targets up for them,” Richard said. “Then I got them shooting the .22s.”
Stick and string practice is part of the experience as well.
“He shoots archery quite a bit too, Brocky does. He’s gotten real good at that, but he hasn’t deer hunted with archery tackle at all,” Richard said.
Brock’s proficiency when he got a chance to shoot a deer rifle prompted his grandpa to ask if he’d like to go deer hunting in the first place.
“He did real good with that, and so, I said, ‘You want to shoot? I’ll take you deer hunting.’ He said he would go. We had a good time,” Richard said.
Brock likes hunting and plans on returning for more. He did hunt a little more after getting his buck, but didn’t see any other deer. For the time being, he’ll enjoy some venison meals and another outdoor pursuit.
“I like to fish,” Brock said, adding that he likes ice fishing quite a bit.
Brock entered his spike buck in the 2012 Northwoods Youth Deer Hunting Challenge.
Craig Turk may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org