Wisconsin hunter Ron Macak's three-year pursuit of a trophy Iron County buck proves that slow and steady can, indeed, win the race. (August 2009)
When Ron Macak found a matching pair of shed antlers behind his Iron County cabin in December 2005, he had no idea it would be the start of a three-year quest. The quest finally ended in September 2008, when Macak not only laid eyes on the tremendous buck for the very first time, but also put an arrow in the giant -- a 179 6/8-inch 10-pointer that would turn out to be the biggest typical buck ever killed in Iron County!
Ron Macak's 10-point typical netted 179 6/8 points -- enough to place it among the largest archery kills in the state in 2008.
Photo courtesy of Craig Bobula.
Macak purchased 53 acres in Iron County back in the mid-1990s. Comprised primarily of maple hardwoods and cedar swamps, the acreage consists of two separate parcels -- a 13-acre plot with a small cabin and a nearby 40-acre spread. Other than a few small, privately owned parcels nearby, his property is surrounded by Iron County Forest and paper company land, both of which are open to public hunting.
Macak was walking behind his cabin on Dec. 27, 2005, when he found a matching set of shed antlers laying right on top of each other. The antlers sported long tines and were from a buck with a basic 5x5 frame. Blood on the antlers indicated they were recently dropped, and Macak couldn't help but wonder if they were from a buck living in the area, or from one wintering here or just passing through. Either way, he hoped that the buck would survive the late bow season and, more importantly, the winter.
Fast-forward to the 2006 muzzleloader season. Macak developed a roll of film from his Camtrakker trail camera and was in awe at what he discovered -- two photos of a dandy 10-pointer. The buck sported nice, long tines and had a very symmetrical rack. After repeatedly looking at the photos, Macak realized the buck in the photos was the same one that dropped its sheds behind his cabin the year before.
Macak's newfound knowledge that the buck was likely calling this area home made the hunter much more excited about hunting his small parcel. But despite putting in a lot of time hunting during the remaining muzzleloader and late bow seasons, Macak neither saw the buck nor took any more pictures of him.
Macak spent the spring of 2007 looking for the buck's shed antlers but found nothing. Had the buck survived the 2006-07 hunting season and winter? Macak could only hope. He hunted hard during the 2007 early bow season but saw no sign that the buck was still around.
Finally, the hunter pulled a roll of film from his Camtrakker during November. The camera had been set up on a scrape, and he finally got what he was hoping for -- a picture of the big 10-pointer, confirming he was still alive! Again, Macak hunted the buck for the rest of the year but never had a sighting of him or got any more pictures.
The spring of 2008 again found Macak searching the woods for the buck's shed antlers, but he found nothing. Not only did the buck need to survive the hunting season and the northern Wisconsin winter, but Macak often saw wolves in the area. He knew his odds of having another season to hunt the buck were dwindling.
That spring, Macak tried again to plant a food plot that had been unsuccessful the year before. It wasn't a big area, measuring roughly 100 feet long and 50 feet wide, but Macak had cleared the area by himself. This time, he collected a soil sample and submitted it to the Whitetail Institute of North America for testing. After applying lime and fertilizer to the soil, he planted a mix of brassicas, wheat peas and clover. By mid-May, he was done preparing the plot and was excited to see if it would actually grow this time.
As spring moved into summer, Macak could see that the planning and hard work he put into his food plot was paying off, as the plot was growing in nicely. During June, he set up three ambush sites along the edges of the food plot. A 20-foot homemade ladder stand, a pop-up blind and a climbing stand placed along the plot would allow him to hunt effectively opening weekend of bow season, regardless of wind direction.
Macak's family gave him a new Cuddeback infrared trail camera the previous Christmas, and he couldn't wait to get it set up in the new food plot. After setting up the camera in July, he started getting numerous photos of the big buck. Besides his wife and daughter, the only people he told about the big buck were his brother, Dan, and his friend, Joe.
Macak continued to get photos of the buck in the food plot throughout the summer, and he couldn't wait for archery season to come. Opening weekend of the bow season arrived on Sept. 13 and it was a wet one. Despite hunting in the rain, the only sign of a deer he had the entire weekend was one he caught a glimpse of while changing the batteries in his trail camera. He drove home Sunday night already looking forward to the following weekend.
On the following Saturday morning, Macak headed out to his 20-foot ladder stand, where he planned to sit the entire day. He climbed into the stand well before first light and sat through the afternoon without seeing a single deer. About an hour before closing time, Macak could hear deer walking in the woods behind him. The wind was blowing toward them and the bowhunter feared they would scent him and spook.
He waited patiently, listening to antlers hitting the brush as a deer headed from over his left shoulder toward the food plot. As he grabbed his bow, Macak noticed a doe directly beneath him looking out into the food plot. Macak couldn't help but wonder if it was the big 10-pointer that he heard, and that was drawing the doe's attention.
Moments later, the deer he was listening to made its way out into the food plot. Macak could tell right away it was the big 10-pointer! After years of only seeing the buck in trail camera pictures, Macak was finally seeing the big buck with his own eyes. The 10-pointer put his head down and started feeding without a care in the world. The doe stood beneath the hunter and continued watching the big buck. The buck was only about 30 yards out, but some pine limbs prevented Macak from getting a clear shot.
"I remember saying to myself, This is really going to happen!" Macak said. "Me and my friend Joe have an inside joke about 'not dropping the ball' at the moment of truth. I was thinking about that phrase inside my head. Don't drop the ball."
The buck was now 25 yards out and quartering slightly away as he continued to feed, offering a perfect shot angle.
"As I drew my bow and settled the pin on his chest, I lo
oked at his rack one more time in amazement," Macak said. "When I released the arrow, I knew the shot was perfect."
The buck ran into the woods, and after 30 yards the excited hunter could hear the buck crash. The doe was feeding in the plot and didn't have a clue what was happening around her. Macak stayed in his stand another 20 minutes in disbelief of what had just happened.
As Macak climbed down, the doe and an 8-pointer that was just starting to work his way into the food plot took off simultaneously. The hunter couldn't find much blood, so he just walked in the direction the buck ran. Moments later, Macak saw large antlers sticking up out of the brush just ahead.
"When I walked up to him and picked up his rack, a part of me was sad that such a majestic animal was dead," Macak recalled. He knelt next to the deer and admired the animal that had been the focus of his efforts for the past three years.
"It was a quiet, almost eerie walk back to the cabin," Macak recalled, "I think, in part, because I was out there all by myself."
He walked the 300 yards back to his cabin and called several people to give them the great news, including his wife, Rebecca, his brother, Dan, and his friend, Joe.
The beautiful 10-pointer carried an almost perfect set of antlers. The only abnormal point is a 1-inch-long sticker growing off its left G-3 tine. The side-to-side deductions for asymmetry total just 3 3/8 inches. Long brow tines of more than 8 and 9 inches sprout from 25-inch main beams. The buck grosses just over 184 inches and has a net typical score of 179 6/8 inches. That makes Macak's buck the highest-scoring typical archery kill from Wisconsin as of press time. The buck also ranks as the largest typical ever taken in Iron County.
In looking at the shed antlers of the buck from the 2005 season, it's safe to assume that the deer was likely at least 3 1/2 years old at that time. That means the buck was likely at least 6 1/2 years old when Macak finally connected with him.
As Macak stated, "It's rewarding to have so much hard work pay off in such a big way."