Tonya Wisener rings in the New Year with this once-in-a-lifetime Iowa whitetail buck.
If you're a deer hunter, you just get it. You understand the painstaking preparation, the unwavering commitment, and the "blood, sweat, and tears" that are paramount for a hunter to harvest in order to take down a trophy buck.
Tonya Wisener knows these traits well.
The Kentucky native, who now calls Iowa home, has been deer hunting since the ripe old age of six. Twenty-one years later, she finally put a tag on the buck she's waited a lifetime for.
I recently talked with Wisener about her memorable evening hunt on December 31, 2017. Here's her story:
WOS: In terms of preparation, both physically and mentally, how tough of a deer was this to harvest? What were some of the biggest obstacles or challenges faced?
TW: The biggest obstacle we faced when hunting this deer was being in the right place at the right time. That and freezing our tails off doing it, as the -20 to -30 degree temperatures were the most grueling I had ever experienced while hunting. The Buddy Heater and Hot Hands were no match for the bitter cold howling through the cut-out windows of the 20+ year old blind we were hunting in. The two-and-a-half hour one way of travel, to only hunt a few hours (and only on weekends) was tough when you receive trail cam pics daily of the deer frequenting the area.
Describe what was going through your mind the moment you pulled the trigger?
I only had one thing on my mind when I pulled the trigger, and that was that this could be my last chance as he was about to disappear out of range. I had waited my whole life for a buck like this and I couldn't let him slip away.
How far of a shot did you take? Did the buck come into a call/rattle/decoy? What time of day?
It was about a 100 yard shot. We never made a sound and were just in the right place at the right time, waiting at the food source on a bitter cold day at around 4:30 p.m.
We can't think of a better New Year's Eve gift than a buck of this stature! How hard was it to pull out and leave your trophy behind until morning? We're guessing it was a sleepless night?
My heart shattered as we walked up to find not a speck of blood in the several inches of snow. I just knew my shot was lethal, but the snow wasn't showing any hope. It was a long, quiet, and disheartening car ride home that night followed by a day bed ridden with tear-soaked pillows and heartbreak. I was worse than a teenage girl after her first real breakup. No matter how many times my husband insisted that we would find him, in my mind I was thinking that I had ruined my only chance of the season and I didn't want the deer to be suffering.
How difficult was the task of locating your buck? How far from where you shot him was he found?
It was very difficult locating my buck, not knowing which way he turned leaving the field. With no trace of blood left in the snow, the crows eventually told the landowner where to begin the search in the days following. With other hunters on the property, we were unable to cover the area like we would've liked, but were successful in the end.
Have you had him officially scored?
We had him officially scored at the 2018 Iowa Deer Classic. He's 150 4/8 gross (because nets are for fish, lol!)
As a hunter, sum up what a buck such as this truly means to you?
As a hunter, it's hard to explain what this deer means to me without seeing the expression and tears streaming down my face the moment I pulled the trigger. I have been deer hunting since I was six years old. I hunted every single day I had an opportunity to hunt, hours felt like days watching deer I would've never passed before only to be patient and wait for the right one. The hours of car rides home after hunts feeling defeated and the frustration of thinking 'when will it be my turn' to finally get a chance at a big beautiful buck. Holding him after days of waiting made my heart happy and full of overwhelming joy. All I wanted to do was sit and relive every moment leading up to the present time. I was so proud and I knew my parents would be as well, as they have been both teachers and mentors my entire life. I still look at him like a kid staring at a toy behind the glass and smile, thanking the Lord for the opportunity given.
What does it mean to you to have the unwavering support from your husband, Kyle? How big a part did he play in your harvesting of this buck?
My husband is the biggest part of my life. To have him by my side on every hunt and to live every second of this experience with me means more than he will ever know. He gave up his entire season to sit with me and film our hunts every single weekend, and although I was filled with overwhelming joy, I also felt greedy that I had spent so much time focused on myself even though he insisted it was ok. This buck is OUR buck because we both put in the time. He sat through the tears and the aggravation of defeat, and did his best to keep my spirits up, not to mention the countless "Tonya...stop, we are going to find the deer." Saying anything other than he played a big part in this would be an understatement.
Can you share with us what gear you were using?
I was using Kyle's Thompson Center muzzleloader, 250 grain Power Belt bullet with 100 grain of Triple Se7en powder, Vortex optics and of course, Realtree camo.
A buck such as this will be a hard one to top! Anything on the bucket list for 2018?
My goals for this year aren't to top this buck but to hopefully just kill a nice buck with my bow. I hunted all season long with my bow in hand with no luck, so when muzzleloader season rolled around, I was more than ready to pick up a gun - especially with the negative temperatures and no warm blind to hunt in. Just being able to finally be successful with my bow after a few dry years would make me just as happy.
Tonya posted the following to her Instagram account the day she found her buck. It's both beautiful and poignant:
Romans 8:18. "The pain that you've been feeling, can't compare to the joy that's coming." There's no other verse I can think of that has described the way I've felt this season. It's been one heck of a ride, there's been more times than I can count where I wanted to give up, throw in the towel, and walk away until next season. My husband kept pushing me to believe there was a reason why these troubles would be worth it. He has put in the hours by my side every step of the way which makes this just as much his trophy as mine. I can't thank him, the landowner and the good Lord above enough for this moment. The moment I've wondered would ever come that I'd wrap my hands around a respectable deer like this. 2018 has left its mark already and I can't wait to see what the rest of this year holds if it starting out at the very top! Thank y'all again for all of the uplifting words as we waited anxiously for the news of finding him. THANK YOU LORD!
Congrats on an amazing buck, Tonya, and for sharing your wonderful story with us. We're proud of your awesome accomplishment.
Images Courtesy of Tonya and Kyle Wisener.
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