December 12: Tanya Poppe

The determination of Bill Rands pays off. Yes it was Dec. 12th when Bill called to let me know that he had made plans for Tanya Poppe to finish her quest and close the final chapter on Crab Claw. This buck had earned his nickname when he was 3 years old. Now Crab Claw at the age of 5 ½ was a huge 10 pointer.

Earlier this fall on Sept. 24th Tanya had laid the hammer down on this buck and rolled him to his back. After countless hours of help from local hunters, friends and family to track and retrieve Crab Claw, it was evident that he had survived the smack that Tanya had laid on him and would likely participate in the coming rut. After several weeks had passed, Bill started seeing Crab Claw back on a few isolated food plots. He decided he would continue scouting Crab Claw and at a later date try to give Tanya the closure she well deserved. Bill felt Crab Claw would be too weak to survive the bitter cold of the north woods and would most likely become prey to the mighty Wisconsin wolf. I told Bill I would be there and cleared my schedule for another trip to Ladysmith, WI. I left home at 7:00 am and arrived at Bill’s cabin at 12:00 Noon on Dec. 13th just minutes before Tanya and her family arrived. It was bitter cold and we had lots of snow on the ground. Great conditions for a whitetail hunt. We had just two hours to prepare Tanya for this hunt. Bill’s good friend Tony, nicknamed Tote, had mounted a 7 inch LCD screen linked to a scope on a crossbow. The LCD screen would be the sights that Tanya’s uncle Mike would use to assist Tanya in aiming the crossbow at Crab Claw. Tote had also linked a range finder to the LCD screen so that Mike and Tanya would be able to determine the exact distance of the shot. The crossbow was then set up with a sip and puff trigger mechanism that Tanya would use to fire the crossbow. With a simple sip on the tube, she could release the arrow. We took a couple practice shots and everything was looking great.

By 2:00 pm we were set up in a ground blind on a soybean field that Crab Claw had been showing himself 5 out of 7 nights. Tote, Mike, Tanya and I were ready and excited. At 3:00 pm, the first deer appeared and before long we had several doe feeding in front of us 30 to 40 yards out. We had passed the test. The adult does had no idea we were there. As this group of deer meandered off the field, it wasn’t long after in the distance we spotted a mature buck heading our way. Not just one buck but a bachelor group of seven. What an awesome sight! Crab Claw was second in line. What a sight! 100 yards and closing. Crab Claw stopped to feed just 36 yards out but only offered a straight-on shot. You could feel the tension and anticipation in the air. What seemed like eternity was about five minutes and Crab Claw makes his vital mistake. He turns broadside to give a perfect shot opportunity. Mike assisted Tanya in placing the crosshairs of the LCD screen on the vitals and gave Tanya the go sign. With a quick sip on the tube Tanya sends a blazing arrow to the boiler room of this great buck. This was a shot that Crab Claw would not survive. Tanya was on the radio to her friend Bill Rands screaming “I got him, I shot Crab Claw”. It is never that easy with Crab Claw. Somehow, the arrow had deflected off a rib and quartered back. After reviewing the footage we felt we should play it safe and give this buck some time. Twice we called off the search. After almost five hours, we went back and within 80 yards of the last blood, Crab Claw laid peacefully in a blanket of snow. It was a long 80 days since the challenge of Tanya vs. Crab Claw began and it was finally over. Watching grown men hugging and high fiving says it all. We were all ecstatic with joy for Tanya.

This was a special buck and Bill had a special plan for this buck. Bill showed me a photo from the early 1900s with a huge buck hanging in front of a fireplace with a beautiful lady standing with her gun in hand next to her buck. He had told us all, “Tonight is the night!”. After Tanya shoots Crab Claw, we are going to hang him in the cabin in front of the fireplace and Tanya in her wheel chair will sit next to her buck and tell the story. Like Rico says, “It’s magical!” This is exactly what happened on the evening of Dec. 13, 2009 at Bill Rands’ cabin. He made sure that Crab Claw was hanging by the fireplace. Special thanks go out to the SHOT Program, Jeremy Peery DNR and all the family and friends that contributed so much time and effort to this hunt.