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Who says you have to nickname a buck while he’s still alive?

No one…that’s who.

Elle and Tom were spending some sacred daughter/father time in a box blind on their Illinois property during the state’s youth season. That morning, Elle had competed in a swim competition and was whisked home to wash the chlorine out of her hair before joining Dad in the field. Temps were high and both Wares were tired before they even started the hunt, but not tired enough for Tom to commemorate their time with a gift.

Prior to this hunt, Tom had been working on one of his Iowa properties and brought back a buckeye for Elle. After they got settled into the blind, Tom reached into his Tenzing pack and presented his daughter with the glossy mahogany colored tree nut. Not quite sure what to do with it, she thanked her Dad and slipped it into her pocket.

As the sun beat down on the blind, both Elle and Tom found themselves dozing in the afternoon heat. Soon, their nodding off was interrupted by a mature buck at 112 yards. The deer was crossing through a 30 yard gap and walking briskly, leaving very little time to prepare for a shot.

They opened a window as Elle shouldered her Winchester SX3 slug gun. Tom kept tabs on range and ran camera. Realizing the buck wasn’t going to stop, Tom “meh’ed” him. The buck paused and began searching for the source of the noise.

“Should I shoot him?”

“Yeah!”

Boom.

The buck spun 90 degrees and began running directly away from the blind. As they watched his fleeing, his white legs and belly became mixed up as the deer tumbled to a halt.

After giving it some time, Elle and Tom walked over to the deer and began to admire it. It was a buck Tom had a few Reconyx pictures of, but wasn’t too familiar with, nor had he given him a nickname.

Elle’s 14 year old mind, still swimming with adrenaline from the kill immediately conjured up “Buckeye.” The small token of love from a father to a daughter at the start of their hunt had suddenly taken on a deeper meaning.

More than one trophy left the field that day.   

As told to Tim Kjellesvik