HOLMEN, WI - Thanksgiving is certainly a time to give thanks, and this year the Jeff and Nicole family are ever so thankful for special reasons.
Three of their four sons had a successful opening weekend during the Wisconsin nine-day gun deer season.
Ironically, the three boys shot 8-point bucks while hunting Sunday on their parents’ (Jeff and Nicole) farmland in Sweden Coulee east of Holmen.
Pictured from the left, Ben, 23, shot the largest buck. Cartyr, 16, managed his first buck, while 10-year-old Reid completed the trifecta.
Cartyr, a junior at Melrose-Mindoro High School, toppled his 8-pointer shortly after shooting hours opened Sunday morning.
“The buck came in behind us,” said Nicole, who was hunting with Cartyr from a double tree stand. “He shot it at 40 yards. It ran another 40 yards and dropped.”
Cartyr has hunted deer with his mother since he was 12 and was extremely excited with his first buck kill.
“You should have seen the smile on his face. It was priceless,” said Nicole. “Two tines were broken off and the right eye was missing as well, so it must have been a fighter.”
Ben attends Western Wisconsin Technical College in La Crosse with an emphasis on becoming a pipe-fitter. He also has a full-time job. He shot his buck between 4:15 and 4:30 Sunday afternoon, according to his mother.
“It came through the brush and he shot it,” said Nicole. “He hasn’t shot a buck for five years, although he shot two before.”
About the same time Ben was field dressing his buck, Reid shot his deer at 4:30. Reid, a fifth grader at Melrose-Mindoro Elementary School, and his father were hunting from the second floor window of the cabin their uncle Jason Pralle built several years ago. The 8-pointer came to within 20 yards before Reid shot. He missed, but his second shot connected from about 40 yards. The deer then ran down a fence line, stopped at 60 yards, jumped the fence and ran into the woods and down into a valley.
“Jeff and Reid found blood and stopped. They didn’t’ want to pursue it if it wasn’t a killing shot,” said Nicole. “There wasn’t a lot of blood, so we waited more than two hours.”
After the family transported Ben’s deer down to the farm, they picked up more lights and went back up to the top of the hill to begin the search for Reid’s buck.
“Jeff, Jason, Ben, Cartyr and Reid started tracking,” said Nicole.
The family search party was about to give up when it finally found blood at 8:40, then the dead deer a few minutes later.
“Jason had a trail cam up with instant downloads and he saw it go by about 7:30, so they kept on. If not, they wouldn’t have found it,” said Nicole.
Unfortunately the Stumlins’ other son, 19-year-old Aiztdon, was hunting with a friend on Nicole’s sister’s land and didn’t harvest his deer on opening weekend.
“There’s always a little competition among the boys as to who shoots the biggest buck, said Nicole. “Ben’s buck had a 16 1/2-inch spread, 1 inch wider than Cartyr’s deer. Reid’s buck was 14 inches.”
Nicole was quick to heap praise on her brother Jason for the hard work he puts in throughout the year to create excellent wildlife habitat.
“Jason puts in a lot of time making food plots and water retention ponds. He puts in a lot of effort,” she said.
The end result is a bountiful harvest and lasting outdoor enjoyment for the Stumlin family.
“It’s pure happiness and joy being able to hunt with our kids and the memories made,” said Nicole.
“That’s how we were raised by dad (the late Tom Pralle). He always said, ‘With this farm, God gave us land to hunt on and food for the freezer,’” added Nicole. “I’m sure Dad was watching over those boys. It couldn’t have been any better.”