Another Once-in-a-Lifetime Buck (Dave, 2014)

By Dr. Ken Nordberg

[The following is the another of many older articles that will appear on my website. This is article was first published in Midwest Outdoors in January of 2015. Please share what you learn from these articles with your whitetail hunting friends.]

Dave with his latest trophy buck. (2014, 10-pointer)

Dave with his latest trophy buck. (2014, 10-pointer)

   Though the region in which we hunt whitetails is not noted for record book bucks, though deer numbers there have never exceeded 11 per square-mile since 1990 (less than half of numbers found elsewhere in Minnesota) and though deer everywhere in this region are extremely wary because they are hunted year around by great numbers of wolves, my hunting partners and I have always managed to take our self-imposed limit of 3–5 mature bucks per hunting season (plenty of venison for us). Most years, at least one of the bucks we have taken weighed a bit over 300 pounds (live) and had antlers measuring 150 to 160 inches (Boone and Crockett measuring system). Most hunters would consider such a buck to be a buck-of-a-lifetime because few take more than one or two with antlers this size in a lifetime. This does not mean there are more 300-pound bucks in the area we hunt than in surrounding areas. It only means we are knowledgeable and skillful enough to more regularly take such bucks, a consequence of 45 years of scientifically studying habits and behavior of wild whitetails and continuously refining our hunting methods — all of which I have enjoyed sharing with other whitetail hunters nationwide via magazine articles, books and seminars since the 1970s.

Our 2014 once-in-a-lifetime buck was taken by my son, Dave. Soon after arriving home, Dave emailed me an account of his exciting hunt to make sure I had all the details right. He wrote it so well that I decided to let him tell his own story (as follows).

“The weather was brutal when we crawled out of our sleeping bags in our big tent that Saturday morning — 10-below-zero and blustery outside. We decided to head out anyway and see if we could make it until 9 am. We did it but it wasn’t much fun, especially since the deer weren’t moving. While back at camp cutting more wood for our stove, the wind died, the sun came out and the temperature rose rapidly into the upper 20s, making it feel pretty decent compared to earlier that morning. We therefore decided a midday feeding cycle was likely, so we made plans to get right back out there.

My son, Tyler, initially decided he was going to take the 45-minute hike to the ground level stand site we refer to as “the spot.”  After a bit, however, he decided to hunt closer to camp, so I offered to make the journey myself. “The spot” is a natural blind atop a 75-foot tall, rocky ridge overlooking a low clearcut full of red osiers (a favorite deer browse), grass and second-growth popples. I’ve never failed to see a deer there. A guy could have a 400-yard shot from atop that ridge. The only drawback was the hike was long and it coursed over two high hills.

It was 12:47 am when I halted about 25 yards from “the spot” to remove my seat cushion from my back under my vest. After putting my vest back on and turning around, I saw a large, dark-bodied deer exiting trees and hazels into the clearcut a good distance away. I immediately raised my Ruger to check that deer out with my scope. It appeared to be a buck all right, but its head was down so I couldn’t see its antlers. It finally turned broadside, halted and raised its head, looking about as if it owned the place. It obviously did. When I saw its antlers, all I could think was, “Wow!” I then cranked my scope up to 9X and grabbed a 2-inch-thick popple trunk to steady my aim. The trouble was, lots of popple branches were in the way. I had to wait for that buck to walk 30 yards before it would be in the clear about 175 yards away. While doing this, it high-stepped and strutted through the snow putting on quite a show. Suddenly it was in the clear, my crosshairs were solid on its chest behind its shoulder and my 7-mm Magnum went off. The buck bolted instantly, running hard and low uphill. I quickly chambered another round, hoping I hadn’t missed, but upon finding the buck in my scope again, I couldn’t fire. The intervening cover through which it was busting was much too dense. Suddenly the buck’s head turned back and it disappeared. It was 12:50 pm.

Ten minutes of watching the site where the buck went down was all I could stand and began anxiously heading downhill to the where it was located when I fired. The first thing I noticed upon arriving there was a heavy, musky odor, which I considered to be a good sign. At first it was difficult to spot the expected blood signs. Fluffy snow had eaten it up. Soon, however, I began to see patterns of fine sprays of blood typical of a double lung shot deer, 6 feet to one side, then five feet, four feet and finally three feet. At this point my heart began to race and my pace on the trail began to quicken, but then the blood trail ran out. I still had tracks to follow, however. A few yards farther, there he lay, 125 yards from where he was when I fired. I know I thanked God more than once during the minutes that followed.

It was dark, 5:30 pm, when my son, Tyler, my brother, Ken, and I finally dragged that huge bruiser into camp.”

Good Luck Hunting,


Dr. Ken Nordberg: Good Luck Hunting

Dr. Nordberg has written nine, long popular whitetail hunting instruction books based on more than three decades of scientific, hunting-related studies of wild deer over much of North America. Each covering different subjects, his books introduce several new and much improved hunting tactics, one wolf inspired, developed to make you regularly successful at hunting mature bucks (and other deer) with gun or bow.

Dr. Ken Nordberg's Whitetail Hunter's Almanacs, 3rd Edition Dr. Ken Nordberg's Whitetail Hunter's Almanacs, 4th Edition Dr. Ken Nordberg's Whitetail Hunter's Almanacs, 5th Edition

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