Michael Burgdorf: 193-Inch Minnesota Monster Buck
June 24, 2014
"Lucky" is the nickname I received after I harvested this great buck in November 2012, but its relevance predates its usage. A few years earlier, I was known to carry in my back pocket a horseshoe that I'd found in the woods.
Even so, I believe successful hunting has less to do with luck and more to do with patience, choosing the right time to shoot, pre-season scouting and listening to other hunters. Perhaps more importantly, I think a successful hunter spends as much time in the woods as possible, no matter what the weather conditions. I once heard a hunter say, "I never know what will happen when I head to the woods, but I know nothing will happen if I stay home," and I couldn't agree more. I believe in working hard and hunting hard.
I am the public works director for a small city in southeastern Minnesota, and I've worked fulltime there for 39 years. I'm 59 years old and have lived in this part of Minnesota all my life. I've been married for 34 years, and my wife and I have raised a son and a daughter. I didn't begin hunting deer until I was 20 years old, when a very detail-oriented friend, Mark Ihrke, helped me get started. At that time the deer population in Minnesota was very low, and the state had closed the season in the early 1970s.
In 1984 I began hunting bucks only, for the added challenge. I hunted with a friend, Ed Jacobs, who taught me a lot about the local area and the behavior of deer here. Early on, if we encountered a buck we'd shoot it simply for the meat it would provide our families, in addition to the challenge of hunting only bucks.
Later, we started to focus on trophy quality. In the 1990s, to provide hunters with more impressive deer, "quality" management was implemented on private land in our area, but since most of our hunting was done on public ground, it didn't directly benefit us. Ed and I would pass up young bucks, only to watch — or hear — other hunters harvest them minutes later. Being selective brought its frustrations.
That said, there was a situation that helped us find mature bucks. There were three nearby parcels of refuge land that couldn't be hunted for deer. In fact, several videos produced in the area featured impressive deer. These videos were called "Monarch Valley," Monster Alley" and "Legend Lane," and they were produced by Tom Indrebo of Bluff Country Outfitters. If you've heard of or seen these videos, I probably just got your attention.
Seven miles east of our hunting area is Minnesota's Whitewater Management Area, which encompasses approximately 27,000 acres of public land in Olmsted, Wabasha, and Winona counties. It's surrounded by state forest and private land and is bordered by the Mississippi River.
Whitewater MMA is characterized by streams, valleys, limestone bluffs and hills. There are thick sumac patches, red and white oaks, white pines and cottonwoods so large it takes the armspans of three men to encircle some of them. The surrounding private lands offer corn, soybeans and alfalfa, all of which provide the deer with nourishment during different times of year.
The 2012 gun season opened on Nov. 3 with a temperature of 37 degrees and calm winds. The high temperature for the day was 41. I sat in my stand all day and saw only a couple of does and a young buck.
My usual hunting partners were able to hunt only on opening weekend. After Sunday I hunted essentially alone all week, sitting 4-5 hours at a time and then moving to a different area. I was able to sit all day on a few days, as the temperatures were above freezing in the morning, warming to the low 40s by mid-afternoon. The winds were light and out of the southeast or southwest.
By Nov. 8 the temperature had climbed to 58 degrees; by the 10th it was all the way up to a high of 68. The next morning it was 61 degrees at 6 a.m., with the wind at 9 mph. But change was on its way.
My son, Brent, was able to hunt with me that day. I dropped him off in one area and headed for another spot. By 8:30 it was raining hard, the temperature was dropping, and the wind was changing to the northwest.
Around 10 a.m. I went to pick up Brent. We decided to go to the Mauer Bros. restaurant in Elba for a bowl of soup to warm up. On the way there we noticed a car pulled off to the side of the road, with the driver's door not shut, and a hunter walking in the tall grass with just his gun and no jacket.
Brent and I had lunch and about an hour later took off to hunt again. When we got back to where we'd seen the hunter he was still there, but now wearing his jacket. We were convinced he'd seen something.
After I dropped Brent off at his spot, I went to get a weather update from my friend Mark Standinger. He was about two hours west of where I was hunting. Fronts in Minnesota generally come from the west and move to the east. Mark told me the rain had moved out of his area at around 1 p.m. "Good," I said. "It will get better later in the day."
Around 2 p.m. I headed back out to hunt what was left of the last day of gun season. As I got to the area where we'd seen the other hunter on two occasions, no one was there. I decided to grab my chair and find a place to sit. Just as I was about to head out, Brent and his friend Katie came along and asked what I was doing. I told them I was going to go watch that location until the end of the day.
Brent offered to walk the area, leaving Katie and me on watch. We had hunted this area a few years before and knew where to sit to observe two escape routes. I took my chair and got situated in a broken-down tree about 70 yards off the road, and Katie set up in her assigned place. Brent went back up the road some distance and started to walk the area.
After about 10 minutes I spotted a doe coming my way. Then, in a few seconds, I noticed movement behind her. I saw a large rack with many points. The doe approached but stopped about 55 yards away. She'd picked up my scent and was in the process of going back toward Brent. The buck had stopped under an extremely large cottonwood, unaware of my presence. At this moment, there was nothing between us.
I decided to take this quartering-to shot at 70 yards. I pulled up my Remington 1100 shotgun, put the crosshairs of my scope just inside his right shoulder and pulled the trigger, launching a slug down the barrel.
The Hornady hit its mark, and the buck collapsed on the spot. I got up and took a few steps and saw him thrashing around under the cottonwood. Suddenly he got to his feet and started to run. I fired a second shot but missed. He stopped after going 40 yards, and as I was about to shoot again, he fell over for good.
When I walked up to the buck, I couldn't believe my eyes. I whistled to Brent, and he responded.
"What are you doing here?" Brent asked. "You don't ever leave your posted spot."
I said that I'd shot a 14-pointer.
"Where?" Brent asked.
I pointed to a spot about five feet from where he was standing and said, "Right there."
Brent looked down and jumped about three feet off the ground.
When Katie got there, she couldn't believe the size of the buck. She said some other people had been driving up and down the road when the buck had come out and had watched me shoot him.
We field-dressed the deer and went to hunt out the afternoon. Then, after dark, we went back to Mauer Bros., where we'd had lunch earlier in the day. Word had spread quickly, and everyone came out to look. There was a quick and unofficial measurement 198 inches, and the buck weighed a fraction over 187 pounds.
In late January we had the buck officially measured. The gross score was 202 3/8 inches, with a net score of 193 1/8. As suggested by the total deduction of 9 2/8, the rack is remarkably symmetrical. His two sticker points account for 6 1/8 inches of the total deductions.
My buck ranks No. 8 all-time among typicals taken in Minnesota. He also ranks No. 69 on the all-time Boone and Crocket list of typicals. Prior to this, my largest whitetail was an 8-pointer that netted 148 4/8.
As the winter went on, we learned two people in the area had possibly seen this deer. We also were able to look at a shed from 2010. It was clearly this deer's right side.
Stay safe, scout hard and hunt hard. And maybe one day you'll also be in the right place at the right time to become "lucky."