My husband, Luke Hegge, applies yearly for an exclusive hunt on a military camp, Camp Ripley, which is located in Central Minnesota. This is a lottery hunt with about 2,500 guys being allowed to hunt a 53,000-acre area. Hunters line their trucks in a double line outside the gates, this in itself being a pretty cool sight.
About an hour and a half before light, the MN DNR starts to let the line go in two vehicles at a time. It's like the running of the bulls or the start of the Daytona 500 of bowhunting.
While the "Ripley Rookies" look for a spot, hunters like Luke, know where they want to be and get quickly set up and hope to have an encounter with a mature buck, either by natural movement or by being pushed by a rookie stomping through the beautiful oak ridges of this Minnesota whitetail wonderland. The hunt this year coincided with our fifteenth wedding anniversary, but I was willing to share this date with his passion for bowhunting.
On the morning of October 20, Luke was sitting in the same tree he'd taken a 10-point buck from the year prior. His hunting buddy, Dan Moon wasn't too far away from his stand.
After two close encounters with shooter bucks and a black bear, Luke heard footsteps coming toward him from over the ridge at around 10 a.m.
"As I looked to the ridge top, the first thing I saw was the tips of the massive antlers rising up the ridge, heading straight for me," shared Luke.
He marched confidently down the ridge with a serious attitude; bark and sap dripped from its antlers. This buck was on a mission, heading straight for the action. In order to calm his nerves, Luke recited to himself "you shouldn't have come by me" rather than the negative pressure of telling himself "don't screw this up, don't screw this up!"
At 10:05 a.m., he shot this 160 class, 10-point buck as it passed under his stand at about three yards. It was a good clean shot and so it crashed within sight only about 50 yards away.
His buddy heard the commotion and within a few minutes headed over to Luke to congratulate him. "Only you Hegge!" were his friend's remarks.
They field dressed it and took pictures. The two thought about celebrating with a cold one back at camp but instead decided to continue hunting. Luke and Dan have party hunted for many years together. Legal in this part of Minnesota, party hunting allows a hunter to shoot a buck for another hunter.
Luke offered his "hot stand" to his friend but Dan refused the generous offer. Generous because 10 minutes later an even larger buck would fall to Luke's arrow€¦
Not long after they settled into their stands, to my husband's disbelief, an even larger buck clamored over the oak ridge. This was a buck he'd seen earlier in the day, but was unsuccessful at calling into range. Spooked, most likely by other hunters, he knew if he was going to take this buck, he would need to be quick.
The big deer stopped abruptly, smelling that unfamiliar scent of human. It was staring straight at Luke's tree, standing only five yards away. It started to stomp backwards, suspecting something wasn't right. Reading his body language, Luke took his two-second window to make the shot as the deer turned and ran.
The buck ran right under Dan's stand, close to the swamp, and actually shook the tree he was in as it ran by. Being the good-natured guy he is, all he could do was laugh as he saw this buck run by, bleeding heavily.
The second buck was a 160 class, 10 pointer with a 21 5/8-inch inside spread!
Some people give the credit to "luck" but I give the credit to Luke's drive, dedication, and passion for bowhunting. I mean, after all, he was willing to put off celebrating our 15-year anniversary of a happy marriage to his third passion in life (first and second being God then family.) I hope you enjoy this tale of the "anniversary bucks" as much as I did. -- Danielle Hegge
Editor: Congrats on two great bucks Luke!