November 19, 2015
No one forgets their first buck. Take one look at Charlie Miller's first buck and you won't forget his, either. The 10-year-old Winona, Minnesota fifth-grader killed a 13-pointer that green-scored 173 B&C inches. And yes, it was Charlie's first-ever deer taken on his first-ever deer hunt.
He almost didn't recover it, though, said Willie Miller, Charlie's father.
"He shot it a little low in the front leg. One inch higher and it would have been a heart shot. One inch lower and we would have never found it," he says.
Charlie was sitting in a tower stand with Willie's uncle Todd on the first day of Minnesota's youth season when a couple of does eased into the field just 15 minutes before the end of legal shooting time. As the clock ticked down, Todd Miller spied a buck. A veteran hunter, he knew right away it was big, so he prompted Charlie to get ready. At first, the buck didn't offer a good shot, but when it got to 38 yards, it turned broadside. Charlie aimed his Savage bolt-action 20-gauge shotgun and squeezed the trigger. The buck hunched at the shot and ran into some nearby trees. Todd called Willie, who arrived to help track the deer.
"The blood started getting spotty, so we backed off and decided to come back the next day," recalls Willie.
It was a long, restless night, recalls Charlie.
"I was real excited and nervous that we wouldn't find him. I didn't sleep much," he said.
Charlie, his mom and dad and Uncle Todd picked up the trail again the next day and came upon the buck in the bottom of a deep ravine. It wasn't dead, though. It stood, ran down the ravine and then up to the top as Todd gave chase. Willie was certain the buck was gone for good, but luck was on their side.
Weak from the shot, the buck tumbled back into the deep gully and lay at the bottom. Charlie put one final slug into it.
"There was this huge sense of relief from everybody, especially Charlie," recalls Willie.
They immediately noticed the incredible rack, but Willie and Todd were also stunned at the size of the buck's body. The Miller family has shot a lot of deer in their day, but none of them had seen a buck so huge. It was so big, they struggled to get it out of the 10-foot deep ravine.
"We tried to drag it out with a four-wheeler, but it flipped on its back and then on its side," said Willie.
They finally managed to get it up and out. Because it was so big, and because rumors of giant bucks are often unfounded, Willie and Todd agreed they should get an official weight. They took it to a certified scale in Winona that evening. It weighed 273 pounds field-dressed, a monster even in Minnesota.
"There was a wedding party right next to where we weighed it. Everybody from the wedding came out to look," recalled Willie. "They were all shaking Charlie's hand. I think that helped him realize just how special that deer is."