Deer of the Day -- The 98th Hour Buck, Jeff Bunke, Minnesota
May 24, 2011
For the 2010 nine-day Minnesota firearm season, I planned to hunt my father's 235-acre farm. I hunt alone and have the farm to myself. For the pre-season, I scout from a distance with my spotting scope; generally start this process in earnest 2 to 3 weeks before the Minnesota opener which starts in early November, hoping to see early rut activity on the open territory that is my father's farm.
I did spot two nice bucks, one heavy, wide, and white-racked 8 pointer that would score in the low 140's and another 10 pointer that would score in the low 150's. I saw a few other smaller bucks but I was hoping to get a shot at the 10 pointer.
I saw something else though at 4:15 p.m. of the opening day, November 6th. Through my spotting scope, I spotted a big buck, standing alone, on the edge of a field about 400 yards away. I could hardly believe my eyes. He was a dandy and appeared to be looking at two does that had come into another field to my left. I assumed he would come toward me to investigate the does, but apparently he read their body language and simply turned around and went back into the woods. As I watched him turn to leave, I noticed he had tall G-4's but what really got me excited were his huge brow tines clearly visible as he walked straight away from me. I'd never seen this buck before or a buck from previous years that might have his genetics.
I was obsessed with seeing him again and hoped to get a crack at him with my .243 handgun. That evening I told my wife that I'd seen one of the biggest bucks ever and that I was committed to bag him or go without. I decided to hunt this buck for 11 hours each day. I could hardly sleep at night as I kept reliving the sighting. I estimated him at close to 200 inches, gross. It appeared he had a left beam tine that leaned outward and although he was not all that wide he was clearly heavy and tall.
As good luck would have it, I did see him again on Thursday morning around 9:30. Offering no shot, I watched him slowly approaching through the woods, toward an open pasture. As soon as he got to the edge, he burst into a dead run as though he'd seen the devil himself. It was as though he knew he was going into potential harms way and never slowed down as he raced across the long pasture. He was headed for a large wooded mound we call Robs knob, named after my father, not far from where I'd seen him on the opening day. The tract of land we call the knob is about 30 acres in size and is all wooded. The knob is surrounded on three sides by crop fields or pasture. Even though I had not seen this buck before on the farm, it was as if he'd lived there, staying nocturnal or that he had now taken up residency on dad's farm. There are plenty of does on the farm and over the years I have seen bucks that appeared to come from neighboring farms to chase the does.
Although encouraged by this second sighting, I was already planning to hunt the muzzleloader season if I couldn't get him during our buck season. After that, I pledged to chase him with the bow and then to find his sheds if unsuccessful during these seasons. If still unsuccessful, I would scout all summer and give him a go during next year's archery season. Each night I would relive the sightings and even my wife was excited to hear if I had seen the buck after another day of hunting.
On the last weekend I saw him again on Saturday morning hastily returning to the 'knob'. This time he was about 500 hundred yards away but I knew instantly through my binoculars it was the same massive giant. These sightings made me even more determined to get a crack at him. Many times I'd thought about setting up on the edge of the knob, due to these sightings but I sure didn't want to crowd him and bounce him out of the area, especially when the wind was wrong.
On the last day, Sunday the 14th of November, I decided to set up on a high vantage point fence line at the edge of the knob, knowing my time for this season was running out. At 3:55 PM, on the last afternoon of the hunt, I saw a doe come running off the knob and shortly after, the huge brow tine buck followed her out. The doe was not the kind that runs constantly but rather she'd stop and stand for the longest time with the buck behaving similarly, on her tail.
For quite a few painful minutes I watched and waited for the shot. Finally they'd cleared the brush and I had a gift of a standing, broadside shot. I had the bipods down and the pistol on my knees for stability. I found him in the scope of my 243 pistol and squeezed off the shot. At the crack of the gun, he bolted to his left, running back toward the direction they had come.
I couldn't see him anymore and anxiously started walking toward the shot site. After covering only a few yards and to my amazement, I saw his white belly lying in the pasture only 35 yards from where he stood when I shot. I could not believe my luck. I raced down to admire my trophy. The left beam 'leaning tine' turned out to be a dropper off the G-2. I thanked the Lord and quickly ran back to the farm house, called my wife, Patty to come out and photograph the monster. Patty and my grandson, Dan, were as excited as I was when we got together for the photo session.
My friend, Dave Boland, officially scored the buck after the 60 day drying period at 199 & 0/8 inches net non typical. The buck's longest main beam was 28-1/8 inches and the longest brow tine was 11-2/8 inches. The 15-point buck had an 18 inch inside spread. He had 4 non-typical tines measuring a total of 15-4/8 inches, with a gross typical 6X5 frame measuring 190-7/8 inches.
I had spent 98 hours in the field during those nine days through nice weather but also wind, rain and cold. I ate lots of pocket sandwiches and candy bars, but I will never forget the gift I got during the last hour.