When Jared Thiede got his first glimpse of a big buck running across a field back in 2011, he had no idea he'd ever see that deer again. But the Wisconsin hunter's relentless drive to close the gap on the whitetail came to an exciting end last November. In between those first and last encounters with the Vernon County giant was a winding 2-year tale of close calls and perseverance.
The Working Stiff
"I started hunting at an early age with my dad," Jared begins. "I learned a lot from him, including that nothing comes for free. Working construction as an electrician, I don't have a lot of spare time, but I try to hunt every chance I get.
"Until a few years ago, my biggest problem was not having a place to hunt," he says. "It's not that easy to find good hunting ground unless you're willing to work for it. When the opportunity came up to help out the owners of a large farming operation when a grain bin motor burned up during harvest season, I jumped at the chance.
"Over the course of a couple years I made a number of sacrifices and donated countless hours fixing electrical issues around the farm. My blue-collar skills and willingness to work paid off when the landowners gave me hunting privileges. Today, I share the ground with my father-in-law, Jim, and my brothers-in-law, Jason and Nick."
"The property is approximately 1,800 acres," Jared explains. "Typical to this part of Wisconsin, it's primarily rolling hills and farm ground. There's about 1,300 acres of crop ground, and the remainder is timber. There aren't any large blocks of timber, but instead small woodlots and thin strips dispersed across the property."
Scouting the Ground
According to Jared, "the first couple of years were spent getting to know the property and how the deer moved about. Once I knew the travel routes and natural funnels I started plotting them, as well as stand locations, on aerial photos. I find aerial photos most useful for developing hunting strategies and determining the best stand options for a given wind.
"Other than running trail cameras, most of our scouting is done during the post-season to avoid educating deer," he notes. "Unless we're in the area, we seldom make a special trip to pull the cards from the cameras."
"My first encounter with the buck was during the 2011 archery season," Jared recalls. "I'd taken a 140-class 12-pointer and was hunting for a doe at the time. I spotted a big buck chasing a doe across a field, maybe 100 yards away. I estimated he was 3 1/2 years old and would likely gross between 150 and 160 (inches). I hunted the gun season but didn't see him again. Nor did anyone else that year."
"I set out trail cameras the following summer but didn't get any pictures of that same deer before the season opened," Jared says. "On Oct. 29, Jason and I decided to hunt a remote part of the farm that isn't hunted that often. There are only two stands in that area, but we have cameras on both to monitor what's moving through.
"That afternoon, Jason spotted the big buck walking the field edge. He came within 40 yards, but Jason couldn't get a shot. There's a big bedding area between the stands, so we figured he was heading to that. We pulled the memory cards from the cameras and found pictures of the buck walking past both stands just the day before.
"Knowing he would likely stay in the area, we hunted the same stands the next morning. I didn't see much the first two hours, but around 9:30 I spotted a doe running across the field, and a monster buck right behind her. I swear the buck looked like he had a rib cage on his head. The doe worked down the field edge and continued past the stand.
"As the buck approached the shooting lane, I drew and waited," the bowhunter says. "Unfortunately, he stopped short of the opening. I was at full draw for nearly a minute. Two small bucks had moved in and were pestering the doe, so while he was focused on them, I let down.
"As he started to relax, I drew again and waited for him to take those two final steps. All of the sudden he bolted and took off running after the small bucks, chasing the doe over the ridge.
"A short time later he reappeared, this time following the doe down the valley," Jared says. "Using binoculars, I could see the big buck and four others chasing the doe. Eventually the doe bedded down, and all five bucks bedded within 20 yards of her.
"I had an appointment to meet with the landowner after lunch, so around 12:00 I climbed down and snuck out. I returned around 2:30 and started glassing the spot where the bucks were earlier, but couldn't find them," Jared adds. "However, minutes later the doe and all five bucks came charging over the ridge directly toward me. The biggest buck was leading, so I grabbed my bow and came to full draw. The doe ran right past the stand. I attempted to stop the buck, but he was running too hard.
"The doe continued down the hill, and the bucks weren't far behind. For the next 2 1/2 hours I watched all five bucks chase the doe around. There were several times I thought I'd get another chance, but he never came any closer than 60 yards. As luck would have it, I'd been at full draw three times and never got a shot. From that day forward, the buck became known as 'Picket.'
"The following week I hunted a different area of the farm and was fortunate enough to shoot a 160-class 16-pointer. But we didn't see Picket the remainder of the season. As far as I knew the surrounding landowners hadn't shot him; nor were there any reports of a big deer being killed on the highway. We were pretty confident he made it through the season."
2013 Archery Season
"The following summer we planted food plots and set out cameras early, anticipating Picket would show again," Jared continues. "In mid-October we got a picture of a big buck we felt might be him, but it was a nighttime photo and so grainy we couldn't be certain.
"I had two weeks vacation planned, starting Nov. 1. The Friday before my vacation started, Jason offered to take the tractor around and check the cameras. On the drive up, he called and said, "You're not going to believe who showed up. We have pictures of Picket just a few days ago, in the same spot as last year!"
"The first week of November, Nick and I concentrated on hunting the two stands where I'd had the close encounters the year before," Jared notes. "Unfortunately, we didn't see the buck all week.
"On Nov. 9 I hunted a different area, but Nick decided to stick with the stand where we had the most recent picture. Wouldn't you know it? Around 4:30, he saw the buck trotting across the corn field, heading toward the bedding area. After hunting, he pulled the memory cards and we found a picture of the buck walking beneath the other stand at 4:20 that day. Had I not chosen to hunt elsewhere, I'd have been hunting that stand when the buck came through.
"The morning of Nov. 11 we had a snow storm that lasted for about two hours. In all honesty, it was more like a blizzard. When the storm was probably at the worst point I contemplated getting down but kept thinking about the 160- class buck I'd shot under nearly identical conditions the season before. With that in mind, I decided to check the radar on my phone. It appeared that the storm would move through within the next 15 minutes, so I decided to stick it out.
"As the snow tapered off, I spotted a large deer walking the field edge. When I pulled up the binoculars, I was surprised to see it was Picket. That's when I realized just how big he was. Eventually he walked up the fence line and disappeared.
"When the skies cleared, deer were running absolutely everywhere," Jared says. "I caught a glimpse of a deer working a rub on the trail leading to my stand. I didn't know how big the deer was, but I grabbed my bow and got ready anyway. Just before he stepped into the shooting lane, I realized it was a 130-class 8-pointer.
"Two hours later deer activity had ceased, so I decided to climb down. Before leaving, I pulled the card from the camera behind the stand, mainly to show Nick the buck that had walked through earlier.
"While going through the pictures, I found a picture of Picket. Based on the time stamp, he had walked within 25 yards behind me during the peak of the storm. Obviously, when I'd seen him along the field edge, he'd already passed by me," Jared laments.
"I played cat-and-mouse with the buck the rest of the week. I'd sit in one stand and find pictures of him going by the other. I just couldn't catch up with him.
"It was Friday, Nov. 15, and the last day of my vacation. The forecast showed rain for the next two days and temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s. Rutting activity had almost come to a halt, and I figured the bucks were in the 'locked-down' period. Nevertheless, I decided to give the stand where I'd had the close encounters in 2012 one more try.
"A small 6-pointer walked by early, but nothing else," the hunter remembers. "Around 10:00 I saw two coyotes crossing the picked corn field and heading to the bedding area. Shortly after they disappeared, deer started running everywhere. I saw a doe down in the valley, and then a glimpse of antler. Both deer circled behind me and disappeared.
"A short time later, the doe suddenly appeared along the field edge, running toward me. I ranged the shooting lane at 39 yards. That's when I spotted Picket trotting down the same trail. I came to full draw. And just before he reached the shooting lane, I grunted, whistled and even yelled, but he wouldn't stop.
"I yelled as loud as I could, and he finally heard me . . . but he'd already coasted past the shooting lane. Unfortunately, there was a tree branch covering his vitals. I tried everything I could to get a shot, including kneeling on the platform. Eventually the doe took off, and the buck followed.
"A short time later, the coyotes chased two bucks by me," Jared notes. "One was a 10-pointer I had passed up earlier in the season. One coyote was nipping at his back legs, and the other leaped off the hillside, attempting to land on his neck. Fortunately, the buck saw him and quickly changed directions. All three eventually disappeared. A few minutes later, I saw the buck following the same trail Picket and the doe had taken.
"About an hour later, I spotted the doe, Picket, the 10-pointer and a small 7-pointer all walking single file along the field edge. It was like watching a parade as they filtered into the bedding area and disappeared.
"Around 3:30 I saw two deer moving in my direction. It was Picket pushing a small buck away from the bedding area. When they got within 60 yards, the small buck continued past me, but Picket came to an abrupt halt. I'm guessing 20 minutes had gone by before he turned and walked back down the hill to hook up with the doe. The doe bedded down, and Picket just stood guard over her.
"With only minutes of shooting light remaining, the doe got up and started moving my way," Jared says. "The buck pushed her up along the field edge and eventually sprinted right past me. It appeared he was going to step into the shooting lane, so I drew and waited. Once again he stopped short of the opening. I couldn't hold any longer and had to let down. Both deer started to move again — but before I could get drawn, Picket had already passed through the opening.
"Suddenly, the doe came sprinting back. As the buck turned to follow, I drew and waited. There were two deadfalls between us, so I had to wait until he passed beyond them. I had my 40-yard pin glued on his chest, and when he stepped into the opening I hit the release.
"I heard the arrow hit, and it sounded like rib cage," Jared says. "The buck charged off with his tail between his legs and disappeared. I could hear thrashing noises, then silence. I was convinced he was down."
Many hunters would have charged off after the deer. But Jared elected to slip out and return in the morning.
"I climbed into the stand and lined up where the buck was standing, using one of the deadfalls for reference," he says. "I was walking between the first and second deadfalls when I spotted my arrow stuck in a rotten log. Needless to say, I was pretty bummed out — but at the same time, thankful for a clean miss."
2013 Gun Season
"Even though nobody was hunting the farm, we continued running trail cameras," Jared says. "The week before gun season we got a couple of pictures of the buck passing by one of the stands just before daylight.
"I hunted Thursday and Friday and passed up several small bucks. I was hunting with my father-in-law, Jim, and brother-in-law, Nick.
"Saturday morning I headed to the stand well before sunrise and took my time," Jared remembers. "About 20 minutes before shooting light I heard a deer walking on the ridge behind me. Minutes later I heard it again, only this time closer.
"Shortly after sunrise I heard a stick snap, then saw the body of a deer on the ridge moving toward me. When the deer got within 80 yards, I could see antlers but couldn't tell exactly how big. A few more steps and I spotted the unmistakable bladed brow tine. It was definitely Picket!
"I slowly eased the rifle up and concentrated on the first opening ahead," the hunter says. "The instant his chest came into view, I settled the crosshairs on the shoulder and squeezed off.
"At the sound of the shot, he took off running," Jared continues. "From his reaction, I was convinced I had missed completely. It wasn't a difficult shot, one that I was confident in making. I quickly jacked another round into the chamber and followed the buck into the last opening and squeezed the trigger. At the sound of the shot, he folded.
"At that instant, I realized I had killed the buck of a lifetime," Jared says. "I was overwhelmed with a rush I can't explain. As I approached, I started having mixed emotions. When I finally laid my hands on the antlers I was overwhelmed with joy, but at the same time a feeling of emotional loss. All the events leading up to that moment had formed a special bond with the buck, and reality had sunk in. I'd need to find another deer to hunt.
"When examining the buck, I found I hadn't missed at all (with the first shot). In fact, both shots were grouped within an inch of each other.
"Within minutes I received a text from Nick, asking what I'd shot. I replied by saying: 'Persistence pays off. Guess we'll have to find another deer to hunt next year. I just shot Picket!'
"The text messages started coming in nonstop, wanting to know how big the deer was. It was crazy. I called my wife, Jamie, to tell her the news. I asked her to bring out our daughter, Ava, so we could all celebrate the occasion together. It was an awesome experience, one I'll remember for a lifetime."
Any serious whitetail hunter knows that it's not often that we get a second chance on the buck of a lifetime, or even a first chance for that matter. But luck was on the side of Kyle Heuerman and his girlfriend Jennifer Weaver when they put an arrow through this 196-inch Illinois brute.
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We estimate he was 7 1/2 years old. That's based on photos from 2010, when he clearly wasn't over 3 1/2. When I got him he weighed over 300 pounds on the hoof, as suspected.
Official B&C measurer Glen Salow came up with a 'œgreen' gross score of 258 7/8 inches. After the 60-day drying period, he again taped the rack. This time he got a gross non-typical score of 261 3/8, with a net of 230 7/8. The gross score evidently makes this the highest-scoring wild whitetail ever harvested on professional video.
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Jon's no stranger to free-ranging whitetails across the central plains, having guided a number of clients to trophies and harvesting many big ones himself. In fact, going into 2013 he'd shot two net Boone & Crocketts: one a non-typical scoring over 200, the other a typical from public land.
With such success behind him, Jon felt all of his hunting dreams already had come true. At least, he did until a buck he'd never seen showed up on one of his trail cameras.
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Knowing I couldn't even come to my knees without breaking the little concealment we had, I decided to lie on my left side, using my left elbow for as solid a rest as could be achieved within the slight incline of the old fencerow. But when I shouldered the rifle, the sight of the crosshairs oriented at a 10-4 o'clock angle was definitely a different look from the normal 12-6 position we all practice from. Even so, I didn't figure that would matter if I aimed at the right spot and squeezed off a clean shot.
I settled the crosshairs where I needed to place the bullet and steadied the rifle. Whispering 'œfire in the hole' while floating the crosshairs on the spot, I gently squeezed the trigger until the recoil removed the buck from my view.
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With a whopping 40 inches of non-typical growth, he has a gross Boone & Crockett score of 215 3/8. The rack's 21 6/8-inch inside spread certainly helps to show off its unique character. He was just a special deer, and very much a result of patience in both management and hunting.
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Ryan Sullivan was only 19 when, during the 2013 season, he arrowed an Arkansas buck of gigantic proportions. Like many of his fellow Arkansans, Ryan is a deer and duck fanatic. For several years, however, he gave up most of his duck season to lock horns with the world-class buck.
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Junior's outstanding whitetail is the biggest ever recorded from Monroe County, and he ranks as one of the Bluegrass State's top bucks from the 2013-14 season. This great non-typical also is the latest member of Kentucky's all-time Top 30 list.
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At 16 yards, Mikell took aim at the giant and released his arrow. In an instant, the shaft had passed through him. The deer instantly whirled and ran out of sight . . . but then, within seconds the archer heard him crash to the ground.
'œI remained in the stand for several minutes to gather my thoughts and calm down,' Mikell says. 'œI'm sure the entire encounter only took a few minutes, but it seemed an eternity.'
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Three double-digit tines of 10 2/8 to 13 5/8 inches, plus 7 1/8- and 9 3/8-inch brows and a 21 3/8-inch inside spread, add plenty to this regal crown. Put everything together and you have a gross 9-point frame score of 193 6/8. That's as big as it sounds.
Typical asymmetry and 11 6/8 inches of abnormal points total 25 1/8 inches of deductions, so as a typical, the deer nets 'œonly' 168 5/8. But the 8Ã—5 rack's total gross score of 205 4/8 is much more reflective of its stunning size. Regardless of score, the Robinson buck is clearly a marvel of nature.
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The action was fast and furious right from the get-go. At daybreak a doe busted through the cedar thicket with an eight-point suitor following close behind. The doe, however, wanted nothing to do with her pursuer and jumped into a nearby pond in an attempt to flee the buck.
This, however, wasn't the last of the action. Nick continued to watch several bucks harass does throughout the morning, but chose not to take a shot at them.
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