When 15-year-old James Klinker of Two Harbors, Minnesota, went out with his dad for an afternoon hunt last Nov. 9, he ended up shooting the local legend. What's more, the 17-point megabuck was his first buck ever!
Some bucks live and die without ever being seen by hunters. Others live as local legends only to disappear and never be seen again. This story is about a distinctive buck that came to be known as "Jackson." Jackson's story began seven years ago in Two Harbors, Minnesota, a small town located along the north shore of Lake Superior. Chris and Stephanie Potter, a local couple, started seeing a buck at their backyard feeder on a regular basis. The deer later grew a very distinctive and very impressive set of antlers. Eventually the Potters named him "Jackson." Chris thinks that the buck might have grown his largest rack in 2006. Chris and Stephanie are both avid deer hunters and shed hunters and were lucky enough to collect a few of Jackson's shed antlers.
In the spring of 2007, Chris found the left antler from Jackson's '06 rack. It measured 86€‚6/8 inches. By the fall of 2007, Jackson had grown to be somewhat of a local legend. He was known by many of the locals in Two Harbors and to a few non-local hunters who had seen photos of the giant buck. He was smart and he had managed to elude hunters for a number of years. Even though he still visited the Potter's backyard feeder on a regular basis, he was very much a wild deer, and he apparently traveled a large area — especially during the rut.
FATHER AND SON HUNTING THE RUT
Nov. 9, 2007, was the day after James Klinker's 15th birthday. It was a day he would not soon forget. It started out like any other school day for James. He went to class while his dad hunted on the family property. It was six days into the Minnesota rifle season, and deer hunting was on everyone's mind. James' dad, Pat, had been hunting the same stand all week. The Klinkers also lived in Two Harbors. They hunted on land about a mile from where the Potters lived.
Pat had been hunting hard, but he'd only seen a few small does. After three long days in the same stand, he was ready to hunt a different stand. He sat until 2:30 p.m. and then ran to pick James up from school.
The father-and-son team quickly got ready and headed out for an evening sit. Pat put James in the stand he'd been using, and he decided to try a different spot just across an overgrown field. From there he would have a good view of the surrounding terrain, and he would also be able to keep his eye on James.
The weather was cool but not too cold. The snow from a few days prior was starting to melt, and the sky was a typical November gray — perfect for hunting. Weary from school, James climbed up in his stand and drifted off into a mid-afternoon nap. Pat could see James napping from across the field, and he smiled to himself. How is the kid going to see any deer that way? he wondered.
After a short nap, James awoke to the sound of something in the woods behind him. He looked and spotted two does moving through the area. He watched them until they went into some thicker brush and faded into the shadows of the forest. A little while later, he heard another deer blowing. Then a deer came out in front of him about 120 yards away. He was excited and thought it might be a buck. But much to his disappointment, it was another doe.
AN INCREDIBLE FIRST BUCK
James watched the doe for a bit and then turned and looked toward his dad across the overgrown field. When he turned back toward the doe, he saw the buck of a lifetime standing right where the doe had been. The buck was broadside and moving at a good pace. James wanted to stop the deer, so he quickly did the only thing that came to mind. He gave his stand a sharp kick, making a loud noise.
The deer stopped. James took aim and fired his gun. He saw the large deer tuck his tail and run. James motioned to his dad with his hand to let him know he had shot a buck. Pat Klinker climbed down from his stand and walked over to his son.
James was replaying what he had seen and heard. "Dad, he was big," he told his father. "He had at least 8 or 10 points."
Everything had happened so fast that James never really got a good look at the buck's rack, but he knew the deer was a monster!
Knowing this was James' first buck, and being unsure of the hit, Pat decided to go home and solicit some tracking help from James' grandfather and a family friend. By now the sun had set. The group of four went back into the dark woods to try to recover James' buck. Once back at the stand, Pat asked James where the deer had been standing.
"Right next to that tree with the leaning branch," James said.
|THE JAMES KLINKER BUCK|
Nov. 9, 2007 -- Minnesota
|Total Points||17 (10R, 7L)|
|Greatest Spread||24 5/8|
|Inside Spread||19 5/8|
|Main Beams||23 4/8, 22 6/8|
|Longest Tine||9 6/8|
|Antler Bases||5 2/8, 5 3/8|
|Abnormal Points||26 4/8|
|Gross Typical||158 1/8|
|Net Non-Typical Score||177 5/8|
James' grandfather and father walked over to the tree and found blood. They turned on the light and followed the blood for a few yards. Suddenly, the big buck lay in front of them. Upon seeing the deer, Pat yelled, "James, you shot Jackson!" Like many of the area residents, Pat had seen pictures of Jackson, and he recognized the well-known trophy buck immediately.
lief, James rushed over to look for himself. Sure enough, there in the light of his flashlight lay the famous old deer. James was stunned. His "big 8- or 10-pointer" was much bigger than he had originally thought.
Jackson's rack had 17 points. His left antler contained 10 points, including two impressive drop tines. The right antler held 7 points. The rack's gross score was 184€‚4/8, and the final net score was 177€‚5/8 non-typical.
James Klinker had shot his very first buck the day after his 15th birthday, and what a buck it turned out to be! In short, he had brought down the local legend, and it would be a first buck that he would not soon forget.
Sadly, James and his family did receive some adverse publicity after word about Jackson got out. Although there was no question that Jackson was a wild buck in every sense of the word and that James had killed him ethically and by fair chase means, some locals tried to claim that the deer was tame. The Potter's greatest fear had always been that the well-known buck might fall to a poacher's bullet.
Fortunately, that didn't happen, and Chris and Stephenie Potter were happy to see a young hunter like James Klinker claim the majestic whitetail. Even though they had seen and photographed the deer many times over the years at their backyard feeder, they knew that someday a hunter, a wolf or even old age would eventually bring about the demise of this great deer.
As a writer and an avid whitetail hunter, I know I speak for whitetail hunters everywhere who believe in fair chase when I say: Congratulations, James! Good luck with your future and here's hoping that you share many more memorable hunts with your dad. Also, here's hoping that you bring down a truckload of awesome Minnesota monsters during a long and prosperous hunting career!