By Bruce Kaufman
On the eve of the 2004 deer season, Jeff Severson of Rice Lake, Wis., and his nephew, Shane Thome, decided they would settle for nothing less than record book bucks. Ditto for Barb, Jeff’s wife. And they all agreed that chances were best if they could get drawn for either Iowa or Kansas.
Miraculously, they got tags for both states.
That spring, Jeff and Shane made scouting trips to both Kansas and Iowa. At a cafe in north-central Kansas, they met a father, son and grandson who were turkey hunting. Jeff mentioned that he and Shane were looking for sheds. The turkey hunters told Jeff that they’d found a huge antler while hunting public ground and offered to show it to him.
It was indeed monstrous, and convinced Jeff to scout for buck sign on the public tract. Not long into his search, he found incredible sign and vowed to return. Little did he know that he would actually see the former wearer of the big shed a few months later.
After arrowing a decent, but somewhat disappointing buck in Iowa in October, Jeff turned his attention to Kansas. He was in the Sunflower State by Nov. 2, hunting both private and public lands.
The public tract where Jeff had found phenomenal buck sign was disappointing. Every time he went to the place, as many as four trucks would be parked near where he wanted to hunt. He was certain that all the traffic would probably run the big buck out of the area, so he spent a good deal of time on the private land.
Nov. 11 was a good day for deer. Jeff had myriad opportunities to videotape good bucks, including a giant 8-pointer that might’ve tallied 170 inches. After lunch, he decided to go to his not-so-secret public land "hot spot" to pull out some of his equipment. He feared it might get stolen, and, besides, he was ready to give up on the area.
Jeff stopped at his cabin first to change clothes. While there, a truck pulled into the lot, filled with guys carrying grocery bags. Turns out, the gang was the very same people whose trucks Jeff saw each day at the public site. They weren’t deer hunters at all; they were DUCK hunters.
They had been hunting in that spot for a month. They told Jeff that they’d seen a lot of deer and that the animals paid them little attention.
Change of plans!
Before dawn the next morning, Jeff was in his treestand overlooking a creek bottom at the public site. As early as he was, however, a truckload of duck hunters had beaten him there. At first light, Jeff heard ducks flying in over his stand, immediately followed by duck calls, gunshots and the splashing of retrievers. Although it seemed like the waterfowlers were right under his stand, they actually were about 100 yards away, just beyond a small hill.
Slightly unnerved, Jeff decided he would leave if he didn’t see a deer by 8 a.m. He even offered up a prayer, which he says was answered almost immediately.
Seconds later, a mature buck waltzed out of a thicket to Jeff’s right. It began working a nearby scrape in full unobstructed view of Jeff’s video camera. Shortly into the routine, the buck stopped suddenly and stared intently back into the thicket. Something big was coming through the thick brush.
Jeff set down his camera and picked up his bow.
Then the buck of his dreams stepped out of the dense cedars, gazing hard at the other buck, which began cowering away from the scrape. The dominant buck started walking broadside to Jeff. When it was 25 yards out, Jeff mouthed a single doe bleat.
As they always seem to do, the giant deer came to an abrupt halt — most of its body hidden by a tree trunk and brush. All Jeff could see was the buck’s shoulder and head. Yet there remained a hole no bigger than three inches through which to shoot. If Jeff could pull it off, the arrow would slip into the vitals.
He did indeed, missing the tree by an inch or less, and the whitetail bolted. Jeff watched it go to ground in a field after covering only 75 yards.
Funny how a hunt can change so quickly!
"Not really," Jeff adds. "It’s a God thing, from beginning to end."
Editor’s Note: To purchase a replica of this gorgeous rack, call (715) 234-8158.