Group effort leads to the undoing of one of the most talked about bucks of 2014.
Stan Kreidermacher heard two shots on the other side of a deep ravine from where he stood. It was Minnesota’s late muzzleloader season, so two shots meant two hunters had slung lead.
Soon afterward, he heard the footfalls of several deer descending the opposite hillside. And then he heard a grunt and turned to catch a fleeting glimpse of a buck ducking its massive head to squeeze a colossal tower of bone through thick understory.
Other hunters had apparently spooked a whole herd of deer.
Several does paused at the edge before plowing through the only open stretch, so Stan kept his eyes glued to that 10-foot-wide spot.
Bringing up the rear was the buck, hell-bent on getting away from the gunfire. Like the does, it paused for only a millisecond before going into the ditch, but the hesitation was its downfall.
Stan didn’t know it, but the deer he shot had a name.
Toward the end of the previous year’s pheasant season, Landon and Layton Kreidermacher of Altura, Minnesota, asked a friend where they might scare up some ringnecks.
Their buddy suggested the 21,000-acre Whitewater Wildlife Management Area.
The WMA includes a 2,300-acre state game refuge that’s off-limits to deer and waterfowl hunters, giving whitetails sanctuary from the onslaught of hunters who descend upon the tract each year. While there pursuing pheasants, Landon and Layton thought it would be a great place to look for shed antlers in the spring. So they returned in March.
Landon found a gnarly shed that measured nearly 100 inches all by itself. They found its mate the following day.
“I read somewhere that mature bucks often drop antlers within 200 yards of each other,” said Layton. “So we got an aerial of the property and made a 200-yard circle around the spot we’d found the shed. The next day, we checked areas we hadn’t covered and found the other side in a small strip of woods.”
That summer, the Kreidermacher brothers blanketed that section of Winona County with trail cameras and collected several photographs of the gargantuan buck. Trail cam and aerial photos helped them determine the deer’s favorite trails.
As the summer drew to a close, they put the finishing touches on a hunting strategy for ambushing the buck during bow season. They also gave the buck a unique name.
“Because our friend Gene suggested we pheasant hunt in that vicinity, we started calling the buck Mean Gene as kind of way of honoring him,” explained Layton. “Gene is pretty mild-mannered, so it’s kind of a way to be ironic and tease him a bit. We also thought that, for the buck, Mean Gene stands for mean genetics.”
The brothers hunted hard for Mean Gene during archery season, but neither saw the deer. In fact, photos of Mean Gene ceased, signifying that the huge buck had most likely found sanctuary elsewhere.
Layton returned to the WMA the second weekend in November for opening day of firearms season. Finding 35 vehicles jammed along the edges of a 600-acre chunk of the Whitewater WMA, he knew that Mean Gene had amassed quite a reputation among local deer-slayers. All were vying for a shot at the giant whitetail.
“I just knew that, with so many hunters, the buck wasn’t there,” he said. “We all figured the hunters had pushed the deer out, but that if it was going to come back, it would come back for food during muzzleloader season.”
Minnesota’s WMA managers allow farmers to plant corn and soybeans on public lands for free, provided they leave one-third of their crop standing for wildlife. Deer hit the free buffet after the rut to pack on pounds in preparation for winter.
Blackpowder hunters know this, and often hunt next to the food sources in hopes of filling their freezers during the season’s waning days.
The Kreidermachers also put on a deer drive late in gun season to try to push Mean Gene out of hiding. None of the dozen hunters saw the buck, which had seemingly disappeared into the cold, thin Minnesota air.
On Dec. 9, engineering technician Jim Zirngible of Elk River got an interesting text message from Landon: Would the Golden Horseshoe like to come down and deer hunt this weekend?
Every group of hunters has a member who, for whatever reason, just always seems to be in the right place at the right time. For the Kreidermacher hunting clan, Jim is that hunter. He mainly hunts turkey with the group, and his very presence seems to bring about success.
Landon thought he’d go to the well of the Golden Horseshoe just once during 2014 — to have Jim on hand for a deer drive on the second-to-last day of muzzleloader season.
“The night before our drive, we all met at a local bar to hash out our strategy,” Jim recounted. “I hadn’t deer hunted in Minnesota in 15 years, but I told the guys we’d get that buck.”
The next afternoon, 13 hunters gathered at Whitewater.
Because he hadn’t filled his buck tag, the brothers’ 60-year-old Uncle Stan Kreidermacher was one of the lucky five standers. On the first drive, the hunters saw only a doe and a fawn. The second drive yielded the same, along with a few grouse.
As the 13 hunters gathered for a final push, an optimistic Jim assured everyone the effort was going to work.
It did, too, and Jim’s gun would bark.
Standing near a dozen rows of corn atop a ridge, he heard brush snapping to his right. A moment later, a doe appeared 15 yards from him. As he watched her, out of the corner of his right eye he noticed another deer: Mean Gene, standing and staring at him.
He fired just as the deer spun to flee.
“I had a broadside shot, but what I didn’t know was that the buck was jumping off the edge of a rise and going downhill. I had no clue it was that steep, and my shot was too high. I just grazed the top of his back,” he said.
Jim’s shot turned the buck into the drive, which gave Stan a chance. The buck followed the group of does that filed lickety-split through the ditch and into safety.
“I waited for the buck to stop, and I just thought, When I see antlers, I’m gonna shoot,” said Stan. “He paused at the ditch for just a second, and I did. I never saw him come out again.”
Stan stood motionless, trying to process events. He’d taken a 60-yard shot with open sights, and he felt confident he’d hit his target.
Layton approached his uncle to find out what he’d shot. Stan thought it was just a nice buck. After three hunters blood-trailed the deer for 300 yards, the elder Kreidermacher learned he’d taken something much better than a nice deer.
“They were all hollering at me that I’d gotten the big one,” said Stan. “When I walked up on the buck, I was just in awe.”
Hunter: Stan Kreidermacher
BTR Score: 256 4/8
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This article was published in the April 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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