By Lisa L. Price
Jesse Linck of Green Bay, Wis., made a 150-yard shot to collect this Minnesota monarch back in 2004. Photo Courtesy of Jesse Linck.
Jesse Linck's friend couldn't wait to share the news of his encounter with a huge deer, but the man was intentionally vague about the size of the buck's headgear. Not that he wanted to keep the most important detail a secret. He just wasn't sure he believed it himself.
He was certain that Jesse and his other pal, "Willy" Wiliquette, would not believe him.
The man almost started shaking again when he told Jesse and Willy that he'd had the buck just 12 yards away during archery season. Its vitals, however, were blocked by saplings and brush. Please, he'd willed, just take two more steps.
But, as deer sometimes unexplainably do, the buck hesitated for what seemed like 5 minutes before turning around and leaving, giving the bowhunter no chance for a shot.
When he thought about it later, the event almost seemed like a dream.
"He told us about the deer, but he wasn't comfortable telling us how big it was," said Jesse, 38. He and Willy, both from Green Bay, Wis., hunt on land in the southeast corner of Minnesota, where their bowhunter friend lives. "He didn't think we'd believe him."
Jesse tucked the information into the back of his mind while planning for the state's shotgun season. He checked out the best hunting days for November, using Willy's Garmin.
Jesse's perseverance was rewarded with an unforgettable sight, a restaurant evacuation and a buck sporting 178 2/8 inches of antler. Photo Courtesy of Jesse Linck.
The majority of November's days were rated poor, good or "average." But one, the 11th, was listed as "excellent."
Sure enough, Willy shot a decent buck that morning. The Garmin rating for the day crossed Jesse's mind as he helped his friend field-dress the deer.
"Actually, I was thinking I'd made some mistakes during the season by letting a few deer go that were in the 140s or 150s," Jesse said. "But after I helped him with the deer, I left to go to a new spot, far away from the gut pile."
Jesse grabbed a quick, early lunch. He'd been hunting hard since Nov. 6, the opener, staying in a treestand all day for five days.
As he sat in the new stand overlooking a field, the sunshine made him sleepy.
But the two friends were leaving the next day, and he was determined to make the most of his limited time.
Then Jesse found himself in the same dream his bowhunting friend had experienced. One minute he was half-napping in his treestand; the next, he found himself wrapped up in the aura of a huge buck. Was it a dream?
"It was around 3:30, and here comes this unbelievable deer across the cut cornfield," Jesse said. "Then it reached a draw, where the close side would have given me an 80-yard target. But it went to the far side, which meant a 150-yard shot.
"I knew this whitetail was big as soon as I saw it come over the hill," Jesse said.
"The buck was carrying its head low and canted to one side, like it was trailing a doe, or like its head felt too heavy.
"The sun was hitting the buck's antlers, and it was as if they were glowing," he continued. "I'll never forget how that looked ... I can see it again now."
As the buck wove through the woods, Jesse repeatedly lost and then regained sight of it. Suddenly, the deer was across from a green area, and he could see it clearly. It was a stretch for the shotgun, but that might've been his only chance.
He steadied his 870 atop a shooting stick and aimed.
"Without that stick, I don't think I would have been steady enough," he said. "It was a long time waiting for the shot, and a long shot with a shotgun."
Willy joined him afterward.
"I told him at first that I must have missed it, because I couldn't find any hair or blood," Jesse said. "But he went a little farther and found sign."
Together, they found Jesse's buck about 80 yards away. The 12-point rack at its widest point had a spread of 262⁄8 inches, and both P2s and P3s were more than a foot long.
"Willy saw it first and ran up," Jesse said. "He was saying, 'Oh my God, that's the biggest one I've ever seen!' That was a tremendous feeling for me."
After they field-dressed the deer and loaded it into a pickup, the men drove to a restaurant where they knew some friends would be eating. When they arrived to show off the deer, word spread quickly.
Silverware was dropped and napkins tossed on tables as the restaurant emptied, with all the diners leaving their meals to see the buck. Even waitresses and cooks came out into the parking lot.
"That was all part of it, part of the thrill of taking that deer," Jesse said.
Hunter: Jesse Linck
Official Score: 178 2/8"
Compound Score: 199"
-- Reprinted from the July 2006 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine