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Birthday Buck

FengerBy Chuck Fenger

-- It all started during the 2007 hunting season, when my wife and I were taking our kids to the movies in St. Peter. I decided to take the back roads that night.

All of a sudden, my wife got all worked up and asked if I'd seen that big buck. I hadn't. But I figured if she thought it was big, I had to turn around and see for myself. When I drove past the field, there were three big bucks: a 14-pointer and two 10-pointers, any of which would've been great hanging on a wall!

The next day was Saturday. I called the landowner and asked if I could bowhunt his place. He said they normally don't let anyone hunt on their land, but he would talk to his brother and call me back. About 45 minutes later, he called and said I could.

The three big bucks showed at dusk, but they were just out of range. That pretty much summed up the '07 season. I saw the bucks again, but never in range. And I never got photos of them on my trail camera.

The following spring, the landowner called and asked me to come look at some of the sheds they'd found. My son, Sam, and I went to see the antlers and maybe look for some more. When we got there, he came out with the sheds. As soon as I saw the big one, I told him that I'd had that one at 10 yards with my bow, but I didn't have a good shot.

I retired my 20-year-old bow that summer and bought another from a buddy. Through lots of practice, I was getting a 6-inch group at 70 yards. If I had a deer at that range, it was mine.
 
After rifle hunting for two weeks in Minnesota, I returned home and called the landowner to see how he'd done during the shotgun season. He said it had been slow and they'd never seen the big ones. I asked if they cared if I came out and hung some stands. He said they were finished, so I was free to come.

I hung some stands, set out a trail camera and did a little scouting.

After that, I watched the fields almost every day to see if deer were moving. I also checked the camera once a week.

On Dec. 12, the second afternoon following the first big snowfall, I drove by one of the ditches and saw it was full of tracks. Finally, the deer were on the move!

I was never so pumped in my life, but I then remembered that all I had was my blaze orange and my muzzleloader. So I asked if the landowners cared if I sat out with my muzzleloader. They said that would be fine. I rushed back to the land, dressed, grabbed my backpack and headed for my stand about 4:00.

Since that was my first night in my 16-foot ladder stand, I was excited. About 30 minutes later, I heard a noise behind me to my left. I looked back slowly and saw a nice 140-inch, 10-pointer heading into my shooting lane en route to the field.

I had the hammer back and was ready, just in case I decided it was a shooter.

The deer paused behind a big cedar tree, giving me enough time to decide to pass on it. Just then, I felt a north wind, and the buck was gone as fast as it had appeared.

As I sat in my stand, I thought about getting down because of the wind change. But then I changed my mind. As long as I was there, I'd just sit it out and hope for the best, enduring the 5-degree temperature and 20 mph gusts.

Soon afterward, I heard a noise to my right and saw a doe and two fawns about 20 yards away. They walked out in front of me and stood motionless. I was thinking what a great bow shot it would've been.

The deer kept looking back to my left, and seven more does and fawns eventually joined them. With 10 deer out in front of me, I was afraid they'd wind or see me. And, alas, the wind changed direction again, and my worst fear was realized. The whole gang took off across the road, followed by six more.

About 4:50, I looked to my right and saw antlers in the brush. I pulled back the hammer and was ready as the big buck stepped in the field. I had one lane for a shot. When the deer stepped into it, I pulled the trigger.

The buck jumped straight in the air, did a donkey kick and took off running. Although I knew I'd hit it, I still reloaded. Afterward, I was on the ground and walking around a corner in the field. There it was, on the ground 20 yards away -- head stuck in a pile of snow.

I walked up to the buck, pulled its head out of the snow, gawked and began shaking. I hadn't realized it was so big!

When I went to tell the landowners I'd shot a 13-pointer, they seemed just as happy as I was. They even joined me and helped load the deer in my truck.
 
I then called my wife and told her was I was going to be late for supper. I also told her to get the camera ready so she could take pictures of the biggest buck I had ever shot.

By the time I got to LeSueur Holiday to register my deer, my phone was already ringing. I seems my wife was calling everyone she new. By the time I got home, there was a crowd waiting to see the buck that green-scored almost 178 inches. The phone rang constantly, and people came to the house as late as 1 a.m. for a look.

I couldn't have asked for a better birthday gift. The next day, I turned 35.

--Chuck Fenger

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