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DEAD-ON, If Not Stealthy

By Mike Handley

Hunter: Scott Riggleman
Few Nebraskans have laid eyes on the largest typical-racked buck ever arrowed in their state. That's because the man who bagged it, Scott Riggleman, took it back home to Louisiana. He shot the deer on Sept. 25, 2005, while bowhunting the Winnebago Indian Reservation. Photos Courtesy of Scott Riggleman

Some call it the Universal Law of Contraries, with apologies to Murphy the optimist.

It's like waking up with a dime-sized zit on the very day you're supposed to sit for your senior portrait. Or you tear open your federal income tax refund, gaze lovingly at the check for $700, and then - lo and behold - your truck's transmission fritzes.

That's ULOC.

Scott Riggleman of Baton Rouge, La., got a sour taste of it on Sept. 25, 2005. Not long after the bowhunter stuck a monstrous Nebraska whitetail, he decided to come down from his treestand and take a look at the arrow, his way of confirming that the short episode hadn't been a dream.

Knowing that he was pushing his luck, time-wise, he decided all would be okay if he remained quiet as a mouse. Although he wanted to jump up and down and scream, there was the very real chance that the wounded buck hadn't traveled far, and he didn't want to spook and risk losing the magnificent animal.

Scott's first gaff was dropping his pack, the thud reverberating throughout the open hardwoods. And if that wasn't enough, he was halfway down the tree when he realized that he'd left his bow up there and had to jack himself back up to get it.

The man with the iron resolve, who had been completely on auto-pilot when the buck presented itself, became the poster boy for buck fever AFTER making the shot he'd been playing out in his mind all morning.

"You know how it is when you're in the stand, and you think to yourself: I wish one would come out right there? Well, that's exactly what happened. The buck came to that spot," Scott said.

Hunter: Scott Riggleman
Photo Courtesy of Scott Riggleman

It helped, of course, that Scott chose that place to hang his stand - though the only suitable tree in the vicinity was as crooked as a waste management executive named Soprano.

The '05 season was his third to make the 18-hour drive from Baton Rouge to Thurston County, Neb., home of the sprawling Winnebago Indian Reservation. He learned about the reservation's limited permits from a coworker, Tiger Olsen. The 120,000-acre parcel flanks the Missouri River in the northern part of the county.

For Scott, it was love at first sight.

"I was hooked immediately," he gushed. "If you like deer hunting, you're ruined if you go up there. Deer are everywhere."

Tiger wasn't able to go that year, but three other friends from the Louisiana plastics plant accompanied Scott. They stayed at a motel about 15 minutes away from where they were hunting, arriving Wednesday afternoon. They bought their licenses over the counter the following morning.

Scott's first order of business was to hang his stand in a place where he'd seen a lot of buck activity during previous trips.

"It's the kind of place most people would walk right past," he said. "The woods would seem too open, and the bluff too steep to use as a looking spot."

The high cliff parallels the Missouri River. Scott chose one of three places he knew where the neighborhood whitetails could easily scale it. The location was a regular gateway between the river bottom and the fairly open hardwoods up top, where the deer prefer to bed after feeding in the cornfields beyond the bottomland.

Scott's stand was about 50 yards from the cliff's edge, about 20 feet up a leaning tree - the best place to overlook a little bowl into which the deer would filter after reaching the top.

"The tree was so crooked ... leaning ... that I kept having to adjust my stand," he said. "I finally got it right on Sunday, the last day."

Scott was in the leaning tree by daybreak on Sept. 25. Four deer passed through early. About 7:30, he heard something behind him and turned to see a shooter buck and two does.

Scott had plenty of time. He calmly reviewed his mental checklist - as is his custom - and then let 'er fly.

Only afterward did calm give way to chaos.

After all the noise he made reaching the ground, injury was heaped upon insult when he couldn't find his arrow. In addition, he couldn't find any blood.

"I couldn't believe it," Scott said. "The arrow should've been right there. And when I reluctantly gave up the search for it and began looking for blood, I couldn't see any. About the time I was convinced I wasn't going to find the trail, there it was."

Read More Stories From RACK MagazineEnough time had lapsed to that point that he began slowly connecting the red dots, no longer worried that he might jump the deer. Besides, any self-respecting buck with half a lung left would've crossed over into Dakota County following Scott's not-so-stealthy descent.

Not too far down the trail, he jumped two does. If they were the buck's traveling companions, where was it?

Quite dead.

The incredible 12-pointer, a new typical bow record for the Cornhusker State, had managed to cover 80 yards, on fumes, before it even realized its "low fuel" and "check engine" lights were flashing.

Scott got only a small taste of ULOC that fall. It might have left him red-faced, but all that color drained from his mug when he finally laid eyes on the buck he'd drilled.

Hunter: Scott Riggleman
Compound Bow
Official Score: 173 7/8"
Composite Score: 192

-- Reprinted from the October 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine

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