Buckmasters Magazine

Lucky or Cursed?

Lucky or Cursed?

By Steve Bartylla

The story of a buck named Moses.

As the buck came trotting down the woods edge toward Trevor Oleson, the hunter couldn’t believe it; he was looking at a local legend. Although Trevor had never laid eyes on the buck, he’d seen the pictures and heard the stories. There was no doubt that this was Moses. The only question that remained was if he would be able to successfully tackle this 6 1/2-year-old monarch, or if he’d be added to the long list of hunters who had come close.

The Building of a Legend

Although the buck wouldn’t get its name until a year later, Moses’ story began when he was 3 1/2 years old. He was already flirting with 140 inches of antler, not including a 20-inch inside spread — a solid shooter by any Buffalo County, Wis., hunter’s standards.

The buck spent most of its life on the home farm of Bluff Country Outfitters. Having worked for years as a hunting consultant for the owner, I can tell you that Tom Indrebo not only controls great ground, but also ranks in the top five of everyone I know for his knowledge and passion for trophy bucks.

As the seasons passed, Tom managed to find Moses’ sheds. Starting with one side when Moses was a 2 1/2-year-old, he found full sets from the buck’s 3 1/2-, 4 1/2- and 5 1/2-year antlers. All the sheds are displayed at the camp, including head mounts of Moses at 3 1/2 and 4 1/2. Hunters began to show up just to get a look at the giant’s racks.

All of this chronicling of the buck’s life helped build its legendary status. For example, at Marshfield, Bulls Eye Sports archery shop, Moses’ name would surface, despite him living a 2-hour drive away. As owner Scott Schoenherr said, “I’d never even seen the buck myself, but from so many customers talking about it, I felt like I was down there hunting it.”

Blogs from hunters all over the country began to include pictures and updates on the deer’s life story. Numerous hunters, writers and film crews bought hunts just to get a chance to hunt the animal.

“I never thought for a second that Moses would become so widely known or that there would be such a strong interest in him,” Tom said. “All I did was show people pictures, and it took on a life of its own. Next thing I knew, I was getting calls every day, many from people I didn’t know, asking about Moses.”

A Series of Brushes with Death

Moses wasn’t shy and had several encounters with hunters, all of which added to his reputation. The close calls began for Moses at 3 1/2 years old. As the buck chased a doe toward a stand where Tom had place one of his hunters, Moses didn’t have a clue that he was about to become a legend. The hunter stopped the buck with a grunt and let his arrow fly. His euphoria turned to misery as the arrow clipped an unseen branch and careened off course. The arrow hit Moses in the lower back leg, but the wound quickly healed.

Later that fall, another hunter hit Moses with a nonfatal shot. Once again, a long track yielded nothing, and Moses continued on as if nothing had happened.

Late in the 2003 hunting season, a very successful and experienced hunter was in camp with a film crew. As Moses approached, the hunter went to full draw. Just as the hunter was about to touch the trigger of his release, the cameraman’s warning of insufficient filming light spared the buck’s life. Frustrated beyond belief, the hunter could only watch as the great buck slowly walked out of his life.

It was the summer of 2004 when Moses received his name. On that day, Tom Indrebo was mowing a trail along a cornfield next to the driveway that ran to his camp. At the same time, former guide Donnie Hansen was clearing debris along the woods line above the field. Neither realized that the buck, now sporting more than 169 inches of antler and a 20-plus-inch spread, was bedded just inside the standing corn. When Tom approached a little too close for comfort, the buck exploded for the woods, coming within a few feet of running Donnie over.

In his reenactment of the encounter, Donnie proclaimed that the buck could only be named Moses since had never seen a buck that big or old before. The name stuck.

The fall of that same year was difficult for Moses. In many places, a 4 1/2-year-old buck would have a relatively easy go at becoming the area’s dominant buck. Unfortunately for Moses, Buffalo County is not the norm, and competition was fierce.

One day that fall, Tom had a hunter posted in a side-hill stand. The hunter heard what could only be described as an all-out brawl. Suddenly, the tone of the battle changed and, to the hunter’s delight, appeared to be getting closer. Peering intently toward the rapidly approaching sounds of chaos, the hunter was left awestruck as two world-class bucks came tumbling down the hill. With antlers locked, Moses and another buck rolled right past the stand, leaving the hunter without a shot and speechless.

With the legend picking up steam, 2005 added to the buck’s mythical status. His rack suffered from the beating his body had taken the year before. Although the buck was still a hoss by anyone’s standards, a leg injury and numerous fights had cost the rack 5 1/2 inches.

That certainly didn’t make the encounter any less exciting for the hunter who walked up on the buck as he headed to an afternoon stand. With his release still in his pack, the hunter nocked an arrow and decided to take a finger shot. The arrow zipped harmlessly below the buck’s belly, leaving both the hunter and Moses shaken by yet another close call.

Then the buck had encounters with three hunters in one day. Studying his logs, Tom was convinced that Moses was in a certain area and placed hunters in the three stands that covered it best.

Sitting on top the ridge, the first hunter spotted Moses following a hot doe toward his stand. Prepping for the shot, the hunter was ready, only to have the buck stop a step short for no apparent reason. The hot doe, completely unaware of any danger, proceeded to walk calmly through the shooting lane. Moses, on the other hand, must have sensed something wasn’t right and cautiously made a buttonhook down the ridge.

Stopping halfway down in some thick cover, the buck stood motionless for more than 30 minutes — just one step away from the second hunter’s shooting lane. Moses finally backed out and dropped to the bottom of the ridge, where the third hunter awaited him.

Lucky or Cursed?There should have been no way for the buck to slip unharmed between the three hunters, but he kept just enough cover between him and the third hunter to do just that. In all three cases, he’d come within a step of being arrowed.

As incredible as that was, an encounter early in the 2006 season was surreal. A good friend and TV host had made it his mission to be the one to tag Moses. He had a connection with a farmer who owned a small piece of cover that adjoined the Bluff Country Outfitters property. He and Tom figured that Moses liked to bed down next to the outfitter’s driveway and on the neighbor’s adjoining point. When my friend went in to scout the point, three huge, well-worn beds affirmed the suspicion.

My friend was set up and ready as Moses stepped into the shooting lane. Watching the film, you can hear the host’s repeated assurances that the cameraman could get the shot on tape. After one last check to be sure the camera was on the buck and framed properly, my buddy let his arrow fly. The arrow entered squarely behind the buck’s shoulder, and Moses did a mule kick and tore off, the camera following his every bound.

Having seen the footage, I understand why the hunter and cameraman celebrated. Going through the shot frame by frame, it appears to be perfect. Still, after two days of tracking and the last sign of blood found 3/4 mile away, Moses was nowhere to be found.

“The next three weeks were a sad and anxious time,” Indrebo said. “Everyone who saw the tape believed Moses was dead. The idea of leaving any animal to rot in the woods is a horrible thought. Somehow, this was even worse.”

Meanwhile, another of Tom’s hunters swore he saw the buck. Sure enough, Moses sightings began to pop up. The TV host sighted him four more times from the stand, and scouting cameras began to yield his pictures. Twice, Tom captured him on video, once in his yard chasing a doe when the surrounding woods were filled with hunters dreaming of a crack at the buck.

The End of a Legend

That brings us to Nov. 19, 2006, the second day of Wisconsin’s rifle season. The father/son team of Geno and Trevor Oleson were taking a break from hunting to watch the Packers football game. As long-time friends of Tom, they had a trailer on the ridge above his camp. In exchange for helping with hunters, Indrebo allowed them to hunt his farm.

After the game, Geno prodded his son and convinced him to sit in a stand that didn’t look very promising. Further complicating matters was that Geno had left before Trevor and accidentally took his son’s gun. Trevor had no choice except to use a gun he’d never shot.

That set the scene for Moses stepping out of the woods and trotting toward Trevor’s stand. With the buck at 25 yards, Trevor saw no need to allow it to get any closer. He placed the crosshairs squarely on its chest, took a deep breath and squeezed off the shot.

Watching the buck kick, Trevor knew he’d hit it. Still, when Moses stopped at 70 yards, Oleson placed the crosshairs on its shoulder and fired again. The buck dropped in its tracks.

“I was so excited that I had to sit down for a minute,” explained Oleson. “I was experiencing the ultimate high and couldn’t believe what I’d just done. I’d actually shot Moses! That’s when things changed. As I sat staring at him, he got up and started running away. Shouldering the gun, I emptied the clip on him before he disappeared over the knoll. I couldn’t believe it! Was Dad’s gun that far off that I’d only stunned him?

“I did my best to gather myself before I climbed down. I knew I’d hit him and wanted to get after him before it got dark. When I got to the edge of the knoll, I saw Moses lying there. I didn’t know it yet, but I’d actually hit him all five times. I’d gone from the ultimate high to a rock-bottom low and back to the ultimate high again. I couldn’t believe it. I was awestruck.

Though not scored in the Buckmasters system, it’s safe to say that the buck breaks the 180-inch mark in the irregular category. Including spread, the rack is well over 200 inches. It’s easy to understand why taking such a legendary animal would be an experience never forgotten by the father-and-son team.

For more information on Bluff Country Outfitters, call (608) 685-3755 or visit bluffcountryoutfitters.com

This article was published in the November 2007 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

Copyright 2018 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd