Draper: A Cornhusker Trophy on Opening Day

Rut Reporter David Draper grew up hunting deer and small game throughout this region and presently lives on a family farm in Nebraska. Draper, former communications specialist for Cabela's and an authority on the Great Plains, subsists on a diet of duck breast and venison. States covered: ND, SD, NE and KS.

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The Nebraska rifle season opened with a literal bang this past weekend. I heard my first rifle report at 6:59 Saturday morning, and the shooting continued through last light on Sunday, when I climbed down from my stand with a statewide buck tag still unpunched. No worries, though, as I have the rest of the week to hunt and I have some good deer--both whitetails and mulies, I've been scouting for a month. Hopefully at least one of them survived the weekend.

One deer I had a tip on that didn't was this nice 10 pointer taken by my good friend Mark Nelsen about 11 a.m. Saturday morning. I was in a stand a few hundred yards from Nelsen and heard his H&R slug gun bark just as I was about to climb down for a quick lunch break. I made my way over to Nelsen and found him tying his tag to the rack of this nice, tall 10.

The landowner's son had the buck at 30 yards while bowhunting the previous week, but didn't get a shot. I had hoped the Cornhusker buck, or another mature deer, would give me a shot, but Nelsen pulled the lucky stand.

We both enjoyed good activity all morning, including a short-tined 10 that hung out under my stand, rubbing a few cedar trees before making his way in Mark's direction. About 10:45, Nelsen was watching the two-year-old buck harass a doe near him when he spotted another buck also watching the wild rut activity. Mark blew a doe bleat and the bigger buck started to circle downwind.

The property we were hunting was covered in switchgrass that reached up to our shoulders in places. The tall grass, combined with thick stands of Russian olives, made visibility a real factor in our hunts. As Nelsen scanned the brush to his south, he saw the big 10 staring directly at him from a clear about 60 yards away. Mark snapped the 12-gauge to his shoulder, placed the crosshairs a few inches below the white throat patch and dropped the buck where he stood.