If you need to manage a huge property to consistently grow mature whitetails, just try telling that to Chad Garteski, who arrowed a 184-inch monster on a 100-acre tract in southeastern Minnesota on September 18th. The heavy-racked buck was one Garteski knew well. “He was just a regular, not only on that farm, but in a certain corner that other mature bucks use frequently,” he told F&S. “I was obviously excited when he showed up, but not surprised.”

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Garteski’s buck was faithful to a small core area, and was a regular on the hunter’s trail cameras. Joe Braun

The buck was one Garteski, an expert whitetail hunter who owns Weiss Realty and sells hunting properties for a living, had targeted the year before. “There were several nice bucks using that farm, but that buck was special to me. I called him the ‘Jam-4’ buck, because he’d jammed his G4 on something in velvet and had an acorn on the end of that point. Between that and his frame, he was hard to mistake for any other deer.”

A Close Call in 2021

After a summer packed with trail-cam pics of the buck, Weiss nearly tagged him on the morning of November 1, 2021. “I spotted him walking across a field about 200 yards out, and I hit the rattling antlers,” he recalled. “He turned on a dime and came trotting in, then stopped to rub a tree about 30 yards away. I could see that if he stepped to one side of the tree, I’d have a great shot, but if he went the other way, he’d probably wind me. Well, he went the wrong way, and stiff-legged it across the field; he knew something wasn’t quite right. I was afraid he was really spooked, but I got a pic of him on a trail cam early that very afternoon.”

Garteski shot another great deer that fall, a heavy-beamed buck that grossed in the 150s, and he was later relieved when trail-cam pics revealed that the Jam-4 buck had survived the hunting seasons. “I had plenty of winter food—corn, soybeans, and brassicas—on the farm, so I was pulling in deer, and I was getting plenty of pics of him. Finally in February, I had pics of a shed buck that I was sure was him. I went out on February 14th and found both sides, lying only 15 yards apart. They scored 73 inches each, and still had blood on the bases, so he’d shed them within the last day or so.”

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Garteski found both sides of the buck’s sheds only a few yards apart last February. Chad Garteski

One and Done on Day 2

As the summer of 2022 progressed, the Jam-4 buck returned to his favorite area on Garteski’s farm. “I actually think he was kind of conditioned to me,” Garteski laughed. “I’d go to that spot to mow, or check a camera, and within an hour or two of my leaving, he’d be in front of the camera, in daylight. So he was obviously living somewhere close by. I was pretty excited about my chances for the archery opener.”

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Garteski had numerous pictures of the buck as the season approached, this one on August 26th. Chad Garteski
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A daylight shot at the end of August. Chad Garteski

Sunday, September 18, was the second day of the archery season. While temps were quite warm, Garteski had the perfect wind for a setup where he thought the Jam-4 buck might appear. “This stand is near what I call a ‘pocket plot’ of clover and chicory next to the woods,” he said. “There’s also good shooting to a pond tight to the timber. Bucks love to hit that spot on their way out to bigger ag fields, and most of my pics of the Jam-4 buck came from a camera there.”

As the evening wore on, Garteski realized that the warm temps were probably suppressing overall deer movement. As it turned out, he saw only one deer, but it was the right one. “About prime time I could hear a deer moving,” Garteski said. “When I finally saw the buck I knew it was Jam-4, but he looked strange, and then I realized he had shreds of velvet hanging off and twisted around his rack. He disappeared into some brush for awhile, but I could still hear him in there. Finally he walked out on the pond dike and shook his head back and forth. With that hanging velvet going back and forth, it was a pretty amazing sight.”

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Garteski’s buck had shreds of velvet hanging from its rack. Joe Braun

Finally the buck stepped into the pond to drink, and Garteski had a perfect 40-yard broadside opportunity. “I settled in and picked a spot, then took the shot,” he said. “I knew the buck was in trouble immediately and was pretty sure I’d heard him crash. I texted my friend Joe Braun to see if he could come help me, and he said he was on his way. When Joe got there, we had a short tracking job; the buck had gone only 70 yards, and died only 50 yards from where I’d found his sheds in February.”

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A last look at Garteski’s great buck. Joe Braun

While one side of the Jam-4’s rack had lost a little tine length from the year before, the buck had more than made up for it by piling on mass. “He was 4¾ inches at the base, but 6½ on the other circumferences,” Garteski said. “His longest tines were over 11 inches, one main beam was 28-½ inches long, and we came up with a rough gross of 184 and change. To be honest, I didn’t do the best job of scoring him, because I wanted the taxidermist to preserve all the velvet  still on him, and I didn’t want to mess that up; it was hanging in some places and almost braided around his tines and beams in others. I sent the pic to a few friends, who thought it was barbed wire, wrapped around him. He’s a pretty incredible buck, and I couldn’t be happier.”