Chris Wenisch, an environmental health specialist with the Kandiyohi County Public Health Department in Minnesota, tagged this 16-point public land prize one week after missing a tough shot on the buck at 30 yards. View the slideshow to learn how a smart move put Wenisch in perfect position to make the most of his second chance.
Wenisch got his first crack at the buck while hunting a public area in western Minnesota on September 29th, the second week of Minnesota’s archery season.
He had raised his climbing stand in a grove of mature oaks, where the old growth woods presented several 50-yard shooting lanes–the one exception being directly in front of him, where a tree provided cover but blocked his view to the south.
Wenisch was set up on a point surrounded on three sides by a creek, with a cornfield to his east and another to the north. In front of him, 90 yards to the south, was a stand of grass near the creek bank where he suspected deer were bedding.
Bucks were still running in bachelor groups, and he spied a band of three late in the afternoon. Holding out hope for a big deer, he let them walk. The bucks had approached from the southwest, right where he expected them.
Twenty minutes before the end of shooting light, another group of three bucks appeared. Among them was a shooter. Trouble was, the deer walked in directly from the south, where the tree he’d used for a screen blocked his shot.
Squatting in a catcher’s stance, Wenisch found he could just thread the needle between branches. But further complicating matters was a 20-mph crosswind.
“On private land, I would never have taken such a difficult shot,” Wenisch says. “I’d just let them walk and hunt them another day. But on public land, with the waterfowl hunters about to flood in for the season opener, I was afraid I’d never see him again.”
He let fly, and the deer retreated only 20 yards before they resumed feeding on acorns. Soon they wandered off without presenting a shot. Wenisch recovered his arrow: No blood, no fur. A clean miss, he thought.
After a week of torrential rains he returned to the same spot Oct. 7, but decided to reposition his stand. Even though it meant getting closer to the bedding area, he moved 15 yards to the south, where he’d have a clear shot if the deer stepped out again.
“I figured that was his pattern, and if he came back again that’s where I’d see him,” Wenisch recalls. “If I didn’t move, I’d have the same problem, and then I’d really be kicking myself.”
He was right, and he was ready: That evening three does stepped out, and the last one kept looking behind. Wenisch raised his bow and waited.
The big buck stepped out at 50 yards and started thrashing a sapling. “When I saw that, my heart started racing,” he recalls. “I had enough time to get a good look at the rack.”
The buck walked toward Wenisch, stopping a time or two to nibble acorns, and quickly closed to 30 yards. As soon as the big deer turned broadside Wenisch loosed a perfect shot.
“He’s the biggest buck I’ve ever seen from a stand,” Wenisch says. “But when I walked up on him I was shocked he had 16 points. I hadn’t known he was that big. I counted the tines over and over.”
Wenisch also discovered a surprise: On the buck’s back, a slit. It was a shallow wound, only skin deep, which his arrow had nicked open a week before.
Only the hide was sliced, no fat or muscle, Wenisch says. “He probably would have been fine, but it made me kind of upset I ever took that first shot and double happy to get him.”
The deer hasn’t been scored, but several people have estimated the rack at 170. “I’m starting to wish I had a green score,” Wenisch says. “I’m getting antsy waiting for the drying period to pass.”
His 4-year-old son, Easton, was in bed when he got home. “I told my wife to get him up. His eyes popped out, and he said, ‘I get to get out of bed?!” He’ll probably remember that more than the deer,” Wenisch laughs.
Wenisch will certainly remember. “It’s been awesome, a three-day adrenaline rush. I couldn’t get to sleep until 2:00 that night.”
What makes this sweet 16 even sweeter is that it came off public land. “I hunt both public and private land, but I do all my bow hunting on public land and I know how crowded and tough it can be. When he stepped out it was almost surreal.”
In fact, a friend tells Wenisch (here with 2-year-old daughter Megan, left, and Easton) that he has nightmares about the monster buck, because he doubts he’ll ever shoot one as nice. But for Wenisch the Minnesota Monster is a dream come true.