Most weekdays start the same for 36-year-old Kim Acker of rural Waterford, Wisconsin. She wakes with her husband Kurt and sees him off to work, gets her two daughters Lauren, 7, and Mikayla, 5, ready for school and waits with them until their bus arrives. Kim, who has hunted for the past 15 years, keeps a pretty tight schedule while the girls are gone and Kurt is working--caring for the house and running errands are everyday requirements. When the day affords her a break, Kim wastes no time taking advantage and heads out to the yard to take a few shots with her Diamond Bow in case she decides to hunt that evening.
The Ackers help a neighbor, who owns a dairy farm, with repairs and chores in return for permission to hunt the property. The Milwaukee County farm is mostly tilled land with corn on one side and alfalfa on the other with an “L” shaped wooded section between and a thick snarl in the curve, allowing ample cover for deer. Milwaukee County allows only archery hunting for deer and requires a special permit from local law enforcement. This keeps the number of hunters there low and helps protect landowners from trespassers.
Kim and her husband first heard of the buck that would become her prize in early September, 2009 from a neighbor who farms the property and spotted it in a bean field while he was cutting hay. The next day, Kim set up a trail cam on the edge of the field to get a fix on the buck’s movements and check out his size.
Kurt retrieved the camera’s card the following Monday and when they viewed the photos that evening, after the kids were in bed, they were stunned to see what appeared to be a 170-class, 13-point typical whitetail and immediately began planning the best way to harvest the buck.
It was the second week of September and they had two stands set in the wooded “L.” They knew the deer was staying close to the edge of the field and would only appear from the thick cover of the woods at dusk.
Kurt set a stand as close to the bedding area on the side of the woodlot nearest the bean field. He wanted to try and intercept the buck’s nightly dinner run. They used the stand several times but the buck remained shy during daylight hours and only occasionally appeared in the crop and alfalfa fields after legal shooting hours.
The Ackers left the property to hunt together in Argyle for the first week of November, hoping the big buck would change his habits. They saw a couple of nice bucks during their week there, but Kim was still determined to make the big boy back home an addition to their trophy room, so they returned with two open tags.
Upon retrieving the camera card Kim and Kurt were shocked to see the buck was absent from all 125 photos taken while they were gone. They couldn’t find anyone they knew who had seen the deer recently or heard of it being shot. They concluded the buck had moved to one of the neighboring properties in search of willing does. The season ended with no more sightings or news of the buck being harvested, leaving the Ackers to hope they would see him again next season.
January 24, 2010 was a happy day in the Acker house. Kim went to retrieve her camera for the season, as she was concerned the batteries would be low and the snow was starting to accumulate. To her surprise, the photos showed her trophy buck had returned to the wooded lot. Kim and Kurt discussed the buck often prior to the start of this year’s season. They decided to set three different stands in the wooded plot to minimize scent and keep their paths limited to the field edges with their entry covered by the cornfield.
The buck had become a regular in trail cam photos just before the season began and was showing himself during daylight hours as well. He’d gained plenty of mass over the year in the form of a huge, non-typical rack and a lot of length, pushing the buck’s score to over 200 inches.
On the first day of the season in September, the couple decided the wind was wrong and chose not to hunt. Conditions remained unfavorable for several days until the temperature reached almost 80 degrees and there was a slight south wind–just perfect for one of their stands.
Kurt was the first to try his luck. He spotted an 8-point buck that fled when a coyote approached. Otherwise it was an uneventful evening–no monster buck.
When the couple got their next opportunity to hunt, Kurt planned to go to Arglye for a long weekend but offered to wait until dark to give Kim the opportunity to sit in one of their farm property stands. Kim wasn’t totally sold on the idea at first because of the warm temperature, but Kurt convinced her to give it a try.
She was sitting quietly in her stand at 4 p.m., surveying the landscape and marking clear lines of sight. The next couple of hours were slow–aside from a record number of gray squirrels, the forest floor was quiet. The massive oak tree in which her stand was set allowed Kim to watch the area with a generous amount of cover from the sides.
She was looking to her left when the sound of movement on her right sent chills down her spine. She slowly turned and saw the rack she had dreamt about closing in on her position. When the buck walked behind some trees, Kim carefully stood and placed her hand on her bow while watching the buck below her position. When he was directly below her stand, she came to full draw and told herself “don’t look at the rack, pick a spot and pull.” When the mammoth took a step beyond her stand she released her arrow and saw it sink deep into its target. The buck made a hasty retreat into the woods, with his head and tail down, and was quickly out of sight.
Kim wasted no time in calling her husband to tell him she had shot the monster. Kurt said he would take their daughters to his parents’ house and meet her at the farm with their neighbor, Mike, to look for a blood trail. About an hour later they gathered at the treestand, replayed the shot and looked for a trail for about 45 minutes before deciding to wait until morning to avoid pushing the animal if it wasn’t a solid hit.
Kim obviously had trouble sleeping that night as her mind replayed the shot she had taken over and over. Once the girls’ bus left for school in the morning, Kim, Kurt and his brother, Erich, left for the farm.
Thanks to a rain shower during the night, neither the arrow nor a blood trail were anywhere to be found. They traced the buck’s travels as well as they could per Kim’s description and spread out to comb the area.
The group was just about to break for lunch when Kurt noticed something in the heavy brush ahead of him that turned out to be Kim’s buck. The brothers shouted for Kim to join them and they approached the deer cautiously. Seeing that he was still, Kim lowered her bow. It was clear the animal had expired in the night and coyotes had feasted on its hindquarters under the cover of darkness, but the massive rack, and Kim’s trophy, remained intact.
The Ackers wanted to get the trophy cared for as soon as possible in order make sure the hide wasn’t damaged from heat and being left out overnight. They used a game cart to transport the deer to their truck to minimize disturbing the area and returned to the house, taking pictures and calling a few friends and family members and inviting them over to view Kim’s trophy.
The Ackers are friends with a group of people who hunt, fish, and camp together throughout the year and enjoy celebrating each other’s successes. One of the group’s members, Tim Richardson, started a club a few years ago to honor members who have shot a big buck, bestowing them with the title of “Gronk.” Kim’s tag clearly made her a member of the Gronk Club. The initial score indicates she should make it into a few other prestigious clubs as well.
The buck was taken to a Browtine Taxidermy in Mukwonago, WI where he was green scored at 202 3/8 inches, which would make it the largest buck ever taken by a hunter in Milwaukee county by any method.
If the score holds after the required 60-day drying period, it appears it will be the largest buck ever taken by a woman with a bow in the state of Wisconsin, and could rank in the top 25 Wisconsin bucks of all time, according to Pope and Young. Kim’s “Gronk” should easily meet the requirement for entry into the record books of Boone and Crocket and Wisconsin’s Buck and Bear Club as well.
Kim Acker is a 36-year-old mother of two living in Waterford, WI with her husband Kurt. In addition to being a homemaker, she is also a hunter and has been for 15 years. Soon, once the score is confirmed, she will most likely have the biggest whitetail buck taken by a woman with a bow in the big-deer state of Wisconsin with a handsome 200-class buck she arrowed in September. She only claimed her trophy after a full year of searching for a shot and being tantalized by trail cam photos of the big brute. Here’s the full story of the hunt and everything that led up to it from Eugene Mancl.