Story by: Nate Prokop | WI Deer Hunter
A bow hunt on November 8th, 2013 started out like any other morning hunt. The rut was in full swing and my brother, Jason, and I had taken a few days off of work to try to capitalize on some Wisconsin rutting whitetails. It was a cool, frosty morning with light winds and we were just happy to be up in a tree waiting for some action. It was a relatively slow morning without much activity besides some wild turkeys and grey squirrels. It was about 9:00 a.m. when I heard a deep buck grunt and started to see glimpses of a couple of deer working my way down an old two-track trail that leads to my stand. As the deer got closer I could tell it was a good buck and got ready for the shot. The doe walked in front of me and the buck stood behind a large red pine about 30 yards away. I could see glimpses of rack and knew it was a shooter. The doe kept walking and I prepared to come to full draw when the buck moved past the pine that was obstructing my view and shooting lane. Unfortunately, as they moved along, the buck quartered away from me and ended up not providing a shot, but I did get a clear view of the size of the animal as he trailed the doe.
I’ve seen and shot some nice deer in my life, but the immense size of this buck drew my attention immediately. The rack was tremendous – it had a large split G2, incredible tine length, was super wide, and had great mass. As I sat in my tree I conservatively figured the buck to be easily 165-170 inches and was hoping to see him again. After the buck disappeared, I texted my brother and told him I had just seen a giant in the mid 160’s. I didn’t see any more deer that morning and met with my brother around 10 a.m. to have a sandwich and share our morning stories.
After receiving my text, my brother had pulled the card out of our trail camera on his way out. The camera was placed over a large community scrape that lies between the stands we sat in that morning. As he started to go thru pictures he immediately paused and asked, “Is this the buck?”
“Oh my goodness, that is a BEAST!” he said. We had a blurred picture of him at 8:43am, ten minutes before I saw him that morning and a clear picture of him at 7:40pm the night before. The picture truly confirmed the size and maturity of the animal. We proceeded to call the buck “The Beast” from that moment on and figured he would score around 180″. We had more trail camera pictures of him that year, but unfortunately no more encounters with the deer throughout bow and gun season.
As we entered into the 2014 bow season we had pictures of numerous shooter bucks, but no signs of “The Beast” until November. We started to get pictures of him on a regular basis the last week of bow season and throughout the gun season, but all at night. We went through another season of wondering where he lived, where he was and if he made it through the season. We knew that if any neighbors had harvested him we would have heard of it and another season came and went with “The Beast” living on.
Now we enter the 2015 deer season. A job change for me and frequent work travel for my brother limited our opportunity to bow hunt. Our scouting consisted of mostly trail camera monitoring. We had some good bucks on camera, but again, no signs of “The Beast” leading into the 2015 Wisconsin Gun opener.
Opening day of Wisconsin deer season is always a treasured time of year. Hunters of all ages head into the woods in hopes to harvest a deer. My morning started like it has in years past hunting with my brother. We each headed to our stands before daylight and sat all day. I saw a couple of does early in the morning and then the woods was relatively quiet for the next few hours. Around 10:30am I was watching some turkeys behind me and slowly turned back around to search the thick cover for any movement. About 100 yards away my eyes locked on a buck who was just cresting the hill, but was now standing alert and looking my way. I immediately knew this was a definite shooter and said to myself, please let me get a shot. My gun was resting between my legs and I had to let the buck make the next move so I could remain undetected. He started down the trail and I knew he was only going to give me a couple of chances to shoot before he would be out of sight.
Nate with his giant Wisconsin Whitetail the next morning
I shouldered my .270 and got set in the only opening I had. He trotted head-to-the-ground on a mission to somewhere or something. With the safety off, I rested my gun and got ready to fire. Just before the buck hit the opening, he stopped! Most of the buck was behind trees or brush, but I could make out part of the front shoulder and neck. I put the cross hairs on the shoulder and squeezed. As expected, he was out of sight with a single jump over the hill. I sat down, excited and confident that I had made a good hit on a good buck on opening day.
I was pretty sure it was a buck I had seen bow hunting that year in the same area, potentially a 150” deer. I only had a couple of quick glimpses, but I knew it was a trophy. I waited about 15-20 minutes before getting down to search for the deer. I made a rookie mistake and went to the area I thought he went and just looked for the deer since I was confident in the shot. After struggling through some thick brush and trees with no deer found, I decided to go back to my stand to figure out where he was when I shot. There was no snow and the area I was hunting is an old red pine forest with thick underbrush which made it very difficult to see or find sign. I narrowed it down to the exact spot I figured he was when I shot and still could not find any blood or hair. I then took the trail I thought he ran on after the shot for about 100 yards, and still, no blood. I proceeded down a few trails that branched out looking for blood, hair, or any sign of the deer. I was still confident in my shot, but doubts started creeping in my head that I may have missed.
It is now after 12:00pm and I was sweaty, tired, and hungry, so I decided to go to my stand, have a bottle of water and consult with my brother and friend Bruce Nelson. They both assured me I probably made a good shot, but with the thick brush and a shoulder hit I may not get much blood or hair. While I was resting, my brother then proceeded to walk the woods for an hour in between our stands looking for any sign of the deer. He stopped short of a two-track trail in-between our two stands as he was sure that I would have already looked there. He had no luck as well.
After about an hour rest I went back to where I shot at him and did find a twig smaller than a pencil that the bullet hit confirming our theory. After literally crawling on my hands and knees, I did find one speck of blood about the size of a pin head 30 yards down the trail I suspected the buck went on. I continued to take different deer trails down to a thick swamp where I assumed the buck would want to escape . . . no luck.
Now it is 3:30 in the afternoon and I am very frustrated, disappointed, and miffed, but continued searching. I take the same trail I had walked before, but go the opposite direction down a two-track trail that leads back out to where we parked our vehicles. As I looked down the trail about 150 yards away on a wide open grassy bank, I could see something white. As I kept getting closer, my wishes were granted and there he was!
It is now that I realize the true size of the animal when his rack goes almost up to my waist. Overcome with excitement, I tag the animal and get out of the woods to wait for my brother to help drag the buck out.
As I was getting the truck ready, my brother approached in the dark and asked, “Did you find him?” I said, “YES!” He congratulated me and then he asked, “Is it the one you thought it was?” I said, “No, this one is way bigger and I don’t know how big it is!! Get in my truck and let’s go. NOW!!! “ When we got to the deer we both said at the same time, “It’s The Beast”. The deer I saw two years ago bow hunting and the buck we’ve been chasing for three seasons was in front of us. We looked for the bullet hole and it indeed hit high in the shoulder. There was no exit hole and literally no blood trail at all from where the deer laid.
Many friends were texted and called after the recovery of the deer. A close neighbor and my brother-in-law stopped at the land to see the deer and a small celebration started. Within a matter of minutes, the pictures, and stories were all over the area. A lot of people questioned if the pictures were real or photo shopped. A few stops were made on the way home to celebrate and show the buck to family and friends. Truly a memory I will never forget and am forever thankful for the opportunity. He truly is a WI “Beast”.
The buck officially scored 198 3/8” gross Typical Boone and Crockett. It had an inside spread of 23 1/8″, G2’s of 14” and 13 4/8”, longest main beam was 28 4/8” with most circumferences over 5”. After 8 1/8” abnormal points and deductions it netted 170 6/8” typical.