For years there had been sightings of the big deer.
But not by Tom Hermel. In 28 years of hunting this stretch of land near Crosslake, he had never seen the big buck. Never even knew it existed.
And in more than 50 years of deer hunting, he had never seen anything like "Mr. Big."
All that changed in a blur last Saturday in the Minnesota firearms deer hunting opener. And when he finally did catch a glimpse of the buck, it was through the scope of his Remington .243 at about 50 yards. The next thing he knew, he was standing over the biggest deer he had ever seen.
"After 55 years and over 3,000 hours in a deer stand, my hubbie, Tom, finally gets Mr. Big!" Hermel's wife, Sharon, wrote in an e-mail.
Several days later, the feat still hadn't sunk in.
"Oh yeah, I never saw a bigger deer. Absolutely. Never even close to that," Tom Hermel said of the 280-pound buck, which dressed out at 221 pounds. He said it had 12 typical and 17 non-typical points and had a green score of 186. He figures the deer was 6-1/2 years old.
Tom Hermel's buck weighed 280 pounds and dressed out at 221 pounds. He said it had 12 typical and 17 non-typical points and had a green score of 186. He figures the deer was 6-1/2 years old.
"A friend I went to church with on Sunday (after the opener) and several of his buddies had been watching him and were aware of him," said Hermel, 62, who lives on Upper Whitefish Lake. "He was well known in the area with the hunters but I never saw him."
Until about 8 opening morning. And even then, it wasn't a great view.
"He was moving," Hermel said. "They walk and then they lope and then they run full speed. When he came by me, I didn't even hear him. Then, boom, he was there. He was loping, trotting, ready to take off.
"I was using a call ... mimicking a doe ... I used it a couple of times and all of a sudden, boom, there he was, looking for the doe. And when they're doing that they're moving fairly rapidly through the woods. There wasn't much time at all (to react)."
After the shot, the deer ran about 40 yards before falling.
"I walked up to him and absolutely couldn't believe it," Hermel said. "An African author - I can't remember his name - said the big ones always look big. And his body was absolutely huge. His third set of horns looked like pipes. He's the biggest deer I've ever seen."
The antlers will be officially measured after a 60-day drying-out period.
"It grosses at 186, with 9-1/2 inches of deductions," Hermel said of the rack. "So that would put it at about 176. I'm hoping it stays above 170, which is (eligible for inclusion in) Boone and Crockett (big-game record club). Even if it doesn't (qualify), it's pretty rare, especially for a typical."
Hermel also filled his doe bonus tag opening weekend - "We just needed some meat; I gave the buck (meat) to someone else" - but barely mentioned the shoot in passing while discussing the big buck.
"I hunted in Africa in 2007 and got a huge cape buffalo," he said. "It took a year for that to set in. This will probably be a little quicker. But I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd see a deer like that."
BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5864.
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