The Buck The Boys Named "Booner"

Having good friends in your life is something special. Having them being part of your successful trophy-buck hunt is priceless. Just ask Jacob Rooney and his buddies from tiny Belgrade.

Jacob Rooney's buck had a final score of 184 0/8 typical inches.
Photo courtesy of Jacob Rooney

When a world-class deer is killed, more people than just the hunter feel gratification. The thrill of success seemingly encompasses anyone who was involved with the proceedings of the deer's life, harvest and recovery. From summer sightings to winter shed antler hunts to assisting in the fall partaking in these events, this leads you to feel connected to a deer. For three long-time friends, this shared gratification came to a peak on opening day of Minnesota's second season on Nov. 13, 2004.

Hunting partners since grade school, Jacob Rooney, Kale Graham and Adam Dingmann spend much time together outdoors. Growing up in the small rural town of Belgrade, they have progressed into avid hunters in an area with potential for large bucks. But its full potential wasn't realized until recently.

"It was Feb. 1, 2004, when Adam and I ventured out for the first shed hunt of the year," recalled Kale. "Our expectations were low because a fresh 10 inches of snow blanketed the ground." After an hour, Kale noticed what looked like tines protruding from the snow. After more inspection, he was right. He called Adam over to show off the mid-50-inch 4-point antler. "We were both surprised to have found anything that day," said Kale.

The two looked for a while longer and then headed back toward the truck. Halfway back, Adam tripped on something under the snow. To their surprise, it was an antler. "Our jaws nearly hit the ground as I pulled up the antler and brushed the snow off," Adam said. It was the largest typical shed antler either one of them had ever laid eyes on! "All I could do was give Kale high-fives and say 'Booner!,' " recalled Adam, as in Boone-and-Crockett buck. After a quick search for the other side, they hurried back to the truck and then home to score the shed.

Scoring the left antler at a whopping 92 3/8 inches, the two headed off to show another friend and avid shed hunter, Cory VanBeck. They showed him the smaller 4-point shed. "Cory was amazed we had found anything with the fresh snowfall," said Kale. As Cory congratulated them, Adam pulled out the other shed from his truck. Cory about fell over.

"We named him 'Booner' after the initial scoring," said Adam, "and Cory thought the name was appropriate." From here the quest for Booner began. The other shed wouldn't be found with such fate as the first. It took six weeks and help from Cory to discover the right side of Booner.

Upon discovery of the other side, final estimates on what the deer could score were tallied. The right shed scored 87 7/8 inches, a fine antler on its own, but coupled with the left side and assuming a 20-inch spread, this truly world-class whitetail would score 200 2/8 inches as a typical!

"When Adam found the left side I knew the shape was familiar," said Kale. Its familiarity gave away more details about Booner. A local farmer, Pete Tintes, discovered a nice set of shed antlers two winters earlier while out cross-country skiing. "Adam, Cory and I went over to verify if it could be the same buck," said Kale. "Upon inspection, we knew it was the same buck," said Adam. "His frame was exactly the same!"

The buck's sheds from two years previous scored in at 73 2/8 and 70 3/8 inches, respectively. With an 18-inch spread, "Young Booner" would score over 160 inches. Knowing this information, the trio believed the buck to be a 4 1/2-year old at the time Pete found the sheds. The sheds from Booner in 2004 would have made him a 6 1/2-year-old, leading them to question if he would grow anymore going into his seventh year.

As it is with some bucks, the summer produced no sightings. Even through the archery and first gun season no one had seen hide or hair of the illusive monster. Many nice bucks had been killed, but none the caliber of Booner. Then on Nov. 13 on the start of the second gun season, Jacob awoke at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of his brother's alarm. It had been a restless night, with anticipation of the opening morning stirring his thoughts. "My uncle joined our group this year, and we all met up at the local café for some breakfast," said Jacob. "I joked with them about having my deer by 7 a.m." As hunters we all make claims similar to this, but in Jacob's case, it was about to come true.

After a short drive to their hunting ground, Jacob grabbed his gear and headed for his stand. After applying some scent below his stand, he crawled in for the morning.

"It was 6:30 a.m. by the time I was all settled," said Jacob, "and the action started momentarily after that." Two does proceeded to work their way into a grove. Five minutes later, two more does joined in. This stirred some excitement in Jacob, as he knew the rut was in full swing. "At 6:45 I noticed another deer move into the grove with its head down," explained Jacob. "I was sure it was a buck."

Nearly 10 minutes passed, and to Jacob's dismay, nothing showed. Then Jacob spotted some more movement in the grove. "The deer was about 500 yards out," he said. "Digging into my pocket I pulled out my can call and tipped it over." The deer immediately threw its head in the air and began looking toward Jacob. After tipping the can over a few more times, the buck headed in Jacob's direction. "I couldn't believe the buck was responding with four other does in the field," recalled Jacob. The deer came to within 200 yards and stopped. "All it took was one more turn of the can and he proceeded to come closer." Jacob tried to concentrate on the buck's body instead of its antlers, knowing a shot would soon present itself.

"At 70 yards the buck stopped and looked right at me" said Jacob. He was pinned down without anything to do, so Jacob thought he would wait out the buck. As luck would have it, things started to swing back in Jacob's favor. Nathan, Jacob's older brother, had been watching the morning's events unfold from his stand just 200 yards away. After watching the buck stop as it neared Jacob, Nathan knew he had to act quickly. Raising his grunt call, he let out one loud grunt. The buck swung his head in Nathan's direction, giving Jacob a moment's chance to raise his gun.

"I knew that was my chance," said Jacob, "so I got my gun up and took careful aim." Squeezing the trigger on his Remington 870 slug gun, he took the shot. "I think I was on the ground before the deer was," exclaimed Jacob. At this point Jacob had no idea what kind of trophy he had taken.


"We named him 'Booner' after the initial scoring," said Adam, "and Cory thought the name was appropriate."
 

Nathan met Jacob at the halfway point to where the deer fell. The brothers hustled up to the deer together and shared the excitement, because they knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime buck. It wasn't until Jacob put his hands on it did he realize that it was indeed Booner.

The three reminisced about finding the sheds, and of how much fun and a challenge it had been.

After tagging and loading the deer, Jacob drove into town to the local gas station to register the buck. "Adam is my neighbor and lives right near the gas station," said Jacob, "and I wanted to go over and surprise him with the good news." Adam answered the door and Jacob said he had a deer over at the station. Adam grabbed his coat and was out the door. As the two walked toward the station, Jacob gave in and broke the news. "I shot the biggest deer I have ever seen," exclaimed Jacob. "I think it's Booner!" The rest of the distance to the truck wasn't a walk, but a run, to inspect the trophy. After a quick inspection, Adam knew that it was Booner. Kale met Adam and Jacob at Jacob's parents place around 10 a.m. He had received a phone call from Adam saying that Jacob had killed Booner. The three began to analyze the rack.

As a 7 1/2-year-old, Booner was now a 6x5 with small sticker points on each main beam. His official gross green score was 214 3/8, and the net was 184 0/8 typical inches, making it No. 4 in the Minnesota Deer Classic Record Book, Fifth Edition's "typical, archery" category. A large amount of inches lost resulted from the deer not growing a sixth point on its right side. If that tine would have grown, the rack could have surpassed the John Breen buck from 1918 at 202 0/8 inches.

Jacob retold the story of the hunt and about the events leading up to him harvesting Booner. "Without the quick thinking of my brother Nathan, he would still be out there," said Jacob, "and I wouldn't have had my deer by 7 a.m.!"

"It's gratifying to see one of my friends harvest Booner, since we had put so much time into searching for his sheds and looking for him throughout the year," explained Kale. "I'm just glad to have been a part of it!"

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