Ben! You've Got a Monster!

Ben! You've Got a Monster!

Last month, Minnesota Game & Fish told you about the highest-scoring gun buck killed in 2006 in Minnesota. But if you include muzzleloaders in the gun category, this buck smokes them all! (December 2007)

The rack on Ben Knisley's 13-point non-typical buck spreads 26 inches tip to tip. The inside spread measures 25 3/8 inches. The buck's gross score was 205 7/8 points. Lack of symmetry deducted 21 3/8 points. The final official score: 184 4/8 points.

Photo by Hugh Price.

Ben Knisley was in his favorite tree stand. He'd been sitting there for several hours when three nervous does hurried by while frequently looking back. He thought there might be a buck trailing them. He sat up and cocked his .54-caliber Hawken muzzleloader.

Then he saw the buck. It was about 70 yards away and on a track that would bring him right in front of Ben's tree stand for a 40-yard shot.

He rested the Hawken on the railing and sighted down the iron sights. He got the buck lined up and squeezed the trigger. There was a loud report and a cloud of smoke. The buck ran off, stopped at about 70 yards and looked back. Did he miss? He hurriedly ran a wet patch down the barrel and began reloading for a second shot.

Ben Knisley is 23 years old. He's been hunting since he was just a kid. He comes from a family of avid deer hunters. He grew up on his dad's farm, and his dad started him deer hunting. His Uncle Dick, one of the most avid deer hunters in the family, was a mentor and hunting buddy. About five years earlier, Ben read an article on muzzleloaders and became interested in the primitive firearms. He's been hunting with a muzzleloader the past five years and has taken three deer with his Hawken. He buys a multi-season license so he can hunt both Minnesota's firearms and muzzleloader seasons.

Ben recalled the day of his hunt.

"It was Saturday morning, opening day of the Minnesota deer season, I hunted alone on Dad's 20-acre hobby farm near Paynesville," he began. "I've never taken a deer on the property, but we occasionally see deer on the farm, and I thought it would be neat to take a deer on the home place.

"There is a three-acre alfalfa field on the property with the balance in woods," Ben continued. "Several years ago, I built a permanent stand between several trees that overlook a deer trail paralleling a creek running through the property. I hunted there without any luck until noon and went to the house for lunch. I decided to team up with Uncle Dick on his hunting property for the afternoon."

Ben's Uncle Dick has been an ardent deer hunter all of his life and took up bowhunting 20 years ago to give himself more time in the woods. He owns a 60-acre piece of land he manages for deer hunting. He put up three permanent stands on the property and has an additional four ladder stands he moves around as deer travel patterns change from year to year.

Ben has a favorite stand on his uncle's property. It is one of the permanent stands with a railing around it.

"I like that stand. It fits me and I can rest my rifle on the railing and make accurate shots," he explained. He asked his uncle if he could have that stand for the afternoon hunt.

Uncle Dick recalled the afternoon events.

"Ben's been coming out here to hunt with us for years. He and my son, Ryan, are close to the same age. Ben is 23, and my son, Ryan, is 21. They've both been hunting with me since they were kids. Ben asked me if he could hunt from that same stand he hunted from last year, and I told him to go ahead. I went on to another stand and my son went to a stand he liked farther north.

"About 5 p.m. that evening, I could hear a couple of deer thrashing around in the brush behind my stand," Dick continued. "Then I heard a deer run off through the woods, and all was quiet for about 15 minutes. Then, I began to hear a deer moving around behind me again. I gave a few calls on my grunt call, and he answered me, but it sounded like he was moving off toward Ben's stand. About 15 minutes later, I heard a shot. I thought, I hope he got that deer. A few minutes passed, and I heard another shot. I said to myself, He tracked it down and finished it off. Then, about 15 minutes later, I heard another shot from that direction and I thought, What the hell is going on? I decided to go and check it out and lend a hand if he needed help."

What had happened, Ben later explained, was that a group of does passed in front of his stand with a buck trailing them. The buck was about 100 yards behind them. As soon as they disappeared, the big buck came into view. That's when the action started.

"He was about 70 yards away when I saw him, and I shot when he was about 40 yards away," Ben said. "He bucked up at the shot and ran off to about 100 yards and just stood there. I had time to go through the whole process of cleaning my barrel with a wet patch and reloading my muzzleloader. I couldn't believe he was still standing there. I took careful aim and shot again. He flinched and moved off about another 70 yards and was out of sight for a few minutes. Then I saw him wobbling around out in the corn field. He looked as if he might fall but didn't. Again, I went through the reloading process. He was still standing there about 140 yards out. I took very careful aim with my open sights and held at the top of his shoulders. BOOM! A cloud of smoke rose around me and he disappeared. I was praying that he had dropped there and was just out of sight."

Shortly thereafter, Uncle Dick walked up and called out to Ben. He asked him if he got a deer.

"I don't know," Ben recalled telling his uncle.

"What do you mean, you don't know? Where was he when you shot?"

Ben pointed out the spot where he'd taken his last shot, and his uncle became really annoyed.

"Jesus Christ, Ben! Aren't you trying to shoot a little too far?"

Ben explained to his uncle that his first shot had been at 40 yards, and he was sure he had a good hit on the deer, with his first and second shots, but he couldn't understand why the buck was still standing. Since the deer was still in sight, he said, he decided to take that third shot.

Dick said he was going to look for blood and walked up toward the area Ben described as the spot where he'd last seen the buck out in the corn field. As Dick approached the area, he saw what looked like some corn stalks sticking up out of a clump of ground. As he drew closer, he saw it was antlers. When he got to the buck, he stood over it for a moment in s

hock, and then dropped to his knees.

"Ben! You've got a monster!" he recalled yelling. "You've got a monster here!"

When Ben walked up to the deer, he got his first real look at the antlers.

"We were in shock at the size of his rack," Ben said. "I don't know what we said. We were so excited. We were shouting and jumping around. My cousin heard the shooting, of course, but stayed in his stand until he heard all of the shouting, and then he had to come and see what all the excitement was about. The three of us were like a bunch of school kids on the school playground."

By that time, daylight was fading fast, Ben recalled. His Uncle Dick got his pickup and was able to drive pretty close to where the big buck fell. The three of them dragged the buck to the truck and loaded him in the bed. They took him to Dick's house to show him to the rest of the family. No one in the family has ever killed such a big deer, Ben said. There was much excited talk about the buck, and many old hunting stories were told and retold that evening.

"We hung the deer overnight in my uncle's garage," Ben said. "The next day, we loaded him in my pickup, and I took him to be registered at Hilltop in Paynesville. Klinders in Miltona butchered the deer and took the head and hide off so I could get a shoulder mount. My Uncle Todd took the head and hide to a taxidermist friend, Randy Teriek of T.K. Taxidermy in Lakeville, who did a beautiful shoulder mount."

Ben then took his mount to the Minnesota Deer Classic show in March, where it was officially scored as a typical, measuring 184 4/8 points, and Ben was awarded first place in the muzzleloader division at the Classic.

According to the sixth edition of the Minnesota Record Book, Ben Knisely's buck is the highest scoring typical killed in Meeker County by all methods of modern deer hunting. It also places at No. 47 on the list of the top 100 typical whitetails recorded in the Minnesota records.

The antlers of Ben's buck are very impressive. The rack first appears to be a 10-pointer, except there are 5 major points and 2 non-typical minor points on the right antler, and 4 major points and 2 non-typical minor points on the left antler. The tip-to-tip spread stretches 26 inches. The inside spread measures 25 3/8 inches. The gross score was 205 7/8 points. Lack of symmetry deducted 21 3/8 points. The final official score: 184 4/8 points. One nice buck!

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