Badger State bucks have dominated the national record books for more than 75 years. Pick a category and a Wisconsin whitetail is sure to be among the Top 10. Here’s a look at three of last year’s top entries.
Fans of record-book whitetails know that Wisconsin has long been a producer of world-class bucks. In fact, the Badger State continues to be one of the top Boone and Crockett Club deer-producing states in North America. It’s no surprise that the Wisconsin archery typical record was broken three times in four seasons! In 2012 Dusty Gerrits took a Fond du Lac County bruiser that officially scored 187 7/8, becoming the new state record. That buck was beaten in 2014 by a 191 6/8-inch Dodge County deer killed by Brian Hupf. Next, John Kassera topped them all again in 2015. Even more incredible is that four of the top five ranking bucks in Wisconsin have been taken since 2008! It only makes sense that serious trophy hunters have fixed their sights on the Badger State.
Historians of whitetail records will not be surprised to find that several of Wisconsin’s bucks have also been listed as world records. A century after the James Jordan buck’s demise, this stunning 5×5 still ranks No. 2 on Boone and Crockett’s all-time list of typicals. With a net score of 206 1/8, the rack held official world record status from when it was panel-scored in 1966 until Milo Hanson killed his 213 5/8-inch basic 12-pointer in Saskatchewan in 1993. Milo’s buck was ruled No. 1 by B&C in 1995. In effect, the Jordan buck had been the world’s top-scoring typical whitetail buck for 79 years.
Speaking of longtime records, the Joe Haske typical taken with a Savage .30-30 in Wood County in 1945 featured a 7×6 rack with a net score of 197 5/8. That buck still stands as Wisconsin’s No. 2 typical buck, second only to the legendary Jordan buck.
The list of incredible Wisconsin bucks goes on and on. In fact, the most recent edition of the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club record book listing all of Wisconsin’s top bucks, including new entries from as recently as 2016, just went on sale in October. Interested students of big Badger State bucks should log onto wi-buck-bear.org for more information.
THE BARENZ BUCK
Gary Barenz has been hunting Waukesha County whitetails for more than 16 years. His first “real” trophy, he says, was a 138 4/8-inch 8-pointer he took in 2000. The buck had a 23 4/8-inch spread, which equates to more than enough deer to please most hunters.
“I was not a trophy hunter by any means,” Barenz told me recently. “I have killed two other 8-pointers, a 6-pointer and several does.”
He had never seen nor was he looking for a serious trophy buck when the 2016 crossbow season opened, but it didn’t take him long to make up his mind to shoot when the big buck appeared unexpectedly.
“I was hunting some swampy cover on my cousin’s farm. I had been hunting with my Parker Thunderhawk
crossbow for the last two years due to a shoulder injury. I’d seen some spikes, does and a couple of small 4-pointers but the big ones were staying well out of range.”
On Oct. 25 Barenz decided to try a different stand. The property contains a variety of wooden and ladder-type tree stands, and so he picked a homemade stand in a finger of woods between a soybean field and a patch of grass.
“I noticed a big rack moving along the edge of the treeline,” Barenz recalled. “I then realized there was only one shooting lane on that side, a 2-foot opening in the brush.”
As luck would have it, the buck stopped for a moment in the only place Barenz would have a shot, just 22 yards out. The hunter released his arrow and made a perfect heart shot. The buck bolted, running just 30 yards before piling up.
“I called my wife to tell her about the buck but I had terrible phone service and couldn’t get her to understand what I was saying,” Barenz laughed. “I climbed out of the stand and moved toward the deer and he just got bigger and bigger the closer I got!”
The buck turned out to be one of the biggest bucks taken in Wisconsin last year and should end up being our No. 2 crossbow buck. The gross score for the 18-pointer was 208 5/8, according to the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club. The deer’s G-2s were 13 inches long and one G-3 was 11 2/8 inches. With deductions, the net score came to 197 7/8 inches, a monster rack by any standard.
“I believe the rack stands as Wisconsin’s No. 4 archery buck but it will probably be No. 1 in the crossbow category, although the WBBC does not as yet have any crossbow listings because we’ve only been allowed to hunt with crossbows for the last two years,” Barenz noted.
“My deer took Best of Show in a recent WBBC banquet, so it’s definitely quite a buck. I also shot another nice buck during the firearms season, so I’d say I had a pretty good year.”
Most Wisconsin deer hunters would have to agree that Barenz had experienced “a pretty good year” indeed!
There’s no question that Barenz’s buck is a tremendous trophy — no matter where it ends up in the WBBC listings.
THE HINZ BUCK
Richland County deer hunter Trevor Hinz began his deer hunting career at the age of 12 on about 100 acres of family owned property.
Hinz’s 2016 deer season got off to what can only be described as a discouraging start. His grandfather and hunting partner passed away a week before the season opened. And then Hinz’s dog died the following Friday.
Although his mind wasn’t entirely on deer hunting, Hinz knew there was a big buck roaming the area. Trail cameras had picked up several images of the buck over a 3-year period but no one hunting the property ever saw the animal during legal shooting hours.
Hinz went out early on Nov. 20 to hunt a makeshift ground blind. His girlfriend sat next to him but, unfortunately for her, she was on Hinz’s left side. He spotted the buck coming through the woods, from his right, about 70 yards away. Hinz offered her the shot but she was in an awkward position and could not get a good look at the buck. She decided she could not shoot safely, and so that’s when Hinz aimed in with his Browning .300 Short Mag.
The 180-pound, 10-pointer ran about 50 yards and collapsed. The very symmetrical rack had 27-inch beams with evenly matched bases of 5 6/8 inches. The G-2 on the left was 11 7/8 inches while the right-side G-2 was 9 6/8 inches. The rack’s final score was 177 2/8 inches.
Hinz felt fortunate to have gotten this great buck. And then, while skinning the animal, he found a bullet under the hide of the right shoulder and a bad wound channel that extended all the way from the other side. Hinz is sure that the huge buck would have died eventually from the damage and it was pure luck that he happened to be in the right place at the right time.
A sign from Grandpa? Hinz would like to think so!
THE SHEAR BUCK
Garrett Shear was hunting Sept. 18, opening weekend of bow season, with his Bowtech compound on the family farm in Sauk County. The stand Shear was hunting from had been surrounded by alfalfa in previous years, but in 2016 the area around the stand was covered with corn, which drew deer to the area from miles around. In fact, Shear had passed on at least five different bucks, including one 140-class 8-pointer.
At 7 p.m., however, Shear’s luck took a turn for the better. He was waiting for a much larger buck that had been seen on trail cameras as much as 3/4 of a mile away from the farm, as well as others closer to the stand he’d been hunting. At last, the huge typical that later scored 174 1/8 came into the field and offered him a clean shot at 30
“The buck took off and I lost him in the corn,” Shear recalled, “but I knew he was hard hit and big, so I let him sit for a while.”
In fact, Shear when home and had dinner, and then went back again to look for the deer.
“I found the arrow but the blood didn’t look quite thick or dark enough, so I left him overnight in hopes that he’d die without a long, difficult chase,” Shear said. “I found him the next morning about 70 yards away.”
The 210-pound buck sported a massive 10-point main frame with a small sticker point on the left G-2, making him a typical 11-pointer by WBBC scoring standards. Total deductions came to a mere 3 4/8 inches, minute for a rack of those dimensions!
IS IT YOUR TURN?
There’s no doubt that every licensed hunter in Wisconsin would love to lay claim to one of the state’s incredible typical or non-typical bucks. And with regular annual harvests of more than 300,000 animals, it’s a sure bet that a trophy-class buck can be found in virtually any county that is open to hunting, particularly during the rut.
If there’s a “secret” to taking big bucks in Wisconsin it is pure and simple: Patience. All the hunters who have taken record-book bucks in recent years echo the same refrain: “I passed on several smaller bucks because I was waiting for a big one.”
It makes sense in a one-buck-per-season state that if you shoot the first small or average buck you see during archery season you are done for the year and cannot take another — unless you plan to hunt during the firearms season as well. Even then, taking two outstanding bucks in on year is extremely difficult. It can be done and has been, but the odds for doing so are minimal at best.
Most of the Badger State’s top trophy hunters rely on scouting, trail camera images, and private property to help control and balance their hunts. It only makes sense to hunt areas where big bucks are known to exist and then to limit competition by hunting places where few other hunters will be found.
In fact, all three of the top bucks featured in this story were taken on family farms or privately held lands. Those were the kinds of spots where good numbers of deer could be found, plenty of stand options were available, and all hunters on the property were known to the landowners and a small handful of participants.
It is possible to take record-book-class bucks from wildlife management areas, state forests, and similar public lands, but the key to success is in finding remote, seldom-hunted terrain where the hunter has a good chance of being alone in a corner of the woods where deer feeding and bedding areas — as well as whitetail travel lanes — are too far off the beaten track for average or recreational deer hunters to venture. If you want to take a trophy-class buck, you’ll have to do your homework, put in your time, and do everything you can to raise the odds in your favor. It can be done, as the record books clearly show, but it’s never easy, even in a great trophy-deer state like Wisconsin.
With a new season upon us, every hunter in Wisconsin is on equal footing when it comes to taking one of our state’s top-end whitetails. Are you up to the challenge?