Photo courtesy of Nate Simonson.
Two young Nebraska deer hunters — one 27, the other 14 — may have reached the zenith of their hunting careers last season, when each bagged a buck that wore a monumental rack.
Pleasant Dale’s Gus Shy nailed his trophy on the second morning of the season, bringing it down not far from the small farming community just west of Lincoln that is the 14-year-old’s hometown. The big whitetail carried a total of 25 points (13×12) and was scored as a non-typical.
Nate Simonson, a 27-year-old Lincoln appliance technician, wanted a “nice” buck, but had only one day to hunt. He scored big on opening day, dropping a 20-point (11×9) mule deer in Cherry County, on a ranch north of Mullen. His buck was scored as a non-typical as well.
“My biggest one before the monster was a typical mule deer that scored 170 under the Boone and Crockett scoring system,” Simonson said. “Lady Luck played a big part in my bagging the big one.”
Simonson was hunting from a bale pile on the edge of a pivot irrigation system. He’d picked the ground blind because relatives had been seeing quite a few deer, including a couple of decent bucks, in the field prior to the season. A native of Mullen, the hunter wasn’t a novice to Sandhills deer hunting, having killed a deer every year, except for one, since he turned 14.
“I was in the bales by 6 a.m.” he said. “Sunrise was about 7:30, which made legal shooting time about 7. Once it got light enough to see, I spotted some six or seven deer coming into the field about 400 yards away, but they moved behind me and went over a little hill out of sight.
“I decided to make a sneak on them and when I edged up over the top of the rise I saw them at 200 to 250 yards. I did note a little spike buck and the big one with the does. When I put the scope on him I still couldn’t see his rack clear enough to count points, but it looked bigger than any I had seen before.”
Simonson was shooting a bolt-action Remington in .270 caliber with a 3-9X Tasco scope on it; he had the scope set (as best he can recall) on 9X. “When I zeroed in on the big buck the light still wasn’t very good,” he said, “but I put the cross hairs right behind his shoulder and squeezed off a shot. He flinched and dropped in his tracks.
“When I got to him, I saw his rack was huge. I began counting the points and found he had 11 on one side and 9 on the other — by far the biggest buck I had ever taken. I figured he would measure out as a non-typical.
“My dad, Dick, and cousin, Richard Piersol, were back at the ranch house, which was not far away, and heard the shot. They came out to the field to see what I had shot, and they too were impressed with the rack and size of the deer. We guessed it would go over 200 pounds. It took all three of us to load it on the bed of our the truck.”
When Simonson had the head measured for the record book, it scored 210 4/8 under the Boone and Crockett scoring system as a non-typical mule deer. That score places it 24th in the Nebraska big game record book.
Big non-typicals, either mule deer or whitetails, are not all that common in Nebraska. Currently, more than 40 non-typical mule deer in the book that score over 200 were taken with a firearm. The whitetail picture is similar, with the top 20 scoring over 212. The largest mulie taken by firearm was shot in Wheeler County in 1995 by Leo Dwyer of Elgin. Owen Madden of Wauneta has the largest one taken since the year 2000. Scoring 230 6/8, it was taken in Chase County during the 2005 season.
Before Gus Shy whacked the record-book whitetail last year, he’d taken two other bucks — a 4×4 and a 3×4. Here’s his story.
“I guess you would have to say I was super-lucky to get the big buck,” the teenager began. “I was hunting from a tree stand along a creek bottom on the edge of a cut cornfield. My dad, Pat, was hunting the other side of the field from a tree stand as well. I was in my stand before it got light. I saw some does and a little forkhorn move by. About an hour after it got light, I was looking to my right and was turning slowly when I caught a glimpse of a big buck about 40 yards away to my left. I didn’t count points; it looked like he had a brushpile on his head.
“When I raised my rifle to put the scope on him there was a shot — my dad had shot at him! The buck ran across the corner of the field and into the brush.
“I was pretty mad at Dad, and called him on my cell phone. He told me he shot because he thought I didn’t see the buck. He had watched it for a couple of minutes and I didn’t shoot, so he decided he would. He told me he didn’t know if he hit the deer or not, but he told me to sit tight, as he was going to go check it out.”
The Milford ninth grader has hunted deer for three years. Having started out with a lever-action .30/30, he currently shoots a Ruger bolt action in .243 caliber, fitted with a 3-9X Simmons scope. He had it set on 5X when the big whitetail showed up for the second time.
“It was something like 10 minutes after I had talked to Dad that I saw the buck coming slowly through the trees along the edge of the field,” Gus continued. “I shot when he got to about 40 yards, and he just stopped and stood there. I quickly cranked a fresh round in the rifle and shot again. The buck lurched forward and piled up.
“Dad came over, and we saw (the buck) was hit by both shots. We were pretty excited when we saw the rack he was carrying — 13 points on one side and 12 on the other. I couldn’t believe it! When I thought about it later, he had more points on his rack than the other two bucks I had taken combined — 25 vs. 15.”
When it was time to score the rack, the young hunter was told that it was an impressive 221 7/8. That score places it ninth in the Nebraska record book — tied with one taken by Gary Hermsmeier, of Jansen in Jefferson County, in 1974.
The top non-typical whitetail taken with a firearm in our state scored 242 5/8. It was shot in Nance County by Robert Snyder of Genoa in 1961. In 2005 Steve Behrens of Holmesville took one in Gage County that scored 216 1/8 and Cal Glidden of Fort Calhoun put his name in the r
ecord book the same year with one that scored 214 1/8.
We would be remiss in our journalistic duty if we didn’t get into the biggest non-typical taken in our state. And it was killed by a bowhunter!
Del Austin of Hastings heads the list in the Nebraska record book for whitetails. His kill has dominated the Nebraska book since 1962, when he bagged a huge buck in Hall County. It scored an almost unbelievable 279 7/8. The head also was the best bow kill recorded nationally in the Pope & Young records until 2000 when Michael Beatty arrowed one in Green County Ohio. It scored 294 0/8 and dropped the Nebraska head to No. 2.
Jeff Moody of Hickman holds the second spot for a bow-killed non-typical whitetail in the Nebraska records. He killed a buck that scored 223 in Lancaster County in 2003.
The two Nebraska hunters were obviously pleased with their big non-typicals taken by rifle. We asked young Gus Shy what his plans might be for this fall.
“I’ll probably never kill one any larger, but that won’t keep me from hunting deer,” he said. “This fall will be my fourth season and I’ll crawl up in the tree stand with one thought in mind: I want a buck, and if its antlers are longer than his ears, I will likely shoot him.”