Photo by Craig Bobula.
An old adage says, “A cat has nine lives.” However, an old whitetail buck from Buffalo County may have had even more.
Over a four-year period, many hunters stepped foot in the woods hoping to get a crack at this legendary big buck — a buck that became widely known as “Moses.” Moses was widely videoed, was sighted countless times, posed for literally thousands of trail-cam pictures, and had numerous narrow escapes with hunters.
Despite his popularity and a heavy dose of hunting pressure, Moses always found a way to survive — that is, until Nov. 19, 2006, when Trevor Oleson was lucky enough to connect on the buck that evaded so many hunters over the years.
IN THE BEGINNING . . .
The story of Moses starts back in 2002, when trail-cam pictures of the buck were first captured by Tom Indrebo, owner of Bluff Country Outfitters. It is believed Moses was only 2 1/2 years old at this time. He was an 11-pointer with a 9-point typical frame and split brow tines. Tom and his friend, Stacy Nelson, found the buck’s sheds that spring. The following season, the buck carried a 10-point typical frame with split brow tines, giving him a total of 12 points.
Dave Palmer, one of Tom’s long-time clients, and Trevor’s dad, Geno, would both hit Moses that year while bowhunting, but the buck survived both encounters. It was the last time Trevor and Geno would see the buck for the next three years. His sheds were found the following spring and gross-scored 156 inches!
Trail-camera photos and sightings of Moses during 2004 showed the buck now was growing a non-typical rack. This is about the time the big buck was dubbed “Moses” by one of Tom’s guides. Even without a fully-grown set of antlers, Tom knew Moses well enough by now to know the image in the photos was the big buck. Torn up ears and several other characteristics clearly confirmed the buck’s identity.
Moses’ sheds were found again that spring. This time, the antlers featured non-typical characteristics, including 21 total points! Moreover, the gross score of 188 inches was proof the buck was only growing larger!
Several narrow escapes with hunters would occur again during the 2005 hunting season. One of them was by Tom’s good friend, Ole Eastensen, who got a shot off at the buck but couldn’t connect.
Amazingly, the buck’s sheds again were found in 2005, holding remarkably similar features seen in the 2004 rack. The sheds carried a total of 17 points and had a gross score of 184 inches.
By the time the 2006 hunting season rolled around, Moses’ existence was becoming legendary. Pat Reeve, host of his national television show, “Driven 24/7,” was bowhunting with Tom during the first week of the 2006 archery season. Not only was Pat lucky enough to see the monster buck on this mid-September hunt, he was also able to get a shot at the buck. However, despite what appeared to be a great hit, an exhaustive search for the buck didn’t recover the animal. Moses couldn’t be found.
Many hunters thought the buck was dead, until late October of the same season. That’s when Tom’s son, Shane, spotted the buck chasing a doe during the middle of the day in a nearby soybean field. Needless to say, everyone was relieved . . . and excited! Now, the legend of Moses grew even larger. Through November, several hunters had encounters with Moses, and once again, the big buck was able to slip away.
The night before opening day of Wisconsin’s 2006 nine-day gun season, Geno told Trevor this was the season when one of them was “going to get him.”
“We hadn’t seen the buck with our own eyes since my dad hit him during the 2003 bow season,” Trevor recalled, “so I thought it was wishful thinking.” Not only had they not seen Moses, but they were also hunting about a one-half mile from where most of the sightings occurred.
Opening day found Trevor sitting in one of his favorite stands. He saw plenty of deer and even passed on a 130-class 10-pointer.
Trevor sat in the same stand the second morning but never saw a deer. At 11:45 a.m., he headed back to the cabin to watch the Green Bay Packers game. He readied to head back to the deer woods at about 3 p.m. He settled on a stand he normally wouldn’t hunt. It was on the edge of a standing corn field where a couple of oak ridges come together. It’s a good funnel for deer coming out to feed.
As he went to get his gun and head out, he realized his dad, who had taken to the woods earlier, had mistakenly taken Trevor’s .30/06.
“I wasn’t too happy about that, but I figured I wouldn’t see anything to shoot at anyway,” Trevor joked.
About 4 p.m., Trevor watched as a fawn walked under his tree and headed out to the corn. Fifteen minutes later, a deer came out of the woods and into the field about 150 yards away. Trevor could see it had a rack, but he wasn’t sure how big the buck was.
“I put up my binoculars and realized right away that it was a shooter,” Trevor recalled. “I grabbed the gun and stood up to lean against the tree for a shot.”
The deer started walking Trevor’s way and continued making his way closer. The buck was nosing the ground and acted like he was searching for a hot doe. Moving at a fast walk that sometimes turned into a trot, the buck continued closing the distance.
“As soon as he got about 75 yards away, I knew it was Moses and I couldn’t believe it,” Trevor said. “I started breathing heavier but kept my composure by keeping the scope focused on the body and not the rack.”
Finally, at just 25 yards, and with the cross hairs on the monster buck’s chest, Trevor pulled the trigger. The buck jumped up in the air and ran about 75 yards before he stopped in the middle of the corn field.
“I aimed right behind the shoulder as he stood broadside and pulled the trigger again,” Trevor continued. “He dropped right there! I sat down to gather my thoughts and regain my composure.”
As he sat there replaying the events in hi
s mind, Trevor heard some thrashing about a minute later and looked up. He saw the buck running off!
“I quickly got on him and shot for the third time, and then proceeded to empty the clip,” Trevor admitted. “He ran out of sight and I couldn’t believe what just happened. Talk about going from an ultimate high to an ultimate low!”
Trevor started second-guessing himself. Did using his dad’s gun instead of his own cause him to make a bad shot? Did the buck drop from being stunned rather than from a fatal shot? The possible explanations raced through his mind.
“Then I realized I better get on his track while there was still light. After going through the corn, I found him laying on the edge of the field and I was back to my ultimate high!”
Geno heard the shooting and headed Trevor’s way.
“He got off the 4-wheeler and was in awe as I told him it was Moses. I think my dad was happier than I was, as we have been after this buck for some time. The first thing he did was give me a high-five, which turned into a big hug.”
Moses carried his largest set of antlers yet. On his 10-point frame were 10 non-typical points, totaling 23 inches of bone. The buck’s gross score was just over 201 inches. His final net non-typical score was 194 0/8 inches. Based on the tooth wear and the extraordinary amount of sheds, photos, video footage and sightings of the buck, everyone felt pretty confident the buck was 6 1/2 years old.
While butchering the buck, they found the scar from Pat Reeve’s hit earlier that season. The arrow hit in just the right place, but the arrow deflected along the outside of the ribs.
After such a long and storied history, Trevor feels extremely lucky to be the hunter who finally caught up with the legendary buck. He’ll never forget the moments he and his dad shared as they stood beside the buck so many had chased.
“The best part of the hunt,” Trevor said, “was being able to share this moment with my dad, as he is my hunting partner and best friend.”
Combined with the numerous close encounters and narrow escapes Moses shared with hunters over the years, Moses’ life has got to be one of the most well-documented stories of a free-ranging trophy whitetail of all time.