Deb Luzinski's buck from Ramsey County last fall just missed breaking Minnesota's state record for a non-typical bow kill. Just listening to her story, you can tell she is grateful and humbled by this once-in-a-lifetime experience. (July 2007)
Deb Luzinski's 24-point bow buck had a final score of 222 2/8 non-typical inches. Glen Bullick arrowed the current state-record buck, which scored 223 4/8 inches, in 1989. At No. 2 is Gary Martin's 222 5/8-inch rack from 1992.
Photo courtesy of Deb Luzinski.
"You set up where?"
Those were the words I heard from my husband Mark when we met back at our trucks after we had gone our separate ways to set up our stands.
"I thought you were going to the end of the field, not all the way out there," he continued. "You are going to miss the deer. They will cut past you and head to the field."
Then I began to explain how I had come to choose that particular spot.
"One main trail runs down the center of the finger of woods and into the cattails," I told him. "Minor trails crisscross in all directions, and there's plenty of deer sign. I found a great tree -- a big poplar surrounded by smaller trees. Also, I noticed a few rubs and scrapes from my stand."
Then I stopped trying to explain, and simply added, "I really like this spot. It looks and feels good."
It was Friday, Oct. 27, 2006, and our discussion took place at about 12:30 p.m. At 3:30, we readied for the evening hunt and gave each other a "good luck smooch" before heading to our different hunting areas. By 3:50 p.m., I was in my stand with my safety harness attached. It was a beautiful late fall afternoon in Minnesota. The temperature was cool, and the wind was blowing lightly but steadily out of the southeast. As usual, I sprayed the foliage and tree branches downwind of me with deer scent. After the woods had settled down, I began making a series of doe bleats with my Primos Original can call.
I always stand whenever I deer hunt. I sit when bear hunting, but I stand and hold my bow for deer. Sometimes this gets a little tiring, but to me, it's all about movement, or lack thereof. I had been on stand for less than half an hour when I heard the cattails rustling. I immediately looked to my right. About 50 yards out, a beautiful, mature 10-point buck was slowly making his way toward the higher ground where I was located. He would take a few steps and then rake his antlers in the brush, and I would call again. Sizing him up with my binoculars, I watched this fantastic animal and wondered if I would be lucky enough to get a shot.
He was definitely a "shooter" buck, with more mass and tine length than the 131-incher I had killed a few years back. I called again. He took a few more steps and stopped. The next sound I heard was loud movement in the cattails. Then a giant non-typical aggressively strode out of the cattails, stopped right at the edge, and looked toward the higher ground.
He's looking for his new girlfriend -- the can call that I have in my pocket, I thought.
This was the largest rack I had ever seen. He had cattails hanging off his massive antlers, which had mass, tine length, palmation, kickers and several drop tines. What a monster! Then he looked at the 10-point buck and walked directly toward him.
Wow, I'm going to see a brawl! I thought. Two big boys looking for the same date! Fantastic!
When they finally met, the two bucks went nose-to-nose, but the 10-pointer dropped his head and backed away in total submission. I focused totally on the larger buck's ears, nose and eyes while carefully observing his body language. I never took my eyes off his expressions, and I didn't look at his antlers again. Then when I tipped the can call, he began to casually head in my direction.
Even though he was now almost completely downwind of me at about 30 yards, I was not concerned because I felt very confident in the scent-free clothing I had on. But suddenly he turned and began to walk away while staying on the fringe of the cattails and timber where I wouldn't have a clean shot. Keeping to the edge, he was slowly walking out of my life! I bleated again with the can call, and just about fell out of my stand when in response to my bleat just yards from my stand I heard a loud, phew!
The 10-pointer hadn't left like I thought he had! He was now almost directly under me and he had caught my movement. He blew so hard and he was so close that I can't believe I didn't shriek in response. The gig is up, I thought. But to my astonishment, the bigger buck then actually stopped and turned back toward me. I tipped the can call again. The 10-pointer blew, stomped, blew again and then vacated the area. But the bigger buck continued to head back in my direction while retracing his previous steps. This time, however, he came closer and I prayed I would have a shot.
I had one small opening about the size of a child's shirt at about 17 yards, so I drew back my Hoyt bow. As he entered the window, I gave him a grunt with my voice, and then another. He stopped. With my pin already on his vitals, I released my arrow. The buck ran about 20 yards, stopped and looked back. Then he turned to one side and dove headlong into the cattails with everything he had. It was the "most awesomest" scene I have ever experienced. Every cattail he hit seemed to explode. Then he disappeared. All I could do was watch the movement of the cattails and hope that my aim had been true. But then all movement stopped.
Then came the questions. Did I hit him or did I miss? Lord, what just happened? How could I have been blessed with a buck like this? I must have missed him, because, after all, it's just me. But I know I hit him. I watched him run!
I called Mark's cell phone, but it went to voicemail. This was the emotion-filled message I left him: "Mark, you wouldn't believe the buck I just shot! It's 5 o'clock. I told you to bring your cell phone with you. I'm not kidding you! He's huge! He's everything. He looks like a mule deer! He's got drop tines. I told you I had a dream about mule deer the other night! I called him back in and spooked a big 10 that was under me. Unbelievable. I'll see you later. Good luck."
I cannot describe the raw emotion in that voicemail. When I replay it, it brings me back to that moment every time. You can actually hear my pulse in my voice -- and in the breathy pauses as I tried not to cry or throw up. The range of emotions I experienced was phenomenal.
I tried to find my arrow with my binoculars because I didn't want to get down from my stand. After all, what if I actually had missed him and what if he was standing in the cattails? I couldn't find my arrow. I called my frie
nd Ron Cormier. With more than 40 Pope and Young-class bucks to his credit, Ron knows deer like no one else. I told him that I had just shot the biggest buck I had ever seen. At least, I thought I had shot it.
"What do you mean 'you think'?" Ron asked. "I'm on my way!"
"No," I said. "I want to find my arrow first. Then I'll call you back."
I knew I had to get down to find my arrow. I quietly walked to where the buck had been standing on impact, but no arrow, and no blood. I bent over and looked up at my stand. To my horror, I had no window. What did I do? I then realized I was standing in the wrong spot. I moved four feet to the right and looked at my stand again, and then I looked at the ground. Blood! Thank you, Lord! I didn't walk but I looked ahead and saw more blood. I climbed back into my stand, phoned Ron and said, "I have blood!"
I explained where I was and I would wait in my stand for him. Upon his arrival, I climbed down and the tracking began. We found blood and then my crimson-covered arrow about 10 yards from where I had connected with the buck. We followed the blood trail into the cattails. When we were about 65 yards from the point of impact, Ron stopped. All I heard was, "Oh my gosh, Deb, he's huge!" Ron then picked up the left antler to expose the right side of his rack. He dropped to his knees in astonishment and awe of this magnificent animal, then turned and gave me a hug.
It is important to me that my shot had been as true as I had hoped and prayed for. That Thunderhead XP broadhead not only found its mark, but it also put that deer down in less than a minute. To me, it is not enough to simply get an arrow into a whitetail. It has to be done as humanely as possible. I know in my heart that if I hadn't had a clean shot at this deer, I wouldn't have taken it.
My good friend Keith Edberg was the person who set up my very first bow some 15 years ago. The morning after I shot my great buck, Keith and his son Hunter drove up from Cannon Falls to green-score it for me in our home in Woodbury. Keith did the measuring and Ron recorded the figures. The 24-point non-typical rack green-scored 227 2/8 inches gross and 220 7/8 net. Later after the official 60-day drying period, the rack actually scored higher at 222 2/8 inches.
I know how incredibly blessed I was to see this deer, but being able to hunt with my best friend and husband Mark is the true special blessing.