A Southeast Minnesota Trophy Buck

A Southeast Minnesota Trophy Buck

Lincoln Kreofsky arrowed one of our state's biggest bucks last fall. Here's the story behind this young bowhunter's success.

By Scott Bestul

Even the greenest bowhunter knows there are no sure things when it comes to hunting trophy whitetails. But when the Minnesota archery deer season arrived last September, Plainview's Lincoln Kreofsky was feeling pretty confident. After watching a monster whitetail repeat the same general patterns for close to two months, Kreofsky felt he had an excellent chance of harvesting the buck.

"I was watching a remote field on my family farm in late June and early July when I first spotted the buck," Kreofsky recalls. "He was so big he looked like a moose! He was in velvet, of course, and his antlers just went straight out and they were very wide and heavy. I got so excited, the first thing I did was go right to Cabela's and buy a Stealth-Cam (a remote-sensing camera) so that I could learn more about him!"

Kreofsky placed the camera on a large dead tree adjacent to the field where he had spotted the buck.

"That spring we had planted that field in whitetail food plot mixture from Wildlife Buffet," Kreofsky says. "I couldn't believe how well that field attracted deer. On many nights I'd watch deer walk right past fields of regular alfalfa and corn to reach our planting."

Kreofsky checked the camera frequently and had many deer photos, including does, smaller bucks and a nice close-up of the giant buck he spotted that memorable summer evening.

Unlike so many mature whitetails, Kreofsky's buck seemed to favor daytime movement.

After grossing 186 inches, Lincoln Kroefsky's buck has a final net score of 152 0/8 typical inches. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Kreofsky

"He was pretty reliable," Kreofsky said. "If I looked for him for a solid week, I'd probably see him four or five evenings and he was always coming to the same general area between 5 and 5:30, even during the summer. So he was moving well before dusk. He came out along basically the same draw almost every time I saw him, depending on the wind."

Kreofsky figured that if the monster buck continued his summer pattern into September, the stage would be set for a close encounter. Since the buck was living on a remote ridge and most of the surrounding land was in private ownership, Kreofsky didn't believe the deer would be seen or disturbed by other people. Still, it was a long wait until the mid-September opener.

Kreofsky's busy schedule helped fill the time, however. Employed in his father's construction business, the 23-year-old had a full plate of work in the summer. In his free time he shot his bow and set some stands to prepare for his ambush.

"I hung my stands the first week of August," he says. "I always waited for a rainy day so my scent would be washed out of there after I'd get done. I'd also drawn a bear tag for northern Minnesota and my father and I were doing our own baiting. So we were gathering bait, running up north, and then buzzing back home."

Five days into the bear season, Kreofsky shot a 300-pound bear with his bow. In a year when many of the state's bear hunters didn't fill their tags, the young hunter already had much to celebrate. But he hoped that he hadn't used up his luck.

"When opening day of deer season came, I considered going out in the morning, but it was raining hard, so I slept in," Kreofsky recalls. "And on opening night one of my cousins was getting married, so I went to the wedding. By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, I was pretty anxious to get in the stand!"

Heading out to hunt that night, Kreofsky felt the conditions were ideal.

"It was cool and mostly cloudy, about 50 degrees," he says. "I picked one of my stands that was back in the woods, on the same ridge I felt the deer was bedding on. As I sat in my stand, it sounded like it was raining because there were so many acorns and hickory nuts falling. Then about 4:30, I heard something shuffling toward me through the woods. I grabbed my bow and got ready - and it turned out to be a raccoon!"

But within a half-hour, Kreofsky heard more movement in the woods and looked up to see the giant buck.

"He was actually behind me and headed away," Kreofsky says. "I wasn't sure what to do, so I grabbed my grunt call and grunted at him. He stopped when he heard that and then he just went into a frenzy. He'd rub a tree for a while, then walk a little bit, then stop and rub some more. It was almost like he was angry. I had never seen anything like it since I started bowhunting."

The buck continued his aggressive rubbing, apparently believing that another buck was in his territory.

"I'd actually seen him with two other bucks most of the summer," Kreofsky says. "One was a 1 1/2-year-old buck and one was older, but not as large as my deer. But on that night he was all alone. I watched the buck just shredding these trees all around me, walking in a semi-circle as he rubbed. That was the most dramatic response to a grunt call I'd ever seen. I grunted in many bucks over the last few seasons, and all I wanted to do when I called to him was to get him to come over and investigate. But he just went wild!"

Kreofsky watched this behavior continue for close to 45 minutes.

"I went from pure shaking to just completely wrung out," he remembers. "I just had no shakes left in me. Finally he seemed like he was going to walk away forever, and I made another grunt and he came a little closer and began rubbing again. He was out at about 40 steps and I felt I had the best shot he was going to give me. I practiced all summer and I was sure of myself out to that distance. And all I could see of him was vitals, so I remember thinking, 'I'm going to take this shot and if I hit him I'll kill him.' "

The young hunter was completely calm as he drew and aimed his bow and settled the pin on the buck. When he released, his arrow flew true and dropped the buck right in his tracks.

"Then I started shaking again - bad!" Kreofsky laughs. "I managed to lower my bow out of the tree and climb down. Then I started to walk over to the deer and remembered that my bow was still hanging from the tree! So I went back and got the bow and trotted over to the deer. He was still struggling some, so I nocked another arrow - and missed him completely from about 10 feet! So I settled down and shot him again and he was done."

Once the buck was dead, Kreofsky could finally appreciate the size of the giant whitetail.

"Even after all the times I had seen him I couldn't believe the size of his antlers," he remembers. "I was just in awe. I didn't even dress him out. I just looked at him for a long time and then I headed back to my parents' house. I had about a half-mile walk and I was just about skipping the whole way. When I got there, I found my dad. He hadn't even known I was out hunting. I said 'Well, I got the big one!' and he couldn't believe it, either. So he called two friends, and I called a buddy, and it took all five of us to drag him up out of the woods. You know, I never even weighed him. But my dad had shot one that dressed 240 pounds once and he said this deer was even bigger."

In the days that followed, word of Kreofsky's big buck "spread like wildfire," he says. "I took it to a taxidermist, who green-scored him at 188 5/8 inches gross, so we knew he was big. I guess if the right side had matched the left, he would have been No. 4 or No. 5 in the Minnesota record book." As it was, Boone and Crockett scorer Dave Boland measured the buck after the mandatory drying period, and the Kreofsky buck grossed 186 inches, but some hefty deductions took the basic 10-point down to a net typical score of 152 0/8 inches.

"I was disappointed in the net score, of course," Kreofsky says. "I don't think it does justice to how truly big he is. But I'm not a measurer, I'm just a hunter. I'm proud of him no matter what!"

Though Kreofsky's own deer hunting ended early in the 2002 season, he's anxiously awaiting this fall's hunt.

"I took my girlfriend out during the muzzleloader season, and we had a tremendous buck come right past our stand," he says. "She just got a little excited and never was able to take the shot. I never heard of that buck getting killed, so I believe he's still out there. And I saw a couple of younger deer on our food plot that should be very nice this fall. I'm ready to try again. Bowhunting can't come soon enough!"

And with any luck, Kreofsky will find another early-season buck passing by his tree stand, though he'll be hard-pressed to top his tremendous trophy from 2002.

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