The big one got away, but not a second time.
And now it's one of the best taken in the nation in 2012.
Doug Fredericksen of St. Charles, Ill., killed a monster 15-point whitetail in November on the family farm in eastern Iowa. After hearing about the Outdoor Channel National Deer Contest powered by BuckScore, he entered his picture.
Fredericksen's buck was scored 185.66, taking the nation's top prize over more than 115 entrants in the Adult Bow Typical division.
The contest ended Jan. 31, but you can still view all of the deer entered in a variety of divisions at nationaldeercontest.com. It was the first-ever, national white-tail deer scoring and photography competition, and plans are being made for the 2013 version.
Click image for top deer in the National Deer Contest
Fredericksen, 47, who works in concrete and underground construction, was not the first to get a shot at the big deer. In the 2011 season, it appeared his brother, Dave, had killed it.
"He hit it good ... took out a lung," Fredericksen said. "There was a good blood trail, and there were air bubbles in the blood. But after around 100 yards, no more than 150 yards, the blood dried up."
The search continued, of course, for hours, days, weeks, but it did not turn up. Fredericksen spoke with neighboring landowners, but they found nothing. He had hoped to find something in the search for sheds in the following months.
"And that one would had stood out," Fredericksen said. "But we didn't find anything."
The search was a family effort. Fredericksen pointed out his father, Steve, in particular.
"He is always there to help with every deer recovery and doesn't hesitate to make a special trip up to be there and help out," he said.
Entering late November 2012, Fredericksen had still not seen it.
"I don't know where they go, but sometimes the deer will go somewhere else," he said. "And by that time, you had to figure the rut was probably about over."
On Nov. 20, Fredericksen headed to his tree stand on the farm before daylight. A couple hundred yards away, his niece saw a large deer moving near her, but she could not risk a shot in the pre-dawn light.
"I heard her grunt at it," Fredericksen said. "I wanted her to have her shot at getting it, so I waited for a good bit. I don't usually rattle (horns) very often. But when I didn't hear anything from my niece after a good while, I rattled for about a minute, two minutes. It didn't take long after that for him to walk to me."
Fredericksen couldn't have asked for a much better shot: 10 yards, broadside, at a slow walk.
The buck ran about 75 yards before lying down. After a few minutes, he climbed to his feet and ran out of sight into a gulley.
"Knowing the history of this deer and how big he was," Fredericksen said, "we waited for about four hours before we went to check on him."
Fredericksen, an amateur hunting videographer, captured the kill with cameras mounted on the tree as well as his bow.
"It's something that we enjoy doing," he said. "Right now, it's just a hobby. I wouldn't mind making it more than a hobby, but there are a lot of people doing that kind of thing."
Fredericksen said the farm already had a vibrant, healthy deer herd when the family purchased it in 2000. But they have worked hard to keep it that way.
"My brother was the first one who started working with the deer management, setting up food plots and that sort of thing," he said. "We pass on a lot of deer in the 140- and 150-range. Then we have some acreage that we stay out of, sort of a refuge for the deer. We only go in there two weeks out of the year to hunt."
With the top finish in the National Deer Contest, Fredericksen received a large prize package, including a new bow from Bowtech.
While he said it was the largest deer of his hunting career, Fredericksen also said it was a bit of a relief.
"This one takes the pressure off me for a while," he said, laughing. "You work so hard trying to get one like that, when you do, it puts you in a different place, really."