Monster buck likely among largest ever

Howard Lake, Minn. — Jim Wackler has hunted deer for 59 years. And it’s entirely possible that even if he hunted for six decades he wouldn’t have the opportunity to kill another deer like he did Friday, Nov. 11.

That’s the day the 78-year-old killed a 36-point buck while hunting near his home in Howard Lake. It weighed 216 pounds field-dressed. An unofficial score pegged the animal in the 270s, though Wackler believes that’s higher than it actually is. He believes it will be in the 250s, which would place it among the biggest nontypical bucks ever killed in the state.

“I’ve shot them up to about 190 pounds, but this is the first one I’ve got that was over 200 pounds, and it was by far the biggest rack,” he said. “The biggest I ever shot before was nine points.”

While Wackler has 80 acres of land near Cromwell in east-central Minnesota, he’s been deer hunting closer to home for the past couple of seasons.

“My legs are getting so bad that it’s tough for me to get out into the woods,” he said.

So this year and last, he’s been hunting on his daughter and son-in-law’s farm, which is just more than a mile north of Howard Lake.

That Friday morning, Wackler asked his son-in-law – Mike Young – if any of the corn near the woods had been harvested. Young said yes, so Wackler drove up to check it out. There was a clearing of about 60 feet between standing corn and the woods, and “I thought it was a pretty good spot,” Wackler said. “It looked like it, anyway.”

He went home to take a nap and then returned about 2:30 p.m. He parked his truck in a low spot and walked about 100 yards.

“I took my shotgun – a 20 gauge – my cane, and my lawn chair, and I walked up there,” Wackler said. “I found a place to put my lawn chair and sat down.”

About 3:40, Wackler changed positions so he was facing to the north.

“Then I sat back again and relaxed and watched the blue jays fly back and forth from the woods to the corn,” he said.

A little after 4, Wackler heard a commotion in the corn that “sounded like a freight train coming,” he said. The sound would start and stop.

“Then about the third or fourth time it stopped, I could see his head sticking out of the last row of corn,” he said. “I thought, oh my, that’s a big one.”

The deer was about 35 yards away.

“He stepped out and started trotting across the opening,” Wackler said. “There was about 60 feet from the edge of the corn to the woods. When he got about halfway across there, I yelled at him – ‘Hey!’ – and he stopped and looked at me. That gave me the second or two I needed to put the silver bead on his chest. I pulled the trigger and his tail went down and he took off.”

Seven or eight minutes later, Wackler made his way to the spot the deer had been. He saw blood on a corn stalk and blood on some of the brush leading into the woods. Then he walked into the woods and saw the deer on the ground about 30 yards away.

Wackler poked the deer a couple of times to ensure it was dead. His first thought when he saw the rack?

“Oh my God – what have I done?” Wackler said.

He sat down on a nearby log for five or six minutes to regain his composure, and then walked up to the deer again and started counting its points.

“When I got to 32, I said, ‘Oh my God. I got the 30-point buck,’” Wackler said.

He said he wasn’t nervous when he was taking the shot because he didn’t realize just how big the animal was.

“I knew he had a big rack on him, but I just concentrated on the shot,” Wackler said. “I know if you concentrate on the head, you’re going to miss them.”

Wackler, who said he was lucky to be “in the right spot at the right time,” plans to have the deer mounted.

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