By Vince Meyer

Brainerd Daily Dispatch

Baxter, Minn. The taking of a trophy whitetail is made even
better by finding the deer’s antlers the spring before.

Today in Hank Hemquist’s hands are the symmetrical antlers of a
trophy buck (shown above). In his head are visions of the buck
still on the hoof and plans for hunting it next fall. The antlers
he sees today might be exceeded by the antlers that same deer will
grow this spring, barring, of course, accidental death, damage to
the antlers during their growth, or an inability to grow bigger
antlers due to old age or poor nutrition.

Finding one half of a trophy rack is special. Finding both
halves is extraordinary. A buck occasionally drops both sides of
its rack in the same place, but more often they fall a distance
apart, sometimes a great distance.

“My son Arik and I hunt for sheds every year,” Hemquist said.
“We found the first half on March 1 and the second half on March
22, exactly three weeks apart. We had the dog with us and she was
about 30 yards ahead, sniffing on something. Arik ran up and
hollered, Dad, I think we got it.’ “

The sheds were found about 500 yards apart. The symmetry is
outstanding; the rack will have few deductions. When on the deer’s
head the rack’s inside spread was about 21 inches. The G-4s measure
6.5 and 6 inches. The G-3s both measure 5.5 inches. Brow tines are
4 inches. The rack probably will score in the 130s, though that’s
only a guess until an official measurer puts a tape to it. Hemquist
said he will take the rack to the Deer Classic next year and have
it scored as a matched set of sheds. In the meantime he will hunt
for others.

“I like the exercise and all the things you see,” he said. “I
take a bag along and pick up garbage. We’ve found dead animals.
Last year we found an otter that had got into a beaver trap and had
to be destroyed. We’ve found skulls. We give them to the neighbor
kids and they take them to school for show and tell.”

Four years ago Hemquist found a 6-point shed that, though
smaller, bears a remarkable resemblance to this year’s find. Could
it have come from the same buck? A few weeks ago while walking down
a snowmobile trail Hemquist found a deer track measuring 3.5 inches
wide by

5 inches long. Could the buck have made that track?

Those are just some of the questions Hemquist will toss around
as he waits for archery season to start. On opening day his stand
will be in a tree he hopes the big buck will pass. The sheds found
this spring will be back at the house, where they’ll remain a
source of speculation and reverence.

“It’s almost magical when you find one,” Hemquist said. “You
know the buck was standing right there.”

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