“It was the first time I’ve had buck, buck, buck, buck fever!”
Those were Jeremy Bester’s words as he stood at Mid-America Taxidermist in Savage, Minnesota, riding his high from the prior evening’s hunt. Jeremy had killed the buck of a lifetime, and one that will surely make the pages of Minnesota’s non-typical whitetail record book.
“We do take in about 150 whitetails a year, and over 37 years I’ve seen quite a few deer,” said Brad Reddick, owner of Mid-America Taxidermist. “I would say this non-typical is probably the largest deer we’ve ever taken in.” It could be the biggest non-typical whitetail buck taken by firearm in Minnesota in the last 15 years.
Jeremy came home from work Tuesday, November 9, at 3:20 p.m. Within 10 minutes his 9-year-old son, Ryley, greeted him fresh off the school bus ready to hunt. Having just returned from his first deer hunting experience—Minnesota’s firearms opener—the previous weekend, Ryley was eager to hit the woods with his dad again. Knowing that there was limited daylight remaining, Jeremy told Ryley to get his stuff together quickly. “I’ll be honest—I don’t even know if I would’ve gone huntin’ that night,” Jeremy said as he credited his son’s influence on the storybook hunt.
They left their home in Prior Lake and high-tailed it to Jeremey’s father’s 15-acre property in Elko, just minutes away. It’s a relatively small parcel of land, so they purposely save it to hunt for after firearms opener—the deer tend to stack up in the untouched “refuge” due to hunting pressure on neighboring properties.
They were in their homemade 4×4 box stand by 3:50 p.m., not knowing that they’d be taking part in big-buck history. Jeremy started the hunt by rattling real deer antlers and grunting with his Primos call —the ultimate goal being to lure a rut-crazed whitetail into shooting range. As the sun departed over the western horizon, Jeremy spotted some movement in the high grass straight ahead. “All I could see was rack,” he said. “And at that point I got probably more nervous than I’ve ever been nervous in a stand in my life.” A bruiser buck was stretching its legs approximately 130 yards away.
Ryley saw the deer, but not the rack. His shaking father begged him to be “absolutely perfectly quiet and still.” Jeremy calmed down after 20 minutes and glassed the area with his Bushnell binoculars, waiting and hoping for an in-range glance at the stealthy buck. “I know I can shoot my Hornady SST bullets —no problem—200 yards or better,” he said. “And all of a sudden my little one [Ryley] was standin’ next to me, and he just whispered, ‘Dad, there’s the big buck, he’s right there.’” Jeremy scanned with his eyes and spotted the buck in a clearing.
He set his binoculars down, trading his focus for the Bushnell fixed 4x scope mounted on his Remington 11-87. The wary buck was already looking in their direction. The antlered monstrosity stomped its foot and turned around, intending to head back into the thicket. All that was visible then were the buck’s antlers, head and neck; the rest of his body was hidden behind the grass.
Knowing that it might be a now-or-never opportunity, Jeremy put the crosshairs on the buck’s neck, aimed low and right, and squeezed the trigger to put the bullet into the kill zone. Sounds of thrashing in the thicket followed the thunderous blast of the shotgun. Jeremy and Ryley anxiously waited as the darkness set in, catching occasional glimpses of the buck’s massive rack through their binoculars 40 yards from where he had been shot at.
Discovering The Monster
After a half-hour, Jeremy instructed Ryley to remain in the stand while he approached the buck. He quickly found the blood trail and marked it with his hat. His first nervous step cracked a fallen tree branch; at the same time he spotted the buck. He fired a shot and the buck took off 20 yards deeper into the brush. Jeremy sprinted around the thicket and once again spotted the buck, this time in a small clearing only a short distance away. Unable to acquire the heavy-horned buck through his scope, Jeremy looked down the shotgun barrel and placed a shot in its back. The buck “went absolutely crazy,” returning to the dense thicket. Jeremy was confident the last shot had done the job.
It was time to gather the search party. Nearly 2 hours after the final shot was fired, Jeremy and his posse headed back out to the site of the chaotic hunt with hopes of recovering the massive deer. It didn’t take long for Jeremy to stumble upon the jaw-dropping spectacle. The party gathered around in awe. They toted the “Bester Buck” back home, and the news spread like wildfire. Before he knew it, Jeremy’s phone was dead from the sheer volume of calls. His house filled with curious spectators, his e-mail inbox filled with mail. Public demand sparked a day-long parade of the Bester Buck—everyone had to see it.
So, How Big?
Just how big is the buck? It weighed in at an even 200 pounds, dressed. But the jury’s still out on the official score. Because of the uniquely shaped 17-point rack, there is some debate over how to properly measure it. Jeremy’s friend—formerly an officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources —green scored the buck in the 240s. The general consensus among those who have measured or seen the buck is that it won’t go less than 215 after deductions and the 60-day drying period. Without a doubt, the buck will approach the top of Minnesota’s non-typical whitetail record book. “To be honest, I don’t care,” Jeremy said. “All I know is that I shot a 200-plus buck, and I’m happy with that.”
As a long-time hunter, Jeremy was thrilled to take such a spectacular deer on his father’s property. He couldn’t overstate the importance of family—especially getting children involved with hunting. He credited his father for his youth hunting exposure, and made one thing clear: “All you dads out there … get those kids out there at an early age.”
*Stay tuned for updates as official measurements and more details about this record-book buck come in, exclusively at HuntingClub.com.
Check out post-hunt video interviews with Jeremy Bester; Brad Reddick, owner of Mid-America Taxidermist; and Jeremy’s friend, Shane Raveling.
Click to enlarge photos: