No time for buck fever

LAKE LILLIAN -- Brad Karl might have gotten buck fever, if only he would have had the time. As it was, the big buck came out of the fog and was striding along at such a clip that Karl, 35, said he had time enough only to concentrate on his shot. ...

LAKE LILLIAN -- Brad Karl might have gotten buck fever, if only he would have had the time.

As it was, the big buck came out of the fog and was striding along at such a clip that Karl, 35, said he had time enough only to concentrate on his shot.

"It was 15 to 20 seconds,'' he said. "It was real quick.''

And just that fast, the shot fired at 7:07 a.m. on Nov. 16, 2004, made Karl part of local hunting lore, and put him in the record books.

Karl, of Hutchinson, dropped the "King Buck'' of Kandiyohi County with that shot on the last day of the 2004 firearms season. Time would show the buck's non-typical antlers with a Boone and Crockett score of 225, making it the highest score ever submitted for entry from Kandiyohi County in the Minnesota Deer Classic Record Book.


When the next edition of the record book is published, Karl's deer will rank above the highest scoring non-typical buck in Kandiyohi County, which is a 219Z, buck harvested by Gregory Swenson in 1968, according to Hugh Price, the book's editor.

"Phenomenal'' is how LeRoy Dahlke, wildlife manager for the Department of Natural Resources in Willmar, described the 225 Boone and Crocket score.

Karl said he was at a loss for words when he reached the deer he had just shot and discovered just what a trophy it was. He counted 24 points on its antlers.

Others have been at a loss for words to describe the deer, too, especially when they learn that Karl harvested his trophy on a public wildlife management area on the south end of Kandiyohi Lake. Not only was he hunting on public land which sees a lot of hunting pressure, he was also in the most intensely farmed part of the county. There is limited cover in this part of the county to conceal deer and give them the opportunity to live long enough to become trophy size.

The King Buck found a way. Karl said a tooth sent in for analysis by taxidermist Dale Selby showed the 200-pound deer to be 5¾ years old.

The vast majority of bucks harvested in Kandiyohi County are usually yearlings or 2½ years old, said Dahlke. For a buck to survive into a third hunting season is considered "remarkable,'' he added.

This buck undoubtedly had smarts and survival skills, not to mention some darn good hiding places.

Don Boll, who owns and lives on land adjacent to the wildlife area, has two of the big buck's antler sheds from prior years. He'd also seen the deer on a number of occasions, usually in the evenings.


Boll said that the existence of the big buck was known to a number of people, and there were several hunters who had their hopes set on harvesting him. Come hunting season, the buck usually hid away in the cattails and waters, said Boll.

"He didn't get that big by being dumb,'' he laughed.

"He was definitely a swamp buck,'' said Rick Schutz, a federal game warden with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office in Litchfield. Schutz and his partner were checking hunting licenses in the area of the wildlife management area when they ran into Karl, who was happy to show them the deer he had just shot that morning.

"Very impressive,'' said Schutz of the trophy with the curled tines.

Karl and his hunting partner entered the wildlife management area that very morning with thoughts of the big buck on their minds.

Karl said he doesn't know why, but he had a premonition the night before that this is where he should start his hunt on the last day of the firearm season.

Karl said they had sought permission from a landowner bordering the wildlife management area to enter through his property. The landowner showed them a shed antler from the big buck that he had found at the end of the previous winter.

Karl and his hunting partner, Brent Wiehr, were no strangers to other stories about the big buck either. Wiehr owns a cabin on the north end of Big Kandiyohi Lake and is Karl's boss at Yamaha Sports in Hutchinson. They've been hunting together on the wildlife management area for seven years. They've generally been rewarded with good deer for their efforts.


But of course, Karl said nothing matched the trophy buck that strode his way that fateful morning. He was standing in chest-high grass and watching a trail between two swamps when the deer emerged from the fog. Karl said he had gotten to his spot a little later than is his normal practice. He and Wiehr had waited in their pickup a little longer because the dew filled air that morning made the day's light slow to arrive.

His shot was true, striking the deer in the chest. It went about 40 yards before dropping. Karl walked the distance and estimated his shot was 25 yards.

Karl said he can't dismiss the possibility that he would have suffered the jitters of buck fever if he had more time to observe the big buck and think about things longer. Just a few days earlier, he and his son Aaron, now 12, had a taste of the fever. They spotted a four-point buck that appeared poised to come into their range and enjoyed the excitement of hoping for a shot that didn't materialize.

Dahlke said Karl's good fortune proves that when it comes to trophy bucks in Kandiyohi County, "there's no question we can grow 'em.'' If hunters want to see more of them, they will have to abide by a voluntary, quality deer management strategy and spare younger bucks, he added.

Even with the intense pressure that now occurs, Kandiyohi County hunters usually harvest two or three bucks each season worthy of being called trophy-sized, said Dahlke.

Karl saw no big trophies emerging from the early morning light during the 2005 hunting season, but it did not matter. Karl said harvesting the big trophy has not spoiled him. He said he enjoys hunting for its own sake, and has never taken to the field only interested in trophy bucks.

But having a true trophy come your way and being able to harvest it is definitely something to be both excited and proud about, he acknowledged. Along with entering the trophy in the Minnesota Deer Classic records, he had the buck's head mounted. It continues to turn the heads of visitors to the Karl home to this day.

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