The buck’s silhouette pierced the northeastern Wisconsin skyline, ushering in opening day of the 2016 firearm deer season. It was a sight to behold – and one that got the deer hunter’s blood pumping. The deer stood big and proud as it checked for danger in the hayfield that lay below it.
At that point, Heath Kersten of Denmark, Wis., (near Green Bay) just thought it was a nice buck. He had no idea the brute carried more than 200 inches of dream-conjuring bone. He would soon learn that the long-legged monster embodied the very essence of his deer-hunting dreams.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A deer hunting success story always begins with just that – a story. During the 2016 summer, Kersten found out the 80 acres he had permission to hunt had been sold, so he moved a short distance to a smaller spread owned by his family.
Scouting revealed the best spot for ambushing deer was on top of a hill overlooking farm fields, separated by small fence and brush rows deer used as travel corridors. Unfortunately, high winds cut through the area, which would make sitting in a cold, metallic tree stand an uncomfortable chore.
“I talked to my wife [Missi] about buying a prefabricated blind to put there,” recalled Kersten. “It was expensive, but I often take my kids hunting with me, and so she agreed it was best to have an enclosed blind that offered protection from the elements.”
Like a lot of deer slayers, a box-store deer blind is a big purchase for the Kersten family. It would be a wise investment. Kersten’s 8-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter assisted in building a platform the blind would set on. His brother and father-in- law helped him place the blind six feet off the ground on the newly-built platform in the field. With everyone chipping in, the blind was ready for business.
Opening day, Nov. 19, came with vengeance. Overnight rain had turned to snow, coating the harvested ground, while strong northwest winds pushed fresh-falling powder across the fields. A friend who owns a small deer farm had given Kersten some fresh doe estrus scent to lure bucks into range. After putting the scent out, he climbed into his blind.
Shortly after 7, Kersten glanced to the northwest and saw the buck’s striking silhouette. Pausing to survey the field in front of it, Kersten could tell it had respectable antlers. He also noticed the deer had a peculiar way of descending the hillock. It would run for a few yards, then slow to a trot, then resume running. As it drew closer, Kersten’s trigger finger got itchy.
“He was about 120 yards away, but there was a house behind him, so I waited and let him clear it,” Kersten explained. “He kept going, and got downwind of me. Suddenly he put on his brakes, jerked his head around, and looked right at me.”
Kersten let his .270 Savage sing. His 90-yard shot passed through the buck’s heart, causing it to run only 40 yards before stopping, coughing and toppling over.
The 14-pointer grossed 206 2/8 inches, with a net score of 196 1/8 inches. The buck kept a low profile, with only one bowhunter briefly sighting the deer in October, and no game cameras capturing its image. It’s Kersten’s biggest buck to date, and proves that oftentimes deer hunting success is a family affair.