Gary Barenz isn’t a trophy buck hunter, despite living in one of the best areas of the country to see and kill giant whitetails.
Barenz has seen them in his 40-odd years of hunting, but he’s never really dialed into the trophy mentality. He just enjoys hunting near his home in central Wisconsin, which is loaded with healthy, huge bucks. So when Barenz decided to go out for an afternoon hunt on Oct. 25, 2016, he had no illusions of grandeur. It was just another great autumn afternoon and he had a few hours to hunt. What happened next, and pretty quickly at that, blew him away.
“I’ve been hunting this property since 1998 and only have gotten one out of there earlier that was better,” he said. “That was a 138-inch 8-pointer back in 2000. Other than that, I see them but haven’t gotten a shot at them, or I get butterflies and miss.”
We’ve all been there, right? We see a great buck and don’t get a shot, or come down with a knee-knocking case of buck fever that gives us the willies. Such is part of deer hunting. Barenz, who is 55 and was hunting in Waukesha County, is humble enough to not worry about admitting it.
He still has a hard time believing how things transpired, though, when he saw and then got a shot at the 18-point buck. He had been to the stand a few days earlier to replace a seat cover and knew the buck was in the area. His game camera photos showed it, as did images from a friend’s camera on land about five miles away. The big buck was roaming with another big buck, too.
“How do you top something like that?” Barenz said. “I don’t think I ever will. I wanted to get a 10-or 12-pointer, or a droptine, and I got both. I was in the stand just looking around. It was about 5:30 and I had grunted five to 10 minutes earlier to see if I could get anything going, and was looking to the west. I saw something move the other way, looked and all I could see was a really big rack.
“I grabbed my crossbow and got ready,” Barenz said. “It’s a big soybean field near a hardwood finger with a grassy swamp to the west. The field had been cut shortly before I was hunting, so I was watching the grassy area and looking around. When I saw the movement and got ready, there was one little spot where if he stopped I could take a shot.”
The two big bucks had split off, Barenz said, and now he was seconds away from having this monster do one of two things: stop in the gap and give him a shot, or keep walking and possibly dash his hopes. This was the first time he’d hunted the stand this season and only the second or third during the past two seasons. Given the camera images, picked beans, weather and “just wanting a change of scenery from my other places,” it seemed like a good idea.
BIG BUCK DOWN!
The buck stopped in the gap. Barenz ignored the antlers, fired his Parker Thunderhawk crossbow and saw the buck whirl, kick and run. Was it a hit or a miss? — he watched as the giant went about 30 yards and fell. A hit! The G5 broadhead had found the spot and Barenz, the non-trophy hunter, had a genuine beast on the ground.
Barenz climbed from his stand and walked toward the deer. “I knew he was a good deer, wide and tall, maybe 12 [points]) or so. But every step I got closer to him I was just ‘Holy Cow!’ His rack was so high above his head. I didn’t even see the two drop tines at first. It was unbelievable. The buck was getting bigger and bigger with more and more points as I walked up toit.”
The buck gross scored about 214 inches, which was cool with Barenz, but not his primary objective. Just getting a big, cool buck was good enough for him.
“The photos show it pretty well, that I was in shock,” he said. “Me, I never get that kind of opportunity. It’s definitely not every day you get a chance at something like this.”