Wisconsin’s Tom Hermansen killed one of the greatest main frame 8 pointers ever be harvested.
By John Dummer
When it comes to deer hunting you will hear people say they would rather be lucky than good any day. For Wisconsin native Tom Hermansen he would agree. However, on opening day of the 2012 Wisconsin gun season, he would say he was both lucky and Blessed. Tom would be in the right place at the right time (and would be awake) to have an opportunity at one of the greatest main frame 8 pointers to ever be harvested.
As a young boy Tom would gun hunt with his father Chet and older brother Eric. It took him a couple of years to figure out why he was the one that was always sent on a path through the thickets. Tom would enjoy his time with dad and brother, but in his late 20’s the property they hunted was sold and their opportunities to spend to time in the woods together became harder to accomplish. The trio would hunt a little more together over the next couple of years, but Mr. Hermansen would eventually stop. Tom’s brother Eric, purchased part of the family business, Chet’s Car Care Center, from his father, which also cut back on his time in the woods drastically.
Around this same time Tom, born and raised in Madison, WI, was dealing with some personal issues and felt it was time for a change. He and his new wife Stacey decided it was time to slow down and enjoy life. They would move to a rural community in Southwestern Wisconsin. After 5 years of hard work, saving, and many prayers the Hermansens found a house in the country they would eventually purchase. A home where they would raise their children, get on with their lives, and have a place their dog Bleu would be able to run free.
A couple years after the move, Tom applied for a position as a part time mechanic at Gullickson Trucking. Although he never had any formal schooling as a mechanic, his time spent with the family business would pay off. He was offered the position by owner Rick Gullickson and the two would quickly become friends. The shop Tom worked out of sat on the 220 acres Rick owned in Iowa County, WI. The shop had big windows that overlooked a hillside. Tom would often catch himself looking out at all the deer. Later that year Tom asked Rick for permission to gun hunt. This would allow Tom to have a place to enjoy his passion of the outdoors.
As a self-proclaimed “meat” hunter Tom understands and respects the idea of Quality Deer Management. He was aware that most people in the area practiced QDM and stated he “knows there is a passion in the area for big deer” and he “respects” that. It was Tom’s first priority to shoot a few does each year to help fill his freezer. In fact, the only other buck he has taken on this property was a smaller buck that was wounded. When asked about shooting smaller bucks Tom’s reply was that he has “too much respect for the land, the landowner, and the surrounding hunters”.
Although Rick’s property sits in the CWD zone, Tom has never noticed any deer that carried the disease. He feels it may be out there but does not let this have an impact on how much venison his family enjoys each year. Tom also stated that CWD does not change anything about the way he hunts.
Each year when Tom takes to the woods, for the 9 day Wisconsin gun season, his focus is getting a good clean ethical shot on the first doe that give him an opportunity. The plan was no different on November 17th, 2012. This was opening day. Fortunately for that first doe, Tom would catch movement out of the corner of his eye as the scope was settling in on her. Here’s how that memorable day played out…
To understand what took place during the first couple of hours, we have to back up to the night before the opener. After Tom got home from work at around 10:30 pm he finished getting his stuff ready. By the time he settled into bed it was close to 1 am. However, it would be just after two before he fell asleep. The anticipation and excitement for the following morning was not centered around shooting a world class whitetail, but rather just having the opportunity to sit and enjoy his time in his treestand. Of course shooting a doe or two crossed his mind as well.
With the alarm set for 4:15 am he would have plenty of time to eat breakfast, drink some coffee, and make the 20 minute drive to Rick’s property. Amidst all of the excitement that night he had actually set his alarm for 3:15 am by mistake. Tom would not realize this until he was half way to the property for the morning hunt. With just over an hour of sleep in him, he knew it would be a long day. When he pulled in to his parking spot he would have just under 2 hours to wait for legal shooting. Knowing if he stayed in the car for any length of time there was a good chance he would miss the sunrise. He decided to head to his stand to wait out the darkness.
When he arrived at his stand and got settled in it was 5:15. Knowing that he had some time to kill he hunkered down, relaxed and before long fell asleep. The problem with this was that he did not wake up until 7:30 am! Already hearing shots, Tom wondered just how many deer had already slipped past him. After panning the area the next 30 minutes or so without seeing a deer, Tom stood up to stretch. 10 minutes later he found himself back sitting down struggling to stay awake.
Over the next hour or so Tom would doze in and out. It wasn’t until 9:30 when he woke up feeling a bit discouraged in how his opener had progressed up to that point. Typically, by this point in time he would have at least seen a few deer and often times he would have had a doe down already. For a moment, Tom had thoughts of getting down and doing a little still hunting to help combat his tiredness. Luckily for him, he decided to sit tight just a little longer. He actually slapped his cheeks telling himself he must stay awake! It was also at this time that he said a prayer.
A few minutes later that first doe popped out. She was making her way up the ridge from right to left. With his safety off and his scope up, ready for her to get to the shooting lane, he noticed something behind her. It was not a buck, but rather a doe fawn. While scanning back to the left to pick up the adult doe, Tom noticed an antlered buck coming down the ridge.
Not knowing exactly how big this buck was, Tom knew that this buck was “big” enough for Quality Deer Management purposes. Tom’s focus would now be drawn to getting a shot on this buck. Before he could get a shot off however, the buck took off back up the ridge and made it out of sight. Without a good shot, Tom thought his chance of getting the buck had slipped away. As fate would have it however, the buck stopped, turned and came back down the hill towards him again. This time he would enter Tom’s shooting lane. Tom placed the crosshairs and pulled the trigger. With a loud ‘BOOM!’, Tom felt he had made a good shot. He immediately looked for the buck, but he was not able to see him. Excited and nervous he pulled out his phone to check the time. It was 9:58 am.
After what seemed like forever, Tom finally decided to look for the buck at 10:15 am. While scanning the area where the buck had been standing, at the shot, he noticed the bucks G2’s sticking up through the tall grass. The buck was down! Not being able to see any other part of the bucks head or body, he waited a few more minutes before getting down. At 10:25 am Tom decided to get down and get up the hill. Of course this was done as fast as he could! Tom approached the deer and stopped in amazement at what he had just shot. The monstrous buck’s head was propped up by his 11 plus inch droptine!
It will be hard for me to try to express Tom’s emotions that day after he got to his buck. Written words hardly seem to do them justice. I can only say that my interview with him was over 3 weeks from that memorable morning and yet he still broke down in tears telling me about the next few precious moments.
After collecting his thoughts his first call was to his wife. He told her, “Honey, I just shot the biggest deer I have ever seen!” She was quick to congratulate him. It was hard for him to hold the phone because he was shaking so badly. So he told his wife he was going to let her go and would send a picture. He had no idea of what he had just shot. All he really knew was it was a big, beautiful buck and he also thought to himself, “That is a lot of meat!”
For the next ten minutes Tom would just lay next to the buck and try to regain his composure. He was also quick to give thanks and praise to God for his hand in putting him in this position.
After sending his wife a picture, he sent a text message to his best friend Erich Burger. Here is the sequence of messages between the two…
Tom: Buck Down!
Erich: You shot one?
Tom: Yes Erich. You are going to be amazed!
Erich: A big buck?
Erich: We are on our way!
At no time did Tom send Erich a picture. He wanted him to experience the same amazement he did when he first walked up to the buck. A short time later Erich showed up with his wife Marty and 2 kids, Emily and Anthony. When Erich approached the downed buck he knew his friend Tom had just shot something pretty special. After a high five and a hug Erich took his ‘Buckmaster’ hat off and put it on Tom’s head. Erich told him, “You used to be the deerslayer, but now you are the Buckmaster!”
After a few pictures, the Burger Family helped Tom load the buck into his car. Yes, the big bodied, big racked buck was placed in the trunk of his Saturn! After leaving the property, Tom drove the buck to his wife Stacey’s work to show her. He made a couple additional stops before he made his way to the local taxidermist. Getting a deer mounted was something new for Tom. Owner Clint Rickey walked him through the proper steps. Later that night, after a few pictures with the kids (and the dog Bleu) Tom brought his buck back to get caped out.
The entire day was pretty surreal for Tom. When he made it to bed that night, he spent 30 minutes once again praising God. He slept pretty well that night. That is until 4:15 am Sunday morning when his alarm woke him up (at the right time) to head back to the woods. When his wife asked him why he was going to hunt after he shot the biggest buck in the woods he replied with, “Because we need more meat!” This would also be a special hunt, because his stepson Michael would be joining him.
Michael is 12 and is legally able to hunt, but would be there only as an observer this year. The two would get to share a pretty cool morning in the stand. Although no deer were shot Tom did have his crosshairs on another super buck. The big 10 pointer was 100 yards out, but instead of taking the shot he gave the gun to Michael to get a look at the buck in the scope. Tom could notice the gun barrel shaking so he knew that Michael “had the fever”. After the encounter, Michael’s response was, “Ya, that was cool dad!”
When I questioned Tom why he didn’t shoot that big buck Sunday morning he replied with an answer that I expected after spending a few hours with him. It was the respect that he had for others and the passion he had for the outdoors. He knew he was blessed with one monster buck and just didn’t feel right to shoot another.
As bad as Tom would like a chance to chase that big buck next year he knows there is a chance the option may not be available. The property owned by Rick and Colleen Gullickson has been on the market for about a year. There may be a chance that the opportunity is there, but Tom has always hoped for the best for his friends Rick and Colleen and would like to see them sell this land and fulfill their future plans.
Financially speaking as far as this deer goes Tom has been offered money for it already. He has no plans of selling it. The deer just means that much to him. I applaud him for sticking to his guns on that. The one thing for sure is that he is all about sharing the story with anyone that wants to hear it.
At the time this article was written I have been able to only discover 1 trail camera picture of this buck. Brothers Brent and Kevin Meister were able to capture a daylight picture that shows off the buck’s impressive left side. The super buck was caught moving during the daylight on the camera just before gun season not too far from Tom’s treestand. The brothers would have no other pictures or encounters. Hopefully as this story gets out more pictures or maybe the bucks shed antlers will surface. If you have any encounters or pictures you would like to share please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom’s magnificent buck has an unofficial green score of 194 4/8” gross. He grew main beams of 30”. The G2’s measure close to 16” each. The mass carries all
the way out. And, let’s not forget about those drop tines! One drop measures a tad over 6” and the other is just shy of a whopping 12”! Click here to view a copy of the un-official score sheet. This buck, regardless of the final score and where he ends up in the record books, is a dream buck for any hunter. Tom
knows that he was blessed with a special gift that day and will forever remember that morning. I say not too bad for a “meat” hunter!
John Dummer is a special contributor to Deer and Deer Hunting and is the owner of www.Whitetailworld.com. For more information on this buck and anything else whitetail deer related be sure to check out www.whitetailworld.com.