There’s nothing as exciting as pursuing a single buck over multiple years and finally being able to connect with him. In our reader success story today, Nick Pieske does just that. Please join me in congratulating Nick on this great buck! – MK

By Nick Pieske

My adventure with this buck started with a post-season trail cam video taken in an annual wintering area in January 2013. He was likely 2.5 years old then and sported a 4×5 rack and had a noticeable split in the tip of his left ear. That following summer I was able to get a few more trail cam photos but he was mostly a ghost until October when after I had already filled my tag on different buck, “Split Ear” started to appear on my cameras again. One late October afternoon the wind was blowing super hard and made for a good opportunity to go check a certain camera. As I approached the camera tree, I noticed a doe stand up and bedded nearby was this beautiful buck.

I left my cameras out to soak up info and low and behold in January I was on cloud nine with new photos of “Split-ear”! He lived!? The absolute gauntlet of a SW MN slug season is a meat grider where few deer live to be three years of age, but here he is. My fire was lit and an obsession was born.

Through most of the next summer I was unable to find the buck again but I kept moving cameras around and finally in mid-August I hit trail cam gold with close to 100 pictures of who was unmistakably my prime target, Split Ear. Oh he was awesome to me with pose after pose while standing over a mineral site I had made two years prior. And the buck made regular visits to the location every 4-9 days. I actually charted his visits on a calendar with the time of day and deer that accompanied him. This location is wide open farm land broken by a few areas of swamp grass and cattails. A treestand was not an option. Opening day came and I hunted that spot as much as time allowed, in as much cover as I could tuck into as I was afraid a pop-up blind would just be too much.

A month later and zero trail cam action, I decided the buck had moved for whatever reason, and he wasn’t where my cameras were located, ever. So I hunted a location roughly a mile away, again on the ground, and bingo I again located the bucks. Although I didn’t see Split Ear that night, I saw the second biggest one around and knew Split Ear had to be near by as well. The next weekend was October 25-26th, which was also about the same time of year when I had last witnessed the buck in a nearby grove shadowing a doe.

That Sunday afternoon I had a South wind which was needed to hunt the grove. I had not yet hunted that location at all, and had no trail cam pictures of the buck here yet either, but had to try it. Pheasant season had now been open two weekends and since this grove is private, there is a chance a flushed buck may come looking for refuge.

That afternoon as I parked outside the grove and got out to gear up for the night hunt, I noticed a set of large deer tracks across the picked bean field heading into the grove, which got me excited. After a short while on stand a doe and fawn walked past me and through my wind without alarm. An hour later I could hear rustling and faint grunting coming from the cornfield next to the grove. The grunting was at first was high toned and short, then became long and deep which had my attention! Soon after a doe and two fawns came from the field and walked right on past me, but no buck. The evening wore on and now the sun was beginning to set. Suddenly I heard noise in the corn again, sporadic noise moving closer, closer, then past my location and I can’t see any animal at all. Is it raccoons? I’m not certain so I let out a few loud grunts, and it became quiet, so I let out a couple more…..snap, pop, snap was the sound of movement my way and then he appeared.

I could tell it was a good buck but a quick look through my binoculars confirmed it was him. Oh my gosh it’s him and he is staring my way. All I could do was stand there, bow ready, trying to be one with the tree to remain undetected. He stood like a statue waiting to find the other buck, then it was obvious he didn’t like the situation and was leaving. I don’t even remember drawing my bow. The moment he put his head down I quickly found my 40 yard pin and mashed the thumb trigger. He was on the move but my lumenock flew true and I knew it was a good hit. He ran between the corn and the trees; then I heard a moment of silence, then a crash of corn. Oh there is no greater high! I soon climbed down and went to look for my arrow. No luck locating it, so I ran back to my vehicle for a flashlight. Getting back to the shot location I found blood right away and knew the buck was doomed. The last crash I heard was his as well. He made it about 100 yards only and the Rage 2 blade did its job on a hard quartering away shot.

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Putting my hands on that animal and running my finger through his split ear made me feel like a kid meeting his favorite baseball player. The object of my obsession was now in my possession. A very bitter sweet situation but one I hope to live again. He weighed 240lbs before being field dressed, and scores 143” gross P&Y.

– Nick Pieske

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