Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

A Hunting Tradition – A B&C Audio Adventure



By Charles J. Hogeland
23rd Big Game Awards Program| From Legendary Hunts

I am only a young man, but hunting is a family tradition that is already dear to my heart. I went on my first hunting trip with my father, mother, and six-year-old brother when I was three months old. Hunting is bred into me, as I come from at least five generations of hunters.

In 1994, I turned 16, which had its advantages. I now had my driver’s license and could go out driving to scout for deer on my own. As a sophomore in high school, I participated in sports. As soon as practice was over, I would head out into the surrounding country to scout for deer. I had received my hunting permit for the Frenchman Unit of southwest Nebraska, so I knew that I would be hunting deer that November. Many hours were spent in the months preceding deer season looking through binoculars and a spotting scope, glassing the countryside.
One particular evening will stay in my mind forever. It was just prior to a huge red sunset. It had been very hot that day, and as the sun dropped in the sky I caught a glimpse of a very large buck and several does heading for a water hole. Through my spotting scope, I realized that this deer was something special. I had never before seen such a spectacular rack. I counted at least eight points on each side, and several smaller projections when the buck turned his head just right. I watched the deer until they walked down a draw and disappeared.

I was very excited and raced home to tell my parents. For awhile only Mom would believe that such a trophy could actually exist. Dad and grandpa had seen a large buck at the close of muzzleloader season the previous year, but I don’t think Dad believed me about the size and the mass of this deer. Then one evening, a week or so later, my dad ran into the house with a big grin and exclaimed, “I saw him!” That meant he was real. However, my brother was still a nonbeliever.

Opening day was fast approaching, so we made our annual stops and phone calls to local landowners to get permission to hunt. Three days before the season, I had to attend the National FFA Convention in Kansas City. Several of us at the convention had licenses for deer, so it was my job to get the advisor to leave on Friday, early enough for us to get home. Our advisor was my dad, so I didn’t have to work too hard to leave a few hours early.

Saturday, November 12, started out like a typical morning. We woke up early, got dressed, and had breakfast. The only thing different was that we were all more excited than usual, since we were loading the vehicles to go hunting. On this hunt, I was joined by my dad, who was our guide, my 62-year-old grandma, who was looking for any buck, and my brother, who was just going along, not really believing my story. As for me, I was only looking for “The Buck.”

Finally, the time had come, and we were now off to find the monster buck. The weather that morning was overcast and chilly, with only a slight breeze blowing out of the south. We carefully checked each pocket in every draw we came to. As we approached each draw, tension mounted until the draw would prove empty. Occasionally, we would flush a few pheasants or have a covey of quail explode at our feet, momentarily stopping our hearts. At about 9 a.m., we saw a few does as we continued to check draws, but no bucks.

Dad was the first to spot a nice buck, but he was a long way out at 500 yards. Looking through the spotting scope we could see that he was at least a 6x7, with good width and some mass, but it wasn’t my buck. Dad tried rattling the buck closer for grandma to shoot and got him to come within 150 yards, but it was still too far out for Gram. The buck did stop for a short time, looked toward the sound of the clanging antlers, then towards the two does he was leaving behind. This time the does won out, as the rut was in full swing. After the deer disappeared, my dad asked me if I would have shot that nice buck. I replied, “No, it is only the first day, and I am in no hurry. Besides, Grandma was in the best position for a good shot.”

We moved to another set of draws and immediately started seeing more does. I also noticed that these deer appeared to be nervous. The next pocket produced the reason for the watchful deer. As we approached and were able to see more of the draw, I saw movement. My heart started pounding, only to see a woolly white coyote run over the hill. The time was now 11:30 a.m. and another two pockets were ruled out.

The majestic buck reared up on his back legs like a horse. I chambered another round as the deer came to the ground on all fours.

The next pocket started out the same. I didn’t see anything at first. Then all of a sudden, I saw three deer. I quickly realized that one looked awfully big and awfully familiar. What probably took seconds seemed to take hours — like super slow-motion. I looked at the antlers and my mind went on autopilot. “Damn, it’s him!” I said to myself. Range? 150 yards. I knew that my .270 was sighted in for 200 yards, so it was a dead-on hold. I felt this shot was a piece of cake, since I had taken hunter safety and practiced many hours for this shot. I flicked the safety off, took a deep breath, settled the crosshairs behind his front shoulder, and squeezed the trigger. I prayed that my shot would be accurate and the deer would not suffer. The majestic buck reared up on his back legs like a horse. I chambered another round as the deer came to the ground on all fours. He started to move, so I took aim and squeezed the trigger one final time. The big buck was down for good.

A new excitement now started as I approached the deer cautiously. My dad, brother, and grandma came up to me and my trophy; Dad let out a loud yell, and my brother shook his head and my hand at the same time. Grandma later said that by the time she reached the three of us, I was just sitting beside my buck stroking his soft coat and admiring his antlers. I guess I was in a state of shock, both happy and sad at the same time. I had great respect for that splendid animal.

Grandma had come prepared, pulling out her camera for some quick picture taking. By then, my smiles told it all. Dad asked if he could have the honor of field dressing my deer, and asked jokingly if I wanted this small thing mounted. Little did he know that I was shaking too much to handle the job myself.

We finally got the deer loaded, and headed first to the landowner’s house to thank him and show him the buck that his land produced. He could not believe that a deer that size was taken a half mile from his house, and he had never seen it before.

We headed for home where mom and grandpa shared in the excitement as we relived the story. We then took the deer to the check-in station, where a few successful hunters congratulated me and admired the massive buck. On the way back home we had the buck weighed. My buck tipped the scales at 290 pounds, field dressed.

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The following days were filled with many well wishes and handshakes. We estimated that close to 500 people stopped to see the buck the first week. Many people suggested we make sure to have the deer scored. I knew that the buck was an exceptional trophy, but little did I know how exceptional. A few days after the big hunt, Dad, Mom and I took my trophy to North Platte. Arrangements were made with Barry Johnson of Johnson’s Taxidermy to do the mounting. He was impressed with the mass of the buck and suggested that we should make an appointment with George Nason. Mr. Nason is the District Manager of Programs Section with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and is an Official Measurer for Boone and Crockett Club.

On January 13, 1995, we watched patiently as Mr. Nason measured and re-measured the antlers. After what seemed like several hours, the totals were added. “It’s official,” Mr. Nason proclaimed. “Congratulations, Charlie, you are now the proud owner of the new Nebraska state record non-typical rifle mule deer. This head is the most perfect non-typical specimen I have ever seen,” he continued.

From that moment on, the chain of events continued. My hunting idol, Ted Nugent, called and later mailed a letter to congratulate me on my deer. In August 1996, I had the pleasure of meeting him in person. Ted is a musician, an avid bowhunter, a strong supporter of family hunting, and an active member of numerous hunting organizations.

On April 30, 1995, my trophy was ready to be picked up from the taxidermist. Barry Johnson had a big surprise awaiting me. Art Thomsen, the previous record holder came to North Platte to meet me and see my deer. His state record had stood since 1960. We spent part of the day swapping hunting stories and getting to know each other. Before departing, Mr. Thomsen left me with these words, “Don’t worry that your deer broke my record, records were made to be broken.”


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-Theodore Roosevelt