Jeff Berkemeier might have collected the mother of all treats on Halloween 2016, but his 12-year-old neighbor had only a broken heart to unwrap.
The boy and his father had been keeping tabs on a tall-racked whitetail the’d nicknamed Skyscraper. The woods-saavy kid knew more about the deer’s habits – where it bedded and fed – than anyone else living along the animal’s considerable travel corridor.
Jeff, a hog farmer who hauls manure on the side, had two years of trail camera images of the buck as well. He set aside three days – Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 – to hunt a 14-foot ladder stand overlooking one of the deer’s haunts.
During his first abbreviated sit, Jeff allowed three decent bucks to pass within range of his crossbow. He cut that memorable hunt short only because he’d promised a client a load of manure.
En route back to his truck, Jeff cut through a draw that led him to a 16-acre cornfield. He was parked on the other side.
As soon as he stepped out of the woods, a shooter 10-pointer – not Skyscraper – emerged from the same tree line about 80 yards distant.
“He was totally unaware that I was standing right there,” Jeff told Ed Waite, who’s writing the story for Rack magazine. “I could have easily taken him. When he stopped to look back into the timber, I focused that way also, just in time to see a doe bursting out at full speed.
“The doe ran right past the buck, headed for the draw, and it followed her,” he continued. “I was stunned.”
Jeff had taken about 15 more steps when the buck of his and his neighbor’s dreams suddenly exited the woods at full speed. It crossed the cornfield 30 yards in front of the gobsmacked hunter, just as the doe had done, but it was traveling far too quickly for Jeff to even contemplate shooting.
Jeff returned with his brother-in-law, Josiah, shortly after 4 p.m. While Josiah went to the ladder stand, Jeff took his climber to where Skyscraper had exited the woods that morning.
“Just about 5:00, I saw a doe come up over the ridge,” Jeff said. “I fully expected Sky to be right behind her as he was surely the dominant buck on the farm.”
But it wasn’t Skyscraper. The lesser buck, a mounter in its own right, was accompanying her.
When the duo stopped 80 yards out into the corn, the buck lowered its head. Skyscraper had cleared the trees and was glaring at it.
While the 10-pointer began skulking away, the doe sped past Jeff’s tree.
The shot was 55 yards, a piece of cake for Jeff, who routinely practices with his crossbow at 50. At the thwack, the buck jumped straight up and took off running.
“Strangely enough, he stopped out in the field, spun around and ran back to within 20 yards,” Jeff said. “I was frantically trying to find a way to re-cock the bow without alerting the buck.
“I managed to hold my leg straight out, anchor the stirrup on my foot, and pull mightily. After I succeeded in getting it to latch, I quickly seated a bolt, aimed and fired. It was another good solid hit, right in the vitals,” he added.
Skyscraper made his last bed on a hilltop in view of one very excited hunter. The deer’s BTR composite score is 205 3/8 inches.
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