Rack Magazine

Bottom of the Ninth

Bottom of the Ninth

By Mike Handley

Jeremy Schmeidler might no longer play baseball, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of hitting a wicked curve ball out of the park.

Nine days into the Sunflower State’s 2012 bow season, the 33-year-old from Hays, Kan., decided to ditch the game plan he’d so carefully crafted in favor of a whim. Rather than play it safe with a less-than-ideal wind and a hunter-savvy buck, he rolled the dice by spending the evening inside an abandoned house.

Doing so meant that if Jeremy even saw Wild Thing, the buck he so desperately wanted, he’d have no knowledge of the animal’s approach and only a minute to react if it did. It would almost be like taking a blind swing at a fastball.

It was Jeff Bieker’s fault.

Had Jeff not remarked that Wild Thing was patterning Jeremy, instead of the other way around, Jeremy might have simply gone to another field on Sept. 25. And if that had happened, there would’ve been no joy in Mudville that night.

Ever since a Fort Hays State University baseball teammate, Darris Meitler, introduced Jeremy to bowhunting in 1999, he’s been obsessed with the sport. It was just the medicine he needed when a first-year back injury ended his aspirations for a career on the diamond.

In 2010, he bought 750 acres within a half-hour’s drive of his home. Job one was to create several food plots for deer: milo (his favorite), wheat, oats and some commercial seed blends. He also began a December-to-July supplemental feeding program with protein nuggets.

In addition, he set out numerous trail cameras.

“I am a trail camera freak,” he laughs. “I run them practically the entire time bucks have antlers, to inventory the deer on my place.”

It works, too, mainly because Jeremy takes care to put his cameras in what he calls non-invasive spots. He wants to be able to check the units at least once per week without spooking deer from their comfort zones, so he mainly sets them along field edges and baits the spots with corn.

On May 16, 2012, Jeremy retrieved a photograph of a buck that was literally dripping with potential.

Although it was very early in the antler growing season and the deer’s main beams hadn’t grown far beyond the budding brow tines, the mass was incredible. Also, the bases were encircled by irregular points.

“I immediately emailed the photo to my bowhunting partner, Jeff, and he said the buck looked like it might grow some wild stuff,” Jeremy said.

Two weeks and several photos later, they decided to nickname the buck Wild Thing. By the end of June, he was already sporting about 170 inches of antler in velvet.

“It was very obvious this buck was turning into something special,” Jeremy said. “Throughout July, Wild Thing seemed to put on 10 inches a week. And by the first week of August, he was a bona fide giant.

“We were 100 percent sure he would top the 200-inch mark,” he added. “I made up my mind that he was the only buck I would pursue.”

Jeremy knew, too, that he might well be setting himself up for disappointment, not to mention many fitful nights. He hadn’t seen that deer in 2011, and he knew it could disappear from his holdings just as quickly as it had appeared.

About a month prior to the Sept. 17 bow opener, Jeremy spoke with Bill McCall and Dan Cross of the TV show “Full Draw Adventures” about Wild Thing. Five minutes after sending Bill a photo, Mike Devine, the show’s producer, called to arrange for filming the hunt for the spectacular whitetail.

Jeremy agreed to keep tabs on the buck. If it was still on his property in the days leading up to the opener, they’d devote however many days it took to tie a tag on Wild Thing’s enormous rack.

“I had surveillance — trail cams and friends with binoculars — on the property like it was some sort of underground military operation,” he laughed. “I knew every date, time and location this buck showed his face.

“Bieker and I took turns watching fields in the evenings in the two weeks leading up to bow season. We pinpointed about three different bedding areas he was using,” Jeremy continued. “I also had an idea of where he would show up next by when and where he was the previous night.”

Although Jeremy had several setups in the timber, he decided to be cautious, at least during the first week. He didn’t want to risk spooking the deer; wanted it to come to him. And that meant hunting only food sources in the evenings.

There wasn’t an easy way to access the woods stands anyway, without spooking deer out of the fields.

To prevent the same thing from happening when they were ready to call it quits for the day, Jeremy chose to wait for Jeff to drive in and pick him up after nightfall.

If a deer left any of his fields, it was not going to be on account of seeing a man.

For this type of game plan to work, he and Jeff set up three ground blinds on different fields to accommodate every wind direction.

The first evening Jeremy and Mike sat in a blind, Wild Thing visited another field, one that Jeff was glassing. So that’s where hunter and cameraman went for round two, a move that almost handed them the Holy Grail.

Bottom of the NinthThe buck showed with a half-hour of daylight remaining. He even circled the blind at 20 yards.

“I was at full draw as soon as the buck stepped into my blind spot. Mike was sitting on my right, filming,” Jeremy said. “Wild Thing was two or three steps away from becoming famous, but then he smelled us.”

The buck backed up a step, stared at the blind, and then walked straight away for another 30 yards. He didn’t run off; never blew or stomped. He simply put more distance between himself and the not-quite-right blind that 25 other deer had completely ignored.

“There is no doubt in my mind that had we not had two Ozonics units in the blind with us, he would have bailed as soon as he crossed our scent stream,” Jeremy said.

The only shot Jeremy had before the deer was completely beyond bow range was an almost 50-yard, severely quartering angle that the seasoned hunter rejected.

“I made some bad shots early in my bowhunting career,” he said. “Been there and got the t-shirt. So I had no intention of taking a marginal shot at Wild Thing. I owed him that much.”

When it was too dark for bow sights and camera lens, Wild Thing and three other bucks filed past the blind at 25 yards. It took Jeff’s truck to run them out of the field.

The footage Mike got was breathtaking. They all looked at it when they returned to the old farmhouse that serves as Jeremy’s frequent home away from home during deer season.

When his head hit the pillow that night, the voices in Jeremy’s mind were telling him that he’d blown his chance. Iffy or not, he should’ve taken that shot. He decided that he probably would’ve, too, if there hadn’t been a cameraman beside him.

Wild Thing continued giving them the slip for the next six days, and Jeremy passed up some great antlered consolation prizes.

It was Jeff who suggested that maybe Wild Thing was patterning Jeremy, and not the other way around.

“That’s when it clicked,” Jeremy said.

To shake things up, he told Mike they needed to take a different route to the blind. The daily 4:30 appearance of the truck might be tipping their hand.

Because the wind and thermals were wrong for the blind where they’d had the close encounter a week earlier, Jeremy and Mike opted to set up in a little stone house near where they suspected the deer would leave a wooded draw to reach the alfalfa field du jour.

To minimize scent, they took the extra step of pitching a pop-up blind inside the house, leaving only two flaps open. From those, Jeremy could shoot out of the house’s front door or only window. They also fired up their two Ozonics units.

By 5:30, deer were passing within 10 yards of the house.

About 7:30, a 150-inch buck walked to within 10 yards. While Mike was watching it, Jeremy happened to glance out the front door in time to see Wild Thing.

“I whispered, ‘There he is,’ and drew my bow,” Jeremy said. “If I hadn’t already had my release clipped to the string and my Mathews in my lap, I wouldn’t be telling this story.

“Mike looked over immediately, saw the giant at less than 15 yards, and wheeled around with the camera.”

Maybe three seconds after Mike hit the record button, Jeremy released the arrow. Had he delayed another second or two, the buck would have passed beyond the opening.

“As soon as I drilled Wild Thing, I sent Jeff a text: WHHHHAAAAMMMMMY! A couple of minutes later, Jeff sent me one back that said: I just stroked Mickey!

Rather than simply glassing other fields while Jeremy and Mike were trying to get on Wild Thing, Jeff was actually hunting the other side of the property that day. He’d been seeing a buck they called Mickey three days in a row on a milo field. He got his chance within five minutes of when Jeremy connected.

Mickey wound up scoring almost 173 inches, thanks to 14 4/8-inch P-2s and lots of extras.

“That was a truly magical evening,” Jeremy said. “There’s nothing like teamwork!”

Hunter: Jeremy Schmeidler
BTR Score: 225 1/8”
Compound Bow

– Photos Courtesy of Jeremy Schmeidler

This article was published in the November 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd