When the tale behind Del Austin’s world-record (P&Y) Nebraska whitetail was first told back in 1963, the hunter was more footnote than protagonist. Del might’ve been the one to let the air out of the buck called “Mossy Horns,” but he had no history with the buck.
Instead, perhaps because it made for a better yarn, writers focused on Al Dawson’s account of his several run-ins with what is now considered one of history’s most recognizable deer. Al had been hunting the buck since 1958, four years before Del dispatched it.
The story behind the largest whitetail arrowed in Kansas in 2011 is similar. Seneca bowhunter Roger Schmelzle’s name will be associated with the 23-pointer in the record book, but the Al to his Del is 29-year-old Dan Kaster.
Not to shrug off Roger’s accomplishment, since anyone who can launch an arrow — accurately — at such a buck deserves respect, but he had no idea the whitetail existed beforehand. Dan, on the other hand, had been salivating over the prospect of shooting it for a year and a half.
Dan first became aware that an enormous buck might be roaming the Nemaha County tract he hunts when he came across a rub during a springtime fishing trip there. Judging from the size and height of the ravaged tree, its assailant had to be nothing short of spectacular.
Finding a pair of 100-inch shed antlers gave him a pretty good idea of just how big it was, and he began counting the days leading up to the 2010 bow season.
Dan actually saw the 200-plus-incher three times while bowhunting, but he never got a shot at it. Frustrated and so enamored of the deer, he continued going after it when the rifle season opened.
Their fourth encounter occurred while Dan was still-hunting with a rifle within sight of his bow stand. Had Dan not been hindered by a sprained ankle sustained when bird hunting a few day earlier, he might’ve been able to seal the deal.
He was flabbergasted when he saw the big whitetail practically underneath the stand in which he’d spent countless hours with a bow. It was close, too, certainly within rifle range.
But it was moving in and out of some dense cedars.
While the buck was walking away at a mere 15 yards, Dan tried to move quickly toward an opening that would allow him a shot, but his bum ankle was just enough of a hindrance to allow the deer to escape.
After the season, he found both the buck’s sheds, 50 yards apart. The next fall, he retrieved a trail camera photograph of the whitetail wearing a new, equally impressive hat.
But Dan’s luck didn’t hold during the early bow season.
On Sunday morning, Nov. 6, half a mile from where it had mugged for Dan’s camera, the buck’s luck didn’t hold. When it stepped out of some cedars, another bowhunter, Roger Schmelzle, loosed an arrow.
Roger, 32, knew he was drawing on the biggest whitetail he’d ever seen while afield. And after he’d calmed down, he confirmed the hit and went home to join his family, including his new 5-day-old son, for church.
After a quick lunch, Roger, his oldest son and his dad took up the blood trail. They came across two different spots where the buck had laid down, which told Roger his decision to back out and wait was a good one. They found the buck a short time later.
When Dan heard the news, he congratulated and gave Roger the trail cam photo and the sheds he’d found.
Hunter: Roger Schmelzle
BTR Score: 222 3/8”
– Photo Courtesy of Roger Schmelzle
This article was published in the November 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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