After years of hunting the giant Wisconsin buck, Cooper Long jumped the deer from its bed and connected with his rifle at 30 steps
|Rack Report Details
|181 6/8 inches
|Time of Year:
|November 24, 2023
|Crawford County, Wisconsin
Cooper Long spent years thinking about this big whitetail, and finally connected. Image courtesy of Cooper Long
Most record-class bucks killed in the modern era are bagged from treestands, ground blinds, or box blinds. Few are taken with old-school tactics like still-hunting. But that’s exactly what Wisconsin deer hunter Cooper Long did this season.
“It started back in 2020,” Long said. “We picked this guy up on trail camera with a heck of a 5x5 [rack] with split G2s, but it gave every indication of a younger deer. We were thinking four at most, but nonetheless impressive, and if given a chance, we were going to take him.”
Long hunted all that season and had one encounter with the buck during the rut at 35 yards, but he didn’t get a shot. Fortunately, he found both of the buck’s shed antlers that winter.
In summer of 2021, his friends across the road were seeing the deer in velvet, but Long didn’t get a single photo of the deer on his side of the road. “Bow season rolled in, and all intel we had was that he was getting further and further away,” Long said. “I kind of wrote him off as gone, and moved sights to other deer. Everything was hearsay, but it was that he survived both archery and gun seasons.”
Skip ahead to 2022. The buck had survived, and returned to Long’s friend’s hunting property across the road. The 6 ½-year-old buck was as impressive as ever — the biggest rack the buck would ever grow. Several different hunters started receiving trail camera photos of the buck, which had become quite notorious in the neighborhood.
“We knew he was close to our chunk, but at best would make a quick loop through and back to the neighbor’s,” Long said. No one got shots at the buck during archery season. When gun season rolled around, that changed.
“My buddy finally got an opportunity at him with a rifle, and thought he got it done as he watched the buck fall,” Long said. “But as he walked up to the buck, (the deer) got up and ran out of the ditch with no shots connecting. At that point, we were unsure if he was hit.” During shed season, one of the neighbors picked up both of the buck’s antlers. The deer had lived yet again.
Long didn’t bag this buck in the manner he expected to, but he’ll take it nonetheless. Image courtesy of Cooper Long
Skip ahead to 2023. Long kept thinking the buck might shrink its home range. “With that in mind, going into season, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to scout or hunt much being on the road for work,” he said. “So, I didn’t rely on trail cam intel at all. I knew where he liked to be when he was on our chunk. So, purely based off that, I was able to get a hunt in right around Halloween.”
During that hunt, Long conducted a calling sequence. Sure enough, he looked up and spotted the deer about 75 yards away, walking down the hill toward him. The buck was alone, but seemed to be on a mission. Still, it never made it to within bow range.
After the hunt, Long posted a trail camera on that trail, which he believed led out of the buck’s bedding area. The buck hit that camera in daylight a couple days later. That triggered Long’s “go” mode, and he started actively hunting the buck.
By gun season, he still hadn’t seen the buck again. Knowing others were hunting the buck hard, he worked even more diligently to create an encounter with the deer. The first few days of gun season didn’t produce, but Long didn’t hear of anyone else killing the buck, either.
Even so, Long had been targeting this deer without success. He kept thinking that buck might be seeing him on his way to the stand. Could an alternate entry route and stand location prove fruitful?
“After many convos with my buddies trying to figure this deer out, we landed on asking the neighbor’s permission to walk through their field,” Long said. “They gave me the go ahead.” That gave him the directional access into his property that he thought he needed.
On November 24, 2023, Long put his updated entry route plan into action. He parked his truck around noon, and started the walk toward his stand location. “I had a feeling he was close, so I still-hunted my way in just thinking I may jump him,” Long said. “That exact thing happened.”
Unfortunately, his new entry route didn’t have the intended effect. Rather, it produced the opposite. It was a blessing, though. Because he got a quick-draw encounter with that buck, and it was in pretty bad shape. The deer was wounded and suffering.
The buck jumped up out of its bed about 30 yards in front of him. Long was able to raise his gun, settle in, and get a shot off before the buck bolted. He took the quartering-away opportunity, and the deer ran over a steep ledge and fell dead. Immediately following the shot, Long called his buddies and waited for them to get there to help with the recovery.
“Looking back at the whole scenario, we’re thinking he was likely bedded and on his way out,” Long said. “He was in pretty rough shape. He had an arrow high shoulder with massive infection. His body looked as if he was a 3-year-old. I’m super pumped to get him, but it was a heck of a few years of myself and many others hunting him and always giving us the slip.”
The buck scored 181 6/8 inches, and was finally harvested at 7 ½ years old.
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