A malfunction with a propane heater lead to a box-blind fire and then a quick change in stands for Brent Wiesenburger, but that wasn’t even the craziest thing that happened to him that day
|Rack Report Details
|Time of Year:
|November 18, 2023
|North Central South Dakota
|Cooper Model 52 300 Winchester Mag
Brent Wiesenburger knew he was going to target this buck as soon as he saw him on camera back in June. In all his years chasing big whitetails, he’d never seen anything like it. The buck had a slightly palmated right side main beam with 6 normal points, but the left was different. It was fully palmated and looked just like a moose antler. The buck’s rack was so lopsided that it continuously walked around with his head tilted to the heavy side.
Wiesenburger knew right away that he would target this odd whitetail this season.
The buck lived on a large ag and CRP property that Wiesenburger manages for deer and upland game. Even though the farm is immense, trespassing had been a problem in recent years, so Wiesenburger kept news of the non-typical buck quiet.
Wiesenburger managed the property with growing and holding trophy whitetails in mind.
While the buck was a regular on camera when archery season came in, Wiesenburger already had an elk hunt scheduled. The allure of the unusual buck was so strong that he considered skipping the elk hunt, but eventually decided to go. He got trail cam photos of the big buck in front of his stand the entire time he was elk hunting.
He chased the buck during the entire archery season.
Once he returned from his elk hunt, Wiesenburger hunted the buck throughout the South Dakota archery season, and he got close on several occasions. “We’d had way more than average rainfall here this summer, so the food plots of sorghum and corn, as well as the CRP, were really tall. I’d see the buck, sometimes in range, but I never could get a shot because of the heavy cover,” Wiesenburger said.
In nearly every trail camera photo, the buck tilted his head to the palmated side.
On the evening before the firearm season opener, Wiesenburger made one final attempt at the big buck with archery gear. He set up next to a gate in a line fence that the deer sometimes used. As the evening drew to a close, Wiesenburger looked across the field to see the big buck several hundred yards away. He watched as the buck passed by one of his blinds and entered some heavy bedding cover.
“I was pretty confident that the buck would bed down for the night in there and then pass back by that blind on his way to water the next morning,” he said. “I decided that is where I would be for opening day of firearms season.”
After nearly setting his first blind on fire with a malfunctioning heater, Wiesenburger moved to another spot.
Early the next morning, Wiesenburger parked several hundred yards from his blind and hiked in well before daylight. He’d left a propane heater attached to a 20-pound tank in the blind to ward off the South Dakota cold. He fired up the heater and noticed it wasn’t running exactly right. He shut the heater back down and could hear the faint hiss of gas escaping. He shut down the tank, checked the connections, and waited for what he thought was long enough for the gas to escape.
After a few minutes, Wiesenburger reached over to relight the heater. The entire blind erupted in a ball of flame. Wiesenburger started trying to stomp out the fire, but by this time the plastic on the heater was starting to burn. He quickly pulled everything out of the blind and unsuccessfully tried to stomp out the fire. With the heater still burning, his next option was to drag it down the hill to a nearby stock dam. After busting the ice and submerging the heater, he finally got the fire out.
While not palmated, the opposite side of the rack had extreme mass all the way out.
“I walked back up to the blind thinking there was no way there was a deer left within 500 yards of this spot after all that noise and commotion. My blind smelled strongly of melted plastic. I debated what to do, but it was almost daylight at that point, so I decided to stay put,” Wiesenburger said.
He made it about 45 minutes. “I had purposely dressed lightly for the long walk in,” he said. “I was counting on that heater to keep me warm and without it, I got cold in a hurry with the 20-degree temperature.” Wiesenburger considered his options.
He could see another of his blinds about 300 yards away and knew there was another heater inside, hopefully one that worked. He made the call to leave the blind he was in and make his way over to the other spot.
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Wiesenburger climbed into the new blind and turned on the heat. As he sat soaking up the warmth, he looked out across the open field in front of him. A deer appeared out of the head-high switchgrass CRP just 100 yards away. “I didn’t even need my binoculars to know it was him,” Wiesenburger said.
He eased his Cooper Model 52 out the blind window and took aim. The .300 Win Mag did the job, dropping the big buck in its tracks. “I just leaned back in the blind, almost overcome with emotion. I’d chased this buck all fall, put 4,000 miles on my truck driving back and forth, spent 200 hours in a blind, and it was over. I had him,” Wiesenburger said.
The big buck fell with the moose side of his rack sticking up. Wiesenburger marveled at it as he walked up to his deer. He said it was almost surreal. The paddle side of the rack was even more unusual than he first thought. While it has several small nubs along the top side, it doesn’t have a true beam and points the way most whitetails do. “My taxidermist is a certified scorer, and even he isn’t sure exactly how to handle this one,” Wiesenburger said.
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He added that the rack, while definitely heavier than the opposite side, wasn’t as heavy as expected. Once they got to look closely at it, he and his taxidermist noticed it was covered in tiny pinholes. The taxidermist carefully slid a long needle into one of the holes. The rack was hollow on the inside.
The palmated portion of the rack was full of tiny holes, porous and even hollow in places.
Wiesenburger says he plans to get the buck scored eventually, but the final score doesn’t really matter. “I’ve killed some really big deer over the years, but never anything as unique as this buck. My taxidermist and I talked it over and he is going to cut the form and tilt the head over to one side in the final mount, just like he was in every photo and every time I saw him in person.”