HOWARD LAKE, MN Most hunters go their whole life without seeing a 30-point buck, but even if they do, rarely do they get the opportunity to pull the trigger on what they’ve all dreamt about.
But for Howard Lake native Jim Wackler, things all came together at a single moment he’ll never forget.
Wackler, who has been deer hunting for 59 years, and was out every single day this season, decided to try his luck at his son-in-law’s farm.
“My son-in-law rents a farm out here and he was picking corn out there, and I stopped to talk to him,” Wackler said. “I asked him if they had anything out along the woods out there. He said, Yeah, you better go and check that out. It looks good.”
So I drove over there around 11 in the morning and checked it out, and thought, yeah I can get up here. So I came home and had dinner, took a nap, and about 2:30, I drove back out there and parked where I wanted to.”
That was all the convincing Wackler needed as he came back out to the farm, sat in his lawn chair and patiently waited.
“I sat back down and watched the bluejays come up and pick up corn and fly back into the woods, and there were a few chickadees and a big woodpecker,” Wackler said. “It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon.”
After sitting patiently and waiting for a little over an hour, Wackler heard something rustling in the corn.
“A little after 4, I could hear this rattling and commotion, sounded like freight train in the corn,” Wackler said. “So I picked up the shotgun and laid it on my lap. Then it would stop for a second or two, then it would start again. So I was watching it. I could hear it.”
After a couple more times of hearing the nosies, Wackler finally saw the deer poke his head out of the corn.
“I don’t know if it was third or fourth time it stopped, but I could see its head poke out from the standing corn,” Wackler said. “He was looking both directions, and stood there for five, six seconds.”
The patience for Wackler finally paid off as he stood ready for the opportunity when it presented itself.
“I was ready,” Wackler said as he cracked a smile. “I had the shotgun. Then he started trotting, not running fast, but just in a trot. When he got about 30 feet from the corn, I said, “Hey!” and then he stopped and looked at me. That was just enough time for me to put 20-gauge bead on his chest and I pulled the trigger. His tail went down and away he went.”
With Wackler knowing it was a good shot, he loaded another shell into his shotgun, grabbed his cane, and began his search for his target.
“When I got into the woods, it was fairly clear in there, and I looked around, and oh, there’s a big white log up there. Looked like a birch log laying up there, but there’s no birch tree around here, so I walked over there and there was blood all over. Then there he laid with his belly towards me and I poked him a couple times, and yeah, he’s dead.”
Knowing he got the deer, his first of the season, Wackler didn’t fully realize how special this moment was until he walked behind it to get a better look.
“I walked around behind him and I looked at it, and thought, ‘What have I done James?,’” Wackler said. “There was a log about 20 feet away, so I went over there and sat down for a while and got my composure, because then my heart was going wild. I sat there for probably five minutes. Put the shotgun down, and grabbed my cane, went back, and started counting points. When I got to 32, I said “Oh my God, I got the 30-point buck.”
After realizing what Wackler had on his hands, he went back to the log to call for some help. After calling his son-in-law, Mike, who didn’t answer right away, he got a response minutes later.
“And then pretty soon Mike Young called back, and asked what’s going on?” Wackler said. “I said I got the 30-point buck, and he thought I was nuts.”
Mike eventually made it back out to the farm, where he found Jim and his trophy buck.
“I said ‘Look at it,’” Wackler said. “‘Oh my God,’ he says. ‘It is the 30-point buck.’”
Following lots of pictures of Wackler and the buck, a crowd grew around Joe’s Sport Shop as many others wanted to get a look at the trophy.
“Then, we got down to Joe’s Sport Shop about 6 o’clock here in Howard Lake to register him,” Wackler said. “There was nobody there, but within about five minutes, there were 25, 30, 40 people there. They were making u-turns on the highway to come back and look at this thing. It was 8 o’clock before we got out of there.”
The buck weighed 216 field dressed, and was officially a 36-point buck. Wackler plans to have the antlers mounted, and will have a guy come out next week to officially score the buck. He believes it should be in the top two or three in the state.
“I got the empty shell, and I got what killed him,” Wackler said. “I got this bent shell. That’s what killed him, and I found the shell back by my chair where I was sitting.”