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The Baron is Dead!
The Barron is dead! The 9 1/2 year old king of Venado Hills
met his fate on Thursday, October 15th, 1998.
Venado Hills is nestled in the Kettle Moraine
country of central Wisconsin. It is owned by Larry Huffman, Legendary
Whitetails, who has built one of the largest and most impressive
antler collections in the world. His most famous mounts include
the Jordan Buck and the Hole in the Horn
Troy Huffman was the guide trying to track down The Baron.
He was still impressive, though getting up in age. Though The
Baron was pushing 300 lbs., Larry was concerned that he might
not make it through another cold winter. Last January, The Axe
fell victim to the harsh weather. On Wednesday, October 14th,
Troy evaluated several stand options suited to the strong north
east wind. He decided on a site at the far west end of the 250
acre ranch. It was a great place for deer, coming slowly out
of the tall spruce trees where they had sought cover. The does
came first. Off to our left came three big ones, a small buck
then a very small fawn. Suddenly, from the right there was a
nice 8 pointer. Then, following shortly after was a wide 11 point.
When you are on a guided hunt, you probably should resist taking
the first big deer you see. Nevertheless, this was certainly
a big one. He was almost perfectly symetrical but his G4's were
very short and he didn't have much mass at the bases. He was
still young and would grow much bigger in the next few years.
Then, out stepped a true king of the forest. A massive 11 point.
5 long tines on one side and 6 on the other. A heavy body and
a massive neck, swollen with rutting activity. He was certainly
a keeper, probably scoring over 160". At the same time,
do you take the first great deer you see? After watching him
feed a while, I drew on him. I didn't think I would shoot, but
wanted to get the feel of things. I let down and started to hang
up my bow. An old nervous doe spotted me and in an instant something
like 20 deer vanished without a trace. These deer were not used
to seeing any sort of people in their turf.
Though it has been sunny, it was surprisingly cold so we decided
to head back to the lodge. Greg Huffman, Troy's brother acted
as chief cook. He threw together a ceasar salad, filets on the
grill matched with a very nice red wine. Much more than my usual
vegetarian fare. I got quite a lot of grief for passing up the
massive 11 pointbuck. "Not many hunters have let a deer
that big go." Larry chided over dinner. The truth was, I
didn't want the adventure to end so soon, just an hour or two
into the first afternoon. I had been helping Greg with the Legendary
Whitetails marketing for about three years. He was now helping
me get a big deer. This was probably a "once in a lifetime"
adventure and I wanted to savor every minute of it. My biggest
concern was, what if we didn't see any big deer tomorrow?
After dinner, Larry started talking about other deer on the
ranch. The 19 pointer with tripple brow tines. Three other breeders
he didn't want me to touch. Then, he mentioned The Baron. This
deer was on the property from the very beginning 10 years ago.
For about 4 years he had been the main breeder buck but after
he hit 7 years old, they thought he was past his prime. Out came
some of his huge sheds from '93. We rattled them together a bit.
the mass was astounding. "We have almost every set of sheds
from The Baron," said Troy. His photos have been in a number
of regional and national magazines. He is also shown in Aging
& Judging Trophy Whitetails. Quite the celebrity. I had
seen his picture on a Christmas card. I couldn't believe that
we might be looking for The Baron. They were somewhat concerned
that he was getting up in years and could be expected to decline.
Well, after all this discussion, we decided to try to get a glimpse
of The Baron.
Up before dawn, we walked around from the north to a stand
quite a bit east of the lodge. We then came down a steep hill
and climbed into a high permanent tree stand. The wind was very
strong from the south east. I of course was hoping that we would
see something at least as big as the 11 point we had seen yesterday.
As the light increased, a small buck came in from the west. On
that side there was a lowland area. There was a grassy knoll
to the south and a hollow with hardwoods to the east. Soon, a
wide young 10 point came in, also from the west. He was very
wide, but still too young to have much mass. Also, the tines
were a bit short. He walked around the clearing beneath the stand
then touched a small branch, made a scrape then rubbed a nearby
tree. Quite a show. A bigger 8 point came in. He had a large
body, clearly a mature deer, but not a spectacular rack. From
behind us, another 11 point walked in. I really thought this
one was worth considering.
Suddently, from the east, in walked The Baron. I was expecting
an old broken down deer with a modest rack. No, The Baron was
still very majestic. He had a strong powerful body and a massive
high rack. I was instantly thankful that I had passed on the
earlier deer. He first cleared out the smaller bucks. There was
no question who was dominant here. Then he strolled out 20 yards
in front of the stand. I drew my Darton back and held. Unfortunately,
he only presented a forward shot. I held as he quickly turned
away. I thought for a moment that I might get a shot but I was
not about to chance a poor one. I let down. I drew again as he
walked out to 30 yards but never paused. He quietly passed out
of range to the south. I reached back to grab my parka without
realizing that a doe was staring at me. All the deer cleared
out and we were done for the morning.
Over the lunch, we talked about whether to
try again or to go after another deer. I decided that I only
wanted The Baron. We went back to the high stand in the afternoon.
As it got later, the wide 10 point came in again from the west.
Next there was a beautiful 10 point. He had a huge body with
a basic 8 point rack. It was really solid with split brow points
a very interesting rack. I told Troy I would probably go for
that one. In came another 10 pointer from the south, still a
bit young but very nice. Then came The Baron. Once again, he
chased the other deer from the clearing. Even the big bodied
fork point was no match for him. This time he fed contentedly
in the meadow at about 20 yards. I drew again, and again he offered
only a front shot. I let down again. He chased the wide 10 point
away to the west. As he walked back he still was not fully broadside.
I decided to take a shot. I had to place it over the shoulder.
I released the arrow... The arrow didn't pass completely through.
The Baron took off in a blast to the south, into the tall grass
but nothing very thick. Troy said it was a great shot. But I
felt it was a few inches higher than I would like. I started
to shake, fell backward onto the platform. We waited the obligatory
20 minutes and climbed down. I was using Barrie Archery's Assassin
mechanical broadheads for the first time. We saw no blood. Troy
suggested we start walking and see if we could spot him. He felt
certain that he would not go far. We walked up the hill, just
a short ways and there he was, less than 90 yards from the meadow.
His big rack stuck up above the grass.
The Baron was dead.
After pictures, we measure his crown. He topped 160"
gross score. His rack was every bit as big as it had been a few
years before. He had lost a forked main beam but to the end he
was clearly king of his domain.
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