Al Kraus, owner of Black Hills Archery in South Dakota and member of Team Realtree, took the biggest gross-scoring buck ever captured on video by the Realtree cameras during the 2007 hunting season. This Q&A with Kraus will give you a glimpse into one of the greatest encounters ever captured.
SM: Where, when and with whom were you hunting?
Kraus: I was hunting on October 30, 2007, in southern Iowa with David Blanton and Iowa landowners Ron Skaronsky and Steve Snow.
SM: Iowa is known for huge deer. What were the terrain and deer like where you were hunting?
Kraus: We had been hunting on farmland and in hardwood pockets for five days. I’d seen numerous nice deer and had passed on three or four smaller bucks. I’d even passed on a 160-class deer with the hopes that I’d happen upon a 170-inch buck or bigger. I wanted a giant, and boy did I get one!
SM: Tell us about that memorable day?
Kraus: We’d sat all day long in a creek bottom that connected several different blocks of timber. At approximately 5 p.m., I began doing some rattling. We were facing the timber anticipating that any responding bucks would come from the woods. All of a sudden we saw movement in the cut bean field next to us. I looked up to see a gigantic buck standing across the river just 40 yards from us.
SM: What went through your head the first time you saw the deer?
Kraus: I thought, “Holy smokes, that’s the biggest deer I’ve ever seen in my life.” He was standing on the trail leading to me. I could hardly breathe. When he crossed, he cut up the river away from me instead of coming up the bank toward me. I grunted in an effort to get him to come back toward my stand. I was completely focused. I knew I had to say the right thing to get his attention. I did not want to blow the opportunity.
SM: Talk about the moment that you knew you were going to get a shot.
Kraus: When I started grunting, the buck turned toward me and began heading in my direction. He made a scrape and rubbed two large trees on the way. After I grunted for a bit longer, the buck had enough and made a beeline for our tree. I tried to stop him at 5 yards, but he was so tense that he continued to walk dead ahead and ended up directly underneath my stand. We all had to turn around in the stand in order to get the cameras and my bow on him again. I gave him another grunt when he reached about 10 yards. He gave me a slightly quartering-away shot, which I took. The buck ran approximately 60 yards before falling over in the creek.
SM: What were your immediate thoughts upon seeing the deer once it was down?
Kraus: Well, I knew that there were giants in the area because the area had been managed so well. I just never thought in my wildest dreams that a 200-class deer would show up within a few yards of my stand. I felt so honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to shoot a deer like that with my bow.
SM: So, what were his measurements?
Kraus: He measured over 204 inches. He didn’t have an overly giant body — just a huge rack. We aged him to be approximately 7½ years old.
SM: Do you think that you’ll ever get another shot at such a huge buck again?
Kraus: I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like that again.
SM: What has been the response from others about your deer?
Kraus: My closest friends and family are happy for me. My wife just loves him. I have the full-body mount in my den. But I have heard some jealousy-driven comments from others. There have been highs and lows as always is the case when someone harvests a huge buck. Sometimes one’s success just brings out the worst in other people. But, I try not to worry about that. I hunt for myself and not for anyone else.
SM: Now that you’ve taken such a monster deer, what next? Has shooting smaller deer lost its excitement for you?
Kraus: Many people ask me that question. I’ll never stop deer hunting. I love whitetails and I just love spending time in the woods hunting. The size of the rack does not matter that much to me. I’ve hunted my entire life, and I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot some gigantic animals. The previous year I shot a 186-inch and a 182-inch buck, which is great, but spending time with my friends and meeting new people who enjoy the sport are what I love the most.