NoDak hunter Stuart Danielson arrowed this monster whitetail during a perfect pre-rut bow hunt
Rack Report Details
Time of Year:
October 18, 2020
Kidder County, North Dakota
It’s been one decade since North Dakota has been featured in a Rack Report. Realtree pro staffer Ralph Cianciarulo took an impressive whitetail there in 2010. And while North Dakota is no slouch for producing good quality bucks, it doesn’t produce the real giants with the same frequency as Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, and Kentucky. But Stuart Danielson’s buck from this October is an eye-opener.
Over the last three archery seasons, Danielson has had some serious success. This year’s buck marks his third gross-Booner buck in as many years. That, in large part, has to do with the way his family manages its land. They chase only the most mature bucks — regardless of score — on the property. Danielson has some robust history with his 2020 buck.
“We’ve known about him for three years,” he says. “I picked up his matching sheds last year. Every time I saw him, he was in a tight core area. His home range was very small.”
In the first year he knew about the deer, it spent most of its time on a neighbor’s property.
“I encountered him a few times during the rut and once during late season in 2018,” he says. “Last year I saw him a couple of times in velvet, then he disappeared until the rut. I never had any chances to harvest him in 2019. He ended up breaking off a tine, so we stopped hunting him, and I was able to take another great buck instead.”
Other than an encounter Danielson’s wife had with the buck during the archery opener this year, and one more toward the end of September, the buck went missing late in the summer up until the pre-rut. And when he reappeared, it was in the same area as the previous year. Despite his small core area, “he wasn’t a very visible buck,” as Danielson puts it.
“I had a feeling something would happen this year,” he says. “I knew it was a matter of persistence and hunting as smart as I could. Also, knowing when not to hunt is an important part of it. Mainly, that’s based on wind direction.”
Danielson’s brief encounter with the giant in September was a close call. The deer came in to about 45 yards while running off some other bucks. He never presented a shot opportunity and eventually circled downwind and caught Danielson’s scent.
Then came Oct. 18. Danielson had captured a picture of the buck the evening prior at midnight. He knew the buck was in the area. And with the onset of a cold front, he felt confident that it would appear during daylight.
“I got into the blind with a cameraman,” Danielson says. “We try to film all of our hunts. We had a great wind for that location. We saw numerous deer throughout the evening. A few other bucks were first to come in. Then, he appeared in the field and practically beelined it to us.”
As Danielson attempted to draw his bow, cold, tense muscles made it difficult.
“I was trying to draw back as slowly and smoothly as I possibly could,” he says. “When I finally hit full draw, the buck jumped and kind of spooked. He stopped right in between two windows for my cameraman’s view. He was quartering toward me pretty tight, but he was only 20 yards away, so I aimed carefully and let him have it. My arrow entered in front of his shoulder and angled right into the chest. Only 4 inches of my arrow were sticking out. He ran maybe 80 yards and went down. Unfortunately, the arrow impact wasn’t on camera, but everything else was.”
During the quest for a specific deer, Danielson says you can form a kind of relationship and learn the animal’s tendencies and personality.
“It’s sort of a bittersweet feeling to put the puzzle together and harvest a specific deer,” he concludes. “It feels great, but at the same time, I know that I won’t see that deer or get to hunt him anymore. But, as a hunter, the end goal is to harvest the deer. And I did that.”