In today’s world of satellite cell cams and manicured hunting leases, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the 200-plus-inch non-typical whitetail recently taken by Mike Reitz had been patterned, nicknamed, and meticulously hunted. But Reitz says that’s far from the case.
“I had no idea the deer existed until five minutes before I shot him,” Reitz tells Outdoor Life. “I don’t even put out trail cameras any more.”
On Nov. 16, his last opportunity to hunt before Wisconsin’s gun opener, Reitz was out to bust an unlucky streak with his bow, planning to take the first legal buck he saw. He made his way to a property in Dunn County, which he’d only hunted twice before. He built a brush blind and waited.
After spooking a forky early in the afternoon, Reitz saw a group of eight does appear on the trail behind him.
“The wind was blowing straight at them,” Reitz says. “They all started putting their noses in the air and most of them ran off up a ridge, but for whatever reason, one fawn started walking right toward me.”
Reitz decided to record the fawn on his phone when one of the larger does barreled back down the hill, stopping directly behind him at 30 yards.
“I realized she had me pinned and I was trying to be as still as possible.”
Reitz could only glance to the limits of his peripheral vision as he heard a buck approaching from his seven o’clock—the same direction where the does had winded him from minutes earlier. As the buck passed through the brush, all Reitz could make out was antlers moving toward the fawn that he had been trying to video.
When Reitz was sure the buck’s vision was obscured by the brush, he decided to risk spooking the doe. He grabbed his bow, and turned to face the buck.
“She didn’t spook, but all of the sudden here comes this other buck running right down at her,” Reitz says. “The first buck sees him and they just start snort wheezing at each other. It was wild.”
Eventually, the confrontation ended and the doe finally took off. That’s when Reitz realized the stars were aligning; the buck was going to follow her directly by his blind, and the shot was going to be close. Really close.
“I drew on him as he was coming past a tree and into a little lane. It was like it was meant to be. He popped out from behind the tree at five yards, slightly quartering away.”
Wielding a second-hand, 20-year-old PSE, Reitz made a good shot on the buck. Still, he decided to give the buck plenty of time before finally approaching.
“I called my brother-in-law Danny when I finally walked up to it,” Reitz says. “I thought it was an eight or ten pointer or something right until I started counting the tines. I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Danny, I think I just shot an 18-pointer.’”
The buck was later rough scored by Pope and Young Ethic magazine editor and co-founder Steven Ashley. It green-scored 212 and 4/8 inches gross nontypical. Although the buck was unknown to Reitz until their encounter, the deer became somewhat of a local legend when its record-book shed antlers, nicknamed the Hardy Sheds, were found in 2022 about five miles from where Reitz later killed it. According to Reitz, that set of antlers scored 236 inches even. Without counting the spread, the sheds scored 219 7/8 inches, according to a video uploaded last year. The sheds are shown to have 28 scorable points, with 18 on the right side, and 10 on the left. It was quite possibly the biggest pair of shed antlers found in the state last year.
Reitz mentioned people around town were happy the buck was taken by a local, although plenty of people tell him he’ll probably never see a buck of this caliber again.
“Well, I shot a buck that scored pretty good a couple years ago, and they said the same thing about that one, too. You just never know.”