Tim Elsenheimer’s long relationship with a massive 8-point buck came to an end in early October. The 61-year-old from LaGrange, Maine, finally notched his tag on the deer that’s eluded him on more than one occasion while hunting the 75-acre farm where he lives.
“I have thousands of photos of him, and passed shooting him several times when he was a younger buck,” Elsenheimer tells Outdoor Life. “Three years ago, I missed him with a muzzleloader at 80 yards. It was late in the day, tough to see, and I missed him clean with the gun.”
Elsenheimer never saw the buck in 2021. In 2022, he had the deer at 43 yards while bowhunting, but he didn’t like the shot and passed. This year, the buck that Elsenheimer had gotten to know so well started showing itself around his homestead during the summertime.
“I got photos of him last April and he was very skinny, and I was worried about his health declining,” Elsenheimer says. “Then, I was on my tractor this July and saw him bedded on the edge of a field. I got within 20 yards of him before he got up and moved.”
On Sept. 30, Maine’s archery season had just started when Elsenheimer spotted the buck a second time on his property as it fed on apples from a tree along the field edge. For two evenings in a row, he watched the big 8-point and a smaller buck walk along a fence line across the field from an old ground blind Elsenheimer had built.
“I decided to move to the old ground blind for the following evening’s hunt to get him into bow range,” he says.
Three days later, on Oct. 3, Elsenheimer hustled back to the farm from his job in Bar Harbor just in time to get in the ground blind. It was around 60 degrees that evening.
“I rushed home from work, grabbed a bucket to sit on, and got into the blind about 5:55 p.m.,” Elsenheimer says. “I knew I didn’t have much time to hunt because legal [shooting] hours ended at 6:42 p.m. I still had all my work clothes on when I got in the blind, which was only 400 yards from my house.”
The big 8-point and a smaller buck stepped out of the timber at 6:15. But instead of heading toward the ground blind, they headed in the opposite direction and away from Elsenheimer.
“I used my grunt call a couple times softly to turn them back toward me, and it worked,” he says.
The buck was feeding in the field when it reached a spot he’d previously ranged at 60 yards. Elsenheimer raised his crossbow and shot. He completely missed the buck and saw the arrow sail over its back.
“The buck was walking, and was closer than I thought,” he says. “The deer turned and looked to where the bolt whistled over his back, and I struggled to get my crossbow cocked again and put in another bolt.”
Loading the crossbow inside the old, weathered ground blind was difficult without alerting the buck. But Elsenheimer got it drawn and reloaded, and re-ranged the distance between him and the buck.
“He was 42 yards, standing looking at the blind broadside, when I touched the bow’s trigger. Then I heard the broadhead hit.”
Elsenheimer thought he’d hit the buck a bit high, so he left his blind and waited at home before tracking the deer. About an hour later he walked back to where he’d shot the deer. Using a flashlight in the dark, he found the back half of his arrow and assumed the other half was still in the deer.
“There was light blood on the half I found, but not much sign of a lung hit on the deer,” Elsenheimer recalls. “I knew the woods he went into was a gnarly, tangled area. I decided it best to call in a tracking dog team so I wouldn’t jump the buck and lose it.”
The tracking dog wouldn’t be there for an hour, so Elsenheimer decided to circle the woods where the deer entered and check it himself.
“There’s an apple tree on the opposite side of the woods, and a mowed area under it. I looked over and the buck was laying there dead,” he says. “That when I called my wife and two sons to share the good news.”
With his family’s help, Elsenheimer recovered the buck with a tractor. It weighed more than 230 pounds field dressed. The massive 8-point rack has long tines and remarkably heavy beams, and he says it’s nearly impossible to wrap his hand around the bases.
An official scorer measured the green rack at 180 1/8 inches, with a net score of 176 1/8 inches. That score easily qualifies for the Pope & Young Record book, and according to the Maine Skull and Antler Club, Elsenheimer’s buck should go down as the biggest 8-pointer ever taken in the state. The current state-record 8-point, taken in 1973 by Don St. Pierre, scored 168 6/8 inches.