Few hunters get shots at 140-, 170- or 200-plus-inch deer. But in 2020, Kyle Dulek bagged one of each. And the latter created quite the story. A season like that will make a fellow feel invincible.
Having history with a deer always seems to make the hunt more special and adds additional elements to the hunt. For the past couple years, Kyle captured trail camera photos of the 200-plus-incher. The giant was especially active on camera during the summer of 2019.
Being a longtime hunter, having the opportunity to chase such a giant was extremely rewarding. “It’s in my blood,” Kyle says. “I’ve never missed a season since I could hunt at 12 years old. I grew up in a family of hunters — my grandpa, dad and uncle. It’s always a special time of year, as I have a great group of longtime buddies I hunt with. The year before I could hunt, I sat with my dad on the ground and watched him shoot a great buck, and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Kyle not only has a long history with deer hunting, but also with the area he chased this monster buck. He’s hunted it since he was 12 years old and knows the land quite well. All Kyle needed was to drill down the deer’s core area. Eventually, after getting close, he moved in for the kill.
The Hunt is On
Dec. 6, 2020, brought a typical early winter day for southeastern Minnesota. It wasn’t too hot or cold, but hovered in the mid-30s with a light, northwesterly wind. Given the conditions, Kyle expected decent deer activity. So did his friends. Some of them were in the field, too.
“It would be hard to explain the bond my hunting crew has,” Kyle explains. “We look forward to deer season every year, and each year gets better and better. We have a group of guys and gals who grew up together for 30 years. We have the most fun, and the memories we create are priceless. No matter what time of year it is, we always end up talking deer hunting. It’s special, and I hope we can do it for a long time.”
Kyle thought about the memories he shares with his hunting buddies as he prepped for the hunt, but soon he shifted his focus on where to go. Even with minimal winds, hunting in bluff country leads to thermal action, and so he decided to hunt along the rim of a bowl next to a steep ridge. The spot has numerous hills, draws and points nearby. It was a long trek to the stand, but Kyle decided to hunt the last spot in a long line of stand locations.
Kyle busted several does and a good buck along the entry route, but he decided to continue onward. He’d hunted the area a lot the previous season, but in 2020 he’d left it fairly unpressured. So, he stuck with his original plan.
Finally settling into his tree stand, Kyle looked around to see if anything was stirring, but it wasn’t. But soon after getting quiet, a doe walked up over the ridge in front of him and milled around
for quite some time. After a while, coyotes started howling a short distance away. Minutes later, leaves rustled directly behind the tree stand. Thinking the coyotes were walking toward him, Kyle slowly twisted around. But he couldn’t see anything.
Then, the hunter heard the unmistakable sound of a deer working a scrape. “I finally could see just a foot with my binoculars,” Kyle remembers. “I could see his tail flicker every once in a while, as he was freshening up the scrape. The rest of his body was shielded by large trees, so I never could see his antlers. I watched him through the brush, and he started to make his way up and away from me. I caught a brief glimpse of the left side of his rack and counted four points.”
At this point in the season, Kyle already had tagged two giants during earlier seasons, so he wasn’t quick to pick up his gun. That changed after determining what deer it was. “I hunt in the southeastern part of the state,” Kyle explains. “We can tag three bucks, one each with a bow, shotgun and muzzleloader. We can also party hunt and cross tag bucks. This was a big change a few years ago from where only one buck could be taken all year. Most of the changes were due to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
“I recalled the mass on the side I briefly had seen was much bigger than the 170-inch buck I harvested earlier in the shotgun season,” says Kyle. “I put my binoculars down and grabbed my muzzleloader. I had a tough time picking him up as he was heading away from me. I was finally able to get the buck in my scope just as he was almost over the ridge.”
With the buck just two steps from being gone forever, Kyle sized up the 110-yard shot and pulled the trigger. Smoke filled the air, but he thought the shot connected. He listened intently and heard a crash a few seconds after the shot.
Initially, Kyle decided to wait until dark before looking for blood. Instead, just as legal light ended, he eased over and looked for sign. All he found was one drop. After marking the spot, Kyle backed out and met up with a couple of friends. Later, they returned and took up the blood trail. “We went back to where I found the drop of blood and it didn’t take long to find good blood,” Kyle recounts. “I was last in the line of three trackers.”
Calls for Celebration
Soon after starting, Kyle heard both of his friends erupt, and one of them yelled: “Do you know what you just did?” The giant buck was lying dead 30 yards from where he’d marked the speck of blood.
“The first person I called was my dad,” Kyle says. “He is the best deer hunter I know, and I still learn something every time I hunt with him. He had seen the trail cam pictures of this buck from last year, and he could tell in my voice it was a big deer. I told Dad it was way bigger than the 170-inch buck I harvested earlier that year. My parents live 45 minutes away, and he immediately was on his way.”
After recovering the big buck, it took several hours to get it back home. Of course, everyone was texting out field photos of the monarch to mutual friends and contacts, which resulted in an untold number of calls, messages and other inquiries. Kyle lives in a small town, and everyone knew about the hunt by the day’s end.
Reflecting on that day, Kyle realizes just how much of a blessing the day was, especially when realizing how everything came together to get a shot at such a deer. He admits that many things could have gone wrong, but they didn’t.
“From the walk in, to having a doe below me the whole evening, to the buck coming in from behind me, and being two steps from not getting a shot — a lot could have happened,” Kyle laughs. “We all dream of shooting a big buck, but I’m still shocked this happened,” he continues. “I’ve hunted hard for a lot of years and have taken some nice deer. I put a lot of time and work in. This year it just seemed like everything came together for me. I was able to take the three biggest deer of my life in one season. It was every hunter’s dream.”
Kyle’s buck scores 227 4/8 gross and 215 5/8 net. His taxidermist aged the buck to be 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 years old. Regardless of what the buck ages or scores, it was a day the Minnesota hunter will never forget.