South Dakota Hunter Tag Non-Typical Giant Whitetail Deer

Sam Vedvei used his deep knowledge of deer movement from a lifetime of hunting his family ranch to take down a South Dakota poacher on October 18. He tallied the heavy 17-pointer with 15 minutes remaining. The non-typical green 8 x 9 measures just over 200 inches.

The boy began appearing on Vedvei’s camera in mid-September, always at least two hours after dark. He took five camera photos this fall, and after reviewing the 2021 photos, he realized the buck had appeared three times last year as well. It took him a while to make the connection because the deer had changed so much. “He was a nice deer in 2021, but not nearly what he is this year,” says Vedvei, who didn’t target the buck last year because he showed so rarely. “He grew about 40 inches.”

cam photos of two buck night tracks
Buck made a remarkable jump between 2021 (left) and 2022 (right). Sam Vedvei

When a cold front swept across eastern South Dakota in mid-October, Vedvei decided it was time to make his move. “I knew this cold snap would be my best chance to kill this buck all year,” he explains. “I live in a heavy area and we don’t have a lot of timber, so deer rely on crops for cover. Once the harvest starts, they pack up and move on.” He sat four evenings in a row on a stand overlooking a cornfield with a two-acre patch of willows, cottonwoods, and native grass in the back without seeing a deer. Heading to his stand on the fifth and final afternoon of cold weather, he felt safe because the wind, which had been blowing 30 miles an hour, had finally died down.

“I never saw a deer that night until 7 p.m., about 15 minutes before shooting light ended,” Vedvei says. “I heard a rustle behind me and realized it was a squirrel or a raccoon. But when I turned to look, I saw the silhouette of his rack over the native grass up to his chest.”

Within 60 seconds, the mushroom had moved through the tangled clearing into an open area 25 feet from his stand. “I didn’t have time to think,” Vedvei recalls. “It was all reaction. He came out and my shot was a touch back – I ended up cutting the back of the lung and caught the liver – and he took off in a dead sprint in the same direction he came from.”

Vedvei was optimistic that he would be able to recover the deer

Vedvei has hunted the family farm since he was 12 years old. He lives just a few miles away and spends time year-round watching deer movement—scouting work that paid off before and after the shot. The stand is actually set up for rifle hunting, not bowhunting, but he knew that the grassy area behind the stand and a fence line along the cornfield are the main travel corridors for bucks. When it came time to track the deer — after trailing for three hours — he had a pretty good idea where the chase would end.

“My state of mind was quite positive. I was sure I had a dead shot, and having hunted the same property my whole life, I basically know how deer travel in and out of the area,” he says. “I basically knew exactly where it was going, but when you’re tracking a deer, you obviously want to get it right and follow the blood.”

Still, there were some tense moments as Vedvei meticulously followed the trail of blood across fields planted with black dirt in the dark, sometimes on his hands and knees. He eventually found the buck about 400 yards from where he hit it. He was shocked by what he found.

hunter poses with bighorn deer
The dollar rack has a tremendous amount. Sam Vedvei

“From the camera pictures, I thought this deer was probably in the 170s to 180s,” he says. “He was a terrible surprise when I approached him. He was bigger than I thought. He just carried the mass all the way through the rack, just a much bigger deer than I thought.”

Green scores from an official Boone & Crockett scorer put the rack at 200 6/8 with an inside reach of 21 6/8 inches. The left beam scores in the mid 80’s and the base is approximately 7 inches around, with the circumference far from the end of the beam still 5 inches. “The right side is just a spectacle. He has so many things going on,” says Vedvei. “He’s got a split G2 with a shot coming off him, and there’s one point that’s broken and another that apparently fell off when he was on the velvet. He’s just an incredible deer.”

man poses with big deer and bow
Vedvei found the bruise 400 meters from where he shot him. Sam Vedvei

Vedvei has not yet submitted the teeth for aging, but his taxidermist, who examined the lower jaw, estimated the buck to be 7 ½ years old. With a chuckle, Vedvei credits “hard work and dumb luck” for his success in harvesting such a wily old warrior.

Read further: Wisconsin Bowhunter Arrows impressive whitetail that green reaches 192 5/8 inches

“The hard work comes in keeping an eye on these deer and understanding how they move and react,” he says. “But dumb luck is what it took for the deer to get in, no doubt about it. I mean, this deer had never been on any of my cameras in two years, and all of a sudden I shot it.

“Honestly, I’m still in complete disbelief. For me and where I hunt and how my season usually goes, having a chance to even see a deer of that caliber on the hoof is almost more exciting than being able to shoot it. Walking up and finding that deer – the amount of disbelief, shock, relief, joy – man, it’s just a mixed bag of emotions. I’m still trying to find the words to describe exactly how it feels.”

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