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The traditions of Minnesota’s deer season were displayed far and wide once again this year.

Hunters enjoyed the camaraderie of deer camp; ate too much; purchased gear and extra clothes; trampled out before daylight; sat in the wind (and some rain and snow); introduced kids to the sport; created new stories; and, most of all, they enjoyed the outdoors.

Deer were hung on game poles throughout the Brainerd lakes area and statewide. This season, many hunters from age 10 to 80-plus brought their does and bucks to the Baxter Mills Fleet Farm and other locations, and weighed them. More than 500 deer were weighed in the statewide Big Buck Challenge contest and the excitement built every day.

Big bucks were exactly where hunters discovered them. From the far north regions to the extreme southeastern ridges and everywhere between, big deer came to the scales. The Big Buck Challenge staff recorded the largest buck in the Central Boiler Buck Over 200-pounds division at 252.75 pounds. It was shot in Cook County, sported eight points and a 25-inch wide rack and earned a Polaris Ranger and a Spring Creek Taxidermy shoulder mount for Charles Blackwell from Walker.

“This was the best $20 I ever spent,” he said, “I’m in it for life and will buy a Big Buck Challenge ticket every year. So will all my buddies. Shooting a big buck is great; so is winning a Ranger.”

Interestingly, John Peterson, founder of Northland Fishing Tackle from Bemidji, said: “In all the commotion right before season, I forgot to buy my ticket this year. I weighed my buck, and it would have earned me a Huldra Mark IV rifle from Fleet as the second place winner. I won’t make that mistake again.”

He was not alone, as many successful hunters weighed deer knowing they will enter the contest next season after seeing what they would have won. Lucas Hacker, Brainerd, weighed his 217.34 pound 10th place buck and won a Big Max utility trailer.

Brainerd hunter David Eades weighed his 179.37 pound buck on the final day. He earned an Eyecon Black Widow game camera for placing sixth in the Vortex Under 180 pound division. Susan Lehmann, Cushing, placed 10th in the Big Game Treestands doe division with a 141.12 pound doe. She won a pair of Vortex Diamondback 12 x 50 binoculars. The largest doe was weighed by Dallas Smith, Cloquet, at 160.16 pounds. He won a Polaris ATV.

The biggest smiles were reserved for the 100-plus youngsters weighing deer and entering the Mills Fleet Farm Youth Division. Those 10 to 15 year old hunters, both boys and girls, are still smiling. The top 25 does and 25 bucks by weight shot by young hunters earned each of them a $50 gift certificate from Fleet Farm. The youth division had no entry and no advance registration.

The top 25 Youth Division bucks weighed 172.81 pounds to 231.91 pounds. Alex Surma, hunting with Uncle Joe Przybilla, Royalton, weighed the top buck. Six youth bucks weighed more than 200 pounds. The top youth doe was registered in Alexandria by Jack Walsh at 150.72 pounds.

Przybilla said, “Thirteen year-old Alex was so excited with his first buck that he was shaking and that smile — wow!” Last year Przybilla was 23rd overall, and this year his son was 18th with a 208.83 pound buck. “You never know what’ll happen in the woods and you can’t win if you don’t enter,” he said.

Other divisions included the Hornady American Whitetail Under 160-pound division and the Hunter’s Specialties Under 200-pound division. Results are listed on the website (see Leaderboard). There are also dozens of deer pictures posted that would make any hunter drool.

Baxter resident Chauncey Hanson, Big Buck Challenge owner, was very satisfied with the turnout and mostly by the giant smiles as hunters weighed their deer.

“Next year I know more hunters will buy tickets, because they now know how much fun this contest has become. This settles any argument about biggest deer in camp. And, somebody will win. One guy bought a ticket even though he had never shot a big deer. This year he did and he claimed one of the 75 prizes.”

Hanson was particularly thrilled at the youth participation. One youngster turned 10 years old on Oct. 30, and weighed his first buck. Aitkin hunter Jake Kewatt, age 13, recorded a 202-pound buck. He learned from the senior hunters at the weigh station that he may have taken the biggest buck of his life.

“Parents and grandparents were smiling as much as the kids,” Hanson said. Brother Nate Kewatt, age 10, shot his buck the next day.

The Big Buck Challenge moved east into Wisconsin for their nine-day season running through Thanksgiving weekend. The Big Buck Challenge is sponsored by Mills Fleet Farm, and a portion of the proceeds goes to the Central Campus of MN Adult & Teen Challenge in Brainerd. For more details, go to