DULUTH — When a nine-point buck came walking toward Leif Birnbaum's deer stand last Sunday, Oct. 15, the Duluth bowhunter took a good look at him.
"He was a nice deer," Birnbaum said, "but I was waiting for something a little bigger."
Something bigger — way bigger — showed up about an hour later. Birnbaum shot a 10-point buck that field-dressed at 260 pounds.
Birnbaum, 33, was hunting in the city of Duluth's bowhunt for deer, as he has since 2007. He had been on his stand, in an undisclosed Duluth neighborhood, for about three hours last Sunday evening when the larger buck came in.
About 20 minutes earlier, he had pulled out his "rattle bag" — a small bag with a few oak dowels in it — that he had rattled to imitate the sounds of two bucks sparring.
"I'm sitting 25 feet up in a spruce tree looking straight down. You don't realize how big he is," Birnbaum said.
Now, at about 6:30 p.m., the buck kept walking toward Birnbaum's stand, allowing him a better look.
"His neck was gone," Birnbaum said. "It was all body."
That was all he needed to see.
"He looked like a pretty mature buck," he said. "I had a nice shot, so I took it."
The buck weighed 260 pounds on a scale at Birnbaum's home, he said. That's a huge whitetail buck by any standard, bigger than most of the bucks that win big-buck contests each fall across much of northeastern Minnesota.
"That's a big one," said Phillip Lockett, president of the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance, which administers Duluth's city hunt. "There have been some big ones (in the city hunt), but anything over 230 is pretty rare."
This is the 13th year of the Duluth city hunt.
After shooting the buck, Birnbaum called his friend Mitch Smerz for help getting it out of the woods. They tracked the buck 70 or 80 yards, Birnbaum said, before finding it.
"I was expecting something nice," Smerz said. "(Birnbaum) had told me it was nice. But it was kind of a jaw-dropper for a second. The body mass was unreal."
"I couldn't believe how big it was," Birnbaum said. "I'd never seen a deer on the ground that big. It was the biggest body I'd ever seen. We just stood there thinking, 'How are we going to get it out of here?'"
The answer — about 10 feet at a time. They dragged it to the nearest street, and Birnbaum drove his truck around to pick it up.
Birnbaum had shot an antlerless deer earlier in this fall's city bowhunt, as is required before a hunter takes a buck. Last year, Birnbaum, a web developer at Giant Voices in Duluth, shot a buck in the city hunt that weighed 230 pounds.
The antlers on this deer were nice, but not particularly heavy, he said. He doesn't plan to mount the deer but likely will have a European mount — using just the skull and antlers — created from it.