Chad Garteski, of Byron, took this Winona County bruiser while bowhunting Sept. 18. The antlers had 13 points and green-scored 184 (gross). The inside spread was 19 inches, and the antlers included one drop tine.

Garteski’s bluff-coun­try mon­ster proves big things can come from small packages

By Scott Bestul, Con­tribut­ing Writer


If you think you need a mas­sive estate to con­sis­tent­ly grow mature white­tails, Chad Gartes­ki might beg to dif­fer. Gartes­ki arrowed a 184-inch mon­ster on a 100-acre tract in south­east­ern Min­neso­ta on Sept. 18.

The heavy-racked buck was one Gartes­ki knew well.

“He was just a reg­u­lar, not only on that farm, but in a cer­tain cor­ner that oth­er mature bucks use fre­quent­ly. I was obvi­ous­ly excit­ed when he showed up, but not sur­prised,” Gartes­ki said.

The Winona Coun­ty buck was actu­al­ly one Gartes­ki, an expert white­tail­er who owns Weiss Real­ty and sells hunt­ing prop­er­ties for a liv­ing, had tar­get­ed a year earlier.

“There were sev­er­al nice bucks using that farm, but that buck was spe­cial to me. I called him the ‘Jam‑4’ buck because he’d jammed his G4 on some­thing (while) in vel­vet and had an acorn on the end of that point. Between that and his frame, it was hard to mis­take him.”

After a sum­mer packed with trail cam images of the buck, Gartes­ki near­ly killed him the morn­ing of Nov. 1, 2021.

“I spot­ted him walk­ing across a field about 200 yards out and hit the rat­tling antlers,” he said. “He turned on a dime and came trot­ting in, then stopped to rub a tree about 30 yards away. If he stepped on one side of the tree I had a great shot, and if he went the oth­er way I knew he’d prob­a­bly wind me. Well, he went the wrong way and stiff-legged it across the field. He knew some­thing wasn’t quite right. I was afraid he was real­ly spooked, but I got a pic of him on a trail cam ear­ly that very afternoon.”

Gartes­ki shot anoth­er fine buck last fall, a heavy-beamed buck that grossed in the 150s, and was relieved when trail cam images revealed that the Jam‑4 buck had sur­vived the
hunt­ing seasons.

“I had plen­ty of win­ter food – corn, soy­beans, and bras­si­cas – on the farm so I was pulling in deer and I was get­ting plen­ty of pics of him,” he said.

“Final­ly in Feb­ru­ary, I had pics of a shed buck that I was sure was him. I went out on Feb. 14 and found both sides, lying only 15 yards apart. They scored 73 inch­es each, and still had blood on the bases, so he’d shed them with­in the last day or so.”

As the sum­mer of 2022 pro­gressed, the Jam‑4 buck returned to his favorite area on Garteski’s farm.

“I actu­al­ly think he was kind of con­di­tioned to me,” Gartes­ki said, laugh­ing. “I’d go to that spot to mow, or check a cam­era, and with­in an hour or two of me leav­ing he’d be in front of the cam­era, in day­light. So he was obvi­ous­ly liv­ing some­where close by. I was pret­ty excit­ed about my chances for the archery opener.”

Sun­day, Sept. 18, was the sec­ond day of the 2022 archery sea­son. While the weath­er was quite warm, Gartes­ki had the per­fect wind for a set­up where he thought the Jam‑4 buck might appear.

“This stand is by what I call a ‘pock­et plot’ of clover and chico­ry next to the woods,” he said. “There’s also good shoot­ing to a pond tight to the tim­ber. Bucks love to hit that spot on their way out to big­ger ag fields, and most of my pics of the Jam‑4 buck came from a cam­era there.”

As the after­noon wore on, Gartes­ki real­ized that the high tem­per­a­tures prob­a­bly were sup­press­ing deer move­ment. As it turned out, he saw only one deer, but it was the right one.

“About prime time I could hear a deer mov­ing,” Gartes­ki said. “When I final­ly saw the deer, I knew it was the Jam‑4 buck, but he looked strange, and then I real­ized he had shreds of vel­vet hang­ing off and twist­ed around his rack. He dis­ap­peared into some brush for a while, but I could still hear him in there. Final­ly, he walked out on the pond dike and he shook his head back and forth. With that hang­ing vel­vet going back and forth, it was a pret­ty amaz­ing sight.”

Even­tu­al­ly the buck stepped into the pond to drink and Gartes­ki had a per­fect 40-yard broad­side shot.

“I set­tled in and picked a spot, then took the shot,” he said. “I knew the buck was in trou­ble imme­di­ate­ly and I was pret­ty sure I heard him crash. I texted my friend Joe Braun to see if he could come help me, and he said he was on his way. When Joe got there we had a short track job. The buck had gone only 70 yards and died only 50 yards from where I’d found his sheds in February.”

While one side of the Jam‑4’s rack had lost a lit­tle tine length, the buck had more than made up for it by pil­ing on mass.

“While he was only 4 3⁄4 inch­es at the base, he was over 6 1⁄2 inch­es on the oth­er cir­cum­fer­ences,” Gartes­ki said. “His longest tines were over 11 inch­es, one main beam was 28 1⁄2 inch­es long, and we came up with a rough gross of 184-inch-plus.

“To be hon­est, I didn’t do the best job of scor­ing him, because I want­ed the taxi­der­mist to pre­serve all the vel­vet still on him and I didn’t want to mess that up. It was hang­ing in some places, and almost braid­ed around his tines and beams in oth­ers. I sent the pic to a few friends who thought it was barbed wire wrapped around him. He’s a pret­ty incred­i­ble buck, and I couldn’t be happier.”

More arti­cles like this @ Out­door News