Monster 17-point buck was a team effort

It took three hunters to bring down a 17-point buck in the Ely area on the last weekend of the firearms deer season.
The buck ended up taking top prize in the United Way of NE MN’s Big Buck Contest.
Dean DeBeltz said he was hunting with daughter Carena and nephew Ruger Carpenter, checking on a few spots before heading home for the day.
“We walked over to a spot and I told my nephew to watch the clearing. We were about to leave and he said, ‘There’s a deer down there!”
DeBeltz said the buck was about 230 yards away and he decided to take a shot.
“I didn’t think we could get any closer so I took a shot and I think I hit it.”
But the deer was downwind and looked like it didn’t know which way to go. Fortunately, it made the wrong decision.
“It walked across the trail and then it started coming our way so I told those two, get your guns up and when it comes into the clearing we’re all going to shoot.”
Sure enough, the buck came out much closer and within range of the trio of hunters.
“We all shot and there were three holes in the deer. The kids were pretty excited and the deer went down.
“It was a joint effort. I was fortunate enough to put may tag on it. We all cleaned it and dragged it to the truck. I was fortunate enough to be there with them.”
The deer had 17 points and field dressed out at 185 pounds.
DeBeltz said the three hunters decided to do a European mount of the skull and antlers.
“We’re going to hang it down at the cabin,” he said.
“It was one of those things were typically when you hunt an area you know what deer are around. We’ve never seen anything like that. It was the first time we saw it. Typically when we get a deer it’s a spike to an eight point. I guess this time the stars aligned.”
Winning the United Way contest was the icing on the cake.
“The monies raised go to their Imagination Library program so it all goes to kids. That’s the neat thing and here we got this deer of a lifetime with two young kids. They might be spoiled for life.”
The United Way Big Buck contest is in its second year, according to Katy Lofquis, the UWNEM’s Communications & Engagement Coordinator.
The contest also had Adam Borchert of Ely as a winner.
“We started it last year as a way to connect with United Way supporters in a new way since we weren’t able to hold in-person events due to the pandemic – but regardless of the pandemic we thought it was a great idea because deer hunting is such a beloved pastime in our region!
“The contest was open to youth and adult hunters who live, work, or hunt in our service area (the Iron Range, Koochiching County, and Lake of the Woods County). Hunters had to register prior to the start of deer season, and youth participating in the youth hunting season were also eligible if they signed up prior to that season’s start.
We had nearly 100 hunters register for this year’s contest, and though it was a tough year for buck hunters in our region, we had 11 participants submit buck photos for judging. Identities were hidden for judging, and the bucks were judged by the number of points, inside spread, and general appearance of the bucks. Prizes were awarded for the biggest buck in three hunter categories: adult male, adult female, and youth. A prize was also awarded for the buck with the most unique rack. Adult male and adult female winners received $250 L&M gift cards, and youth and most unique rack winners received $100 L&M gift cards.
“All hunters who registered for our contest – whether they got a buck or not – were entered to win prizes in random drawings, including a Lifetime Minnesota Hunting license!
“All proceeds from this contest go directly to our local Imagination Library program.”
“The Big Buck Contest started as a creative way for our United Way to connect with people at a time we weren’t able to physically gather, but I hope it becomes a local staple regardless of circumstances. The contest combines a favorite MN pastime with fundraising to support one of our region’s favorite early literacy programs, Imagination Library,” said UWNEMN executive director Erin Shay.