Hunter bags deer after finding half its rack months before

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2001

AVON, Minn. (AP) -- In mid-August, John Eisenschenk found half a deer rack along the road. Three months later, in a curious fluke, a deer missing half a rack emerged out of a stand of trees during Eisenchenk's annual hunt.

''It got closer and closer and I could see it was a large buck,'' Eisenschenk said. What he quickly realized was the buck had half of its antlers missing.

''It was a little shocking,'' Eisenschenk said. ''I spend a lot of time watching deer, and I never saw that one before. I shot him and I waited a while trying to remember what side of the rack I had. I was pretty certain that it would match up.''

It did.

Eisenschenk, 42, found the first half of the rack commuting to his home in Avon with his children Sarah, 15, Molly, 11, and Jonah, 6.

''We stopped and realized that what we saw was a broken antler,'' Eisenschenk said. ''It was special because it was velvet. But we looked in the ditch and we couldn't find a deer there.''

It was the right half of a rack, undamaged and still covered with this year's growth of a soft layer known as velvet.

''Somewhere along the way the deer must have slipped or hit something and it broke off,'' Eisenschenk said. ''It was at least a discussion piece for my friends.''

Eisenschenk already had an impressive collection of antlers. There's a giant moose rack in his living room, an elk rack in the entryway and many whitetail deer racks hanging in a coatroom. But none came with a story like this.

Over the next few months, Eisenschenk wondered what the odds were that the deer was still around. He continued to look for it during his commute.

''I always thought that it might still be around,'' he said. ''But people who got scouting reports from the neighbors never heard them talk about a buck with one antler.''

Chris DePerno, farmland deer project leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said deer can have small home ranges and seasonal movement of about 20 miles.

According to DePerno, deer grow their antlers in early spring and keep their velvet until around September.

The velvet fluffs off in the early fall and the rack takes on a polished form. The racks are shed between January and March.

''It's very rare that a velvet antler would fall off,'' DePerno said. ''It would suggest some type of vehicle accident.''

Eisenschenk had similar thoughts when he saw the velvet antler on the ground. But there weren't any skid marks nearby.

Fast forward to the Minnesota hunting opener. At 6 a.m. Nov. 2, Eisenschenk was in a tree stand on his 21-acre property, hunting with his 18-year-old son Jeremiah.

''My discussion with my wife was that I was either going to wait for a trophy buck or wait to get the guy with one antler,'' he said. ''Even though I knew the chances of that happening were pretty slim.''

At 7:05 a.m., Eisenschenk heard some leaves cracking. When he looked in the direction of the noise, he saw a large creature approaching. It was his buck. He shot it about 2 1/2 miles from where he'd found the velvet antler.

''John came in the house and just grabbed the velvet antler and stared at it,'' said Eisenschenk's wife, Mary. ''He didn't say anything right away. Then he told the family to come outside.''

The family went to the back of the barn and Eisenschenk stuck the velvet antler into the cavity in the deer's head. Aside from the velvet, it mirrored the other half.

Eisenschenk took the deer to a butcher and they examined it for trauma-related injuries, but found none. It was an eight-point whitetail with a field-dressed weight of 190 pounds.

Eisenschenk has harvested about 22 bucks in his lifetime and he considers himself an optimist.

''Molly told me that she read somewhere that if this happens you have 15 years of good luck,'' Eisenschenk said. ''Other people ask me if I feel like betting on the lottery. People ask me if I'm lucky.

''I don't know, I always visualized that I might see him again. I believed it was possible. So I was already prepared for him when it happened.''


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