The quest for a buck named Sweeper started way back in August for Justis Knutson, of Chetek.
Knutson, a 2019 graduate of Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, and his family started getting the buck on camera in late summer when the mature whitetail was in velvet.
“We had several nice bucks on camera in the area. I had the chance to watch this deer a couple of different times towards the end of summer. He eventually got the nickname Sweeper, because of his extremely long main beams. The last velvet picture we got of him was on Aug. 15, and then he disappeared for about a month. I had no clue what happened to him or where he went,” Knutson explained.
On Sept. 29, Sweeper returned and gave Knutson some fresh intel as they finally got some more trail camera pictures of the buck. Sweeper would visit the property about once a week to check a scrape.
Knutson, a hardcore bow hunter at heart, admitted that attending college and playing fall baseball at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, while attempting to hunt at the same time, was extremely difficult for him and his schedule.
“Every chance I got, I was out sitting in the stand. The one afternoon he came to the scrape by my stand at 3:30 p.m., but I didn’t get into my stand until 3:50 p.m. that day—I missed by 20 minutes. I didn’t even feel like hunting after that. I figured that was going to be the only opportunity I had at him,” Knutson said. “As the deer continued to show up in daylight, I told myself that I was going to have to hunt every day or have someone else sit in my stand. I had my dad sit in the stand when I couldn’t. He saw a lot of different deer, but Sweeper never showed.”
On Friday, Nov. 1, Knutson planned on coming home to go hunting. He finished a workout for baseball at about 2:30 p.m., packed up his belongings and headed for home. Knutson arrived at his house at about 3:40 p.m. and proceeded to put his hunting clothes on and grabbed his backpack and bow, then headed for the stand.
“I remember looking at my phone right when I got into my stand. It was 4:03 p.m., and I caught myself looking at trail camera pictures of the buck while I was in my stand. The woods seemed extremely quiet that night,” he noted.
At around 4:45 p.m., Knutson caught a glimpse of movement to his left. Although he could tell it was a deer, I just didn’t know what it was. After catching a glimpse of antler, he assumed the buck was the 3.5-year-old 10-pointer that he had a few encounters with earlier in the season.
“The deer was only about 80 yards away, but he was standing in a pretty thick part of the timber. As he got closer to me, I saw the G3 on his left side was split. Right when I seen that, I knew what deer it was. I started breathing extremely heavy, and I couldn’t control my heart. After a few deep breaths, I got myself to calm down a little. He was walking right to one of my shooting lanes at 30 yards. He took two steps into the open, I drew my bow back and grunted at him so he’d stop. He stopped right in the lane and it couldn’t have worked out any better. I put my 30-yard pin right behind his front shoulder—he was quartered away a little bit—and I watched the arrow hit then he dropped. I was in disbelief; he struggled and it almost looked like he was going to get back up. I knocked another arrow and shot him again. After I saw that he had expired, I got down, walked over to him and just said, ‘Thanks.’ The amount of work that went into this buck was unbelievable. From checking cameras to hanging stands, to long sits in the tree without even knowing if he was still around, it took a lot,” Knutson stated.
The monster buck scored 163-2/8 inches, but had both of his 3.5-inch brow tines busted off, and another kicker off of his right G2 that was about 2 inches broken as well, likely from fighting and sparring with other bucks—trail camera pictures Knutson had showed the buck with all of the points just a few weeks prior. If the none of those tines had been broken, Sweeper likely would have scored more than 170 inches.
Regardless, Knutson tagged out on a true Barron County trophy as the whitetail breeding season heats up in northwestern Wisconsin and across the Badger State.