The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

November 18, 2012

Cross: Nicollet County buck one for the record books

ROHNERT PARK, CALIF. — The countryside really doesn’t hold many secrets anymore, what with all the trail cameras hanging from fence posts and tree trunks nowadays.

So it was no secret this fall that a big buck wearing a unique set of antlers was roaming the south edge of Swan Lake west of Nicollet.

Images of the buck sporting an unusual drop tine off of a main antler beam had shown up on several trail cameras in its wanderings.

Several local bow hunters had hunted hard in previous weeks targeting the buck, hoping paths crossed before the firearms deer season opened and an army of orange-clad hunters headed into the deer woods.

Instead, the trophy buck met its maker thanks to a chance encounter with Dalton Demarais of Howard Lake.

The 21-year-old construction worker was hunting last Sunday morning, the final day of the firearms deer season in southern Minnesota, on a 16-acre parcel of land owned by the family of his fiancee, Bethany Forbrook, along the south edge of Swan Lake.

“Dalton and Bethany hunted up north during the first weekend of the season and then asked if they could come down here and hunt with us on the last weekend,” said Wyman Forbrook of Lake Crystal, Bethany’s father.

“There isn’t much room in there but I figured we could find a place for them,” he said.

On Sunday morning, Forbrook, Bethany and Demarais, along with Wyman’s father-in-law, Bob Freeberg, were posting on the small acreage.

Forbrook, who gave up his usual stand to Demarais, was sitting a few hundred yards away in a lawn chair shortly before 8 a.m. when he spotted a doe being trailed by a buck wearing big head gear.

He took a shot with the handgun he was hunting with but just shaved hair from the buck’s back, sending it bounding toward Demarais.

Hearing the shot, Demarais could see a doe running in his direction.

“Behind it I could see a buck running,” he said. “It saw me move when I brought the gun up and ran behind me.

“I had to whip the gun around behind me. He was running through the trees so I had to wait until he ran into an opening before shooting.”

When he pulled the trigger of his Browning A5 equipped with a slug barrel, the buck dropped in its tracks, a clean 100-yard shot through the shoulder.

“We really didn’t know what we had,” Forbrook said. “When we walked up to it, we could only see an antler tine sticking up from the grass.”

They agreed that it was certainly big enough to be worthy of a trip to Jeff Holmin’s North Star Taxidermy studio in nearby Nicollet.

Indeed, it was.

“When a taxidermist’s eyes light up, you kind of know you’re onto something,” Forbrook said.

“I gross-scored it at 206 points,” Holmin said of the non-typical rack sporting a distinctive drop tine on its left beam. “I believe it’s the largest non-typical deer ever taken in Nicollet County. I’ve been in business here for 31 years and haven’t seen a bigger one.”

In fact, only a couple of Nicollet County bucks have ever been listed in the Boone & Crockett record book, including one other non-typical rack, according to Holmin.

News of the trophy quickly attracted a stream of viewers that afternoon, including several of the bow hunters who had been targeting the deer in recent weeks.

Demarais, whose previous kills in the decade or so he has hunted deer include just a doe and a spike buck, expects no objection at all from Bethany about hanging the completed mount prominently in their apartment.

The young man may have figured out this deer hunting thing.

But he still might have a lot to learn about women.

John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at

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