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Korby's Connections: A big buck tale from another era


December 6, 2019

Family photo

One of the largest bucks harvested in Minnesota history came from Carlton County. The hunter was Peter Antonson. His grandson, Roy Ober, lives in Cloquet.

Well, deer rifle season has come to a close in Minnesota. For some hunters, it is the conclusion of their most cherished time of the year. Each November, these sharpshooters reminisce about numerous and bizarre stories and tales because of their uniqueness. The stories don't even have to necessarily be about hunting or searching for the elusive big buck. It could be the weather storms, or getting lost or stuck, or even unbelievable card games in the hunting shack. These are the stories, and there are new ones each year, that will be shared for generations and communities to come.

My dad and older brothers were deer hunters. In one of the more unusual second grade show-and-tells in Scanlon school history, I brought in deer feet from a big buck my dad had shot. Classmates still talk about it. Yet, I must not have gotten the deer hunting gene even though, later in life, I was under the tutelage of the great outdoorsman Tom Montgomery. Oh, I still occasionally walk regional wooded trails and hunt for ruffed grouse and I own a couple of shotguns, but never owned a deer rifle. I tried deer hunting with a compound bow and razor arrows but, thankfully, had only one real good deer shot ... and missed. I don't think my heart was in it. But I do understand the importance and tradition of this sport for many.

While having a cup of coffee with other competitors at retiree darts, I listened to a hunting story that intrigued me so much I wanted to find out more and write a Pine Knot article and share this outdoor tale. Way back in 1938, one of the largest bucks in Minnesota history was harvested in Carlton County. The hunter was Peter Antonson. His grandson, Roy Ober, lives in Cloquet and was telling the coffee break tale.

Peter Antonson was born in Norway on Aug. 5, 1884. Near the turn of the century, at the age of 16, Peter emigrated to Carlton County, growing up near the Blackhoof and Nemadji rivers. He was a farmer and lived off the land. Antonson had a family, and enjoyed a hard but quiet life.

Fast forward to Nov. 15, 1938. The Depression era lingered in the U.S. and there was political turmoil across the globe. It was the opening day of the Minnesota deer hunting season. Venison was a staple for most of the rural residents in Carlton County. Antonson, who enjoyed hunting, loaded up his trusty Winchester 30.30, and starting trekking on his farmland towards where the rivers merge.

That morning, to his delight, on an adjacent river bank, he shot and killed a large buck with a 25-point rack. It was a great opening day. Antonson hauled the buck home, about two-and-a-half miles, so no easy task. The deer dressed at 230 pounds. He hung the deer up in his shed.

The following Monday, the local letter carrier came by the Antonson farm and noticed the big deer. He told Peter of a taxidermist in Duluth named Michaelson who was offering a free mount of the largest buck in the Twin Ports area. The only stipulation was that the winning deer would be displayed at Michaelson's taxidermy store for one year. Antonson's deer won the contest and was put on display and was so impressive that the buck's image was used on Michaelson's advertising brochures.

Peter Antonson passed away in 1955 at age 71. The cherished mounted deer head and rack were passed on to his wife and daughter who then gave it to Peter's grandson, Roy Ober, the storyteller, for safekeeping.

Roy said many people thought he should have experts measure

the huge and unusual rack according to Boone and Crockett specifications. Roy said his neighbor, Rich Staffon, who worked for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, rated the antlers and told the Obers that it was approaching the state record books. Boone and Crockett, a conservation group initiated by Theodore Roosevelt in the 1800s, is the recognized national expert in "rating" racks for comparative purposes. Experts measure the antlers diameter, bone mass, total width, and more.

Steve Korby

Roy Ober still has the mount his grandfather had made after bagging a 25-point buck in 1938 in Carlton County.

With more prodding, in 1985 Roy took the deer mount to the Minneapolis Convention Center and the Minnesota Deer Classic to be rated by Boone and Crockett experts. After many hours of evaluation, the experts gave it a rating of 233 3/8 points, which put the rack in the top ten in Minnesota history in the "atypical" classification. There are four categories in the Minnesota record books - rifle typical and atypical, and archery typical and atypical. Antonson's deer rack was definitely atypical. It won a trophy for Best in Show that year.

Roy, who is not a hunter himself, still has the deer mount in his home. Today, after 81 years, the deer rack still ranks 17th in in Minnesota history. Roy has had several substantial offers for the rack but the family heirloom is not for sale. Roy has willed the mount to his nephew, who is a hunter.


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