column By: Lee J. Hoots | March, 18
Though I’m not quite sure how the photo showed up, it nonetheless was forwarded in an email. It was a picture of a gigantic North Dakota mule deer buck with antlers splayed out and reaching 35 inches in spread (a measurement found out later). My first thought was quite simply . . . Wow! There was very little information contained in the email, but I was intrigued enough to respond to the message’s sender, Cole Frenzel.
Several days later I got a response, and later a phone number, and as it turned out this giant buck did not represent a lucky, once-in-a-lifetime fluke. Instead it was one of three big bucks Frenzel has killed on public land during the last two seasons in his home state of North Dakota. That’s right, North Dakota!
Now, there isn’t a state in which mule deer live that does not have the ability to, at some point, produce a real gagger buck, but most mule deer hunters across the U.S. immediately think of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico and Montana. There is good reason for this: Each of these states produce outsized muleys on a fairly regular basis – and there are a couple others that now and then produce really good deer. But North Dakota? Who would have thought?
Having spoken with Frenzel a couple times on the phone, I’ve realized he is quite a unique fellow. For instance, along with shooting several spectacular mule deer bucks, the likes of which most hunters have never seen on the hoof (or at least not often), he turned down an opportunity to make his way into Major League Baseball when the Texas Rangers tried to draft him out of high school. With an athletic scholarship in hand, he instead played ball at the University of Arizona for two seasons, then was picked up by the Mets and played for that organization for five years. Figuring his personal life was his and his alone, I never asked if he made it to the big leagues (I wouldn’t know, having grown up on the West Coast paying little attention to the New York Mets).
In more or less his own words, his one true passion in life is hunting and otherwise enjoying the outdoors, and this became more important to him than baseball. In a very minor way our lives have certain similarities. During my youth I was in love with the idea of becoming a professional infielder, though I never pursued it as far as Frenzel did, and I probably didn’t quite have the chops anyhow. On the other hand, my one true passion in life is hunting and otherwise enjoying the outdoors.
As it pertains to the latter, I believe some sort of connection exists among anyone who takes hunting seriously, regardless of their upbringing, background or career path. I likewise believe that anyone who enjoys mule deer hunting would, given half a chance, enjoy spending time hunting muley bucks with a fellow like Cole Frenzel. There is a sort of unspoken kinship among hunters, and that’s why we like to publish stories written by our readers. Cole’s three big buck stories are worth sharing.