"He didn't tell us, 'Go here,' but he told us a general area to go to," Peterson said.
So during the mid-day lull on Dec. 16, the hunter and his buddies eased in to find stand sites.
"I was walking in to find a spot to hunt that afternoon, and I saw deer in there," said Peterson, known as "Coast" on MS-Sportsman.com. "So I put a stand right there."
He eased out, but was sitting in the tree early that afternoon. There was only one problem.
"I was down low because of the canopy," Peterson said. "I had climbed higher, but I couldn't see anything so I had to stay fairly low."
About 4:45 p.m., he caught a doe easing through the woods. Behind it was four other does.
"I kept watching because I knew they were rutting real hard," Peterson said.
And, sure enough, a young 5-point eased out about 100 yards away. The deer quickly began eating acorns with the doe, which was only about 75 yards – and moving downwind of the hunter's position.
Peterson was keeping careful watch on the doe, worried that it would be able to pick up his scent because of his low altitude, when he glanced back where the deer had walked out and saw movement.
"I looked back and saw this buck," he said. "He wasn't pushing her: He was just tracking her."
WMA guidelines mandate a rack measuring at least 16 inches wide, so Peterson immediately looked at the buck's head gear. It took only a glance to know it would easily live up to those standards.
"There wasn't no doubt about that," he laughed.
However, he didn't study the rack carefully, preferring to start working out a plan to put the deer on the ground.
Peterson panicked a bit when the mature deer began moving toward the deer, concerned that it would pick up his scent. So he quickly raised his .30-06 and put the crosshairs on the quartering deer.
"I told myself, 'Don't screw this up,'" Peterson laughed. "I said that about three times to myself."
And then he squeezed the trigger.
"He kicked, and ran about 50 yards, and stopped and looked at me," Peterson said. "I said, 'Aw, hell.'"
He snapped the rifle to his shoulder again, and popped off another shot.
"He went down in the front," Peterson said.
That was all it took, and the deer ran only another 75 yards before falling dead.
Peterson waited a few minutes, watching the deer about 125 yards out, and then hurried to collect his trophy – which had been hit both times. As he neared the downed animal, the shakes really kicked in.
"I've never seen a deer like that in the wild," he said. "There was no ground shrinkage, that's for sure."
The antlers were huge, with 10 heavy tines and even heavier main beams.
"I called a friend and was trying to tell him about it, and he finally told me to calm down," Peterson said. "I told him, 'I can't. I can't. I'm shook up.'"
The deer eventually taped out at 169 6/8 gross, with estimated deductions of less than 4 inches. The inside spread was a staggering 21 ½ inches, with main beams that stretched more than 24 ½ inches in length.
When his wife saw the buck and heard the story about how Peterson came to be in that spot, she immediately dubbed the deer "Gratitude."
"I'd never seen the guy before," Peterson said. "He just told me, 'You need to get in the back,' and that's what I did."