Virtual hunters compete at Big Buck Hunter championship in Minneapolis


There may be a lower deer harvest for Minnesota's upcoming hunting season, but that wasn't the case over the weekend at one Minneapolis bar.

The top 62 Big Buck Hunters from the United States and the top two from Australia grabbed their plastic guns to compete for $15,000 at the seventh annual Big Buck Hunter World Championship at the Pourhouse in downtown Minneapolis.

Big Buck Hunter is a series of arcade games where players try to "kill" up to three bucks in each stage, however shooting a doe ends the round early.

The games first appeared on the bar scene more than a decade ago and they've gained "cultish popularity among urban hipsters," the Pioneer Press reports. The game has become quite popular in many Minnesota bars, with 217 locations statewide, according to the game's website.

In fact, Minnesota and western Wisconsin are home to some of the best Big Buck Hunters in the nation. The Star Tribune said Minnesota has brought home at least four of the seven championship trophies, also called Pappy's Jug, while New Richmond, Wisconsin, is home to three of the top 10 Big Buck players in the United States, including last year's champion, Trevor Gartner, the Pioneer Press reports.

So why does the Land of 10,000 Lakes dominate on the virtual hunting scene? Minnesotan Chris Fream, a previous Pappy's Jug winner, told the Star Tribune that "We have a lot more machines here in general ... But I attribute it mostly to the fact we have nine months of winter and you're either holed up at home or in a bar, at least in your 20s."

But this year, Minnesota didn't bring home a champion. Derek Tower, of St. Louis, Missouri, won Pappy's Jug and the $15,000 in prize money.

Big Buck "pros" say the game takes a lot of hand-eye coordination, and that being a hunter helps with your reflexes, but you don't have to be a "real" deer hunter to get good at the game.

"Sitting in a tree stand all day in the cold doesn't have any real similarities [to the game]," Gartner told the Pioneer Press.

Gartner tries to practice daily – and that adds up. It's $1 to play in a bar and he estimates he's spent between $30,000 and $40,000 in the years he's played. He's won between $60,000 and $70,000, but says he's sponsored by Busch Light, the Pioneer Press says.

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