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Woodbury Wild Bill's regular shooting for world 'Buck Hunter' title

New Richmond, Wis., resident Joe Miller fires off virtual rounds on Big Buck Hunter HD at the Woodbury Wild Bill’s Sports Saloon. (Staff photo by Mike Longaecker)

 When Joe Miller hurt himself on the job last year, he didn’t take the experience lying down.

Instead, he used the time to become a big-game slayer.

The New Richmond, Wis., resident became a regular Big Buck Hunter HD player at the Woodbury Wild Bill’s Sports Saloon. Less than a year later, Miller has become one of the world’s best players of the arcade game where players shoot at deer, elk, moose and more.

“He makes it look easy,” his wife Valarie Miller said, watching Joe dispatch the virtual animals earlier this month in Woodbury.

Joe is currently ranked No. 13 on the Big Buck Hunter world championship leaderboard – a distinction that earned him a trip to the Nov. 9 world championships in Chicago, where he will compete against the top 52 qualifiers for a $15,000 grand prize. Before that, he will warm up by competing in a Minnesota tournament.

Joe said he wandered into Wild Bill’s during regular trips to Woodbury, where he checks in on his grandparents. While playing the game, he met two of the top players in the world – Chris Norbeck and Clay Conrad – who took Joe under their wing and showed him some tricks of the trade.

Less than a year after first playing the arcade game, Joe now finds himself in the same elite company.

Joe said he plays the game about four or five days a week at Wild Bill’s and also checks in at Boardman Bypass in New Richmond.

“They know him very well around here,” Valarie said with a laugh in Woodbury.

Joe said the key to excelling at the game is picking which boards within the game give you shots at the most points.

So he works on memorizing as much of the game as he can. That, and being a deadeye shot.

“That’s the trick,” Joe said.

Having good hand-eye coordination helps, and Joe has more than  little of that in his repertoire; the 32-year-old is a former three-time state wrestling champ in his native Wyoming, in addition to being a three-sport high school athlete.

Joe, a roofer by trade, said he has a knack for video games – a claim his stepson Eliah McGregor vocally endorses. Madden football, Mario Kart, Super Mario for the Wii are all games Joe said he’s conquered.

“I pretty much dominate,” he said.

But will he do the same at the world Big Buck Hunter competition?

Joe knows he’s in for tough sledding as a rookie, but said he also has a strategy he plans to employ. More than anything, he said he’s eager to meet players from around the country that he only knows as names he sees displayed on the leaderboards.

“I know I’m not the best, but I’m up there with a lot of people,” he said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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