The Biggest Deer I'd Ever Seen

The heartbeat-by-heartbeat tales of five lucky and skillful hunters who connected last season. In a big, big, way.

Colby Lysne

Ron Ewert
30-point nontypical whitetail; Official B&C; score: 255 6/8
Leavenworth County, Kansas;
Third biggest nontypical with bow in the state, seventh biggest in North America

While hunting mushrooms three years earlier, I'd found a shed of a deer with the potential to have 30 points. And I hunted that deer hard for three years without seeing him. Then, the year after that, my neighbor killed a big 22-pointer just across the fence. So I figured it had to be that buck, and I sort of let the next hunting season sneak up on me without going as crazy as I normally do. I mean, normally, my wife threatens to divorce me sometime during deer season.

So it's about 2:30 on a Friday afternoon in mid-October, and I'm out walking the farm we live on, which is rolling hills and creekbottom and row crops, looking for arrowheads. I look down and see this huge, fresh track: big sharp dewclaws and toes spread just like an old cow's. You could just tell it was a big, old, heavy buck. Cows and deer both, their feet spread out as they age. So I ran back to the house and got my gear and followed the tracks on my four-wheeler to a 20-acre strip of timber with an old road through it. I wasn't expecting to see this buck, much less get inside bow range of it. But by moving real slow I've been able to see deer back there sometimes without spooking them and I needed to get some stands up. So I walk down the path, turn around, and come back. Just as I'm about to get back on the machine, I see this deer standing about 100 yards away on the edge of the timber and looking straight at me.

So I get on and ride away like I haven't noticed him, make a big loop out and come back to a spot he couldn't see, and park. Then I sneak up through the creekbottom and follow a heavily used deer trail through the cover to where he'd been standing. I came creeping up, but he was gone. So I'm looking around, starting to stand up straight because I'm figuring it's over, when I see antlers. He's bedded down 40 yards away in the grass, facing away from me, still as a statue. I had a good visual on his head and neck, but not the body. I thought about shooting, because the grass was real thin and I could tell how his body would be lying, but I decided I could get closer and holler at him, then shoot when he stood up. So I moved in, my bow raised but not drawn, and at 30 yards he just turned and looked straight at me.

When he did that, I drew without thinking. And when he jumped up, I remember picking the spot I wanted to hit. As I shot, I heard my bow crack, though it wasn't until later that I realized the bottom limb had cracked at that moment. I could see 4 or 5 inches of my arrow sticking out of one of his hams. I was just sick, ready to wrap that bow around my own neck. But I'd hit the femoral artery, and he was down and dead within 50 yards. So here I am, an hour into my first hunt of the season, having stalked and killed the biggest buck of my life. He had a drop tine like a club on his left side, 15 inches long, as big as your arm. He had 30 points in all and turned out to be the third biggest Pope and Young in Kansas history, and the seventh overall in North America.

It was funny. One hour into the season, I've lucked into this deer. I'm not sugarcoating it; it was lucky. It wasn't, you know, one of those hero scenarios where you get up at 4 a.m. and rattle him in. But you take it as you get it. I've been bowhunting since I was 16. I'd always wanted to shoot a bigger wall-hanger than my dad, who has taken a lot of nice bucks. Everybody says, "You'll never top that one." And maybe I won't. But in the back of my mind, I'll always be looking for a bigger deer. I don't want to sound arrogant, but truthfully, I think there are bigger deer out there. The state is still aging this buck's jawbo. I think he was 9 years old and actually had had more antler a few years back. So you never know. [NEXT "Almost as Big as Dad's; Ewert's Daughter Bags a 176"]

Lindsay Ewert, Ron Ewert's 13-year-old daughter, had her own encounter with a buck of a lifetime as F&S; was going to press earlier this year. The 14-pointer has a gross green score of 176.

My dad and I had been seeing this deer all summer in the evening, down by the fields when we were doing chores. We'd gotten some trail pictures of him, and he was the biggest buck we knew of. So we made a hay-bale blind in August and set it out in the field. But after hunting morning and night of the first two days of muzzleloader season, we hadn't seen him. We did see a big buck the first night, but it was too late to shoot and we didn't want to scare him, so we crawled out on our hands and knees as slow as we could for about 200 yards through the fields.

We weren't seeing anything, weren't getting the job done. And now it was Monday, which meant school because I'm in the eighth grade. But Dad had said I could miss 15 minutes of school, which starts at 8:03, to hunt. So we decided to change locations. He had made a ground blind just inside some woods, a bottleneck clearing, like a little meadow. The longest shot you'd have from it wasn't more than 30 yards. It was right by a deer trail that was worn down to the dirt. We got there at 5:30, an hour before light. We heard what we thought was a deer snorting, but we decided it was a bird. Then, about 10 minutes before seven, the buck started walking out right on the trail. We'd planned that Dad would grunt if the buck was walking, and I'd wait until he stopped to shoot. And he did, and I shot, and then there was just smoke everywhere and the sound of the deer crashing through the forest. I shot him at 131/2 yards, and he didn't go but 30 or 40 yards. I was so excited, I didn't want to leave him. Dad had promised Mom I'd be at school before 8:30. But that didn't exactly happen. I didn't get there until they forced me to, around noon. [NEXT "Greg Wichman's 21-point Kansas Whitetail"]

Greg Wichman
21-point nontypical whitetail; Green score: 186
Cowley County, Kansas

I live in Wisconsin, just west of Green Bay, but I've been rifle hunting a lease some buddies and I have in Kansas for the past couple of years. We'd been seeing a lot of bucks, so I decided to bowhunt it, too. I hung some stands early in October and came back around Halloween.

On November 2, I woke up and the wind was just howling, 30 miles an hour, rainy, and cold. I hunted for four hours, but I was basically just hanging on and trying not to get blown out of the stand. I didn't see a thing. So I grabbed some lunch and watched the weather on TV, and they said it might clear up some in the afternoon before we got three more days of another front. I went back out around two, and it was still blowing pretty hard. But around four, it started to die down a little, though it was still in the 30s. I was hunting a horseshoe-shaped creekbottom with wheat across the creek. I did about a three- or four-minute rattling sequence. And then I saw him, 150 yards away in the woods, coming right at me across the wind, ears pinned back, looking for a fight.

I went to draw, and the arrow came off my string and fell right to the ground. I've been bowhunting for 25 years, but my heart still pounds like anything. It was strange, though, because the arrow didn't fall off the rest; it fell off the string. The nock just wouldn't hold. It was an aluminum arrow, so it clanked off my stand before it hit the ground. He heard it and turned toward the sound, but he didn't see me. It was a hang-on stand instead of a climber, so I hadn't needed to strip the tree clean, and I hadn't cleared more lanes than I needed to shoot. To be honest, it wasn't until then that I knew how big he was. I thought he was just a good 10-pointer. I didn't have any binocs with me. But up close, I could see those split brow tines, split G2s on both sides, a split G3 on one side, and a drop tine. So now I'm staring at a monster with no arrow on my rest, and I know he's heading downwind of the noise to check it out.

Fortunately, I keep my quiver on the bow, so I didn't have to reach far for an arrow. And I got my chance to nock it when his head went behind a tree for a moment. So I nock and draw. If he takes two more steps, he'll be downwind of me. But somehow he stops just then in a thicket with his shoulder in the only hole I've got to shoot through. I put the pin on his shoulder and fire, and he does a high mule kick and runs. That's when the shaking started.

I don't know why. For some reason, that's when it happens. I'm pretty good during the setup and shot, but once I shoot, I really start to lose it. I was shaking so bad, I had to hold on to the tree to keep from falling. So I hung on and sat down and tried to relax a little bit.

I waited about 10 minutes. I was going to wait at least 30. After 10, I saw my arrow on the ground. It was pointing back toward me, and there was no blood on the white fletching. So I got down right away, because I thought it had been deflected or something. But I found that I was only looking at the nock and fletching. The rest had gone in and broken off.

Then I saw this great blood trail right from the start. It went about 150 yards and ended 30 yards into a milo field. First time I counted, I got 20 points. The second, I got 21. And instead of recounting, I just thought, I've got to show somebody this. I've already got plans to hunt there next year. Some guys I know said, "You're going to give up the rut in Wisconsin to go hunt Kansas?" And I said, "Absolutely." [NEXT "Denny Austad's 209 B&C; Typical Mule Deer"]

Denny Austad
4X4 typical mule deer; Official B&C; score: 209 7/8
Rich County, Utah;

I'd been looking for a buck that the guide had seen earlier in the day, and we were climbing a ridge to glass. We saw a really wide buck on another ridge about a mile away and had to hike back down, drive along the road, and hike up another ridge to get a look. He was too far to get ahead of. The only chance was a long shot. He was feeding above us and working his way farther away. My adrenaline started pumping. All I knew was that the deer was big and about to leave.

I set up using the spotting-scope tripod as a rest and had a split second to steady and shoot 400 yards uphill before the animal wof a climber, so I hadn't needed to strip the tree clean, and I hadn't cleared more lanes than I needed to shoot. To be honest, it wasn't until then that I knew how big he was. I thought he was just a good 10-pointer. I didn't have any binocs with me. But up close, I could see those split brow tines, split G2s on both sides, a split G3 on one side, and a drop tine. So now I'm staring at a monster with no arrow on my rest, and I know he's heading downwind of the noise to check it out.

Fortunately, I keep my quiver on the bow, so I didn't have to reach far for an arrow. And I got my chance to nock it when his head went behind a tree for a moment. So I nock and draw. If he takes two more steps, he'll be downwind of me. But somehow he stops just then in a thicket with his shoulder in the only hole I've got to shoot through. I put the pin on his shoulder and fire, and he does a high mule kick and runs. That's when the shaking started.

I don't know why. For some reason, that's when it happens. I'm pretty good during the setup and shot, but once I shoot, I really start to lose it. I was shaking so bad, I had to hold on to the tree to keep from falling. So I hung on and sat down and tried to relax a little bit.

I waited about 10 minutes. I was going to wait at least 30. After 10, I saw my arrow on the ground. It was pointing back toward me, and there was no blood on the white fletching. So I got down right away, because I thought it had been deflected or something. But I found that I was only looking at the nock and fletching. The rest had gone in and broken off.

Then I saw this great blood trail right from the start. It went about 150 yards and ended 30 yards into a milo field. First time I counted, I got 20 points. The second, I got 21. And instead of recounting, I just thought, I've got to show somebody this. I've already got plans to hunt there next year. Some guys I know said, "You're going to give up the rut in Wisconsin to go hunt Kansas?" And I said, "Absolutely." [NEXT "Denny Austad's 209 B&C; Typical Mule Deer"]

Denny Austad
4X4 typical mule deer; Official B&C; score: 209 7/8
Rich County, Utah;

I'd been looking for a buck that the guide had seen earlier in the day, and we were climbing a ridge to glass. We saw a really wide buck on another ridge about a mile away and had to hike back down, drive along the road, and hike up another ridge to get a look. He was too far to get ahead of. The only chance was a long shot. He was feeding above us and working his way farther away. My adrenaline started pumping. All I knew was that the deer was big and about to leave.

I set up using the spotting-scope tripod as a rest and had a split second to steady and shoot 400 yards uphill before the animal w