giant mule deer buck
Hunter: Amanda Caldwell
Caldwell and her public-land trophy. Amanda Caldwell

Every year, at the beginning of the 11th month, I catch myself wondering “Can this November possibly be as good as the last?” And somehow it seems like it always is. With November 2018 now in the rear-view mirror, let take a look back at some of the best whitetails and muleys taken on every deer hunter’s favorite page of the calendar.


Buck #1: Da Fitty-Point Buck

Hunter: Keith Szablewski
Szablewski and his crazy-big Illinois nontypical.

Most Midwestern deer hunters know the song Da Turdy-Point Buck as a November carol that celebrates a mythical monster whitetail. Well, the buck Keith Szablewski killed on November 17 could inspire a song of its own. Nicknamed the “Ski-51 Buck” for the number of points on its gnarly rack, the buck walked in front of Szablewski on the afternoon of the Prairie State’s opening day of the first shotgun season. “I’ve only been deer hunting for four seasons, and this is my fourth buck. I’m not a trophy hunter. I just hunt for meat.” Yet Szablewski knew enough about modern deer hunting that contacted state and federal conservation officers after the hunt, and they signed off on the ginormous buck as a wild, free-ranging deer shot under legal circumstances. There’s no estimated green score on this buck yet, which should present some challenges for official measurers.


Buck #2: Big Surprise

Hunter: Sarah Van Pietersom
Pietersom poses with her Wisconsin trophy.

Sarah Van Pietersom wasn’t seeing much on the afternoon of November 17, opening day of Wisconsin’s gun season. Then she looked up to see what looked like a good buck approaching her stand. Pietersom didn’t realize how big the whitetail was until after she’d made the shot and was standing over the animal. With 14 scorable points and an inside spread of 22 inches, the antlers grossed 180⅞ B&C.


Buck #3: Five Year Plan

Hunter: Joshua Gawrysiak
Gawrysiak and his hard-earned giant.

Joshua Gawrysiak had watched a beautiful western-Wisconsin buck grow into an absolute giant over the course of five seasons. During that period, he had numerous trail-cam pics, several shed antlers from the buck, and even a few encounters while hunting—but none that he was able to capitalize on. All that changed on November 10, when the 19-point buck followed a doe to within 20 yards of Gawrysiak’s treestand, and he made good on the shot. Gross B&C score on this massive buck is an estimated at 216-6/8.


Buck #4: Towering Typical

Hunter: Daniel Kline
Kline and friend pose with a Kansas 200-incher.

Daniel Kline had been hunting Kansas for over a week and hadn’t been able to get in bow range of a good buck. “On November 7th, my friend and I were talking about a funnel where we’d seen deer traveling, and we decided to hang a stand in there that night,” Kline recalls. “We hung the set in the dark, and in the morning I was sitting there.” It snowed all day, and by afternoon Kline had seen four bucks. “At about 5 p.m., I saw another deer heading my way, but my binocular was so fogged from snow all I could tell was it was a definite shooter.” When the buck walked within range, Kline made a 15-yard shot, then watched the giant tip over in a field. He wasn’t disappointed when he walked up on the main-frame 10, which grossed 201-⅝.


Buck #5: Minnesota Redemption

Hunter: Troy Lang
Lang’s drop-tine buck gross-scored 186 inches.

Southeast Minnesota hunter Troy Lang actually got a shot at this monster buck last fall, but he hit the deer high and never recovered him. “I swear I’ve hardly had a decent night’s sleep since,” Lang says. “I looked for him during the late muzzleloader season and searched for his carcass through the shed-hunting season. I had no clue that he’d survived that hit.” That is, until late October 2018, when the monster not only showed up on the hunter’s trail cameras, but was much larger. On opening day of gun season, Lang crawled into the same stand where he’d hit the “Triple G” buck the previous year. “Suddenly a big doe came running in and dove into a blowdown to avoid two bucks hot on her trail. Those bucks got into a brawl, and that attracted other deer. Pretty soon four other bucks moved in, and then I heard the deep grunt of another one behind me. I turned around, and there was Triple G, standing at the base of my tree.” Lang made the chip shot and finally closed the story on the huge drop-tine buck.


Bucks #6 and #7: Back-to-Back Brutes

Hunter: Ben Rising
Rising poses with a total of about 335 inches of antler.

Ben Rising of Whitetail Edge TV was featured in last month’s gallery with a Kansas giant. Well, he only needed the first two days of November to make it a big-deer trifecta. “I hunted a big Illinois buck the last week of October and just couldn’t get on him,” Rising says. “So on November 2, I went to Iowa and was lucky enough to shoot a 14-pointer with a 21-inch inside spread and 43 inches of mass.” The buck (left) scored right around 170, but had at least 10 inches of tines broken off, Rising guesses. “The next day I was right back in Illinois, and managed to kill the buck I’d been hunting earlier.” Rising’s Prairie State trophy is a main-frame 10 with split brows and a 20-inch spread that gross-scored 165.


Buck #8: Birthday Buck

Hunter: Stacie Peterson
Peterson with her Minnesota monster.

The opening day of Minnesota’s deer gun season also happened to be Stacie Peterson’s 30th birthday. While she was out shopping with her mom and sisters, her husband decided he couldn’t delay his afternoon hunt until his partner returned from the mall. “So, I went out for my first-ever solo hunt when I got home,” Peterson says. “It was a picture-perfect hunt. I’d only been in the stand 30 minutes when I saw this nice buck coming through the brush about 20 yards away. When he reached my shooting lane, I grunted him to a stop, and when I shot he dropped right there.” Peterson’s birthday present sported 15 scorable points and gross-scored a hair shy of 170 B&C.


Buck #9: Second-Chance Brawler

Hunter: Cole Schumacher
Schumacher and his 200-plus-inch Kansas old-timer.

Schumacher hunted this buck on every day of Kansas’s early muzzleloader season, but could never get close enough. Finally, in November, he got his chance. “I’d gone bird hunting in the morning, and then climbed into a ladder stand on the farm where this deer lived. When the buck appeared, I knew he’d been through the wringer; he was blind in one eye and was all beat up from fighting. I actually missed the first shot I was shaking so bad, but he never noticed.” Schumacher hit his mark on the second shot. The buck, estimated at 8-½ years old, sports 20 scorable points and grossed 209 inches, with an estimated 10 to 15 inches of tine length broken off from fighting.


Buck #10: ’Bama Behemoth

Hunter: Kevin Greenhill
Greenhill and his big 8×6 buck.

Kevin Greenhill normally leaves his native Alabama this month to hunt Midwestern monsters, but trail-cam photos of a local deer changed this year’s plan. “I started getting pics of a buck that I’d happily shoot up north, so I decided to stay home and hunt him instead,” he says. Greenhill used those photos to find a chink in the buck’s armor. “Every time I got a daylight pic, I checked the wind direction and learned that he would only come out of his bedding thicket before dark on a southwest wind.” Greenhill got that wind on Nov 20. “I set up in a spot where he’d have the wind in his face but still couldn’t quite get me.” And it paid off when the big 8×6 gave him a 130-yard shot.


Buck #11: Texas Toad

Hunter: Nathan Croswell
Croswell with his 180-class trophy.

Nathan Croswell and fellow members of his south-Texas lease raise big deer the old-fashioned way, by providing great habitat and feed and by not shooting immature bucks (without any high fences or artificial breeding). Croswell and Co. watched this buck grow from a 3½-year-old with lots of promise to an 8½-year-old buck that finally made a mistake on November 15th. Tanner made a 35-yard shot on the main-frame 8-point that grossed 182, thanks to multiple abnormal points.


Buck #12: Twenty-Minute Monster

Hunter: Tanner Mote
Mote with The Flyer buck.

For two seasons, three reasonably savvy bowhunters (including me) had pursued “The Flyer Buck,” so named for matching kicker-points that sweep backward off the G2s. Despite dozens of trail-cam pics and several sightings of the highly active buck, those bowhunters could not put a tag on the deer. Instead, 15-year-old Tanner Mote grabbed his muzzleloader on November 17, headed to an elevated blind, and sat for 20 minutes when the buck emerged from the timber to badger does in a food plot. Tanner made the 35-yard shot on a main-frame 8-point that grossed 182, thanks to multiple abnormal points.


Buck #13: DIY Monster Muley

Hunter: Amanda Caldwell
Caldwell and her public-land trophy.

Gloomy weather didn’t stop Amanda Caldwell from shooting a dream muley this month. On the last morning of a public-land DIY hunt, Caldwell and her hunting partner struck out in a drizzle. Caldwell spotted this tall-racked monster bedded down and was able to slip within 80 yards and make the shot.


Buck #14: The Escape Artist

Hunter: Denny Anibas
Anibas poses with his Booner 8-point.

Over the last two seasons, at least a dozen hunters had taken shots at or had close-range encounters with this tall-racked, heavy-bodied Wisconsin 8-pointer, but the whitetail always escaped. “My friend’s boy Logan Marum had him at 10 yards last fall, but when he drew his bow to make the chip shot, the bow blew up in his hands and the buck walked off,” says Anibas. But the big whitetail’s luck finally ran out on the second day of the Wisconsin gun season, when it walked within 40 yards of Anibas’ stand. “He almost made it another day,” Anibas laughs. “He came in behind me and my rifle was hanging. When I spotted him, he was staring up at me. Fortunately, when he turned to leave I was able to grab my rifle and get on him as he walked through an opening.” The clean typical grossed 170 inches, which is extremely rare for an 8-point.


Buck # 15: Game Changer

Hunter: Kinlee Denny
Denny with her trophy mule deer.

The daughter of Wyoming outfitters Scott and Angie Denny, 21-year old Kinlee Denny was actually trying to fill an elk tag when the game changed in a hurry. “The elk had actually moved out of the area where they’d been all fall, and I guess the muleys moved in,” says Scott Denny. “We were glassing and spotted this great buck all by himself, covering ground and looking for does, so we made a move to get in front of him.” By the time they got set up, the buck looked as though he’d spotted the hunters. “We thought it was over. But then he just came right at us, and Kinlee made a great shot on him.” When the hunters stood up, they realized why the buck had come in like he did. “A group of does had moved in behind us, and the buck had spotted them. If it only worked like that every time!”


Bucks #16 & 17: One-Two Double

Hunter: Ronnie Strong
Strong with his Kansas buck (left) and Illinois buck (right).

Railroad employee Ronnie Strong kicked the month off right, tagging this tall-racked 182-inch Kansas giant on November 5th. Strong spotted the buck working a scrape line and used a doe bleat to get the deer’s attention, then he snort-wheezed multiple times to methodically work the buck into bow range. Five days later, the rut was popping in Illinois when Strong spotted a Prairie State giant chase a doe and then lose her. Remembering his deadly Kansas tactic, he bleated and then snort-wheezed to coax the buck in for a chip shot. The heavy-racked 10-point grossed 172.


Buck #18: Hawkeye Heft

Hunter: Rachelle Humble Hedrick
Hendrick and The Broken Ear Buck.

After waiting four years to draw a nonresident Iowa archery tag, Rachelle Humble Hedrick and her husband went all-out—scouting the property in summer, putting out trail cams, and hanging treestands. “Josh planned to hunt one end of the farm, and I planned to hunt the other,” Hedrick says. “During summer, we got pics of a buck we called ‘The Broken Ear Monster,’ and that was the buck I wanted most.” When it came time to hunt, Hedrick couldn’t access her favorite stands due to high water. Frustrated, she went to the only stand she could get to that day. “I was buckling my release on my wrist when The Broken Ear Buck walked directly underneath me. If I had gotten to the tree 30 seconds later, I would never have seen him and this would never have happened.” Hedricks’ heavy-racked buck scored 172-4/8”.


Buck #19: Déjà Vu Deer

Hunter: Jake Hewing
Hewing with his second Illinois giant.

Another familiar face from last month, Jake Hewing took a monster Illinois buck from a ground blind in late October. With a second archery buck tag in his pocket, Hewing returned to the same blind this month and shot another monster. This gorgeous 12-pointer sports incredible symmetry and gross-scored right at the magical 170 mark for a B&C typical.


Buck #20: Dad’s Best Bow Buck

Hunter: Marv Bestul
The author’s father with a great crossbow buck.

I’ll be honest, I seemed to be jinxing my father for the better part of the 2018 deer season. Every time I asked him to go hunting with me (and suggested a stand he should sit in), we racked up a double-skunk. But our luck turned a 180 on the afternoon of November 1, when I called Dad to tell him we needed to get in the timber. After suggesting a few spots he could try, Dad said, “What about the stand where I killed my buck last year (a 135” 10-point)?” What could I say after steering my 89-year old father wrong for six weeks? Dad crawled up the ladder stand he’d helped install two years earlier, and when this 155-inch 10-point strolled in an hour before dark, he made a perfect shot with his crossbow. Note to self: Let Dad call the shots next fall.


Buck #21: The Show-Me Stud

Hunter: Matt Barker

Matt Barker was hunting on his family’s lease in Mexico, Missouri, on the opening weekend of firearm season when he watched this buck follow a doe across a field a ways out—but couldn’t get a good look at him. “The doe popped up out of the woods to my right, and then I saw him come out on the edge of the woods and look around,” Barker said, who had loaded his Tikka .30/06 with Federal Fusion. “He walked out into the overgrown scrub field, and I shot him. He didn’t even twitch.”