Early Season, Young Hunter, Trophy Buck

With whitetails throughout the region stalled out in pre-rut patterns and becoming increasingly wary as hunters apply pressure, I've still received a surprising number of photos of whitetails taken during early archery seasons and, now, early rifle seasons. I've seen several deer so far from 120 to 151, but nothing yet approaches this one. Learn how to master pre-rut whitetail hunting with this quiz

On October 14, day two of Washington's modern firearm deer season in Northport, Washington, 14‑year-old Dylan Owing dropped this green-scored 177-inch whitetail in his tracks, just minutes after trading places with his dad in the stand during an evening hunt that almost didn't happen.

Earlier in the day, Dylan's dad, Matt, picked up Dylan from his mom's after Dylan called to ask if they could hunt that evening. Matt was happy to oblige, and the two made it to the sporting goods store with only five minutes to spare and dropped $30 on 7mm Mauser rounds. On the drive back to Matt's rural home near Northport to sight in the old rifle, a startled buck ran alongside the truck close to the Owings' property, and both remarked they would take him if they had the chance. Matt reports Dylan had taped a bipod onto the rifle.

The two dialed in Dylan's weapon and went their separate ways into Owings' fields. For the last few years, Matt has been planting small food plots, and he says he has seen a dramatic increase in deer since he started putting in, as he puts it, "tractor time."

"As soon as I got out into the field, I had to leave because our dog was barking," says Dylan. "Our invisible fence stopped working…I put him in the house and rode the four wheeler back out and met up with my Dad. Then he left for the house, and I took his spot...I only waited 10 minutes before I shot the buck."

Dylan's sparse rendering of the story of this giant buck pales compared to his father's.

"I got out in the field and heard my 4-wheeler start up and drive," says Matt. "So I met him out in the field and asked 'what are you doing with the 4-wheeler?'" When Matt learned that Dylan had put the dog in the house, Matt left to let it out. "You can't lock a one-year-old blue heeler in the house--he'll eat it!" said Matt, who said he was inside when Dylan came running through the front door:

"'Dad I can't feel my legs! "I just shot the biggest buck ever!"

Dylan said the buck had been moving in to feed in a food plot. Matt asked if they needed to go look for it, and Dylan said no, he had already walked up and held the antlers. This big," he said, holding his arms apart wider than his shoulders.

Yeah, right, Matt reports thinking at the time. But as they walked closer, he became a believer.

Dylan and his dad are both deservedly proud of the buck, which is one of the finest and most beautiful I've ever seen from Northeast Washington. Stevens County once produced the state record whitetail, a 200-inch freak, but a 170-class deer is a real behemoth, one the likes of which very few people ever see, let alone shoot. Equally remarkable is the fact that the Dylan's deer came early in the season, a time when most whitetails harvested are young deer, not trophies of a lifetime.

All Dylan needs now is a good taxidermist, but the rest of us out West need cold weather and the passage of time to draw bucks and does closer to the madness that will grip the landscape as we move deeper into November and into December, a more likely time for a hunter to score on a 177-class buck. In my next report, I'll review deer activity across the West. I'm waiting to be able to report that there has been a rash of scrapes breaking out across the landscapes of the Northern Rockies and the Inland Northwest. Only isolated reports of scrape activity have been reported, but that could change in the next few days.