The mule deer is an icon of the American West. With their ghostly white muzzles, big mule-like ears, and bounding gaits, these animals just seem to belong in the stunning type of terrain they so often inhabit. But what really sets mule deer bucks apart from their white-tailed brethren is their sheer size and the elegant configuration of their branch-antlered racks. Here are five of the biggest mule deer bucks taken during the 2022 season.

1. Jaydee Houston Tags One of the Biggest Velvet Mule Deer Bucks Ever

12-year-old hunter Jaydee Houston turned a lot of heads last October when she arrowed a giant Utah muley buck that grossed 217 inches. “If that score holds up, Houston’s buck could become the Pope and Young Club’s new No. 3 velvet typical muley taken by any bowhunter, behind the current world-record 218-5/8-inch giant taken by Bowdy Gardner in Utah in 2012 and the No. 2 at 209 ⅛,” wrote Field & Stream whitetails editor Scott Bestul in an article about Houston’s buck. “Her buck will almost certainly be the largest typical mule deer, velvet or hard horn, ever taken by a female bowhunter, by a long shot. Because there is no specific category for female bowhunters, it will not be an official record. But anyone who wants to use the words ‘world record’ to describe Houston’s buck won’t get an argument from us—whether you’re talking unofficial world record for female bowhunters or youth bowhunters or both.”

2. Wyoming High Country Booner

Speaking of Bo Gardner, the current record holder is still on a roll. In September, Gardner killed an absolute stud of a muley buck during Wyoming’s early rifle season. Gardner was put onto the big mule deer buck by a seasoned backcountry guide who’d been stalking the deer through the mountains of the Cowboy State since early July. “When my son and I first found the buck in July, I forgot about everything else and lived with this deer,” guide Thomas Baker said in an Instagram post. “Staying at a distance and watching him was so special, and I had to pinch myself all the time realizing what I was watching!” Eventually, Gardner joined Baker in the mountains, and the skilled hunting duo got the job done. “Bo took it to another level,” Baker said. “I am committed, but Bo went far beyond that. We hunted him for 14 days every day. I told Bo we had to hunt extremely smart and wait for [him] to make a mistake.”

3. A Mule Deer Buck Named “Mowgli”

Conner Rollins set the western hunting community abuzz last November when he arrowed an unbelievably large buck on public land in the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah. The deer, which Rollins nicknamed Mowgli, taped out at an unofficial 220 ¼ inches, according to a post on his Instagram page. The buck was well-known by many hunters in the area who’d either attempted to hunt the giant on their own or witnessed him during the off-season. Rollins finally brought the famously elusive buck down with help from his good friends and hunting partners Martin Chagnovich and Casey Jensen. “[It’s] such an overwhelming and incredible feeling sitting next to this monarch,” Rollins wrote. “Especially with your best buddies right there with you. I’m still on cloud 9.”

4. 230-Inch Colorado Monster

When it comes to mule deer hunting, Colorado is second to none. The Centennial State lived up to that reputation once again in 2022, particularly in the case of Lyle Wingard’s 230-inch monster, which was taken with a rifle during the heat of the rut. “We glassed him up from less than 200 yards away just chasing does around on public land,” Wingard’s hunting partner Cory Mcilveen told Field & Stream. When Wingard drew the coveted tag for the central Colorado unit where this buck was taken, he linked up with Mcilveen, who’d scouted the area and knew it well. “We didn’t know that buck was there or that it even existed,” said Mcilveen. “We glassed him up from less than 200 yards away about five minutes after legal shooting light. He was on a 600-acre piece of public land that sits between a bunch of private ground. I watched him for like two seconds through my binos before I told Lyle: ‘You need to shoot that one.’”

5. Mule Deer Hunting at 10,000 feet

A veteran backcountry hunter named Donnie Paul put in some serious work back in September before tagging one of the most impressive mule deer bucks of 2022 while scouring a basin several miles deep in the Wyoming high country. A master taxidermist based out of Cody, Paul scored the deer at 194 2/8 inches gross after he shot it from more than 500 yards away while perched above a wall of fog at 10,080 feet. “On the first day, we were completely fogged in. I sat from daylight until dark, and he finally stepped out through the fog right before dark,” he told Field & Stream. “At 2 a.m. that night, I grabbed my rifle and my pack and started hiking further up into the basin. I got set up above the fog ceiling, and when it got light, I saw him and took a shot. Then he disappeared through the fog again.” Paul managed to find the massive muley through the thick fog, and two more shots sealed the deal. Getting the buck out of the basin was the hardest part of the hunt, he said. “I had to hike him out 8 and a half miles. My pack weighed every bit of 200 pounds.”