While the current deer season is still going strong for some lucky hunters, another calendar year of deer hunting is now behind us. And with the new year upon us, it’s the perfect time to take a quick look back and enjoy our successes before looking forward. And there have been some huge successes.
Since September and the season’s first archery seasons, we’ve been updating you on all the biggest bucks of 2023. For this collection—the final installment of our monthly roundup—we’ve added some new December bucks but also re-arranged all the incredible whitetails that came before so they can be better appreciated. As always, there’s plenty to be said for the sheer size of a trophy—and we’ve got plenty of absolute giants—but some of the biggest bucks are memorable more for their funky racks, or wild hunt stories, or the fact that a trophy was shared with friends or family. So, here we go. From monster velvet whitetails arrowed when the season was still brand new to winter warriors tagged just last week, here are the biggest bucks of 2023.
The Best Bucks of 2023: The 200-Inch Club
230-Inch Sooner State Ghost
Some jaw-dropping bucks come from large, carefully managed tracts of prime land. Then there are bucks like Ethan Kile’s, which he killed on a 60-acre pasture in Oklahoma. “There are only about 20 acres of timber,” Kile told F&S. “In the summer of 2022, I was helping my uncle bal hay there and asked him if it would be okay if I hunted there. He said ‘Go ahead.’ So I went in and put up a cell camera and a feeder, just to see what kind of deer were in the area. And probably one of the first pictures I got was this deer.” Kile hunted the buck that fall, and had two encounters that produced no shots, and when the deer disappeared in mid-November, Kile was sure it had been killed.
But when the buck showed on camera in July of 2023, the hunt was on again. “Because he’d disappeared last fall, I nicknamed him ‘The Ghost,’ and I thought I better get him early before he vanished again,” Kile said. “On October 1, the opening day of the archery season, temps were in the 90s, but I came home from work, changed clothes, and went to go sit in the blind. At 6:50 p.m. I saw The Ghost again, making his way in very cautiously with a smaller buck. When he finally came in to shooting range, I drew my bow, took the shot, and was immediately overwhelmed with emotion.” Kile found The Ghost piled
Kansas Public-Land Giant
Kansas guide and outfitter Jason Cooke turned heads late last month when he posted a photo of a giant nontypical whitetail on Instagram. According to Cooke, he arrowed the mature buck on public land in the southeastern part of the Sunflower State on September 24—and he roughed scored its rack at a whopping 224-4/8 inches. It’s unclear if Cooke’s green score is based on the Buckmasters or the Boone & Crockett scoring system, but the deer in his photo has massive bases with tons of kicker points and a couple of long drop tines falling off it left main beam. The seasoned guide called it a “deer of lifetime,” and there’s certainly no arguing that.
Ohio has a well-deserved reputation for producing whopper whitetails, and according to his Instagram post, Ashton Jankowski arrowed just such a buck in the middle of last month. Jankowski was hunting the state’s CWD “Disease Surveillance Areas,” which has an earlier archery opener than the rest of the state–when he shot the buck at 11:45 a.m. on September 16th. Jankowski had spotted the buck during a midsummer scouting session, obtained permission to hunt nearby properties, and kept tabs on a buck he nicknamed “Casper.” According to Jankowski’s post, the giant whitetail green scored 225-2/8 inches.
Veteran Ohio bowhunter Ben Rising has tagged 16 bucks over 170 inches, two of which broke the 200-inch barrier. Well, Rising tagged his third 200-plus-inch monster on October 7th on an Illinois hunt. “We hunted this deer last fall, but when I finally had an encounter with him, he’d broken off one of his main beams, so I gave him a pass and started preparing for this fall. We knew his bedding area pretty well, and when I saw a cold front in the forecast for early October, I decided to take a swing at him,” said Rising.
He set up near a line of scrapes near the buck’s bedding area, where a CRP field meets a block of timber. On Rising’s fourth sit, the buck finally showed up, and he made the shot count. Rising’s Prairie State monster is a main-frame 5X5 with multiple stickers and kickers, grossing 212 inches B&C.
Terry Drury’s Waterhole Hammer
Terry Drury of Drury Outdoors knows enough to not pressure a mature buck, but he felt like conditions were perfect for taking multiple swings at this giant whitetail—all from the same stand. “We knew this buck very well from two years of pics and encounters, and when we got his pics this summer it was truly a ‘Wow!’ moment. He’d just exploded from the previous year,” Drury said. “He was also a homebody buck with a relatively small core area and that included a pond in the timber. We felt like that pond was the key to killing him, as we had a huge drought this year.”
Drury and cameraman Forrest Bonin set up in a box blind near the pond at least 10 times and had multiple encounters with the buck, but extreme care with scent and entry/exit routes kept the buck on his pattern. Finally, on October 16, the buck walked out in full daylight, made a rub, and gave Drury a 20-yard shot. The giant buck sported 30 inches of nontypical points, a drop tine, 48 inches of mass, and grossed 216 inches B&C. You can read the whole story of Drury’s huge buck here.
200-Class Buckeye Brute
Logan Patterson had multiple encounters with this Ohio buck last fall and even passed a 25-yard shot on the deer, as he wasn’t comfortable with the angle. When the 2023 season rolled in, Patterson got his first trail-cam pics, and he was impressed by how much the buck’s rack had blown up. “He’d added a bunch of mass, as well as matching split brows and matching kickers on each side,” he said. “We had a cold front coming in the second week of season, and I was in a stand overlooking a bean field that was full of deer when I saw him working towards me. He finally got within 25 yards and I shot right under him.” After that encounter, the buck was no longer a regular on Patterson’s cameras, so he stayed out of the area to let things calm down. Finally on November 26th, a rainy day with a good wind, Patterson tried the buck again. “He gave me another 25 yard shot, and this time I didn’t miss.” Patterson’s heavy-racked giant sported 49-4/8 inches of mass measurements and grossed 204 inches on the Buckmaster’s BTR scoring system.
Dry weather throughout the summer and fall helped Hunt Reynolds nail down the patterns of a giant southern-Indiana whitetail. “We have a little pond in the timber, and the deer were all over that water because of the drought,” Reynolds told F&S. “This buck showed up, and I was getting trail-cam pics of him pretty frequently on that pond.” Finally on November 10, the wide-racked monster showed up on the pond, where Reynolds was waiting with this crossbow. He made good on the 35-yard shot and was soon wrapping his hands around a buck that scored 206-⅜ inches without a spread credit, and it’s 24-inch inside spread pushed the buck over the 230-inch mark.
Cody Payton and his family have hunted some nice bucks on their Kentucky farm, but never the kind of true giants that have made the state famous. That all changed two summers ago when they got pics of a monster whitetail that frequented their property, right up to the archery opener. When the buck showed up again this past summer, Payton felt like he had to get on the buck as early in the season as possible in case the deer relocated again.
Payton spotted the buck briefly and from a distance on the opener but then went two weeks without sighting. Then, on an evening hunt, with a doe and a young buck in front of him, Payton looked up and much to his surprise saw the giant approaching. When the buck hit the 30-yard mark, Payton sent an arrow behind the buck’s shoulder and into his heart. The main-frame 10 point has six nontypical points, solid mass, and a rough measurement by an experienced scorer placed the buck in the mid-190s B&C. Okay, yes, that is a little shy of 200, but we just couldn’t leave Payton’s buck of this year-end list.
Biggest Bucks of 2023: Monster Typicals and Great 8s
Tiffany’s Best-Ever Typical
Tiffany Lakosky is no stranger to big deer. The co-host of the popular “The Crush” television show has tagged some impressive whitetails, but none more impressive than this incredible typical. According to her instagram post, Tiffany killed the buck from a ground blind, and it is her largest typical whitetail to date. We’ll post updates on this amazing buck, which should rank as one of the biggest typical bucks of the year.
Buying a new hunting property is an exciting process, but when you know there’s a B&C-caliber whitetail on the place within weeks of signing the deal, it’s even better. That was the case for LeRoy Purrier, when he picked up a matched set of sheds on the 90-acre, southeast Minnesota farm he bought last January. “Pretty much everything I did on the property from that moment on was done with the hopes of tagging that buck,” Purrier told F&S. The 45-year old custom home builder planted food plots, native grasses, and hung stands and blinds in preparation for the 2023 hunting season. As it turned out, that season lasted only a few hours for Purrier when his target buck stepped into a food plot with 40 minutes of shooting light left on opening day. Purrier made good on the 35-yard shot with his crossbow, and tagged a 6X5 with towering tines that grossed just shy of 180 B&C. You can read the full story of Purrier’s buck here.
Potential Georgia State-Record Stud
Georgian bowhunter Grant Bailey was hunting the micro woodlots of the Atlanta suburbs when he started getting pics of a buck that beat any deer he could pursue on bigger properties out in the country. Bailey arrowed the buck, still in velvet, on September 10th and the amazing typical stands a great chance of claiming the top spot for archery typicals, according to a post by colleague Steve Hill, who wrote: “With 27 ½-inch main beams and a very symetrical rack that tallies only about 6 inches of deduction, the velvet buck’s green score grossed a little over 185 with a net score of 178. The state record archery typical, according to records maintained by Georgia Outdoor News, is a 177 1/8 deer shot by Manny Kaloyannides in 2018. Both Georgia and Pope & Young allow racks to be measured with the velvet on, and that’s what Bailey plans to do after the mandatory 60 day drying period is up.” You
When Logan Marum drew a coveted nonresident Iowa archery tag, he didn’t waste any time getting cameras up on the farms he’d be hunting with his dad, Ted. “We started getting pics of this massive buck and since he lived not far from a junkyard, I decided to call him Oscar the Grouch,” Marum said.
When the first major cold front of October hit southern Iowa, Marum swung into action. “I decided to sit a green food plot bordered by CRP and a couple of oak flats on my last sit of that trip. The wind decided to have a mind of its own that night and switched to a straight east, which allowed two different does to bust me. About 10 minutes later, I looked up and Oscar was 55 yards and closing fast.” The massive buck walked in to 15 steps and Marum made good on the shot, with the buck piling up after a 60-yard run. The heavy-racked 12-point grossed 185 inches B&C.
Breaker, The Brawler
Caption: Davey Stuckey caught up to this 7-½-year-old buck known for fighting.
We’ve profiled at least three of Davey Stuckey’s bucks in recent years, and he’s back with another giant. “I called this buck ‘Breaker’, because in each of the last two falls he’s broken off an entire side of his rack while fighting other deer,” Stuckey said. “EHD had devastated some of my ground, so I turned all my attention to Breaker.” After multiple encounters with the buck, Stuckey finally got within bow range on November 9th. “True to form, he’d broken off an 8-inch tine on one side but still grossed 173-⅞”,” Stuckey said.
It takes a lot for a main-frame 8-point to crack the Booner barrier. But that’s exactly what Tanner Eggelton’s Buckeye State bruiser did. Eggelton was hunting Ohio’s youth season on November 19 when the giant buck chased a doe past his stand. The high-school sophomore made good on the shot and tagged a buck that grossed over 177 inches B&C.
Biggest Bucks of 2023: Freak Show
When Patrick Paysinger traveled from his Tennessee home to hunt the Kansas archery opener, he had his sights set on a buck he called “Triple” because the buck had three main beams. “Triple showed up on my first sit and gave me a 16-yard shot,” he recalled. “But the shot was hard quartering away, and my arrow deflected off a rib and into his shoulder, never penetrating the chest cavity. I left that hunt not knowing if I’d ever see him again, much less get an opportunity.”
Paysinger monitored his cell cameras from his home and was relieved when Triple showed up again in mid-October. “He was moving better in November, but I mostly had night pics of him,” he said. “I figured my only chance was when the rut was in full swing, so I headed back out there, and on November 15 I was in my saddle for an afternoon sit. Things were slow, but with six minutes of legal shooting left, I heard a big deer jump the fence and head my way. Then I could hear him hitting tree limbs with his rack. Finally he popped out at 10 yards and I instantly recognized Triple. This time I made a perfect shot!” Paysinger’s triple-beamed trophy scored `179-4/8 inches and is his biggest whitetail.
Blades of Glory
In the summer of 2022, Prairie State bowhunter Ryan Grover encountered a buck he nicknamed “Blades”, thanks to its uniquely shaped G2s. “I could see he had tons of potential, so I decided to give him another year,” Grover said. “That decision paid off, because when I saw him this summer, he’d put on a ton of mass and quickly became one of my target bucks.” Grover started putting in serious stand time during the last week of October, but he had zero encounters with or pics of Blades for quite awhile. “I was starting to think he had disappeared or been shot,” Grover recalled. “And on the morning of November 7th, I had a respectable buck in front of me and I’d just decided to take him if I had a chance. Then I heard a deer behind me. Blades was standing at 35 yards, then walked into 25 and gave me a perfect shot.” The main-frame 12-point has only a 16-inch inside spread, but incredible mass pushed its B&C score to 171-4/8 inches.
Christmas Tree Buck
Wisconsin college student Kaden Stracke got the first pic of this unique buck back on August 11 and decided immediately he was holding out for the big nontypical. While Stracke saw the buck on opening weekend of Wisconsin’s bow season, the deer was hanging in a bachelor group that contained five other bucks, none of which ever got closer than 200 yards. Then Stracke got busy with school and couldn’t find any hunting time for several weeks. But Stracke continued to monitor the buck by studying trail cam pics, and his homework paid off on October 28th.
“I wrote down the date, time, wind, and barometric pressure every time he was on camera in daylight,” he told us. “After mulling over 30-some pictures I got, I realized that he was daylighting when the pressure was 28.8-29.3, and those were the conditions when I could finally hunt.” Stracke hung a tree stand in the buck’s wheelhouse, then grunted and rattled the giant in for a 5-yard shot. The triple-beamed giant sports 16 scorable points.
The Prettiest Piebald
Piebald whitetails have a built-in ghostly appearance, but that’s not why Mitchell Bolton named his target buck “Casper,” after the cartoon ghost. “This deer had no pattern that I could detect at all,” Bolton told F&S. “I’d been hunting him for two seasons and only had trail-cam pics; I couldn’t put eyes on him. He’d show up randomly at two a.m. one day, 7 p.m. the next. Next, he’d disappear for a week or two, then show up at noon.” Still, Bolton wasn’t giving up on his dream buck, and on November 14 he hustled out to a stand where he thought Casper might show up. After watching squirrels for awhile, Bolton heard shuffling in the leaves and spotted big piebald whitetail walking toward him. Bolton ended his two-year campaign with a 25-yard shot on the Sussex County, Delaware buck.
Biggest Bucks of 2023: Friends and Family
240-Class Potential Texas Youth Record
Fourteen-year-old Reili Brewer took this incredible Texas nontypical with a rifle on October 29th while hunting with her dad at the Lone Start State’s Red River Army Depot, a 15,000-acre military tract near Texarkana. They’d had a slow morning hunt, and then it started raining hard. Reili’s father Rickey let his daughter borrow his rain jacket for the afternoon hunt while he waited in the truck. Around 6pm, he heard a shot and, as reported by F&S colleague Steven Hill, he said: “…my first thought was she’d shot this other buck we call Moose, a wide 6 ½-year-old 8-pointe. I took off just casually walking toward her, and I noticed I had several missed calls. Then she FaceTimes me, and she was bawling and squalling and screaming, saying that she shot the deer. I didn’t give her a chance to say another word: I hung up and took off running to her.” The giant buck green grossed right around 240 inches, and will almost certainly be the new Texas state record youth nontypical whitetail. You can real the full story here.
Game-Over Kentucky Giant
When a giant buck walked under his tree stand on the Kentucky archery whitetail opener, Chandler Barnes knew exactly what deer he was looking at. “I had the sheds from him from last year, when he was a 165-class buck,” Barnes said. “I’d told my buddies I was holding out for him this fall, or eating my tag. I couldn’t believe it when I heard a deer coming in from behind me, then glanced down and saw him. He stood under my stand forever, then slowly walked out in the food plot, where several other bucks were feeding. He stopped at 15 yards and turned broadside to lick his flank and gave me a perfect shot.” Barnes’ arrow flew true, and he quickly recovered the 188-⅞-inch buck. While there are nearly zero downsides to tagging such a giant, Barnes said he probably submarined a big-deer contest he enters with his friends. “Every year, we all chip in $10 at the beginning of the season, and whoever gets the biggest buck gets the pot,” he said. “Some of the guys hadn’t thrown in their money yet, and when they heard about my buck they were like ‘Well forget it for this year!’”
Cody Thurston had already had a fantastic 2023 deer season and he’d barely had a bow in his hand. Thurston films for Drury Outdoors and had already filmed his father, best friend Shay Haddock and Haddock’s two sons, all harvest great bucks. “I honestly didn’t need to kill a buck after that,” Thurston said. “I’d had an incredible time in the field with family and friends outdoors, and to me that’s what hunting is all about.”
But the hunting gods weren’t done with Thurston. He and Haddock headed out for a mid December bowhunt, and Thurston had his sights set on a couple of old, over-the-hill bucks. Haddock was on the camera this time, and light was fading when Haddock spotted a giant deer coming in. “He said ‘Shooter coming and don’t even look at the rack!’” Thurston laughed. “And I’m glad I didn’t because I’d have had extreme buck fever!” Thurston made good on the shot and was soon wrapping his tag around a 192-6/8” Kansas giant. “Neither of us had a clue this deer was on the property, he must have followed a hot doe in there. I never knew or had any trail cam pictures of him. I just got extremely lucky and feel for all the hunters that spent hours and days hunting this Kansas monarch.
Related: The Biggest Bucks of 2022
Indiana Youth-Season Shooter
Many hunters who manage ground compile a “shoot/don’t shoot” list of bucks prior to the season. Indiana deer hunter Dave Ranard had one too, but he had to shred it when a great buck that fell in the don’t-shoot category appeared as Ranard sat with his grandson, Maverick Hudson, during the Hoosier State youth deer season. “Before we went out that day, I told Mav there were three deer I didn’t want him to shoot,” Ranard recalled. “And, of course, one of those bucks–a gorgeous 9-point that’s only 3-½ years old and poised for greatness–comes out and feeds in front of the blind like a cow. I looked at Maverick and realized him getting a buck was way more important than anything that deer would become, assuming he even lived long enough to do it. So I told him to go ahead, and it was the perfect decision. Mav made a perfect shot on the buck, and he was so excited when we recovered the buck and he got his hands on those antlers. I think I have a deer hunter on my hands now!”
Okay, I know this buck is no world-beater. But I don’t care and, more importantly, neither does the man posing in the picture above, who happens to be my dad. He’ll turn 94 in a few weeks and he still crawls up into tree stands, still loves the beauty of the fall woods, and is still pretty good at bring home the venison. This is his fifth crossbow buck in six seasons. (He hunted with a conventional bow until he was 87).
This fall’s buck came from his own property, a 5-acre wooded hillside that has just enough room for one 18-foot ladder stand overlooking a pond. We had pics of at least six different bucks in the months preceding the September opener, and while a couple were mature bucks that most of us would be willing to wait for, dad was having none of that. “I’m going to take the first decent buck that shows up,” he said. And on the afternoon of October 15, this fine 2-½ year-old 8-point gave Dad a perfect 15-yard shot. Dad’s new Ravin crossbow performed perfectly, and the buck piled up after a 40 yard run. Of all the great bucks taken in October, this was my personal favorite—and if you my dad’s age to the buck’s score, you get pretty darn close to that magical 200 mark.