Donnie Monroe knew he’d taken a special buck when he dropped a 23-point whitetail that grossed 230-4/8 inches three days into Kansas’ early-muzzleloader season. What he didn’t know was that the monster buck would break the Buckmasters mark for the top “irregular” (the organization’s term for nontypical) category for muzzleloader hunters in the Sunflower State. Monroe’s buck netted 213-⅞ by the Buckmasters scoring system, topping the previous category leader by ⅞ of an inch. The group acknowledged Monroe’s buck as the new state champ in an Instagram post just this morning. Buckmasters scores whitetail racks similarly to Boone and Crockett, but it eliminates the spread score, does not require a 60-day drying period, and does not count deductions. 

A Tricky Hunt for a Surprise Monster

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A late-evening photo of both bucks in a summer food plot, with the bigger of the two on the right. Donnie Monroe

Monroe is no stranger to huge deer. As a member of the Team 200 television show, he has a number of trophy bucks on his wall, including a 200-inch buck shot in 2018. Still, he had his hands full with this buck, a deer he’d known since last year. “This buck ran with another one last year, and I kind of figured his buddy was going to be my target buck this fall; he was a 4-year-old, 150-class 10 point that I figured would be a Booner this year. Well that deer did look really nice this summer, but his running buddy had absolutely exploded. From the trail-cam pics, I was getting, I felt he would score over 200.

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A trail-cam photo of the buck in velvet. Donnie Monroe

But the buck presented challenges, chief among them was that the 160-acre farm Monroe was hunting was bordered on one side by an avid hunter and by an outfitter on the other. “I was sure that both of them knew this deer, and I honestly thought I had about a week to kill the buck or one of them would,” he said. “I felt like I had to figure him out in a hurry and be prepared for any opportunity he presented. I spent a lot of time glassing, putting out trail cams, and coming up with a plan. I’d finally figured out where he was bedding and the beanfield he liked to feed in, and I decided I had to try for him in a little pocket of cover connecting the two.”

A Shift in Wind Direction Creates an Easy Shot

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Monroe, after recovering his giant Kansas muzzleloader buck. Kyle Wilson

Monroe had one big problem, though. The south wind forecasted for the first week of season was just about dead wrong for his setup. “I’ve learned over the years that sometimes a terrain change can tweak wind direction a bit, and I knew a spot where I thought I might find just that,” he said. “When I snuck in there, I was right; the wind was more east-southeast in that particular spot.” That was almost perfect for the deer but just imperfect enough for Monroe to take advantage. “I also brought my Ozonics unit, which has allowed me to be a little more aggressive in setups like that. I’m also a firm believer in the Moon Guide, and it was the first red moon of the month. I really felt like if I was going to take a shot at this deer, this would be the day, and the place.”

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Monroe admires the buck from a different angle. Kyle Wilson

Monroe’s plan worked. “I knew I was going to have a narrow window of opportunity if he showed up, so I sat on the ground and kept my muzzleloader on shooting sticks, with the butt against my bino harness. I’m normally a bowhunter, and I probably should have had my bow, since the buck came through at 40 yards. It turn out to be a easy shot for a muzzleloader. When I walked up to the buck, it was pretty humbling. I mean, I’d had plenty of intel to let me know how big he was, but when you actually see a deer like that in front of you, well, it’s just amazing.”

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One last look at Monroe’s gorgeous buck. Kyle Wilson

Although Monroe had enjoyed plenty of success with big deer, he says it never gets old and he still feels that same awestruck feeling every time. “I grew up dirt-poor in Indiana, and I honestly learned to hunt just to put food on the table for me and my dad. But the more I hunted, the more I fell in love with it, and it’s turned into a way of life for me. I’d been coming to Kansas as a nonresident for 17 or 18 years, and then I had the opportunity to move here for work. So now, I not only get hunt this magical place, but I live here too. I honestly have to shake my head now and then; this is like living a dream for me.”