Okay, it's not official quite yet. But unless a buck's main beam can shrink by almost two inches in 60 days, you are looking at least the longest left main beam and likely the longest two beams recorded on a whitetail deer--ever. On November 30th, the opening day of Ohio's gun season, 39-year-old software developer Brian Stephens dropped this 18-point colossus at 80 yards with his .50 caliber T/C muzzleloader. The enormous buck should shatter The Buckeye State's nontypical muzzleloader record and will almost certainly set the new mark for whitetail beam length. Here's his story, as told to Dave Hurteau.
“The first time I saw the buck was in 2007, on November 24th. My Dad and I looked out onto a field on our property and there he stood, about 450 yards away. I happened to have a video camera in my truck. As I filmed, it wasn’t until he turned broadside that we could see how big he was, and we were both blown away. What’s crazy is that the buck wound up dying about 10 feet away from the spot where I last got video of him. Here are some grainy stills from that footage.”
“On opening morning of our gun season, I headed out before dawn with my Dad, my uncle, my brother-in-law, and a few friends to hunt our 180-acre family farm in Highland County. If you look past the pond in this picture, you see a CRP field and some scraggly pines. My stand is in the timber just beyond. Deer bed in a brushy draw in the CRP, as well as on a bunch of wooded knolls behind my stand. Between the field edge and the timber is a path, and on it, in the middle of one my shooting lanes, was a fresh scrape.”
“I climbed into my stand and just after daybreak, a small doe jumped out of some cover and cruised right toward me. Immediately, I saw this absolute monster right behind her. They stopped at 50 yards, directly behind the only tree with any leaves left on it, where they milled for several minutes. Once they started moved again, I needed them to take just 10 steps for a shot. But the doe winded me and disappeared into a ravine. Unspooked, the buck ran after her, through the only spot where I could have shot, but it happened too fast for me to get on him. I was sick. I knew the opportunity of a lifetime had come and gone.”
After just two minutes of hanging my head, I looked up and there were four bucks standing right behind the same leafy tree: a good 8-pointer, a 120-inch 10, and two yearlings. Then came three more bucks, another 8 and two more yearlings. They must have had that doe’s scent because the followed right in her footsteps–except for the 10-pointer. He took a slightly different route and gave me several shot opportunities that I would have taken in a heartbeat if I hadn’t just seen that giant.
A saw two more does and another small 4-point buck a little later, and at 9:30 I heard a fairly close shot. Around lunchtime, I was debating whether to stay put or go in and grab a bite. I was leaning toward the former. I was thinking, How can I go in and tell the guys I saw 10 bucks with nothing to show for it? But then, I heard our John Deere Gator coming off the hill and I knew someone had killed one. I decided to go in, and back at camp found out that my neighbor Glenn had shot a nice 8-pointer. I was really excited for him. I told my story over lunch and everyone said “Yeah, right.”
Back in stand before one o’clock, I started getting that feeling like my chances had come and gone. I spotted a coyote coming toward me and feeling the way I did, I said the heck with it and shot him at 50 yards. Not 10 minutes later, two does came, walked within 10 feet of that dead coyote, and never flinched. About 3:20, eight does crashed down the hill from where the big buck and doe had disappeared earlier. I saw a flash of horns behind them, but it was just a forkhorn. The group moved toward the CRP field and got about 150 yards away where I couldn’t see them but could hear all kinds of running, and crashing, and grunting. Then everything went quiet for about 20 minutes–and suddenly, I see the monster, about 250 yards downhill, straight in front of me.
He’d heard the racket, too, and was up to check it out. For several minutes, he just stood still, then starting moving directly at me. I couldn’t believe it was happening. He swayed side-to-side like a moose as he walked. I whispered to myself, Stay calm . . . stay calm. And I whispered to the buck, Keep coming. . . keep coming. I figured he was headed for the scrape, about 80 yards below me. And sure enough, he hit that path, turned, and went right for it. When I got him in my scope, he stopped broadside, just a few yards from the pawed dirt. The crazy thing is, I wasn’t nervous. I was far more calm than I’ve ever been on any buck. I shot and smoke was everywhere. It took forever to clear and when it did, nothing. No buck. No blood. No hair. My heart sunk. I couldn’t believe I missed.
And it only got worse when I suddenly caught sight of him 120 yards moving away. On a little knoll 200 yards out, he stopped and looked back. He was just standing there, staring at me. Through my binoculars, I couldn’t see a drop of blood–and I just knew I missed him. I felt nauseated. I felt absolutely disgusted. I wanted to throw myself out of the tree. Then he fell down dead.
I sat down, took a drink of water. I wanted to savor it for a little while. I ate an apple, and waited about 20 minutes. Then I got down, picked up my coyote and started toward the buck. I knew he was big, knew it was the best buck of my life, but I still was not prepared. As I walked up the knoll and caught my first up-close glimpse of the rack, I almost fell over. My legs turned to Jell-O and I literally dropped to my knees and thanked God and my two late grandfathers. My mom’s father bought this place in the 50s and just loved to see family and friends gather here to enjoy the outdoors. My Dad’s father was the big hunter. They got along great, and between them, they got this all started. “I know both of you guys are watching,” I said, “and I thank you.”
While the other guys were still hunting, I got the buck with my truck and put a tarp over it to surprise them when they got back. The second my Dad came in and saw the tarp he said, “Let me guess. You killed a coyote at 1 p.m. and a buck around 4.” I lifted up the tarp and I can’t tell you what he said in a family magazine. Let’s just say he was bowled over. Honestly, the look on his face made the whole hunt for me.
It’s been pretty chaotic ever since. At the check-in station, somebody saw the buck and yelled “Oh my God, it’s a giant!” Next thing I knew I was surrounded by people and getting my picture taken with complete strangers. Heading home the next day, people were beeping, waving, giving me thumbs up.
When I got home, I put both my deer and Glenn’s on the garage floor. And seeing them side-by-side again, and knowing that Glenn’s is a very respectable 8-pointer, I began to understand the size of this buck. And it wasn’t until then that I realized it was the same buck I’d video-taped two years earlier.
My 9-year-old son, Cole, couldn’t believe how big it was.
A couple of buddies came over and wanted to put a tape on him. The kept writing down numbers and shaking their heads. Finally, one says, it’s going to go over 240.
Later, I got hold of Jason Snyder at Boone & Crockett. He asked me to measure the left main beam and told me exactly how to do it. I did and told him it was 35 inches. Jason said, “No way. Not possible.” I measured it again and said, “35 inches.” He told me I needed to call Rick Busse, an area taxidermist who mounted and measured the famous Beatty Buck. I told him the main beam was 35 inches. He said “Not possible. No whitetail in history has ever had a 35-inch main beam.” I said, “I guess I could be wrong, but I get 35 inches.” He said, “I need to see that buck.”
When I got there the next morning, there were several outdoor professionals there, including some TV personalities. Rick said, “You don’t realize what you have here.” And I’m sure he was right. Since then, its been pretty crazy, with TV interviews, magazine stories, and nonstop phone calls. Not that I’m complaining.
Last night, two official B&C and Buckmasters measurers put a green score on it. Numbers aren’t everything, that’s for sure. But they can be kind of fun, so I thought I’d share some of the figures: Left G2: 18 inches
Right G2: 16-6/8
Inside Spread: 24-3/8
Left main beam: 35-1/8
Right main beam: 34-4/8
Green gross: 249-5/8
Green net: 232-5/8 Friends and family have been joking that I might as well hang up my gun. I can’t imagine ever seeing, let along taking, anything bigger. I keep saying to myself, “How can he have been living on our farm? How can he have walked past me?” In other words, I’ve probably used up most if not all of my luck. But as long as I believe my grandfathers can see us enjoying the farm each season, I’ll be out there.