Field & Stream Picks The 50 Best Buck Stories of 2010
The Chipper Buck
When Tom Buerger took this Wisconsin giant on his father-in-law's dairy farm near Knowlton, Wis., in November, he gave thanks to his old friend Chipper. The farm's hired hand, Chipper had schooled Buerger on the importance of putting out mineral blocks early each spring; before he died of cancer in 2007, he promised he'd always be with Buerger when he hunted the farm--and promised to help him get a monster buck. After shooting this 209-inch 15-pointer, Buerger felt he'd finally tagged a buck his buddy would be proud of--and he believed that, somehow, Chipper had a hand in it.
Field & Stream_’s countdown of the 50 best bucks of the year ranked by a combination of the deer’s size, the uniqueness of the bucks and the amazing stories that go along with them._ **#50 The 2010 deer season was a remarkable one for hunters throughout the country. This is
An Army National Guard combat engineer and Iraq War vet arrowed this quadruple drop tine inside the city limits of Columbus, Ohio, on October 25. Travis Vollmar missed the 2008 season fighting in Iraq and will miss the 2011 season after shipping out to Afghanistan this summer. He says this deer, which he shot with a crossbow at 15 yards, just may just be enough buck for all three seasons. The rack grossed 192 on the Buckmaster system and netted a 184 green score, but numbers don’t even begin to capture its unusual character, especially that pinwheel left antler. Vollmar studied the deer across two seasons’ worth of trail cam photographs before intercepting him feeding in some apple trees in the overgrown yard of an abandoned house. Despite all the trail cam photos, Vollmar still found the buck better than expected when he finally had the rack in his hands. Says Vollmar, “There was definitely no ground shrinkage.”
#49 Ophthalmologist Bill Plauche snapped a trail cam photo of this buck on land not far from his home in Grayson County, Texas, last fall. Then, on October 10 the deer walked by his stand at five yards, and Plauche got an up-close look at this once-in-a-lifetime trophy. No official word on the score, but the whitetail is reported to have 30 points and a 20-inch outside spread. “I’ve been hunting 25 years for that moment,” Plauche told a local news crew. “I’ve always dreamed there was that big a deer out there and that one day it would come out.”
The Doctor Will See You Now
#48 When Dave and Pamela Madden married 21 years ago during his Navy leave, their November 18 wedding date seemed to be no big deal. But now that he’s a dedicated deer hunter, an anniversary that falls on or near the Illinois firearms opener every year is more problematic. This year, the couple celebrated early, as has become their tradition, then headed to their hunting cabin, enduring “the usual pot shots from the sidelines” about their anniversary taking a backseat to bucks. Three days later Dave spotted this big 9-pointer 80 yards from his stand, then watched as the buck, evidently spooked by Pam when she stepped outside the cabin, started walking down a trail that led to his tree. He connected with his shotgun from 59 yards, but was unable to find a good blood trail and went to bed that night dejected. After searching for several hours the next morning with a friend, Dave headed back to the cabin, completely demoralized, passing his wife on the way. Minutes later his phone rang: It was Pam, and she had found his deer. Dave and his friend realized they’d been within 10 yards of the downed buck several times during their search. And yes, Dave has already checked the calendar. “Next year the 18th falls on opening day,” he reports. “I better start saving up for something special to pay her back.”
Happy Anniversary, Baby
#47 A Batesville, Arkansas hunter reportedly arrowed this big Kansas typical in November, then tracked the buck to a creek where it’s upper half was submerged tines-down in the mud. Turns out the chase wasn’t quite over: On the way back to Arkansas the rack and cape, which were strapped to a four-wheeler in the back of a pickup, came loose and crashed to the highway. The hunter recovered the trophy with no major damage. The buck initially made the Internet rounds as a potential new Kansas archery record, but the reported green score–209 gross, 189 after deductions–looks like it will come up short of the top spot, but should be good enough for the top 10. An official score should be coming in January.
#46 Jim Ferguson wasn’t planning to hunt the afternoon of November 3; instead, he asked his friends Steve and Jeremy to text updates of their hunt in McClean County, Illinois. But an hour later, Ferguson got a message inviting him to hunt Jeremy’s stand. A call to his friend revealed the reason: “His wife was throwing a candle party, and she told him he needed to stay home and cook dinner,” Ferguson recalls. “He sounded like someone had just run over his dog.” Ferguson sat the stand, and by 4:00 he was watching a 6-pointer chasing seven does. The does returned later, this time trailing a massive 8-pointer. After grabbing his bow and clipping on his release, Ferguson says, “I began shaking. I began taking deep breaths and telling myself, ‘It’s just a deer, it’s just a deer.'” The buck was only 10 yards away, but Ferguson managed to maneuver into position for a shot without spooking him; as he began to pull back his bow the buck looked straight at him. “I froze, and then felt myself start to shake due to being held at half draw,” he recalls. “Thankfully as the big buck stared at me a doe moved just behind me.” The buck focused on the doe, Ferguson came to full draw and made “the best archery shot of my life,” double-lunging the quartering-away bruiser at seven yards. And what about Steve? “Like a great friend,” Ferguson reports, “he ended up leaving the candle party to celebrate a great buck with his buddies.”
#45 Once this 10-pointer showed up on Shannon Deskins’ trail cam in August, she hunted the eastern Kentucky mountain buck exclusively. In the first week of October the big 10 walked within 30 yards of her stand, but he stayed back in timber and Shannon didn’t get a shot. She didn’t think she’d see the deer again, but she kept hunting–and on October 30 he showed up at 10:45 a.m. in almost the exact same spot where she’d seem him three weeks before. This time the buck kept coming, and at 20 yards presented a perfect broadside shot for the crossbow hunter. Shannon says she passed on four does about an hour before this buck walked out, proving the value of patience and hunting mid-day hours.
#44 The same day Deskins’ shot her mountain buck in eastern Kentucky, Troy Johnson took this gnarly Buckeye State trophy about 300 miles due north in Fremont, Ohio. Not much is known about the 20-plus pointer, only that it was green scored by Ohio crossbow hunter Steve Esker at 250 gross.
#43 Sure, this 8-pointer won’t rewrite any record books, but it’s not the deer that makes the picture so interesting–it’s the hunter. Look closely at the background above this North Carolina buck’s tines and you’ll see Jim Smith 16 feet up a ladder stand in a blaze orange vest. “Thirty minutes before dark this buck showed up between me and my trail cam,” Smith reports, “and 15 minutes later he showed up in the back of my truck.” Smith dropped the whitetail at 40 yards with a 12-gauge shotgun on December 9 in Craven County. Interestingly, when he saw the buck the previous night, its brow tines were intact. “Somehow, he broke them off overnight,” says Smith, who won a shot-of-the-month contest at NorthCarolinaSportsman.com. This could lead to a whole new craze: posing with a buck before the shot.
A 15-acre soybean field in northeastern North Carolina has produced eight bucks for Lee Mizelle in seasons past, so there was no doubt where he’d be hunting when the 2010 season rolled around: He was going back to his honey hole. The strategy paid off for the 40-year-old chicken farmer from Windsor when he shot the best buck of his life during an afternoon hunt on November 9 from his “stand”–a lounge chair situated at the base of a big cedar tree. Mizelle spotted three does in the field and looked around for a buck, finding him lurking at the edge of a tree line. A quick check with the binoculars showed a shooter. “I figured it was an 8-pointer,” recalls Mizelle. “Probably it’s good I didn’t look that hard at his rack.” He dropped the big 13-pointer with one shot from his Remington 300. The rack grossed 179 inches and netted 169 nontypical, with a 21-inch outside spread, 19-inch inside spread and one 25-inch main beam.
Field & Stream_ contributing editor David Draper tagged this odd buck during the Nebraska muzzleloader season in December. Draper had hunted two trophy mulies through the firearms season without getting a shot, and later spotted both during the muzzleloader season. He decided to pass on the possibility of harvesting those “normal” trophies to take this unusual spike. When he first spied it from afar, Draper thought the deer might have something like bailing wire wrapped around its snout; on closer inspection, he determined that it was a buck with two antlers growing downward, “like something from a nuclear age circus sideshow.” Not a conventional trophy perhaps, but certainly an excellent testament to Mother Nature’s mastery of the curveball.
#40 When 17-year-old Mason Petrzilka missed a chance at this Nebraska giant on November 19 after his gun jammed, he called his father, Kevin, and brother Dillon, 20, for backup. They dropped their fence-mending tools and sped to the site on the family farm where the buck and several does had taken cover: a cedar-lined creek that crossed an open pasture. It was Kevin who got the shot, at 150 yards, and he made it count, bringing down a 200-class 17-pointer that could unseat the current Nebraska record-holder, a 199 2/8-inch buck taken in 1993. It may all depend on how scorers judge those big G3s, but if the rack does qualify as a typical and the 203 4/8 net green score holds up, the Petrzilka buck could end up on the top of the heap in the Cornhusker State–and earn the distinction as 2010’s largest symmetrical rack.
Nebraska Record Mason Petrzilka
#39 With the mind-boggling array of high-tech gizmos vying for brain space when you’re afield these days, sometimes it’s good to reset and remind yourself to attend first to the basics. That’s the moral to a hunting story that turned up in
First Thing’s First Field & Stream‘s Rut Report in December. Preston White intercepted this cruising Louisiana buck by concentrating on ridges and scrape lines after the end of the lockdown phase of the rut–one of his favorite tactics. After a slow morning, he relocated that afternoon to a secluded tract accessed by climbing between train cars idled on a siding. He spotted the buck at 75 yards and squeezed the trigger–only to find that he’d forgotten to reload his shotgun after negotiating the rail crossing. White kept his composure: He fished a slug from the shell band on his stock, loaded his gun and, with the 160-class whitetail now staring straight at him, managed to quickly settle his crosshairs and drop the buck in its tracks.
#38 A buck bigger than any in the state record books was found dead in February on 10-acres of overgrown horse pasture and apple orchard in Lenawee County, Michigan. The 26-point rack with incredible 31-inch main beams and a 28 6/8-inch inside spread dwarfed another local buck that grossed 205 inches. A green score put the rack at 257 4/8 gross, 247 6/8 net nontypical. That tops the state-record nontypical, a 238 2/8 shot in 1976, but since Michigan only recognizes pickup bucks in a separate special category, this phenomenal find won’t officially be considered the state’s top buck. Amazingly, the giant was aged at only 4 ½ years old. Imagine what he could have been like this year.
#37 Hunting a creek bottom in the Texas panhandle on the morning of November 15, Kelley Sims dropped this 170-class beauty in its tracks with a 175-yard shot from his .270 Weatherby Magnum. The buck was trolling for does and had not shown up on any of Sims’ trail cams, indicating he had probably been lured well outside his core area by the rut. The typical 10 has 13 points total, including split brow tines and a kicker on the left side. Check out the massive bases, which measure about 6 ½ inches around. It’s Sims’ best buck ever.
Hard to ‘Handle
#36 The Texas panhandle region produced yet another personal-best buck, this time for Chad Hammer. The 147-inch 9-pointer was the first whitetail Hammer saw on the below-freezing morning of November 17. Hunting from an elevated stand, he glassed the lone buck as it worked its way up a creek bottom with its nose to the ground, then used a bipod to steady his .300 Weatherby Mag for a 100-yard shot. Rut Reporter Brandon Ray called the cape one of the prettiest he’s ever seen, with tan and orange fur and a double throat patch.
#35 Nick Faruch of Rochester, New York, shared with FieldandStream.com this trophy shot of a 19-point nontypical he arrowed October 27 in Ontario County. The 5-year-old whitetail weighed 250 pounds, sported a 31-inch neck and grossed more than 200 inches. An impressive rack for New York–and a lot of other states, too.
Ready to Rut
#34 The 23-pointer Mark Clemens tagged in southern Maryland has to be one of the year’s strangest racks: The term “nontypical” hardly seems adequate to describe the velvet covered tangle of horns on this 200-pounder’s head. Looks like a moose tangled with a set of bagpipes–and lost.
#33 During a November 6 group hunt on the Cedar River near Indian Lake, New York, Bob LaVergne struck out on his own to still-hunt some nearby low ground. He spied this Adirondack 21-pointer crossing the side of a ridge and dropped it at 100 yards with his 30.06. Word is the sheds from this buck have been scored at 190 in the past, so LaVergne is hoping the rack will push 200 inches. Talk about a mature buck: the 178-pounder was reportedly estimated at a whopping 11 ½ to 12 ½ years old.
#32 “Shot the buck of a lifetime in Texas,” tweeted Larysa Switlyk on December 13 after knocking down this long, tall Texas trophy. “I was super blessed with how my hunt turned out … Tough hunt but well worth it!” Earlier this fall, Switlyk–who hails from Sarasota, Florida–also bagged a gator with her bow and took her first mule deer in Montana with a 338-yard rifle shot.
Long Tall Texan
#31 86-year-old Lester Warner went through a lot in 2010: The retired pretzel baker from Dover Township, Pennsylvania, endured several months of chemo, radiation, physical therapy and multiple hospital stays as he battled cancer. In November he and his family decided to stop treatment. But as the Pennsylvania rifle season approached, Warner told his sons he wanted one last hunt. Though initially skeptical, Brian and Scott honored their father’s fighting spirit, even lugging a recliner up a steep hill to a hunting hut they built for Lester years ago. Opening morning found the lifelong hunter kicked back in the recliner, sipping coffee, when out stepped this 8-pointer, the biggest buck Lester and his sons have ever taken. He tracked the deer for 80 yards through his scope before dropping it with a perfect shot. Turning to his son, Lester said, “Never give up.”
One Last Hunt
#30 John Kellett may have a shot at the North Carolina bow-kill nontypical record with this 20-pointer he harvested in Northampton County on September 15. The 23-year-old college senior was in a ladder stand overlooking a creek bottom, reading text messages on his phone, when the big whitetail showed itself on a creek bank 40 yards away. Kellett was so impressed that he drew his bow immediately to shoot, but the buck walked straight toward his stand and Kellett was able to hold out for a 15-yard chip shot instead. The mainframe 4×4 has 12 nontypical points, including double drop tines on each main beam. A green score in the neighborhood of 170 puts the buck within range of the state record, a 176 7/8 taken with a bow in 2005.
Carolina’s Finest 1?
#29 Giving Kellett a run for the North Carolina state record is this buck taken by Dennis McPherson in Harnett County on December 26. After a serious motorcycle accident in August led to reconstructive surgery on his eye, McPherson found he couldn’t see well enough to sight a rifle. He switched to a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with double-aught buckshot and took advantage of a Christmas Day snowstorm to hunt a ladder stand near a swamp. Following a hunch, he passed on a 6-pointer at 7 a.m. and five minutes later this 4×4 mainframe with seven sticker points showed up in the same clearing the six had just vacated. After following a blood trail for 500 yards, McPherson claimed his trophy, which a green score puts in the 170s.
Carolina’s Finest 2?
#28 Pushing a dense thicket near Wheeler, N.Y., on November 26, Thomas Wheeler flushed this basket-rack from thick cover but caught only a glimpse of antler tips as it crashed out of sight. He snuck up on a pine where he last heard the deer, threw a stick to the opposite side of the tree, and watched in awe as the biggest buck he’d ever seen jumped up and barreled straight toward him. He managed a quick shot when the 14-pointer paused briefly beside some poplars after crossing a creek; locating the blood trail after a long search Wheeler shouted his thanks to the heavens–only to startle the buck, which had hunkered down nearby. From then on Wheeler was in breathless pursuit, fighting to catch glimpses of the fleeing whitetail as it dodged in and out of cover. More than once he was certain his trophy had slipped away for good, but the determined hunter was able to catch the buck in the open. After the shot, “I just sat there trying to catch my breath, watching the deer for two, three, four minutes” Wheeler says. “Then when I got to it I realized, ‘Wow, I got the monster.'”
#27 The discovery of three mature bucks locked together and floating dead in an Ohio creek has to qualify as the season’s most bizarre–and disturbing–find. A forester surveying timber stumbled across the hair-raising scene at the height of the rut, kicking off a complicated salvage operation to extract the deer and preserve intact the totem of their tragic battle: three wedged-tight racks totaling 28 points and more than 400 inches of bone. Several theories have sprung up to explain how three 200-pounders managed to get themselves in such a predicament, but one thing is certain: They went out with a hell of a fight. “Three alpha bucks coming together at once, I just can’t imagine how brutal that must have been,” says landowner Brien Burke, who is considering a full body mount of all three to preserve for posterity this stark illustration of the rut’s ferocity. “But there’s also a certain sadness that the lives of three nice bucks just ended like that,” he adds. “Three deer that any hunter would have put on the wall and told stories about.”
#26 Hanna Harris turned 16 two weeks before the Pennsylvania firearms opener and celebrated her new status as a legal adult hunter by striking out on her own. Her first solo buck was a dandy: A 16-pointer that green scored 210 nontypical and 181 typical. Harris has ample experience afield, with two whitetail bucks, a red stag and eight turkeys to her credit, but that was with her father, taxidermist Joe Harris, along to give advice. Hunting a tree stand on the family’s Northumberland County farm, Hanna was able to keep her wits when this buck–previously captured on a trail camera–strolled into view on November 29, and she made the shot from her .280 count. Well done, Hanna.
#25 A 24-year-old high school football coach who knows how to keep a secret tagged this webbed wonder in Choctaw County, Mississippi. Casey Orr was one of three men who’ve known about the buck since last season, when they captured the brute on a trail camera. Orr, his father, and the assistant principal at the high school where Orr is an assistant coach for the football and baseball teams told no one else, even keeping the secret from other members of their hunting club. After jumping the buck along a power line cut while heading to a fishing hole last summer, Orr built a ground blind of pine trees and started hunting him this fall. On December 14 the whitetail crossed the cut 60 yards from the blind and headed straight to Orr, who let him close to 12 yards before making an easy broadside shot with a .444 rifle. A biologist aged the deer at 4 ½ years and green-scored the moose-like rack at 207 5/8 gross, 197 3/8 net.
Mossy Oak’s Chris Paradise spent his summer scouting and patterning this Buckeye State bruiser before dropping him with a 22-yard shot on the second day of Ohio’s early archery season. After spotting the buck in July–on private land heavily hunted during the firearms season–he spent more time than ever shooting his bow and kept a journal tracking the deer’s movements. The buck weighed 250 pounds field dressed and carried 190 inches of antler–good enough to rank in the top 10 all-time among Ohio typicals.
Wisconsin Hat Trick
Hunting with her dad on family land near Hortonville, 16-year-old Corissa Wege shot three bucks in less than an hour on the Wisconsin deer opener. After only minutes in the field, Wege dropped a 10-pointer in its tracks. They barely had time to reload her muzzleloader before the 13-pointer showed up and Corissa shot that buck, too. As father and daughter climbed down from their stand to tag their bucks, an 8-pointer walked right to them and Wege made it three in a row. Corissa says she hopes to get all three deer mounted–if Dad will pay for it. “I took the gun away from her and told her to stop,” Tom Wege said. “This is going to cost me.” Maybe he can get a bulk discount.
#22 Don’t think Tyler Laatsch’s hunt was easy just because he dropped this nontypical monster on the very first evening of Wisconsin’s bow season. Laatsch had been tracking the deer for six years, collecting trail cam photos and sheds, when it stepped into the open at 7 p.m. on Sept. 18. He had to thread his arrow through a small hole in the brush 18 yards from his tree stand. The big-bodied whitetail topped 200 pounds field dressed and posted a gross green score of 181 inches.
#21 As a former Olympic speed skater, Cathy Turner knows a thing or two about performing under pressure. So when a big 14-point typical well known to hunters in Parma, New York, strolled past her stand the morning of Oct. 30, Turner calmed her nerves by using the visualization and breathing exercises that helped her win gold medals on the short track at the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics. The result: In only her third season of bowhunting, the champion skater will have to make space in her trophy room for a 170 1/8-inch whitetail. That official score is enough to make it the new number one archery typical for Monroe County, and a top-10 archery typical for New York State.
Hunting the next-to-last day of Mississippi’s primitive weapons season in mid-December, Will Rives of Natchez set up a climbing stand on a hot scrape line to waylay a tall-tined typical that should blow the state record out of the water. With a green score that grosses 198 4/8 and nets 176 7/8, this 15-pointer looks to have plenty of horn to surpass the Magnolia State’s top typical, a 167 2/8 Pope & Young buck. Rives, who has bowhunted since he was 7 years old and now shoots competitively for Bayou Outfitters, made a quartering-to shot at less than 15 yards.
#19 When Chuck Baker of Nekoosa, Wisconsin, heard a ruckus during an afternoon hunt in November, he discovered what he first thought was a deer stuck in a barbed wire fence. On closer examination, he realized he’d come across a pair of locked bucks: One dead, and one struggling to get free. Baker wanted to free the live deer but the buck’s violent bucking made that impossible, so he called the game warden and received the green light to shoot the trapped buck and keep both deer. The two racks featured 24 points and a combined 306 inches of horn.
#18 Only three hunters have taken three 200-plus whitetails with archery equipment, and in November Steve Esker of Columbus, Ohio, became one of them, downing a 217 inch 24-pointer with a crossbow on October 14. Esker took advantage of a forecasted evening wind-shift to get close to the buck he’d been tracking for months via multiple trail cameras set up on a 240-acre tree farm inside the Columbus city limits. It marked the second consecutive year that Esker was able to tag a 200.
3 X 200
#17 Brian Inda and his hunting partner Craig Carpenter worked together to chase this 12-point typical buck, setting up trail cams and tree stands in an effort to down what they thought could be a new Wisconsin state record. It was Inda (right) who got the shot during a November 2 bow outing, luring the buck to his tree stand with a series of grunt calls. The rack tallied a green score of 198 2/8 inches, which should be enough to top the current Wisconsin state archery record, a 16-point 187 2/8 whitetail taken in 2006 by Barry Rose, a former wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills.
#16 Northport 15-year-old Lucas Clark was ready to drop the hammer on a doe when he spotted this north-country behemoth through his scope, trotting toward him across a frozen Maine bog on November 13. Not until he went to tag his trophy did he realize exactly what he had dropped: A massive buck with three main beams and more points than he and his hunting partner could initially count. After gathering their wits, they tallied 20 points and an estimated green score of 190.
Maine Triple Beam
#15 A potential state archery record buck fell in Pennsylvania on October 16. Bowhunter Barry Kern of Clarksville shot this 14-pointer on an oak-covered ridge with a bench that funneled the shooter right past his stand. Kern was rattling and grunting when the buck showed up, and he watched as the deer freshened a fake scrape that he’d created. Kerns says he’d captured photos of several nice bucks on his trail cams but had never seen this deer before. Initial reports put the typical rack’s green score in the neighborhood of 189 gross and 174 net, and the G2s and G3s were all reported as more than a foot long. But on January 2, George Block, who writes an outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pennsylvania, announced that he’d officially scored the Kern Buck at 189 2/8 gross, 173 5/8 net. That makes it the No. 5 archery buck in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Big Game Scoring Program.
Pennsylvania Top Typical?
#14 Richard and Barb Ewing took in a stray German Shepherd pup years ago, and last March the dog they named Sweetie returned the favor, leading them to a bone pile on the family farm in Ashtabula County that yielded a 264 4/8-inch nontypical whitetail rack. The 29-point Sweetie Buck ranks No. 5 in Ohio, where the No. 1 B&C buck (a 328-inch whitetail) was also a dead find. No one knows how the buck died, although theories abound: Heavy snowfall, gunshot wound, collision with a car, rut exhaustion. “The rut story is the one all the guys are hanging onto around here,” Barb says, laughing. “All the men are thinking, ‘Boy, he just really put himself out there for the team.'”
#13 While this big boy didn’t turn out to be the largest typical of the year (see No. 40) or eclipse the standing Ohio archery record, as we thought it might, it’s still the deer of a lifetime for J.T. Kreager of Sunbury, Ohio. Kreager first caught the buck on a trail cam over a Delaware County mineral lick in June and quickly nailed down its pattern. He caught a break on opening weekend, when a cold front dropped temperatures 20 degrees and shifted the wind in his favor. Kreager made a 15-yard shot September 26 and watched the buck drop within sight of his stand. The buck’s final score: a whopping 190 2/8 net. Oh-hio!
Wisconsin’s Buck of the Year
Wisconsin native Blaine Marion proved you don’t have to own or lease a huge farm to down a huge buck. By hunting only wall-hangers and leaving the vast majority of his 160-acre farm undisturbed, Marion started seeing bigger and better bucks every year. In late October, the bowhunter of 26 years saw–and downed–this 215-inch Badger State bruiser, which looks to be the largest nontypical taken in Wisconsin in 2010.
#11 Talk about the horns of a dilemma: Pocatello, Idaho, physician Brandon West was 50 yards from a 7X7 elk–“in the last couple of steps before taking the shot after a 2 ½ hour stalk”– when something else caught his eye during a do-it-yourself hunt in the back country of southeast Idaho. A big thirsty mule deer was beelining it for the creek bed West was using to make his move. It took “about a second” for the bowhunter to shift his focus from elk to muley. “I’ve just always wanted a big buck, and in all my hunting of mule deer I’ve come to believe they are the hardest animals to get,” West says. Get it he did: a 6×6 170-class typical that should rank among Idaho’s top ten.
The Elk Muley
Goliath, the massive muley that took up residence last summer in the front yard of a Colorado Springs construction company, was spotted again last fall in the suburban foothills trying to mate a doe. Amateur photographer Danny Banks read_ Field & Stream_’s story about the buck that was ready for his close-up and decided he’d hunt the freakish frame with a camera rather than a rifle. He even bestowed a new nickname on his quarry: “I prefer Elvis–because he’s the king, you know?” Banks says. Amen, and long live the king.
#9 Wisconsin mother Kim Acker sandwiches bowhunting between caring for two daughters and running a busy household, grabbing practice time in the backyard and squeezing in a hunt when time permits. She tracked this buck over two seasons, watching it change from a 170-class 13-point typical to a 200-class nontypical. Her diligence finally paid off when the big buck strolled past her stand one hot September afternoon. Acker made her shot count, taking what appears to be–at 202 3/8–the largest buck ever shot by a woman with a bow in the state of Wisconsin.
Mom’s Day Out
8 Missouri Monarch Sometimes you do get a second chance to make a first impression: Missouri taxidermist Scott Odenbrett arrowed this heavily palmated 28-pointer October 19 after shooting off one of its antlers during the 2009 muzzleloader season. After the 60-day drying period, a five-hour scoring session netted a final Pope & Young score of 243 1/8, ranking it third in Missouri, 16th in the world. Odenbrett lured the aggressive Ozark giant while testing a doe can to make sure it still worked, and he scrambled to make a 4-yard shot after the buck charged toward his stand. He’d also rattled the buck in during the previous December. “I guess I had his number,” Odenbrett says. He’s got that and more: “I tell everybody I got tired of mounting other people’s trophies so I went and got one of my own.”
#7 Taking his first buck was relatively easy for Brady Hartgrave; topping it will be a much tougher task. The 10-year-old Manchester, Iowa, boy dropped this 21-point Iowa monster in his tracks from 100 yards while hunting with his grandfather during the Hawkeye State’s youth deer season in September. The rack grossed in the 190s and netted better than 180. Tim Williams taught his grandson how to shoot with a .17-caliber HMR rifle and a 16-gauge shotgun, and he gave him plenty of opportunities to practice. The training paid off when Brady made an awesome shot with a .50-caliber muzzleloader after spotting this buck in a CRP field while preparing to shoot a doe.
The Chipper Buck
When Tom Buerger took this Wisconsin giant on his father-in-law’s dairy farm near Knowlton, Wis., in November, he gave thanks to his old friend Chipper. The farm’s hired hand, Chipper had schooled Buerger on the importance of putting out mineral blocks early each spring; before he died of cancer in 2007, he promised he’d always be with Buerger when he hunted the farm–and promised to help him get a monster buck. After shooting this 209-inch 15-pointer, Buerger felt he’d finally tagged a buck his buddy would be proud of–and he believed that, somehow, Chipper had a hand in it.
#5 A year-round obsession with whitetails paid off big time on opening day for Luke Muldoon, who took this dandy double-drop on his first sit of the season after glassing the buck all spring and summer. Muldoon, a 22-year-old U.S. Air Force Logistician, considers scouting a passion rather than a chore: “I loved going through my day, when I was working my butt off and sweating in 100-degree weather, knowing that night there was a chance I could go out and see him.” The 180-class giant disappeared three weeks before the mid-September opener, but Muldoon didn’t stop looking. His patience and persistence were rewarded when the buck stepped out of a tree line at sunset the evening before the opener. The next evening he made a 40-yard shot, and with the help of his trusty birddog Ike tracked down his trophy.
#4 Rarely has the buddy system produced such spectacular results as it did for Kellen Meyer and Jordan Owens, Nebraska best friends who scored the season’s most unusual twofer when they made simultaneous kill shots on the same Cornhusker giant during the height of the rut. Hunting 300 yards apart at opposite ends of a U-shaped draw on Owens’ farm, both missed their first shot but connected on their second. Not until the two approached the piled-up whitetail did they realize just what they had–a 228-inch 20-pointer with two entry wounds in its vitals. “We both decided lets just call him ‘ours.’ He’s got two holes in him,” Meyer says. “There’s no sense ruining a friendship or giving one guy credit over another just for a deer. We figured it would be nice to both claim him.”
BFFs (Buck Friends Forever)
#3 Tom Luschek of Hillsboro, Ohio, took this 27-pointer with a muzzleloader in 1994 but never entered the rack’s official score into the Ohio record books. After Brian Stephens claimed the Ohio muzzleloader record with an 18-point, 232 5/8 inch nontypical in November 2009, Luschek’s friends urged him to enter his buck in the books. Luschek, who shot the buck on the family farm where he still lives with a sidelock Kentucky rifle he assembled himself, took his mount to the Columbus Deer and Turkey Expo, where it scored 237 even–4 3/8 inches larger than the Stephens buck and a new Ohio muzzleloader record.
A Trophy 16 Years in the Making
#2 Following hand signals from his father, Matt Liljenquist stalked this dandy velvet mule deer during the second day of Arizona’s August archery season, then nailed the buck with a shot to the vitals on his third draw. Liljenquist has benefited many times from his father’s experience, perhaps never more than on this hunt. “When we first spotted him, my dad said, ‘Matt, you’re looking at a world record buck.’ But I didn’t think he was that big. Then to walk up and find that rack–I felt grateful and blessed to have hunting in my life and to share it with my dad.” The typical frame grossed 223 2/8 on the Safari Club International system–surpassing SCI’s all-weapons world record score for desert mule deer. Stripped of velvet, the rack scored 198 3/8, good enough for top 10 Pope & Young.
World Record Muley Matt Liljenquist
What could be better than helping your daughter tag her first buck–from the ground, on public land, on her mother’s birthday? How about shooting your own 180-class typical trophy the same day? On October 30 Daniel Elder of Whitehall, Ohio, took his family to a ridge at Perry State Park that he’s hunted for 17 years. His wife, Donita, scored a 138-inch buck there five years ago, and the ridge produced first bucks for his 14-year-old son Justin and 17-year-old daughter Renee. Elder shot this 7×7 typical at three yards with his crossbow from a ground blind after watching 15-year-old daughter Savanna down her first whitetail from the same blind. Much more than a trophy, the deer stands as a testament to the family’s approach to tough times: Daniel’s work as an auto detailer was hit hard by the recession, and Donita suffered a workplace injury. Through it all the family tried to keep their high-spirited approach to life, which includes time outdoors. “When I leave this earth I want my kids to remember, ‘Hey, my dad laughed. We played, we hunted, we fished,'” Elder says. “There’s going to be bad times; I just want the good times to be better than the bad.”