Less than two months after Brian Stephens' 18-point buck officially claimed the Ohio muzzleloader record, a remarkable challenger has emerged to knock the new champion out of the top spot in the state record books. This 27-pointer shot 16 years ago in the same county is poised to unseat the Stephens buck as Ohio's No. 1 muzzleloader nontypical.
The Stephens buck, shot Nov. 30 in Highland County, officially scored 232 5/8 on January 30, making it the largest nontypical whitetail in Ohio history. Or so we thought.
That was before Tom Luschek of Hillsboro came forward with the buck he took in January 1994. Luschek had the buck scored at the Columbus Deer and Turkey Expo in March by Gary Trent, president of the Buckeye Big Buck Club, official keepers of Ohio’s whitetail record book.
After more than five hours of taping and tallying, Trent calculated a net score of 237 0/8 nontypical–4 3/8 inches higher than the Stephens buck.
It’s the second time Luschek has had the rack scored by the club. The first was in 1998, when it netted 237 4/8 and won best of show at the Columbus Deer and Turkey Expo.
But due to a mix-up, the deer was never entered in the Ohio record book. “I thought my entry fee for the expo meant I was automatically in the book,” Luschek says. “By the time I figured out I wasn’t, two or three years had passed and I decided not to worry about it.”
When the Stephens buck began generating lots of buzz around the Buckeye State this winter, Luschek’s friends urged him to enter his deer in the books. He contacted Trent, who advised him the rack would have to be re-measured since the original score sheet couldn’t be located.
“The muzzleloader record for nontypical deer has fallen three times in the last five years in Ohio,” Trent says. “But had he entered this buck in the record book when it was scored in 1998, obviously none of those deer would have been recognized as state records.”
Luschek shot the deer in January 1994, during the three-day Ohio muzzleloader season. The morning hunt was on the family’s Hillsboro farm, where he still lives, in the same Ohio county of Highland that produced the Stephens buck 15 years later.
“There was about six inches of snow on the ground opening day, and me and my cousin found two sets of big tracks at the edge of some woods at the back of the farm,” Luschek recalls. “My cousin followed the tracks and I went around the other side of the woods. As it turned out, the big buck was only about 200 yards away. My cousin walked right up on him.”
Both men were carrying sidelock rifles, Luschek’s a Kentucky rifle he made himself from a Connecticut Valley Arms kit. “When my cousin went to shoot he just snapped a cap; it didn’t go off,” Luschek recalls. The big buck and the 9-pointer with him ran, and Luschek was able to track them to a stand of shoulder-high CRP grass on the farm. “When I walked in there I just knew that he and the 9-pointer were there.”
“I tracked them until I spotted antlers above the grass, and then I just melted into the snow. I crawled until I ran out of cover. I was on a knoll, and I lay in the snow and watched him for what seemed like hours, but it was probably only 30 minutes. He was 80 yards away. I finally decided I wasn’t going to get any closer and I was afraid the wind would shift. I decided it was time to shoot.”
Luschek was shooting round balls and had sighted his rifle at 35 yards. “I just held a little high and the shot went right through the bottom of his heart,” he recalls. “He ran 30 yards, dropped flat on the ground, then got up and started running again. He finally dropped for good 70 yards out.”
The rack might have measured even higher, but for a broken brow tine on the buck’s left side. As it is, the brows have plenty of character.
The outside spread is 24 2/8 inches. Interestingly, the main beams–25 2/8 inches on the right, 25 7/8 on the left–don’t come close to eclipsing the Stephens buck, which boasts the longest and second longest main beams ever–35 1/8 and 34 1/8 inches.
With the scoring done, Luschek must next get a statement certifying that he was licensed at the time, according to Trent. “It’s just a formality, but it is something Boone & Crockett requires,” Trent says.
Once the paperwork is in place, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will announce the state’s new nontypical record muzzleloader deer says Todd Haines, a district manager for ODNR. “From everything I’ve heard, it’s good to go,” Haines says.
“This is why we have scoring days at the Deer and Turkey Expo and elsewhere,” Haines adds. “Anytime we recognize a big deer harvested in Ohio, we’re hoping somebody says, ‘You know, I killed that big deer in ’93 and never had it scored. I didn’t know I could. I’m going to one of those scoring days.’ You hope it gets that kind of interest, and obviously in this situation it did.”
Of his long-delayed emergence at Ohio’s muzzleloader record holder, Luschek says, “It feels pretty good. My wife always said I didn’t get the deer out there enough. Now it’s about time to show it.”