The 20 Best Bucks of the Decade
With two broken world-record deer both netting over 300 inches, plus many other monsters, the 2010s may have been the best ten years of deer hunting ever
Somehow another decade has flown by, and it’s been marked by some pretty amazing bucks. One of our favorite jobs at Field & Stream is keeping track of the best whitetails and mule deer killed every fall. And with a New Year—and a new decade—fast approaching, we thought it would be fun to scan our files and recall some of the biggest bucks from the last 10 seasons.
The decade was truly remarkable. In addition to the annual lineups of jaw-dropping whitetails and mulies, the world record for the largest hunter-killed nontypical whitetail was broken not once, but twice. Both bucks—literal freaks of nature—netted over 300 inches, a mark typically found only in pen-raised deer.
To make things even better, the hunters who took these giants (Steven Tucker and Luke Brewster) were modest, appreciative gentlemen who did the sport of deer hunting proud. I won’t say the decade will be impossible to top, but it’s going to take some incredibly big deer to pull it off. Still, I’m looking forward to 2030, and the hope of telling you that was the best decade of deer hunting ever. —Scott Bestul
1. SCI Record Muley
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. —Steven Hill
2. A 200-Class Nebraska Monster
When 17-year-old Mason Petrzilka missed a chance at this Nebraska giant on November 19, 2010 (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 where the buck and several does had taken cover on their family farm: 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 top of the heap in the Cornhusker State and earn the distinction as 2010′s largest symmetrical rack. —S.H.
3. Near-250-Inch Indiana Buck
Indiana earned our Up-and-Comer Award in 2009 and had the top youth Booner in 2010. For 2011, Hoosier hunter Sharp registered a 249-1⁄8-inch Posey County behemoth for one of the two top hunter awards. —S.B.
4. World-Record 9-Pointer
Because of a small sticker point, the 183-1⁄8-inch main-frame 8-pointer that Jason Sanders took on his Illinois farm in December 2011 is technically the world-record 9-pointer. Yet despite that deduction, it outscores every typical 8-pointer registered in the B&C record book (of which there are only 36). Call it what you will—8 or 9—it’s a buck for the ages. —S.B.
5. Record Duo
November produced not one, but two potential state-record bucks for Massachusetts. On Nov. 14, electrical lineman Dan Daigle of Rutland used a mock scrape, deer scents, grunt calls, and a bleat can to lure a 198-inch 16-pointer into bow range. Though Daigle’s buck contended for a nontypical record, it sports an extremely symmetrical rack, giving up only 6 inches in deductions. Officials at the Northeast Big Buck Club say the rack should have more than enough bone to surpass the current top nontypical bow kill, a 190-inch buck from 2011. Read more about Daigle’s record Massachusetts buck here. —S.H.
6. Giles Island Giant
While Mississippi might not make most shortlists of big-buck states, a whopper taken on the 9,000-acre Giles Island hunting plantation during the December rut showed just how much potential Magnolia State whitetails had under optimal management conditions. As Field & Stream’s Eric Bruce reported, guides first spotted this buck in 2011; it had a damaged main beam on one side but was impressive enough on the other to make it a buck to watch for in 2012.
That proved to be easier said than done. The Rock, as guides nicknamed the giant, never showed himself until December 20, when Joshua Bruce of Alexandria, Louisiana, and guide Tony Klingler spied him chasing a doe. Bruce made a 170-yard shot with a Remington .30/06 to bring the buck down. The rack unofficially gross-scored 242, with 20 scorable points. —S.H.
7. The Jim Baker Buck
The monstrous buck shot by Wisconsin bowhunter Jim Baker on September 18 was recognized as the largest nontypical buck ever taken on Badger State soil by an archer. As noted by Dave Hurteau, the Baker Buck was panel-scored on November 17 by six scorers at the Richfield, Wisconsin, Cabela’s store. That panel awarded the buck an official gross score of 260 ⅝ inches B&C, and an official net score of 249 ⅝ inches. The net score surpasses the reigning archery state record nontypical, a 243 6/8-inch giant shot by Wayne Schumacher in 2009.
The Baker Buck is an impressive animal indeed. Sporting 28 scoreable points—a 19-⅞-inch inside spread, and 66 6/8 inches of abnormal points—the new state bowhunting record was the second-largest nontypical ever shot in Wisconsin. Baker’s buck took over the runner-up spot by edging out the Arnold Stalsberg buck, which was shot during the 1998 firearms season and scored 247 ⅜ inches. The current B&C Wisconsin state record nontypical has reigned for 40 seasons. That buck, which scored 253 inches B&C, was shot by Elmer Gotz in Buffalo County during the 1973 gun season. —S.B.
8. Aggressive Calling Leads to a Lifetime Buck
I had a great feeling when I reached my ladder stand early on Sunday morning. I had a strong north wind in my face, and because of the low temperature, I knew deer would be moving. Around 7:20 a.m., I heard branches break to my east as a buck came out of the timber. He was headed right for my stand, but when he got 20 yards away, he dipped back into cover. As I let a few soft grunts out, I caught a doe out of the corner of my eye that he was chasing. The doe turned and headed east, away from my stand, and I thought I had missed my chance at a lifetime buck. I decided to get really aggressive with my calling sequence. Luckily, I was able to pull the buck off the doe, and I ended up bringing him down with a 12-yard shot. —F&S Reader
9. An F&S Reader’s First Bow Kill
This is my husband David with his first bow kill. He shot him opening weekend of bow season. I think he was happier on this day than on our wedding day! —F&S Reader
10. Shooting Star 13-Pointer
Juli Shubert, 31, shot a 191-inch 13-pointer on November 20 in Washington County, Illinois. “My husband saw a shooting star while we were walking in and knew it’d be a good hunt,” she said. —JR Sullivan
11. Hard-Earned Wisconsin 14-Pointer
Marc Udelhofen, 32, shot a 184-inch 14-pointer on November 4 near Dodgeville, Wisconsin. “When I tore my Achilles in September, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to deer hunt this year,” he said. “On Halloween, I tried to climb a ridge up to my best stand but failed. It was still too much. After sitting in a less-than-ideal spot for a few hours, I finally said, ‘I’m getting up that ridge. I don’t care if I have to crawl.’ And that’s what I did. A few days into my hunt, this shooter stepped out at 22 yards. I had a lot of lows this season, but that deer made them all worth it.” —J.R.S.
12. Almost a Record-Breaker from Iowa
Late in the afternoon on November 6, 2016, 18-year-old Austin Pontier of Clark County, Iowa, shot this humongous typical whitetail—and set off a firestorm of speculation. Gross-score guesses, from experts and everyday hunters alike, ranged from 220 to 240 inches B&C. Many believed the monster had a legitimate shot at toppling Milo Hanson’s longstanding typical whitetail world-record.
On January 12, 2017, after the mandatory 60-day drying period, B&C measurer Randy McPherren finally put an official tape on the giant buck. Pontier’s huge 7×7 carried impressive mass measurements well out along the beams. The inside spread went 19 6/8 inches. When all the numbers were tallied, the typical whitetail grossed 202 ⅜ inches and netted 194 ⅛ B&C. Pontier’s buck is the largest crossbow typical ever registered in the state of Iowa.
Though only 18 years old, Austin is a veteran outdoorsman who recognizes the rarity of his achievement. “I was lucky enough to kill a buck of twenty lifetimes,” he said. “I’m totally aware of how special he is, but having him on the wall doesn’t lessen my passion for hunting mature deer. I decided to buckle down this year and wait for a special buck, and I was rewarded. From now on, any mature buck is going to make me happy.” —S.B.
13. The Stephen Tucker Buck
On November 7, 2016, Stephen Tucker shot the then B&C nontypical, world-record whitetail. A quiet farmer from Sumner County, Tucker, 27, has been a deer hunter most of his life. Prior to 2016, his best buck was a 120-incher—a deer many would say is a “pretty good one for Tennessee.” That all changed on the third day of Tennessee’s muzzleloader season, when Tucker shot this giant nontypical, which green-scored 308 2/8 net.
There are a bunch of points to count on this incredible buck—47 scoreable ones, to be exact. Tucker knew he needed an expert to measure the buck—Capt. Dale Grandstaff with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, an official Boone & Crockett measurer since 2003. Grandstaff has scored a lot of deer, “But not many over 200 inches,” he said. “I’d seen trail camera photos of this buck two weeks before Tucker killed it. I thought it would go over 250—but I never dreamed it would break 300. I was pretty sure it had the potential to be the new state record. I wasn’t thinking about the world record.” —Will Brantley
14. Steven Everett
Everett had a three-year history with this buck, which at this writing is the largest-grossing B&C nontypical overall for the 2017-2018 season. “I named the buck Goliath, and I hunted him very hard, but he was almost totally nocturnal,” Everett said. “I had only three encounters with the buck last fall. I really wanted to take him with my bow, and almost did; I had him at 60 yards, and then he got spooked by hogs. I finally got him on the opening day of rifle season. He’s the buck of a lifetime.” Everett’s huge whitetail has 28 scoreable points, a base circumference of 9 inches on one beam, and it now stands as the No. 2 all-time for Oklahoma nontypicals. —S.B.
15. Jacob Gipson
Opening day gets all the hoopla, but Jacob Gipson didn’t need any first-day magic to down this Cornhusker State monster. “I was hunting eastern Nebraska on the second day of the rifle season when this buck showed up,” Gipson said. “The massive whitetail has 23 scoreable points and an inside spread of 20 ⅜ inches.” The right beam goes a little over 31, and the left is almost 30 inches. “He was a blessing of a deer for me, and I’ll never see another like him in my lifetime.” —S.B.
16. Da Fitty-Point Buck
Buck #1: Da Fitty-Point Buck
Szablewski and his crazy-big Illinois nontypical.
Most Midwestern deer hunters know the song Da Turdy-Point Buck as a November carol that celebrates a mythical monster whitetail. Well, the buck Keith Szablewski took on November 17 could inspire a song of its own. Nicknamed the “Ski-51 Buck” for the number of points on its gnarly rack, the buck walked in front of Szablewski on opening day of Illinois’ the first shotgun season. “I’ve only been deer hunting for four seasons, and this is my fourth buck. I’m not a trophy hunter. I just hunt for meat.” Yet Szablewski knew enough about modern deer hunting to contact state and federal conservation officers after the hunt. They signed off on the ginormous buck as a wild, free-ranging deer shot under legal circumstances. There’s no estimated green score on this buck yet, which should present some challenges for official measurers. —S.B.
17. Five-Year Plan
Buck #3: Five Year Plan
Gawrysiak and his hard-earned giant.
Joshua Gawrysiak had watched a beautiful western-Wisconsin buck grow into an absolute giant over the course of five seasons. During that period, he had numerous trail-cam pics, several shed antlers from the buck, and even a few encounters while hunting—but none that he was able to capitalize on. All that changed on November 10, when the 19-point buck followed a doe to within 20 yards of Gawrysiak’s treestand, and he made good on the shot. Gross B&C score on this massive buck is an estimated at 216-6/8. —S.B.
18. The Brewster Buck
When Brewster first showed up in 2015 to hunt the 40 acres his family owns in eastern Illinois, he was a relatively new bowhunter. He’d driven 700 miles from his home in Virginia to enjoy a week of deer season, and the neighbors—brothers Justin and Brent Cearlock, Ron Wagoner, and Josh Barrett—welcomed him as an ally in camp rather than a rival across the property line. Everyone pooled their spots into 200 acres with some 30 treestands and didn’t think any more about it.
That same year, Justin pulled fresh trail-cam photos of a buck he’d been keeping tabs on. The spindly typical had caught his attention the previous season—maybe a 3-1⁄2-year-old in 2014. By 2016, Justin knew he was a shooter. The deer’s gnarled mane of tines earned him the name Mufasa. In 2017, he came within inches of killing the buck, but his arrow snapped an unseen branch and sailed 6 inches wide. Mufasa didn’t even notice, though he stepped out of range. Cameras caught him all over the farm through season’s end, and in October 2018 he was back—later than usual but bigger than ever. Trail-cam photos revealed a rutted-up buck with something like a muskrat den on his head.
After a slow morning sit on November 2, Brewster sat in a stand that no one had hunted in years. That’s where Mufasa showed up to work a scrape within bow range of Brewster’s stand. This time he made good on the shot, and Brewster had his hands on Mufasa’s rack a short time later.
The next morning, the guys took photos in view of a road, and soon the country lane had a traffic jam. The crowds attracted a game warden, who checked everything out and offered his congratulations. By then, one of the pictures Brewster had texted a buddy had made its way onto Facebook and gone viral. He was inundated with interview requests—and the usual jealous cries of foul play. He retreated from social media and waited to see what would happen with Mufasa’s legacy. It wasn’t even close: The official panel-score measurement tallied 327 7⁄8 inches, outstripping the previous world record (Stephen Tucker’s 2016 Tennessee buck) by 15 inches. It surpassed the 2000 Pope and Young all-time world record by 33 inches. —Natalie Krebs
19. X-Bow Beast
Drury Outdoors pro, Steve Frantz leased a 160-acre Illinois farm last summer and immediately started getting pictures of a monster whitetail he called Dynamite. But the farm had poor access, and he played cat and mouse with the buck to no avail. Then Frantz decided to get aggressive, moving his stand to a ridge where he’d seen the buck with a doe. The bold move paid off. “About 3:00 p.m. or so I heard a deer walking out of a creek bottom toward me and my cameraman, Muscles. I looked and all I could see was antlers that looked like baseball bats coming through the timber. He walked about 10 yards into a small lane and I took my shot, which hit him right behind the shoulder, a little quartering towards me. He ran 50 yards, stopped, and walked off. We backed out and came back in at 7:30 p.m., and there he was, another 50 yards or so away.” —S.B.
20. Personal-Best Brute
Realtree Pro Josh McDaniel has taken some huge bucks in this time, but none quite like this one. McDaniel posted the photo above on his Facebook page after tagging the Hoosier State monster last month. He’d first seen the buck two years earlier, just before Thanksgiving, and had been hoping for another encounter ever since. On November 17, McDaniel spotted the deer walking into a shooting lane at 150 yards, raised his muzzleloader, and killed the biggest buck of his life. The huge nontypical has 19 scorable points and grosses 220 ⅞ B&C. —S.B.