Even the greenest whitetail hunter knows the magic of November. There’s the heart of the rut, of course, when every buck in the herd, including the wariest old bruisers, drop their guard. But that’s only the half of it: November also marks the opening day of gun seasons across much of the country, as well a a subsequent week or two or more when your maximum range goes from roughly 30 yards to 300-plus. Put those two things together, and some big bucks are going to fall.
Here’s the proof.
Buck #1: Double-Drop-Tine Tank
Braxton Moore started his Ohio deer season by focusing on a particular large piece of property. “But I couldn’t get close to anything mature,” he recalls. So, he placed a cell camera on another parcel just 10 minutes from the first location. On October 18th, he got his first picture of a big buck he named “Droopy.” On November 1st, the weather turned colder, and Moore knew it would probably get Droopy up and moving during daylight hours. Around 5:00 p.m. the next afternoon, after seeing several smaller bucks and a doe, Moore tickled a rattle bag and grunted to make something happen, and Droopy appeared about 150 yards away, heading right to him. “Droopy nudged a doe just 20 yards in front of me and gave me a perfect broadside shot,” he says.”
Buck #2: Worth-the-Drive Whopper
It’s a long way from Alabama to Oklahoma, but the 13-hour drive is worth it when you come home with one of the biggest deer ever harvested in the Sooner state. Lance Young had gotten a cell-cam picture of this huge nontypical and knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I took the longest time off work I could to give myself a chance,” he says. “This was on a very small piece of property that I leased it because I knew it had potential, and the genetics were great in the area.” Hunting pressure and an unruly coyote population limited the big buck’s movement. “I finally figured out where he was bedded, and then I hung a set in the middle of the day.” Young killed the buck the very next day. The monster nontypical has 21 scoreable point and green grossed 236-7/8 inches. “If the official score is even close to that after it dries, it will be one of the top 10 bucks in the state,” Young says. “It’s a true blessing from above that I even had the opportunity to hunt a buck of this caliber.”
Buck #3: Jersey Score
Lance Young wasn’t the only one to drive a long way for his Booner. Tom Cramer has been driving west all the way from New Jersey to hunt Kansas’ Zone 14 with his buddies for a decade, and this year it paid off big. Cramer had gotten trail-cam pictures of a 13-point, heavily-beamed buck and knew he was the deer his group would be looking for. The first hunt was on Halloween evening, and there were no animals in sight. The next morning, the big buck came but caught Cramer’s scent. The wind changed the next day, so Tom got to the stand early. “The 13-pointer came in from behind me with a doe, but he got spooky and ran to the edge of a bean field 100 yards away,” Cramer recalls. “I was able to bring him back with couple of soft grunts.” Finally, the deer turned broadside 28 yards away, and Cramer let an arrow fly. “I didn’t walk, I ran to the high grass where he disappeared at the edge of the bean field, and there he was,” he says. “These big boys are the reason we go to Kansas every year, and I finally got to bring one home.” The buck was green scored 182 B&C.
Buck #4: Rookie of the Year
Fifteen-year-old Claire Flood had a pretty simple goal while she waited for her first buck to appear. “I just wanted to harvest one bigger than my cousin’s buck,” she says. Trouble was, that buck was a 145-inch 10-point. But that, apparently, was no problem for Flood, as she took this 210-inch monster on November 18th. She was hunting her grandparents’ farm in Breckenridge County, Kentucky—just her third sit ever in the deer woods—when the heavy-horned giant appeared. “We were set up in a stand on a hardwood hillside,” she say. “I passed up several smaller bucks while waiting on a bigger deer.” While she’d never seen the buck before nor had any trail-cam pictures, when word of her trophy spread, a neighbor appeared and gave the buck’s spring sheds to Flood.
Buck #5: Welcome-Back Brute
Ryan Kirby of Boone, North Carolina, returned home to his family farm in Illinois after not hunting a lot over the last couple of years. Family medical challenges took priority over getting outdoors until this year. “I honestly didn’t expect to hunt deer at all back home in Illinois this year,” Kirby says, “but my mom and dad stepped in to make it possible.” Late in the day on November 4th, Kirby was sitting in a stand he calls “Trump Tower.” He had to wait while the enormous nontypical walked through thick honeysuckle. When the animal finally cleared all the obstructions, Kirby had to try and ignore the giant rack while he drew and waited for the buck to work within 10 yards. A short time later, Ryan and his father found a deer that grossed 202-5/8. “He was huge,” Kirby says. “My dad and I exchanged some shocked expletives and multiple high fives when we found him. Even in the middle of difficult situations, sometimes you get surprised with how well things work out.”
Buck #6: Possible West-Virginia State Record
This tall and clean 12-point buck could threaten the Mountain State’s typical whitetail record. We don’t have many details on this gorgeous typical buck yet, other than the hunter is Jody Dalton, and the buck is reported to have green score of 194 inches. The standing state record typical was killed in 2014 and netted 188⅞”. Stay tuned as we try to uncover more details about this fantastic typical.
Read Next: The Best Bucks of October 2020
Buck #7: Grandpa’s Booner
Ed Hull is an 84-year-old whitetail nut from Illinois, and his grandson, Eric, sent us pics of the 180-class buck Ed shot with his crossbow during the last week of November. “We saw the buck earlier in the year, so we knew he was around,” Eric says. “Grandpa set up on him over a fresh-cut cornfield in the middle of October, and he saw the buck at 80 yards but it never gave him a shot. On November 30th, he was hunting over a radish-and-turnip plot, and the buck came out of a CRP field about 4:30 and headed his way. Grandpa finally got a 50-yard shot and hit the buck, but when he checked for blood, he only found a small amount. So, I told him to back out. We let the deer sit overnight, then picked up the trail first thing in the morning, and found him within 100 yards.” The buck has 13 scorable points, including two drop tines, and should score about 180 inches gross B&C.
Buck #8: Back-To-Back Beasts
Yep. He’s back. Illinois expert Don Higgins killed his third 200-inch buck last month, and we featured that trophy in this space. The day before I interviewed Higgins about that hunt, he’d gone after another Prairie State giant with this second bow tag. “I wasn’t the only one after this buck, but he spent some time on a property that I have permission to hunt,” Higgins says. “It took me a couple seasons to piece together enough information on the deer to come up with a game plan, and of course my attention had been on my first buck for much of the season. We’d already had one gun season, and I thought the pressure on this buck would force him into one of two woodlots I could hunt. So, I waited for the right wind, and set up in one of them. The buck showed up out about 15 minutes after I got there, and I was able to kill him. People have said, ‘Oh that was easy,’ but they forget the couple years of mistakes I made leading up to that hunt.” Higgins buck was 7½ years old, had 17 scorable points, and scored 185 B&C.
Buck #9: Wide Load
Losing a hand in a farming accident years ago hasn’t slowed John Clobes down one bit. “I attended gunsmithing school and was certified, and I’m a NRA-certified rifle, shotgun, and pistol instructor,” he says. “And, of course, I still deer hunt every year.” Clobes was out on the November 7th when he heard a deer approaching his stand. “The first thing I saw was his antlers, and they looked like they belonged to an elk.” The buck stopped, facing Clobes at 100 yards, and the ex-Marine calmly put the crosshairs on his scoped Browning A-Bolt at the base of the buck’s neck and fired. Clobes’ wife, Jane, was hunting nearby and joined him in a short track job that led to the buck. “He had a 26-inch inside spread and will score around 180,” Clobes says. “Jane had seen him several times when she was bowhunting, but this was the first time I’d laid eyes on him. He was just huge.”
Buck #10: Last-Look Booner
Carl Drake was hunting his family farm in Northeast Kentucky when he came across a buck that he named “Big 12.” He didn’t have a long history with the animal, getting his first daytime picture of Big 12 on November 4th. After that, the big deer seemed to go nocturnal asthe gun season started. But on the morning of November 18th, he decided to hunt a part of the property that hadn’t been hunted all season. “I was starting to pack up to leave at around 11 that morning when two does and two yearlings cut across the hillside about 175 yards away and kept glancing behind them,” says Drake. He glassed and quickly spotted the big buck. “I dropped my pack and shouldered my gun. He stopped where the does had been standing, and I squeezed the trigger. It wasn’t until my son got there to help me track him down that we realized it was Big 12.” The buck green-grossed 181⅝ B&C.
Buck #11: The Divine Intervention Buck
Opening day of the Minnesota gun season didn’t start well for Ross Greden. “My daughter Lydia thought she had grabbed her gun as we headed to the woods, but when we got to her stand, we realized she had my muzzleloader instead,” Greden recalls. “So, I gave her my gun. I was flustered, late getting to my stand, and busted deer going in. I sat for a while, then decided to just go home and take a nap.” While Greden, a busy dairy farmer, caught up on sleep, his nephew Dawson and his daughter had an exciting morning. “Dawson had a giant buck come in and hang around for 30 minutes,” he recalls. “Finally, he managed a shot that missed, but on his follow-up shot the buck flinched hard and ran off. While he couldn’t find blood, he was convinced he’d hit the buck hard. He texted me, and I said I’d help look as soon as I finished chores. In the meantime, the buck ran over the hill to Lydia, who had him within gun range for 45 minutes, but was so shaken up she couldn’t steady herself for a shot.” Greden, still dressed in farming clothes, threw on an orange vest and grabbed the closest shotgun he could find—a 20-gauge 870 he’d used to kill his first deer and hadn’t shot in 30 years. While Greden and several family members searched the hillside where Dawson’s buck had run, Greden looked up to see a nice buck walking toward him. “I thought it was a 130-class 10-point,” he says. “I had a 60-yard shot, pulled the trigger, and he dropped. When I walked up to him, I literally had to sit down, I was so awed. Turns out, it was the same buck Dawson had shot at; his slug had only taken off a tine. When Lydia saw it, she said ‘That’s the same buck I had by me!’” Greden’s giant scored 185, and had broken off at least 5 inches of antler.
Buck #12: Second-Chance Slammer
Sometimes the one that got away doesn’t escape forever. Scott McGuigan was hunting near Calgary, Alberta, in 2018 when he had an oh-so-close encounter with a giant whitetail. “This deer practically haunted my dreams,” he says. “He was mainframe 10 with thick chocolate horns and matching drop tines, and I was moments away from drawing on him.” Unfortunately, the broadside opportunity was interrupted by a doe that came crashing through the woods with another buck on her tail, and the double-drop-tine buck joined the pursuit. McGuigan brooded about the missed opportunity, until November 3 of this year. He’d been sitting in a river bottom just minutes when a big buck emerged. Mcguigan didn’t take the time to study the rack before letting an arrow fly, but he did notice a couple of drop tines on the huge rack as the deer ran off. He followed the blood trail and came upon a familiar figure. “It was unmistakably the giant from two years before,” he says. “It’s quite a feeling to kill the biggest buck you’ve ever seen. It’s an absolute dream come true to be able to put him on a wall.”
Buck #13: Kansas King
Zach Young put an end to a three-year quest for a Kansas giant this month. “My friend and I were hunting on a 100-acre creek bottom with cut corn on one side and grazed pasture on the other,” Young says. “In the previous years, this buck was very active on the property.” After showing up on trail cameras multiple times in 2018 and 2019, the buck became much more camera-shy this year. Young kept working the buck’s area though and eventually found him hiding below the lip of a creek bed. From a treestand, Young called to the buck with a grunt tube, and the deer emerged from a thicket and closed to 30 yards. “I only had one shot window,” he says. “He looked away once, and I drew my bow. I held on him, the weeds cleared, and I let it fly. I sent a text to my buddy and said, ‘I shot him,’ and he knew precisely the deer I was talking about.” The huge buck has 14 scorable points and a B&C green score of 199 even.
Buck #14: Buckeye State Bruiser
Courtney Hatley has been hunting with her dad since childhood, and those years of experience helped Hatley keep it together as this giant approached her stand on November 27th. “Dad and I are part of the Ohio River Hunt Club, and we were hunting on a property near Racine, Ohio,” Hatley says. “I’d been sitting in one of Dad’s stands for two hours when this buck came in to about 25 yards.” Hatley made good on the shot with her Ravin crossbow. The tall, heavy giant has 15 scorable points, a 23-inch spread, and grossed 191 B&C. “I am waiting for January, when I’ll receive a net score and see if I will hold a new Ohio State record for a crossbow buck taken by a female.”