deer of year buck hunting
Ryan Piper’s huge Ohio non-typical was one of the best bow bucks taken in 2016. Ryan Piper
deer of year buck hunting
Jody Marsteller-Davies with Goliath (left) and Infinity, the 2016 buck that she hunted hard for three seasons. It scored 180  7/8 inches.

Whitetail obsessions seem to always begin with a fleeting glimpse, or maybe a story from a hunter who claims to have seen the biggest buck of their life. And I guess my story is no different—at least, it wasn’t at the outset.

With his crossing main beams that gave the appearance of a sideways figure eight, Infinity’s nickname seemed fitting. He was likely only a three-year-old, but with his unique rack, I knew that it would be hard to pass him up if he ever came in to range of my farm-country treestand in southern Indiana. I had a trail camera photo of him in 2014, and saw him once in mid-October and again late in the bow season. He didn’t present me with a shot either time. Read the Full Story Here »

deer of year buck hunting

Craig Hilty | Fremont, Ohio

Craig Hilty of Fremont, Ohio, took his 204  4/8-inch Buckeye State whitetail with a crossbow.

My name is Craig Hilty and I’m from Fremont, Ohio. I’m a single dad, and at 55 years old I’ve hunted for over 40 years. I have 3 sons who enjoy the outdoors and like to hunt and fish. I work at U.P.S. as a delivery driver and schedule two weeks of vacation every year so that I can hunt the rut in November. I got my love of the outdoors from my father who took me along with him on his excursions whether it was trapping, fishing, coon, mushroom, duck, or deer hunting.

The story of the buck that became the legend of Ballville Township in northwest Ohio began in 2013 when my son Darek noticed a huge rack on a young buck that had never been caught on any of our cameras. We knew that this buck was exceptional (a 170-class).

Myself and my sons, Austin, Darek, and Grant, along with many other hunters in the area were after this buck for the past 4 years. Darek was most familiar with this bruiser and named him Brutus. Darek had numerous close encounters but never was able to get him within range. Brutus was always one step ahead. He ran the ditches and open fields and moved from woodlot to woodlot, undetected most of the time. I take vacation every year during rut to hunt and love being outdoors. On November 12, after hunting in various places every day for a week, I found myself without a solid plan, until I got to the end of my driveway.

I climbed into my treestand 45 minutes before shooting time and at daybreak I heard a twig break. I couldn’t believe what I saw—a mass of antlers out of the corner of my eye. Though I didn’t know for sure if it was Brutus, I knew that it was game time. He made his way across my shooting lanes, but I couldn’t get him to stop. He paused for an instant at 30 yards—my last chance before he disappeared. I felt pretty confident in my Tenpoint Titan Extreme crossbow and fired. It all happened within 30 seconds but seemed like eternity.

Because I hadn’t heard him fall, I sat in my treestand for over an hour after the shot. I nervously climbed down, found my bolt and followed a great blood trail to where he fell. I was nervously shaking and speechless, feeling every possible emotion at the same time. The once in a lifetime buck that had become our obsession was down. We had countless pictures of him in the area over the years but I personally only saw Brutus once while hunting and that was at 300 yards in an open field. The memory of that day and the buck that we dreamed about will be with me forever. I can’t wait to hit the woods opening day as hunting and enjoying the outdoors is in my bloodline. Hopefully Brutus’ offspring will be in the area for years to come. Only time will tell, but for now I’ll cherish the moment til it’s time to hit the woods next season. He measured 204 4/8.

deer of year buck hunting

Joseph Hollerich | Le Sueur County, Minnesota

Joseph Hollerich arrowed his 173-inch Le Sueur County, Minn., typical near a picked cornfield.

While making one of the last few rounds picking corn on my farm, I noticed some deer coming out of the woods just before sunset. I throttled down the tractor a few hundred yards away and watched. First a few does filed out, then came a small eight point. I was watching them for a while when out stepped a really nice buck that I thought I had on camera in the area. They entered the field near a stand I had just hung in August so I planned on being there the next day.

With a half hour of daylight light left the next afternoon, I first saw the small eight point go by followed by the big typical a few minutes later. He was at 30 yards and closing. I drew when he was 15 yards and saw the arrow bury in his vitals. He made it about 150 yards before I recovered him. He was not the deer I had on camera but a much larger one. After placing a few pictures on social media, a hunter that hunts on land next to ours contacted me with lots of trail camera pictures of him from the previous two years and he had found both sets of his sheds also from the previous years. He ended up scoring 177 gross and nets 173 typical.

deer of year buck hunting

Jacklyn Hajnosz | Pennsylvania

Jacklyn Hajnosz, 11, with the awesome Pennsylvania buck she took while hunting with her dad, Josh.

This was Jackie’s second year of buck hunting. She did get a spike in 2015, but this year was very special. She went to deer camp with her dad for the Pennsylvania rifle opener—the first girl in the family to do so. We had a great day in the woods on the opener. She did miss 2 bucks, one being a real monster, but we learned a lot that day. She kept her head high and spirits up and stayed all day, which is not easy for an 11 year old. It was truly one of the best days that I’ve ever spent in the woods. Having my daughter along with me made the day fly by. A few days later, we got up at 4 am to drive to the family farm to hunt again. As the sun came up we watched this buck work a scrape a little out of our range. It took about 10 minutes and some tense moments for it to get close enough for her to take a shot. Her hard work, preseason practice and commitment all came together. Our family is so proud.

deer of year buck hunting

Hannah Mackenzie | Sierra Vista, Arizona

Hannah Mackenzie and Cory Hill with Hannah’s great Coues buck.

My breath stopped, as if someone had knocked the air out of me. I had only glanced at the buck for a fraction of a second, yet I knew instantly that he was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on—his thick mass of antlers towering above the grass from his bedded position. Read the Full Story Here »

deer of year buck hunting

Ryan Piper | Union County, Ohio

Ryan Piper’s huge Ohio non-typical was one of the best bow bucks taken in 2016.

Noel Underwood’s funeral was on November 4. More than just a neighbor and friend, Noel was my mentor in hunting and in life. During those last few days, my son Nash and I would sit with Noel, eat a few fudge pops at his bedside, and talk about the buck. Although Noel’s condition was deteriorating and he would often get confused, he was clear about one fact: that I would some day kill the biggest buck in Union County, Ohio. Read the Full Story Here »

deer of year buck huntin

Shane Farnham | High Prairie, Alberta, Canada

Shane Farnham scored on Mr. Biggie while hunting farm country in High Prairie, Alberta, Canada.

I hunted various stands pretty hard for most of the season, but knew that one field in particular would be a honey-hole for big bucks. It had absolutely everything that a big buck could need—cover, food, water, does, and no hunting pressure. The problem was that last fall was abnormally warm, and the ground had not yet frozen. With grazing feed still readily available, cows continued to roam nearby. As soon as the cows were brought back to the farm, I received hunting permission from the farmer. The next day, I was out in the field.

I began rattling around 2:30 pm, and within 15 minutes heard branches breaking and closing-in quickly—and then a quick flash of fur. I set up to shoot where I saw the deer cross an overgrown quad trail. It was about 125 yards away, and soon after, the buck appeared 100 yards to my right. I was lying prone with focused on that overgrown trail and had to make a quick and stealthy re-adjustment in order to get the buck in the scope. I grunted at him, and he started to trot at me—80 yards and closing. I stopped him with a doe bleat at 50 yards, and pulled the trigger.

deer of year buck hunting public land

Rod Shepley | Alberta (Public Land)

Rod Shepley was hunting public land in Alberta with a buddy when he shot this 162-inch 8-point.

Every year I make a trip from my home province of Ontario to hunt deer on public land in Alberta with my good friend Guy Hernberg. We were in the Drayton Valley and Guy had been seeing a few exceptional bucks. I was anxious to get after them. Our method of hunting is to sit all day in well-positioned tree stands on cut lines. It can be a long cold day but we find that the reward can be well worth the effort.

Although we were seeing good deer movement, it was just not the deer we were looking for. On the 5th morning of our hunt, we were running late. It was well into shooting light while we were still walking into our stands. When we were about to cross a large cut line, we spotted a doe at 300 yards—sure enough hot on her tail was the big buck. With no time to spare, I lined up and squeezed the trigger. The 300 Weatherby barked and the 180-grain Berger bullet found its mark. The buck spun around and collapsed. Walking up on this buck will be a feeling I will never forget. It takes a special kind of hunting partner to pass up a chance at a 162-inch, 4X4.

deer of year buck hunting

Shannon Finnel | Wisconsin

Shannon Finnel hasn’t missed the Wisconsin opener in 20 years. It paid off this year with a 12-point.

November 26 was opening day of Wisconsin firearms deer season. I was hunting private land in Manitowoc County across the road from my father’s farm. It was snowing that morning, and across an open alfalfa field, about 20 yards inside the woodline, I could make out a buck’s form. The blowing snow caused condensation to build up on my scope so it was difficult to get a clear picture of his size, but it was a good buck. I raised the gun up, took steady aim, and squeezed the trigger as he was looking across the open field. Then I saw nothing. I looked back through the scope and he was gone. As I made my way across the open alfalfa field, I had thought run through my mind that I should’ve waited and been more patient to see if he would come out into the open or closer. As I walked into the woodline, I saw him. He had dropped in his tracks. It was only then that I realized his size and that I had shot a fantastic buck—a perfect 12 point. He scored 165 net with only 3 1/2 inches of deductions. The buck dressed out at 175 pounds.

deer of year buck hunting

Levi Powell | Washington

Levi Powell, 10, used his lucky arrow to take this blacktail on the last day of the Washington season.

It was the last day of hunting season, and I was determined to shoot my first deer with my new compound bow. My dad and I had been hunting all day with no luck. It was now approaching late afternoon, and if it got dark, we would be finished, and all that practicing would have been for nothing.

We were in the middle of our property surrounded by huge trees and lots of ferns when my dad suggested that we sit by a tree for a while. We were soaked, exhausted, and feeling down. My dad was halfway up to a big branch when I glimpsed the back end of a deer. We had a chance. I reached up and tapped my dad and pointed.

“If you have a shot, take it,” he said.

I started to creep toward the deer, about one step every 10 seconds. The deer started moving around the tree and to the left. My heart was freaking out when I saw that it was a buck. At that point I would have had a 25-yard shot. Suddenly it turned toward me and walked to about 10 steps—still not seeing me. I saw it was my chance. I was shaking all over. I loaded my lucky arrow (the one I’d shot a rabbit with on Christmas day), took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I pulled back the string as the excitement went through me. I put the sight on the deer’s lungs and heart and let the arrow fly. The deer looked up as the arrow seemed to go in slow motion. I prayed a simple prayer, God, help me.

I heard a big thwump sound as the arrow hit the deer just beside the shoulder. The deer stood in shock for a few seconds, then went flying down the hill with the arrow sticking out of his side. I whooped, jumping up and down. My dad and I gave each other a huge hug.

We found the buck by a stream. It was a gorgeous 2 x 2 buck, big and plump. Together we gutted that buck and dragged it all the way back home.

We were beginner hunters, my dad and I. I had just turned 10 and was really excited to kill the first deer in the family. We mounted the antlers, and I was happy that I could provide the family with deer sausage and burger all year long.

deer of year buck hunting public land

Paul Wanzyck | Massachusetts

Paul Wanzyck with an outstanding 154 1/8-inch public-land buck from Massachusetts.

I’m 61 years old and have been fortunate to have hunted whitetails since I was 13. It’s a great sport, but we need to get more young people involved in it to keep the spirit alive.

I took this buck on public land in Franklin County while using a Barnett crossbow. This very symmetrical and balanced rack scored 154 1/8 with a 22 ½ inside spread. It’s a deer of a lifetime for me here in western Massachusetts.

deer of year buck hunting

Mitch Newcomer | Trego County, Kansas

Mitch Newcomer was hunting over a decoy in Trego County, Kan., when this 11-point cruised by.

It was Veterans Day, November 11, 2016 at 12:45 pm and I had just gotten back to my stand after running in for a 30-minute break to check trail-camera cards and eat a quick lunch. I was discouraged to find out that my target buck was still 100% nocturnal. I had 2 years of history with this deer and still hadn’t had a daylight picture of him. I knew the time was right for me to be in the stand as much as possible, but it’s hard not to get discouraged when the animal you’re after is not coming out until after dark.

Around 1:30, I inexplicably decided to stand up and take a look around. As I reached to my right to grab my binocular, I heard something approaching through the leaves. I looked toward the sound and saw the buck I was after heading directly toward my tree. He was at 40 yards and closing quickly. He saw my movement and looked directly up at me. Because the trees were so gnarly, my stand was only 12 feet off the ground. For that reason, I usually hunt with a decoy—to take the focus away from me. The buck cautiously checked me out for several more seconds, before seeing the decoy. At that point, he pinned his ears back and it was on. I pulled my bow back as he went behind the trunk of my tree and let the arrow fly, as soon as his vitals cleared the other side. He was probably only 2 steps away from the base of my tree. The arrow smacked into his side but did not pass through. He jumped to the side probably thinking that the decoy gored him. He demolished it before he turning to run into an uncut field. I gave him plenty of time, to be sure, but the blood trail was easy to follow through the standing sedan, and I was able to recover my biggest whitetail to date. His unofficial score was 164 4/8.

deer of year buck hunting

Ryan Linville | West Virginia

Ryan Linville first saw this West Virginia buck in 2012. It measured 177 2/8 Pope and Young inches.

The quest for this buck started in 2012 when I first got a trail cam pic of him—unfortunately all the shots of him for that season were at night. In 2013 I actually got daytime photos of him on the first two Saturdays of November, but I wasn’t in the right stand. Before the 2014 season began, I put my camera out but it was stolen. I was so frustrated that I left the area to hunt elsewhere. Early last fall, I decided to go back. Much to my surprise I got a pic of the buck in October and on November 21, I was fortunate enough to take him. The deer was killed in Logan County, West Virginia. It scored 192 2/8 gross, 177 3/8 net.

deer of year buck hunting

Bob Record | Texas

Bob Record finally scored on the Texas bruiser of his dreams. It was estimated to be 10 years old.

I’d long desired to hunt mule deer in Texas and finally realized my goal last December. I was hunting just outside of Pampa and spent the days climbing and scrambling up and down the hills and canyons in search of a great deer. I’d waited so long for a good one that he’d have to be a bruiser for me to take him. When we found him, he was tending a bedded doe. After I shot him and he was on the ground, my guide estimated he was 10 years old. He was missing half of each ear from fights. The buck was an old, seasoned, battled-hardened warrior. Exactly what I had envisioned in my dreams.

deer of year buck hunting

John Kittelstadt | Brookfield, Wisconsin

John Kittelstadt of Brookfield, Wis., made a 25-yard shot on a mid-day hunt. It scored 232 4/8 inches.

It was a beautiful, calm and crisp morning on stand. I saw one deer pass through at first light, but couldn’t tell what it was.  Just 20 minutes later a forked buck came by.  It seemed to me that the rut was in full swing.

At 10:30, I decided to move to my ridgetop stand. After short nap, I saw the top of buck’s rack about 80 yards away. I grunted in his direction and within a minute he was on his way to my stand. In my only opening, I grunted twice more to make him stop. At 12:51 pm, the 25-yard lung shot was true and I have the bow buck of a lifetime. He scored 232 4/8 inches.

deer of year buck hunting

David Burgess | Idaho

David Burgess was on a 10-day solo bowhunt in Idaho when he arrowed this 183-inch muley.

This was a tough 10-day solo backpack hunt with rain and fog, high winds, a miss at another good buck, and then a blizzard that dumped more than 2 feet of snow overnight that crushed my tent. While hunting my way out of the country, I came across this buck’s tracks. Not long after, I found him on the slope above me and was able to make a good shot. As I broke him down and packed him out, another storm hit the area. It was a bit of a white-knuckle experience, and I was barely able to get out of the country. This buck has great tine length and is one of my best to date. If he had a little more air between his beams he’d be pushing that 190-inch mark. With a spread credit of just 17 6/8 inches, he still makes it a touch over 183 inches.

deer of year buck hunting

CJ Turner | Illinois

CJ Turner had a memorable Illinois season in 2016. His first monster buck (pictured) gross-scored 161. He followed up a month later with a 174-inch giant.

“Boys I just tagged out!!! I can’t believe this, booner down!”

This is the text I sent to a few of my best friends on November 3, 2016. I had just killed my second buck of the year and was elated. The first, a 161-inch main-frame 10 (that I had passed several times last season and gotten tons of pictures of) came in with the first cold front of October. He had read the script and walked to the edge of a clover/alfalfa plot I had planted the spring before, giving me a quick but easy 10-yard shot as he ran off a 3-year-old rival.

Getting that buck had made my season, but I knew there was another deer in the area that deserved my attention. So, after a couple days celebrating by eating generic-brand mini muffins and sinking into the recliner, I got back to work. This “other deer” was a probably a net main-frame 12, and I had a great idea of what he would be up to in the coming weeks. I literally had hundreds of pictures of him growing up over the past few seasons and had passed on him at least five times.

I figured if I could plan my hunts per the weather and his historical early November marches in daylight I could close the deal. Sure enough, the very first hunt I went back in after him he popped up and worked his way in to 25 yards, cruising along the downwind edge of a bedding area.

But it was too good to be true: he decided to turn and walk straight away from me, leaving me standing there humbled and heartbroken. Not to be discouraged, I kept after him. He was blowing my cameras up day and night, and I knew it was just a matter of time. November 3 found me headed to an area where I knew my chances were good. I had decided to hunt on the ground with a good amount of cover in front of me and my back against a large tree. (It seems I hang $200 stands in trees just to look at them from a distance when the wind/situation calls for a ground ambush—a tactic I have used many times.)

Just as daylight broke, I saw a large-bodied deer only 50 yards away, working its way towards me. Finally, a doe popped out and scooted by me at fewer than 20 yards. I caught movement behind her, and it was him! He made a scrape—wasted more time than you can imagine—and finally decided to work into a position so I could draw. At the shot, I just knew he was smoked. My hunch was confirmed when he piled up in sight, within 35 yards. Putting my hands on that deer and capping my best season thus far was indescribable.

deer of year buck hunting

David Brewer | Tennessee

David Brewer hunted this 198-inch drop-tine buck for two seasons in Tennessee before finally tagging him.

My story concludes on December 11, 2016 when I harvested a deer of a lifetime, but begins a year earlier with some trail cam pictures of a single droptine buck. Although I hunted hard in 2015, I went all that season without ever seeing him. In March of 2016, a friend was fortunate enough to find his shed so I knew he had made it thru the season. All that summer, all I could think of was getting a chance to take the droptine buck.

While preparing for last deer season, I got another trail cam photo—to my amazement, the buck had added a second droptine. I told myself that anytime I had off from work, I would be in my stand. After sitting all afternoon on December 11, it happened. First 5 does came out in the field in front of me. I watched them for about 5 minutes when I decided to turn and check the field behind me. I looked back and all I could see was the massive buck I had been waiting on for the past two seasons. He was with a doe and I am positive that was the only reason he was out before dark. I grabbed my Remmington 700 BDL, stuck the barrel out of the shooting house window and dropped the buck where he stood about 200 yards away. I sat there until dark just watching him. When I got down and walked to him I was truly blown away. He had 17 scorable points, 14 inch G2s, over 12-inch G3S, 26-inch main beams and 2 11-inch droptines. His official score was 198 3/8.

deer of year buck hunting

Colton Coffey | Illinois

Colton Coffey, 8, couldn’t be happier about his first deer—a 9-point he shot in Illinois with his dad, Doug.

My son, Colton, was 8 years old when he took his first deer ever on November 19, 2016. The weather had not been perfect, the opening day of gun season. It was cold and windy with a little rain. Colton still managed to sit in the stand most of the day only getting down to eat lunch. The next morning was worse—even colder. I’m pretty sure that I even heard his teeth chatter at one point. The action had been really slow—we’d seen three deer in a day and a half. We ate lunch that second afternoon and returned to our two-man ladder stand around 1:15. At 2:30 we heard something coming through the thicket in front of us. Suddenly this deer came trotting right towards us. As I set Colton’s 20 gauge on the shooting rail, the deer turned and crossed in front of us at 25 yards. When it stopped, Colton placed a perfect shot right behind the deer’s shoulder. The deer bucked and bolted out to the field edge and stopped. Just as I got Colton’s gun reloaded, we watched it sway side to side and drop.

By this time, Colton’s Grandpa was already calling my phone. He was sitting on the other side of the bottoms with Colton’s 12-year-old brother and heard the whole thing. I don’t know who was more excited Colton or Papa. It was a perfect way for Colton to begin his hunting career. Sadly this would be our last hunting season with Papa as he died suddenly in March.

The deer was a 10-point main-frame 9 with a split G2. It unofficially scored 147 5/8.

deer of year buck hunting public land

Kevin Conry | Ellsworth, Maine

Kevin Conry, 12, scored on this great public-land buck in Ellsworth, Maine. It field dressed at 215 pounds.

This was my first deer hunt in Maine, which means I am officially at the fourth generation to hunt in our Maine deer camp. We hunted a few days but only saw one doe. Then on that Thursday, we decided to sit a spot my dad thought looked really good. We made a ground blind and prepared to sit the afternoon there. After sitting for nearly two hours, my dad started a calling sequence. Just as he finished, here comes the big buck. My dad mouth-grunted to stop the buck at 70 yards, and I shot the deer. I couldn’t have been happier to kill this buck and to also share the experience with my grandfather, uncle, cousin, and my dad. I can’t wait to get back up to Maine for the 2017 deer season. The buck dressed out at 216 pounds, and made me eligible for the Maine Big Buck Club!

deer of year buck hunting

Heath Kersten | Manitowoc County, Wisconsin

Heath Kersten’s opening-day Wisconsin buck ended up netting 196  1/8 inches. It had 14 scorable points.

The late-November firearms season opener in Wisconsin always seems to provide challenging weather, and last fall it was no different. The forecast was not great—sustained 30 mph winds, gusting to 45 mph, with rain changing over to snow by morning. For once, though, I was prepared, having bought an enclosed box blind during the summer. I had a lot of help getting it into the proper position, but I was ready for an all-day sit. The only thing I was really looking forward to was spending some quality time in my blind and hoping to get a glimpse of a deer. Read the Full Story Here »