The Best of Big Buck Zone 2007

It began as a simple idea, but Big Buck Zone has grown into the most popular outdoors blog on the Internet dedicated to whitetail hunting. From television hosts and outdoors writers to everyday hunters from all walks of life, everyone has a chance to be a part of this amazing online phenomenon. Here are just a few of the monster bucks that were featured on BBZ from the 2007 deer season. Is yours among them? CLICK 'NEXT' TO START THE GALLERYOutdoor Life Online Editor
Baler Dee Stewart from Oklahoma A third-grader learns a valuable lesson in patience and winds up with a non-typical for the books. A nine-year-old third-grader from Oklahoma, Baler Dee Stewart had a frown on his face last fall when his dad, Patrick, went bowhunting on the family's 10,000-acre ranch without him. "Baler was acting like he got his feelings hurt," recalls his mom, Cindy. "I told him not to worry, that we would go deer hunting soon. That's when I realized he was a little mad. He said, 'Daddy is going to kill my buck.'" Baler's buck, mind you, was a huge whitetail with a stunning non-typical rack and a penchant for raiding Baler's grandfather's black-eyed peas patch. Later in the fall, on the first day of muzzleloader season, Baler was semi-dozing when his dad suddenly saw a familiar sight. "I said, 'Baler, there he is,' and he perked right up," Patrick says. "He took careful aim and I heard the safety click off." When the muzzleloader boomed, a big-antlered, 200-class pea-picker was finally brought to justice.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Matheson Easton from Missouri A deer-less dad passes up his first buck ever so that his teenage son can take the monster of his dreams. When 15-year-old Matheson Easton of Missouri showed interest in hunting several years ago, his 43-year-old dad, Michael, decided to join the fun. "I took a trip over to Bass Pro, asked some questions, made some phone calls and we were on our way into the woods to go hunting," says Michael. Now, a few years later, father and son have shared lots of time in the woods, culminating one day this past fall. "We were up in a stand out on my brother-in-law's land," Michael says. "I hadn"t actually gotten my own deer yet, so my son said, 'Dad, I want you to get one.' At noon, I saw a great buck. I told Matheson to take it.'" When he realized his dad wasn't kidding, Matheson took his .308 Winchester, steadied the crosshairs and fired. The buck had 14 scorable points and a gross score of 168 inches. It's a moment both will forever cherish.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Mike & Brock Benson from Texas This North Texas father-and-son team scores huge with more than 400 inches of antler. It's simply not possible to chronicle the best Big Buck Zone stories from last season without recapping the tale of Mike and Brock Benson. The North Texas father and son scored big on a small family farm that the father has owned for nearly three decades. Last September 30, Brock, 30, climbed into a stand on a warm day hoping to capitalize on an early-season feeding pattern that a huge non-typical buck was on. On the second day of the state's archery season, the younger Benson accomplished his mission, making a 17-yard shot on a 24-point buck that gross-scored 210 4/8 inches. Fast-forward to January 4, just a couple of evenings before the 2007-2008 deer-hunting season's end in Texas. That's when 59-year-old Mike, a busy physician, decided to make a quick dash to the family farm to hunt the last remaining hour of daylight and finish the season on a high note. Barely settled into his blind, the elder Benson looked up to see three does. He also saw a big non-typical a mere 25 yards away. When the buck closed to within 16 yards, the father made good on his shooting opportunity at the 22-point non-typical-205 gross. Brock says that the hunts themselves, while exciting, were really somewhat anti-climactic when compared to all the preparation beforehand. "I guess we started getting serious about hunting our farm about twelve years ago, when we started using trail cameras and video cameras and saw what we had," Brock says. "Since then, we've devoted our time and our resources to killing a big deer through supplemental feeding, food plots, scouting and passing up on smaller bucks in the 140, 150 and 160 class so that our deer could get some age on them." Then the younger Benson added the rallying cry of nearly every BBZ reader: "It's a 365-day process to kill a big deer out there." As these stories prove, there is no doubt about that.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Jim Lillis from Texas Who says you can't shoot a trophy whitetail buck on public land? Certainly not this Texas bowhunter. A senior regional director for Ducks Unlimited, 61-year-old North Texas resident Jim Lillis also loves to chase whitetails with rifle and bow. Last year, Lillis put in an application for a public-land hunt and drew invite number 210 out of the 210 that were handed out. On the first morning of the hunt, Lillis climbed into his stand in the pre-dawn darkness to begin an all-day vigil. His luck went Lotto-size as he heard footsteps at around 9:30 a.m. "I turned around and the buck I ended up shooting was about fifty yards behind me, downwind," he says. The hunter's attention to scent control paid off in a big-antlered way. "When he went behind a tree about ninety degrees to my left, I came to full draw," Lillis says. "When he started moving again and came out into my shooting gap, he stopped. I put my sight pin right where I wanted it, and shot him at eighteen yards." A short while later Lillis retrieved his prize- one of the biggest free-ranging typical bow bucks ever taken in Texas. The buck sports a Texas Big Game Awards green gross score of 181 2/8 inches and a green net score of 176 7/8.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Rhett Akins from Illinois Few country-music stars would be singing the blues after taking a P&Y; buck that scores in the mid-160s. There are entertainers who hunt and fish for sound bites and photo ops. And then there are real hunters, like country-music star Rhett Akins. More than 20 feet up in a tree as he hunted with Timberland Outfitters owner and guide Ben Plattner, Akins was grunting at a 10-pointer when another buck showed up on the scene. At first glance, Akins admits, he wasn't as awestruck by the 8-pointer as he should have been. "The guide was like, 'Dude, shoot this deer,'" Akins adds. "I did, and the guide was going nuts. 'You just killed a Boone and Crockett eight-point!'" Not quite, but the buck weighed 280 pounds, and its enormous 8-point typical frame scored in the mid-160s.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Donnie Herod from Texas A blown opportunity on a bobcat turns golden when a monster non-typical walks into range. It was 7:40 a.m. the Saturday after Thanksgiving when fate came calling on Donnie Herod. Just moments after he missed a bobcat, a huge buck approached his stand. "The thought crossed my mind that I had to make this happen," Herod says. The deer went fewer than 50 yards before going down for good. "I've got a lot to be grateful for," Herod says, not the least of which is a non-typical 1961/8-inch Booner.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Kaleb Kisky from Iowa Who cares how cold it is when you're staring down the barrel at the buck of your dreams? For Iowa resident Kaleb Kisky, the sight of a big buck isn't that uncommon. One would expect that of the 15-year-old son of Kandi and Don Kisky, the well-known television big-buck hunting personalities. "I was really excited about this one," says Kaleb. "It was about nine degrees. We went in the morning before, and there were about thirty bucks in this field. The next evening, we crawled about a thousand yards, went up a bank and this buck came out." From nearly 100 yards away, Kaleb double-lunged the buck with his muzzleloader. Its massive rack sported 5-inch bases.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Jay Gregory from Missouri Occasionally you'll kill a buck the first time you sit a stand. Then again, it might take two years. If you're a serious whitetail hunter, Jay Gregory, the host of a popular whitetail-hunting television show, needs little introduction. The 42-year-old Missouri hunter made Big Buck Zone headlines last October when he downed a buck dubbed "The Splitter." After getting a trail-cam photo of the deer in 2005, Gregory hung a stand in February 2006 that was aimed at targeting the buck on an early-season pattern. Last fall, several days into October, the right wind finally blew. "A lot of bucks came by that morning because the acorn crop was really incredible," Gregory says "The last deer we saw, at about eight-thirty a.m., was him. It was him." Even so, it took nearly 30 minutes for the giant- a 17-pointer with a gross score of 190 5/8 inches- to cover the 75 yards into Gregory's shooting range. "He was vacuuming the acorns up," Gregory says. "I shot him about ten yards from the tree. He ran only about sixty yards and piled up."Outdoor Life Online Editor
Bob McElfresh from Illinois This Pike County hunter never tires of arrowing Pope and Young-class bucks- he has more than a dozen to his credit. Over the years, Bob McElfresh, a guide for Hopewell View Hunting Club in Pike County, Illinois, has beaten the early heat and late cold to tag a dozen-plus Pope and Young¿caliber and four Boone and Crockett¿class bucks for his wall. When a cool front last October brought a favorable West wind, McElfresh, 35, headed to a stand he had hung the previous year. With his 13-year-old son, Tanner, in the tree hoping to shoot a doe, the father and son had to endure an agonizingly long wait for a buck to feed his way to the very edge of McElfresh's shooting range. With light failing, the buck finally edged into that envelope. "It never gets old shooting deer like this," McElfresh says of the 24-point buck sporting a gross score in excess of 200 inches. "They still make me shake."Outdoor Life Online Editor
Dustin Sandlin from Texas A financial consultant's investment pays off in spades when a P&Y; trophy saunters past his blind. When 26-year-old financial consultant Dustin Sandlin climbed into his ground blind last fall, he hoped to turn his investment into a gain. After having just had a whitetail pass through a narrow shooting lane, Sandlin came to full draw when he heard another deer approaching. "So I pulled back and waited on it to come through and made the shot," Sandlin says. Later that evening, as Sandlin and his dad recovered the 16-pointer, the hunter realized just how big his antlered payoff was. "I waited on my dad to get there, and when we made our way to the buck, we both looked at each other and our jaws dropped."Outdoor Life Online Editor
Vicki Mountz from Ohio You've heard of a Triple-Double in basketball, but few have ever seen a Double-Triple in the deer woods. On October 28, Vicki Mountz, the Information and Education Administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and her husband, Greg, were in the woods outside of Columbus hoping to encounter the giant buck they had gotten a good trail-cam photo of a few days earlier. At first, the deer hunter of more than 30 years saw only smaller bucks. But suddenly that changed. "I heard some little sounds behind me, glanced that way and thought, Oh shoot, don¿t look at his head !" she says. After fighting off buck fever, Mountz steadied her crossbow for a shot opportunity. "I focused on a good opening and he stopped in that shooting lane on his own, about thirteen yards away." The tracking job proved to be a short one- the deer had traveled only 20 yards. "When we saw the buck, my husband turned around and said, 'You killed the Double-Triple,' " Mountz says. The monstrous 18-point whitetail sported triple splits on both brow tines.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Greg Chevalier from Ontario Mega-bucks don't make many mistakes. But all it takes is one. Greg Chevalier admits he doesn't have tons of whitetail-hunting experience. But he's had enough to know a great buck when he sees one. While hunting southern Ontario with Border Country Outfitters, Chevalier endured a variety of changeable weather conditions. On the windy fifth day of his hunt, Chevalier was occupying an elevated blind overlooking three shooting corridors. At about 7:15 a.m., he saw some does on the move, then a respectable 135- to 140-inch 8-point buck, followed by a multi-tined mega-buck that popped into and out of the thick cover. When the buck popped out for his curtain call, Chevalier was ready. The deer was 5 1/2 years old and weighed 280 pounds. Chevalier says the 184 5/8-inch-gross buck showed evidence of some backwoods brawling.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Brian Strickland from Kansas The country's heartland is known for trophy bucks. But here's a bowhunter known for his many P&Y; entries. Colorado policeman Brian Strickland is no stranger to adrenaline-rush moments, both professionally and as a sportsman. A bowhunter since 2000, 37-year-old Strickland boasts stick-and-string credits that include a Pope and Young Club bull elk, a P&Y; whitetail and two archery record-book pronghorn antelope. Throw in a Nevada antelope taken earlier last fall that should make book, and that's five P&Y;¿caliber animals¿and counting. Early last November, Strickland spent eight days in south-central Kansas trying to add another record-book certificate to his wall. As he hunted a creek bed with prairie on one side and a field of winter wheat on the other, Strickland dutifully rattled on a frosty morning. After rattling in three smaller bucks, opportunity finally came calling as a shooter buck methodically made his way out of the creek bed to within a scant 7 yards of the hunter's stand. As the buck reached the edge of Strickland's scent stream, the deer suddenly jerked its head up. But the move was too late as the archer sent a broadhead slicing through the buck's vitals. "I put the smackdown on him, and he only went fifty yards before crashing in sight," Strickland says. A fine 10-point buck in the 140-inch class, it is Strickland's sixth P&Y; animal in seven years.Outdoor Life Online Editor

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