The 11 Best Bucks of 2016
It was a year of big whitetails. Here's a look at some of the most impressive
There’s a great story behind every trophy buck, wether it was taken by a veteran whitetail hunter or kid in his very first deer season. Here are some of the most thrilling big-buck stories from the 2016 season.
#1) POTENTIAL WORLD RECORD
When Stephen Tucker first saw this Tennessee giant, he wasn’t exactly sure what he was looking at. Then he captured the buck in trail camera images and knew he was hunting a truly special deer.
Wanting to avoid pressuring the deer too early, Tucker didn’t hunt the buck until the November muzzleloader season. He saw the buck the first morning he hunted it. And his muzzleloader failed to fire.
Incredibly, the buck returned that same afternoon but was too far for a shot. The following Monday morning, the buck returned. And this time Tucker’s muzzleloader fired.
The buck will be officially scored soon and, if the green score holds up, could become the No. 1 non-typical of all time.
#2) EARLY BIRD SPECIAL
“I had a bad feeling as soon as I released my arrow,” says Rolla, Missouri bowhunter Gary Klossner.
When Klossner climbed into his stand adjoining one of his food plots on September 25, he had no idea a fairy tale hunt would unfold. With temperatures soarching, Klossner climbed into his stand in a pair of shorts and boots.
“I sprayed my clothes, hung my Ozonics, Thermacell and other gear,” he says. “It took me an hour to get dressed to keep from sweating.” Klossner knew a dandy buck had been using the food plot, but was not optimistic about seeing it, because he only had two daylight trail cam photos of the big buck. But, he did have enough footage over two years to realize that the buck had gained almost 30 inches in tine growth.
Missouri early archery seasons can be warm and this day proved true to fashion. “It was getting late and it began to cool a little,” says Klossner. “I guess I wasn’t paying good attention, because I looked up and there he was—like a ghost.”
Klossner anchored and released his arrow. As in any fairy tale, there are dramatic highs and lows. Klossner’s heart sank.
“I thought I missed, “ he says. “A terrible sick feeling overwhelmed me. I became physically ill.”
Regardless of feelings, Klossner knew he had to investigate. The evidence confirmed some of his fears. He had hit the deer, but the sign left behind indicated a poor shot.
“My mind raced,” he continues. “I’d had bad experiences previously with looking for deer too soon. This buck was simply too big to risk pushing, so I backed out.”
Klossner immediately called a good friend, Mark Wynn, who worked as a dog trainer and tracker. Wynn contacted Doug Fink from Jerseyville, Illinois of Non-Typical Recovery, who advised them to leave the deer until morning and wait until he could get there with his red Labrador retriever tracking dog.
“It had to be the longest night of my life,” says Klossner. “I replayed the shot in my mind over and over.”
Morning didn’t fare much better for Klossner. Noon approached before Fink arrived with his dog tracking dog, Kash. At last they began the tracking job.
“That dog proved amazing to watch,” says Klossner. “It worked slowly and meticulously, but obviously was on the trail. Of course, I wanted to find my buck and became concerned when the dog discovered a box turtle and hung up.” A mere 15 minutes into the search, though. Kash found the monster buck. “My head hurt from the quick evolution from deep depression to an adrenalin pumping high,” Gary said.
Fairy tales, including deer hunting fairy tales, are supposed to end happily. Klossner had arrowed a buck which scored 195 5/8 as a non-typical and 184 7/8 as a typical with 15 points.
“What an emotional ride,” says Klossner. “I do love that litlte dog, Kash!”
#3) MARK DRURY’S DANGER
The name Mark Drury is one readily recognized among deer hunters. No one would suspect that Drury needed a secret weapon to take what he called the buck of 10 lifetimes.
Danger, as Drury dubbed the buck, was a 5 1/2-year-old deer that he had passed up three different times in 2015, because the astounding buck had broken off much of its left side.
As monster bucks often do, Danger had reduced his core area to a mere 15 acres on the 980-acre Iowa farm. His bedding area consisted only of small trees too small to hang a stand. Not to have his efforts thwarted, Drury built an elevated platform and mounted a blind on top.
On the morning of October 21, Drury sat in the blind watching a 3 ½-year-old, 10-pointer making a rub at 15 yards. The spindly tree the buck worked over snapped, the sound resonating through the surrounding woods.
Mark interpreted the incident as an opportunity and broke into high alert. Within a couple of minutes, the younger buck’s demeanor changed. It bolted. Something big had to be coming.
Danger’s core area was so thick that by the time Drury caught movement, the buck was just 15 yards away. With 24 points, it was the giant he had been hoping for.
Big bucks seldom come easy. The monster buck moved from east to west, crimping Mark’s shooting style. A tight shot from a vertical window was all he had. Drury released and Danger went down.
This tale certainly doesn’t seem extraordinary for Mark Drury. However, he did have in his fold of tricks a magic permission to hunt that particular day. It was his 27th wedding anniversary. Most bowhunters would have been strapped with wine and roses.
Mark’s wife, Tracy, knew the outdoor industry well. She fully realized the weather conditions were perfect for killing a big buck and she encouraged Mark to break their tradition of spending anniversaries together. The result? Danger measures 217 2/8 inches.
#4) A TALE OF TWO BUCKS
According to Rich Baugh of Henry County, Iowa, killing big bucks is all about making choices. And he has made plenty of them over the years while hunting on his 470-acre farm.
Maintaining buck-holding quality habitat helped Baugh develop the discipline to let 5-year-old bucks walk. “It took a few years for me to evolve into that frame of mind,” he says. “But I soon learned that allowing a buck to live another year or two could add 20-inches or more to a rack.”
That was the case in 2015 when Baugh gave a pass to a buck he had dubbed Blazin’
“I knew that buck would add more inches, so I passed him up,” says Baugh. “On October 27, I had not been on my stand 15 minutes when a 7 ½-year-old, 165-class buck I called Talon showed up. That hunt ended quickly. It was what happened next that flabbergasted me. A few minutes after I arrowed the Talon buck, Blazin‘ showed up, too. I could have legally taken him as well, except for one problem. I had not picked up my landowner tag, which I generally do later in the season. What a disappointment.”
On his next encounter with Blazin’, the cameraman could not get on the buck. A tree was in the way, so Baugh had to endure watching the buck saunter away.
“I climbed back into my stand on November 12,” he says. “As luck would have it, an impressive 160-inch, 8-pointer showed up instead of Blazin’. I was considering taking that buck, when I caught sight of the buck I wanted 175 yards down the edge of a corn field.”
With the rut raging, Baugh grunted at Blazin’.
“He came to me as if he were on a string,” says Baugh. “I made the 20-yard shot, ending what had been one of the most incredible seasons of my life. It’s not every year that I’m fortunate enough to kill two very nice bucks.”
Baugh’s buck measured 176 3/8.
#5) THE FATHER-IN-LAW BUCK
In-law relationships come in many varieties. Jeff Chandler, however, made it clear that he is pretty proud of his son-in-law, 28-year-old Justin Norman of, Jefferson City, Missouri. Justin killed a 209-inch buck while hunting with him last November.
“We always hunt together,” Justin began. “We have hunted on my uncle’s place in Laclede County since I was nine years old. We have had a lot of fun there over the years.”
Justin has taken several decent bucks from the farm, including decent 9 and 10-pointers. However, in 2016 he discovered a buck of a different magnitude on his trail camera photos. “I had never seen a buck that big in my life,” he says.
The buck appeared in one of two small food plots Justin had started on the farm. “No one had seen this buck, other than on the trail cam photos.”
“My wife, Taylor, had been teasing me by suggesting that I kill one big enough to mount last fall,” he says. “Everyone wants to kill a really big buck, but I knew the odds were slim, even though I had photos of a good one.”
Justin and Jeff headed out early on the Sunday morning following the Saturday opener of the 2016 deer season. “We sat near the food plot where the buck had been feeding,” he says “By mid-morning, we figured the buck wasn’t going to show up. Jeff suggested we walk around the farm, but all we saw were does.”
“There is a big high line cut through the middle of the farm where a hunter can see for a good distance,” says Justin. “We headed over that way in the afternoon. My father-in-law sat on a hill up in the woods, while I sat down in some tall grass next to the cut. It had been a warm day, but, the wind picked up around 3 p.m. and I needed to put a shirt back on.”
Cautiously, Justin looked around to make sure there were no deer in sight. “I hurried, to put my shirt back on. I had just managed to pull my orange vest on and ease back into my little chair, when I saw a buck 200 yards away in the cut line. I thought I was busted.”
Justin had not seen where the buck came from. “It was simply there,” he said. “I could tell it was a big one. I didn’t have time to get nervous.”
The buck offered a quartering to shot. At the report of Justin’s Savage .270, the buck raced to the nearest hollow. “I thought for sure I had shot too low,” he says.
A mere 40 yards into the woods, Justin found the buck of a lifetime. It succumbed quickly from a well-placed American Whitetail 130-grain bullet.
“All I can say about that 209-inch buck,” says Justin, “is that it paid off to be hunting with my father-in-law.”
#6) A BONE CHASERS’ DREAM BUCK
It’s a bona fide fact that colossal bucks are popping up on a regular basis across the country. Some of the hunters that collect these monsters are just plain lucky, being in the right place at the right time. Others are, in fact, exceptional deer hunters.
Rarely do you find the deer hunter who appears to be both lucky and good at chasing and killing exceptionally large whitetail deer. Jacob Ayecock, from Winchester, Arkansas falls into that rare class of deer hunters.
Ayecock is a farmer heavily involved in a family operation that spans three counties of fertile soil in southern Arkansas. His luck, some would say, began early in life when he was introduced to both deer and duck hunting.
Jacob learned quickly to pattern and harvest big bucks. After years of essentially doing the same thing, however, he determined that he had to change his tactics if he was ever going to harvest a true monster of a buck.
“I belonged to a hunting club for years, but figured out that I would probably never kill a buck over 150 inces there,” he says. “The flood of 2010 wiped out our deer camp, providing the perfect opportunity to seek a better place to hunt. I knew farming country held bigger bucks, so I elected to hunt there.”
Ayecock combined his knowledge of deer hunting gained from years in the field with new-found, modern skills of utilizing trail cameras, topo maps and aerial photos. “It became much easier to home in on the home ranges of big bucks,” he says.
Jacob combined his new found skills with his ability to find and hunt pinch points, which, according to him are not hard to find in farm country when you know what you are looking for. He quickly demonstrated that he had become either extremely lucky, or good at hunting big bucks, or both. The next year he took a mature 145-inch buck with a muzzleloader and later in the season a 169-inch buck. A pattern had emerged.
Prior to the 2016 Arkansas opener, Ayecock accepted an invitation to hunt on his friend, Adam Frazier’s, lease. The pair located three pinch points rather quickly and trail cameras quickly revealed a giant buck.
“I knew it was a 200-inch deer as soon as I saw the photos,” says Ayecock.
“On the way in to hunt it, about midday, I spotted a softball size cedar tree that had been rubbed so hard it was bent into an S shape,” he says. “A scrape line ran both directions from that cedar tree. I knew I had found the spot to kill that buck.”
A couple of days later, he and Frazier returned.
“Toward evening Adam sent me a text saying that he could hear branches being thrashed,” says Ayecock. “A moment later, I heard the noise as well. I knew it was a buck and grunted a couple of times. In the process, I bumped my rifle and it made a slight noise as it slid down the blind wall.”
The thrashing stopped and within two minutes Jacob saw a massive rack coming out of the CRP.
“I knew it was him,” he says.
Once again Jacob Ayecock had done things right, but the buck paused to stare in his direction. “Finally it stepped behind some trees at 125 yards and I raised my rifle. When the buck cleared the trees, I settled behind his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. Of all things, the window on my blind collapsed keeping me from seeing where the buck went.”
Being confident in his shooting abilities, Ayecock called his buddies and offered to wait until they got there before starting the recovery. “We immediatley found pink lung tissue and a massive blood trail.” The party found the huge buck by a nearby bayou only 30 yards from his favorite rubbing tree. At 5 1/2 years old, 250 pounds, drop tines on both sides in the front, a drop tine on the rear left, wide inside spread and heavy main beams, the magnificent buck was the biggest any of them had ever seen.
The rack grossed over 207 B&C points and net scored 195 2/8 inches. Too, it was the second largest buck killed in the region in 109 years. It all happend because a bona fide bone chaser wanted more bone and changed his tactics to get it!
#7) WISE CHOICES PAY OFF
We’ve all heard the stories of big buck chasers letting a nice buck go to grow to a giant, but 10-year-old girls rarely are the ones telling them.
Marley Kate Herring, from Columbus, Mississippi is not your average 10-year-old. She is an accomplished deer hunter with more than 20 deer to her credit and has the photos to prove it.
Her father, Chris, is in the land and timber business and manages their family farm intensively for wildlife. “Kate starting going with me on hunts at age four,” Chris says. “She loved it right off the bat. I’ve loved watching her grow as a deer hunter. Just this season, she spotted a big deer, a good 140-class. I told her she could take the shot, but she passed because the sight window wasn’t good enough.
“Last year, she had a close shot at the 4 1/2-year-old, 160-inch class buck, but turned to me and said, ‘Dad, but it’s not 5 1/2 years old like you say they should be.’ She let that big buck walk. I couldn’t believe it.”
Kate’s unusual demonstration of deer hunting savvy paid huge dividends in 2016. She had already taken two nice bucks earlier in the season, but when a giant offered her a 75-yard shot, she took it and the 180-inch class buck fell.
“I think Kate has it all figured out,” Chris says.
#8) TROPHY BUCK INVITATIONAL
Invitations to bowhunt someone’s property for the sole purpose of killing a big buck are almost unheard of, but that’s exactly what happened to Tim Kjellesvik, of High Ridge, Missouri. While hunting fall turkeys with Devil’s Backbone Outfitters on 1,700 acres of rough, rocky turf deep in the Ozarks Moutains, Kjellesvik hit it off with owners Joe and Chance Hollingshad.
The day before Tim was to leave, after killing a boss gobbler, Joe dropped a sublte hint. “I sure would like to get someone to come in here and kill a big buck on film that we could use on our website,” he said.
Kjellesvik had an agreement for the assignment, including a cameraman, within three minutes. He would return two weeks later.
Though finding a suitable tree stand location proved to be a chore, just minutes after settling into his climber, three does and a small buck sauntered by, headed for a pond down the hill.
Forty-five minutes later a big silhouette against a field up the hill from his stand caught his eye. Several does filtered down though the woods. One stopped directly under the cameraman.
“Matters got exciting rapidly,” says Kjellesvik. “I finally got a look at the buck’s rack. He was definitely a shooter.” Tim’s heart sank as the buck quartered away from him, though. It stopped to sniff out acorns. Momentarily another doe walked slowly downhill, passing directly under his stand—the buck followed.
Once again the buck stopped, still facing Kjellesvik. He feared the buck would bolt and came to full draw. The buck raised a foot and turned slightly offering a quartering-to shot.
“I stayed focused on the target and didn’t look at the huge rack, for fear of my heart pounding out my chest,” says Kjellesvik. “When the buck turned, I began my relase and buried my arrow deep into his chest from above and behind his shoulder.
The magestic Ozark buck traveled only 50 yards and crashed. Tim Kjellesvik had arrowed the second largest buck ever killed on the place, a 19-point, double split tine 162 ½-inch monster Ozarks buck. And it all started with an invitation.
#9) A MISSISSIPPI RECORD
Though most bowhunters share the dream of taking a monster buck, few realistically think of taking a state record—including Earl Stubblefield.
“I never dreamed I’d kill a state record buck, especially not from our area,” says the Oxford, Mississippi hunter. ‘It’s not known for producing big bucks.”
In 2014, however, Stubblefield got a trail-cam photo of a perfectly symmetrical 10-pointer on his 500-acre farm.
“It was a beautiful deer, but both its body and rack were small.”
The following year, the buck had grown considerably both in body and rack size. “I figured it scored about 117 that first summer and around 140 the second,” Stubblefied says. “I had sheds from that buck for both years.”
Last summer, both he and his neighbor caught the buck on trail cameras. “It had grown considerably,” he stated. “Once again it had a perfectly symmetrical, beautiful 12-point rack. It stayed in the soybeans all day long and would come out about 30 minutes after dark.”
In September Earl and his father hung three stands about 60 yards apart along the edge of the soybean field. They hunted the buck twice in early October.
When the time came to climb down on October 8, Stubblefield spotted a 4-point buck that usually traveled in front of the big one.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when the 12-pointer popped out of the beans behind the little buck,” he said. “The little buck walked right under my stand. I drew on the big buck when he reached 27 yards and the arrow hit its mark. The buck went down in the beanfield.”
Stubblefield guessed the buck to be in the 140s, but was in for a big surprise when he walked up to the stud buck.
“I called my dad immediately.”
Stubblefield’s buck rough scored 182 7/8 inches and the net score was 181 2/8 inches, a new Mississippi state bow kill record. The previous record was 173 3/8 inches.
“That wasn’t a bad afternoon in the bean field.”
#10) A KANSAS MONSTER
Kansas is known for monster bucks. Trent Siegle, of Council Grove, however, killed a monster of monsters on October 12 in Morris County.
“I had the buck I called Mufasa on camera for several years,” says Siegle. “He showed in mid-December of 2015, after I had already filled my Kansas tag.”
Going into 2016, Mufasa turned into an obsession. “I ran cameras all summer, but only succeeded getting the big buck on camera once or twice every three or four weeks.”
Matters changed dramatically once the crops were harvested. “That’s when I began getting photos of “Mufasa” almost every day. I made one mock scrape the first of October. A high pressure system rolled in and I got pictures of him on the scrape in daylight on October 8 and 9.” October 12 was game time.
“A big weather front blew in with rain, high pressure, and a significant temperature drop along with a rising moon,” says Siegle. “When I climbed into the stand early that afternoon, the temperature had fallen into the 50s.”
As soon as the wind died down and the sun started setting, Siegle spotted Mufasa back in the woods making a scrape. “Fortunatley, he walked to the edge of the cornfield and started another scrape.”
Mufasa finished the scrape and turned the other way. Siegel grunted and Mufasa instantly snort-wheezed at the call. Siegel snort-wheezed in return. His quick action turned the big buck.
“It seemed like it took an eternity for him to close the distance,” says Siegle. “The biggest buck I have ever seen stepped out at 30 yards, closed to within 20 yards and started making yet another scrape.”
His Killzone broadhead did the job quickly. Mufasa only traveled 60 yards.
Mufasa scored an unbelievable 224 4/8 inches, sported 25 points and 6 7/8 inch bases.
#11) A LATE SEASON RECORD
Claiborne County, Mississippi is not known for huge bucks. However, Josh Clark, of Luka, pulled the proverbial rabbit out of his hat on December 13, when he killed a possible state firearms record buck on the third day of a public land hunt.
Josh’s luck began when he drew into a limited hunt on Mississippi’s Canemount Wildlife Mangement Area. The primitive firearms hunt would last for three days.
Clark had never hunted the area, so decided to heed the advice of the cabin owner where he stayed.
“I hunted in a creekbottom,” says Clark. “The area had lots of rubs on trees the size of power poles. I knew there was a good buck in the area.”
After the first two days proved unsuccessful, Clark considered a move and even offered his stand up to a buddy for the final day. Fortunately, he declined.
“I sprayed a couple of Buck Bombs on the way to my stand on the last day of the hunt,” says Clark. “I rattled and grunted every so often for the first hour with no luck.”
Hunters often second-guess themselves and Josh was no exception. “I gave up,” he said. “I had lost confidence in the spot I picked, so I lowered my rifle, intending to make a move.”
When he straightend up and turned around to climb down, he caught a glimpse of a main beam. “I thought I had blown it,” he says.
Clark slowly retrieved his dangling .35 Whelan and slipped a round into the chamber. When the buck’s shoulder appeared into a small opening, he fired.
Clark couldn’t believe what he had killed. His monster buck sported 18 points, main beams in the 25-inch range, a 19-inch spread and 7-inch bases. The buck green-scored 205 points. If the score holds up after the 60-day drying period, it will be a new Mississippi state record.