Not many deer hunters would have the guts to move in on a 230-inch buck, hunting him close to his bed, in the woods, from the ground. But Donnie Monroe, an expert whitetail hunter from Kansas, did just that and ended up killing what will likely be among the biggest whitetails taken in the state this year.
Monroe had seen the buck during the previous season on a small parcel of private land, along with a mature 8-pointer and a younger 10-point. Last year, Monroe estimated that the buck was three years old, and he was getting bullied by the older (but smaller) 8-point. So, Monroe decided to shoot the bully buck, which turned out to be a 5-year-old that scored about 130 (a great buck by any measure, but not necessarily a trophy for this part of the country).
Monroe looked at that hunt as an investment in the future. Even though the younger bucks would have scored better, letting them walk would hopefully give him opportunities in seasons to come. Fast forward to this summer, when Monroe got his giant buck on trail camera again. He couldn’t believe how much the deer had grown.
“I’m more than confident that the deer is only 4.5 years old,” Monroe tells Outdoor Life. “Which is unreal. I can’t believe how much he blew up. In fact, going into this year I didn’t even think he’d be my target buck.”
But trail camera pictures can be deceiving, Monroe says. He wasn’t certain if the buck was truly as big as he thought. So, he texted one of the trail camera photos to a buddy who was a veteran whitetail hunter and deer scorer. The buddy, severely underestimating the size of the buck, texted back: “Tiny Tim.”
Both hunters were being thrown off by the 10-point pictured beside the big buck. From photos, it didn’t look like the 10-pointer had grown at all from the previous season, which made them underrate the growth of the giant buck. Plus, both hunters knew deer look much more massive in velvet and they expected the big buck to look much smaller when he was hard horned—he didn’t.
“When I went out in the summer to get velvet [spotting scope] pictures of them, I knew that the 10 point did put inches on,” Monroe says. “Especially when I saw him on his own, I was like, Dang, something’s not right here.”
From there, Monroe knew that he was hunting a buck that would likely break the 200-inch mark.
The Hunt for Tiney Tim
The Kansas early season opened on a Monday, and by Wednesday Monroe thought he had a good plan to hunt Tiney Tim (now spelled with an “e” because he had so many tines). The deer was feeding in a neighboring beanfield during daylight hours, and Monroe had a good idea where the buck was bedded. His plan was to sneak in and ambush the deer on a wooded hillside as it headed to feed in the evening. He’d hunt from the ground and find a spot to set up when he got there.
Monroe doesn’t hunt sprawling properties in Kansas. He’s got three smaller parcels ranging from 40 to 160 acres acres that he owns or leases. Blowing a mature buck out of one of these properties would likely mean he’d never see it again. But with the weekend coming, Monroe knew there’d be more hunting pressure, and with the buck on its feet during daylight hours, there was a good chance another hunter would kill him.
Even though Monroe is a diehard bowhunter, he made a last-minute decision to bring a muzzleloader on this hunt, because he had no idea how far the shot opportunity might be. Since he was going to set up on the fly, he figured the shot could be 70 or 80 yards (too far for his bow), but it turned out to be much closer than that.
The wind would be a critical factor in the hunt. From experience, Monroe knew that the forecasted wind direction is often different than what you get on the ground, especially when you’re dealing with hilly terrain. Monroe decided that he’d back out if the wind was bad when he got there; luckily it wasn’t.
He used an Ozonics unit and Raw Frozen Scents—two products he uses faithfully—to minimize the risk of getting busted. He settled into spot with good cover, sitting on a simple folding stool.
“The only thing was the visibility was poor,” says Monroe, who self-films his hunts for Team 200. “I had only a few windows where I could get a shot. I had both cameras in position and the muzzleloader already on the shooting stick. I wasn’t messing around.”
As if on cue, Monroe caught movement in the woods below him. He immediately turned the cameras on and then looked back to the deer and recognized the mass of antlers and tines coming through the timber. It was Tiney Tim.
“I threw the scope up, got on him, bleated to stop him, cocking the hammer at the same time, and boom.”
The buck whirled around and ran back the way it had come. Monroe reviewed his footage of the shot and confirmed it was a good hit. Some coworkers came to help him recover the buck, which did not run more than 45 yards.
“I wrapped my hand around one of the bases [of the rack] and my thumb and index finger didn’t touch. I took a picture of it and sent it to that buddy of mine with a text that read “Tiny Tim? Lol.’”
All crowded around the tailgate, one of Monroe’s other buddies put a tape to deer’s rack. They got a rough score of 223 4/8.
“We don’t usually officially score our deer,” Monroe says. “I was happy with that. Honestly, I would have never rechecked him.”
But eventually, Buckmasters contacted Monroe and encouraged him to get the rack scored formally, Monroe says. Two Buckmasters scorers came up with a 230 4/8 gross score, and declared that it was the No. 1 muzzleloader buck in the state by the Buckmasters records.
This is the second buck that Monroe has killed that tops 200 inches—an incredible feat for any deer hunter. He’s on prostaff or sponsored by a variety of companies, including Athlon Optics, ASIO Gear, QuietKat, Whitetail Institute, RAW Frozen Scents, Moon Guide, and Ozonics Hunting. He has dedicated his life to hunting and filming trophy bucks, with his hunts running on the Pursuit Channel and Team 200 TV.
But Monroe was not born into America’s elite class of whitetail hunters. He grew up poor in Indiana and got into hunting and fishing as a way to put food on the table.
“I started hunting and fishing so we could have better meals,” Monroe says. “Growing up in Indiana, that made me who I am.”
He moved around for a bit, working for utility companies before finally moving to Kansas, a whitetail hunter’s paradise.
“I moved my family to Kansas to chase trophy whitetails,” he says.
But Monroe knows that “trophy” doesn’t necessarily mean score. He has the discipline to pass bucks that many other hunters would shoot, and says it’s important to target mature bucks, even if younger bucks would score higher.
“I know people who move to Kansas or buy property in Kansas and just shoot the biggest bucks on the place every year [regardless of their age],” he says. “After a few years they have no more quality deer.”
The other key to Monroe’s success is minimizing hunting pressure. He hunts his three small properties cautiously. He checks trail cameras with his e-bike. He’s a stickler about scent control. Most of the time, he doesn’t ramp up his hunting until the third week of October when mature bucks are daylighting on camera. But there are always exceptions—like this year.
“You have to be adaptable,” Monroe says. “Take advantage of the opportunity when you have it.”