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Bowhunter Tags 194-Inch Buck Right Before Her 60th Birthday

Kristi Purcell said goodbye to her 50s by shooting her biggest buck yet
Katie Hill Avatar
kristi purcell whitetail buck
Purcell with her biggest buck to date, taken just before her birthday. Kristi Purcell

Every year, Kristi Purcell tries to celebrate her Nov. 7 birthday by hunting deer and turkeys on her farm in northern Missouri. This year would be no different, except Purcell had one particularly pertinent goal in mind: She wanted to shoot a 150-class buck. 

She’s tagged her share of 140-class 8-pointers over the years. Last year while rifle hunting, she noticed one mid-sized buck roaming around in the food plots, but she passed on multiple shot opportunities, hoping to give him another year.

“This buck just wasn’t it. He had some character, but he had short points, and just wasn’t what I was looking for,” Purcell tells Outdoor Life. “So I passed on him several times last year. But then I was bowhunting toward the end of October this year, right at the end of a cold snap, and I saw him walking across a bean field. He was about 200 yards away, but I could tell his beams came out long, he had good mass and character, so I was all excited, but I was shaking so bad from the cold and never got a chance on a shot [anyway].”

A few weeks later, Purcell went hunting two nights before her birthday. A doe and some fawns showed up in a field she was hunting on before strolling into an adjacent pollinator plot out of her sight. Purcell expected the deer to move through the plot and move back into the beans next to the strip of timber where her tree stand was located. 

“But I look over, and walking through the beans is this guy,” Purcell says. “He was about 150 yards out. I had a silhouette decoy right inside the timber to the right of me, and he was to the left of me. I grunt a few times and he never breaks stride, acts like he doesn’t hear me, and he walks right toward the doe and disappears. But I thought ‘well, okay, they’re going to make it around the edge of this field and I’ll be ready.’ But all of a sudden, he doesn’t come around the field edge. He shows up on the other side of the trees where I can see him, in a fire lane, and he starts walking straight at me.”

kristi purcell with a whitetail buck
At first, Purcell wasn't sure the buck would break the 150-inch mark. Kristi Purcell

Purcell waits until the buck is behind a tree to draw her bow. 

“So I’m at full draw, and he steps into this gap at 15 yards, but he’s looking right at me,” she says. “I’m concentrating, not looking at his antlers, just waiting until he takes a few more steps before I can get a good shot. He looks at the decoy, takes a few more steps and stops, and I shoot him at 15 yards and it just whacks. It knocks him down, and he turns around and runs back into the pollinator plot where I can’t see him.”

Purcell immediately called her husband, Jeff, a retired Missouri game warden. They found some blood in the fading light, but couldn’t pick up a trail. Purcell worried that she’d hit the buck too far back. Eventually, after much searching, the pair decided it was best to avoid potentially bumping him and wait for daylight to start looking again. Purcell struggled to sleep.

The next day, family friends Terry and Debbie Hoyt drove down to help them look. After combing acre after acre, eventually Purcell made her way down to a creek where she thought the buck might have bedded. As soon as she looked over near the creek, she saw him lying there. 

“I screamed ‘I found him! I found him!’ and everyone came running over,” Purcell says. “Our friend turns to Jeff and says, ‘She completely undersold her description of this deer.’ There was certainly no ground shrinkage.”

The buck was much bigger than Purcell had thought from a distance. He had just under 50 inches of mass and a total beam length of 50 inches. His inside spread only measured 16 inches, but there was no two ways about it: this buck was huge. 

“From all the angles I saw him, he didn’t strike me as that big of a buck,” Purcell says of her hunt. “But oh my gosh, what a trophy.”

The buck ended up having 18 scorable points and green scored 194 1/8 inches. Purcell is getting a shoulder mount done by Hoyt Taxidermy in Brookfield, Missouri. 

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kristi and jeff purcell whitetail buck
Jeff Purcell is a former Missouri game warden. Kristi Purcell

As Purcell wrote in her Facebook post, it wasn’t a bad way to say goodbye to her 50s. The hunt also happened on the 20-year anniversary of her father’s passing, so harvesting this deer on her family’s farm was extra sentimental, she says. Sharing the experience with her husband, who introduced her to hunting decades ago and now lives with ALS, made it all the more meaningful. 

“He has always worked really hard to make sure this happens for me,” she says. “So this was extra special.”