Triple Play

Three people bowhunted hard, smart and right last fall. With Lady Luck on their side, they wound up shooting dream bucks that boasted more than 200 inches of antler. Here are their stories and the lessons every hunter can carry away from their incredible feats.

SEPTEMBER The 36-Point Ohio Freak

John Schmucker and a few of his fellow hunters had been watching the freak for three years. The deer had points and stickers shooting off his beams in every direction. They had found his massive rubs, power-pole thick. The giant had become a local legend in the tight-knit Amish farming community of Adams County, Ohio, but the hunters had kept it a secret.

After work on September 30, Schmucker snuck into a strip of woods near a crop field and ran his climbing stand up a tree. He soon saw a small buck, which he recognized immediately. The freak had traveled with that buck and another little one all summer. The young buck made for his stand; Schmucker figured the giant was close. He was right. The monster appeared and Schmucker launched a deadly bolt from his Horton crossbow.

The 36-pointer gross-scored between 300 6/8 non-typical points and netted 291 2/8. Boone and Crockett Club notes that with such a complex, multi-pointed rack, it will be a chore for scorers to determine the typical frame (likely 6×6). Whatever the net score, Schmucker's monster will go down as one of the biggest bucks ever killed in the United States.

Lessons Learned: The best scouting you can do is with your eyeballs and binocular; watch and pattern a buck for days, weeks or even years, however long it takes to get a shot at him. Most mature bucks have small home ranges. Many giants, like this 300-incher, live in core areas of only several hundred yards. Once you find a monster, keep your trap shut--the fewer hunters who know about him, the better. It may still be warm, but early bow season, when deer are still locked into summer bed-to-feed patterns, is second only to the rut as the best time to shoot a big boy. Study and come to recognize the bucks in a bachelors' group; if you see one of them, you know the others--maybe that huge shooter you've had your eye on--are nearby.

OCTOBER The Urban Monster

Deb Luzinski of Woodbury, Minn., is a member of the Metro Bowhunters Resource Base (MBRB), an organization that has special permits to thin deer in and around the Twin Cities. One day last October, Luzinski helped coordinate an archery hunt at a 320-acre regional park in Ramsey County. After recording the stand locations of 15 other archers in the park, she picked a spot passed over by the other hunters.

Luzinski hung her stand in a finger of high ground between two small swamps and climbed up for a quick evening hunt. At best, she expected to bust a doe. But soon, cattails rustled and a 10-pointer popped into view. Luzinski bleated, and the buck closed to within 50 yards.

More cattails crunched and a bigger buck stormed onto the scene. The 10-pointer dropped his head and backed away. Luzinski bleated again and the giant rushed in. The 38-year-old mother of two calmly made the 17-yard shot. The 24-pointer grossed 227 2/8 non-typical. It's the biggest whitetail ever arrowed by a woman in Minnesota, and quite possibly the largest buck ever shot by a female bowhunter in North America.

Lessons Learned: More monsters are inhabiting suburban areas; don't overlook pockets of brushy habitat close to home. To kill a whopper on public land, hunt an offbeat "buck hole" where nobody else goes. Everyone carries a grunter, but don't forget a bleat call; bleating in the late-October pre-rut and throughout November might reel you in a trophy. You're apt to see a big boy when and where you least expect it. Stay sharp, with your bow or gun ready.

NOVEMBER First Bow Buck: 203 5/8

Shane Smith had trail-cam pictures of a huge 10-pointer roaming his Kansas hunting land, but he had never laid eyes or glass on him. When Smith, who had never even killed a buck with his bow, went out one day last November, he hoped to see the giant. At the same time, he knew that if he got lucky, he would most likely just shoot the first decent-looking deer that came along.

To Smith's amazement, the first deer to come by was the trail-cam giant. The rutting buck strolled to within 16 yards of the tree stand but kept walking. Smith kept his composure and finally stopped the buck with a grunt at 32 yards, quartering away. He drew his Mathews bow and fired an arrow. The animal ran 30 yards and piled up. Not a bad first bowbuck. The long-tined 10-pointer with stickers gross-scored 203 5/8 inches.

Lessons Learned: Don't worry if you haven't killed a lot of bucks; you can still score big next fall if you practice-shoot, scout and hunt like a wild man. Set out trail cameras. Pictures of a good buck will not only help you pin down where to hunt him; they'll also keep you pumped knowing he's out there. I make the point again that most mature bucks have small home ranges; once you catch some photos of a shooter or see him, you can hunt him on your land all season. Draw your bow before you grunt or bleat to stop a buck in a shooting lane; he may pause for only a second. The instant he stops, aim behind the shoulder and release your arrow.

1 JOHN SCHMUCKER USED A CROSSBOW TO TAKE THIS Ohio brute, which ultimately measured 291 2/8 inches. He and some fellow Amish hunters had been scouting the buck for the past three years. To get it back home, Schmucker loaded the deer onto a traditional horse-drawn wagon.

2 DEB LUZINSKI RECORDED THE STAND LOCATIONS of 15 other archers at a hunt in a regional park and then chose a spot that none of the others wanted. She was working a 10-pointer in with a bleat call when this 227 2/8-inch monster strolled into bow range.

3 SHANE SMITH HAD NEVER EVEN SHOT A BUCK WITH HIS bow before, but was hopeful a huge 10-pointer his trail camera had caught would show up. It turned out to be the first deer to stroll by his stand one November morning. The deer measured 203 5/8 inches.

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