Episode 3: The Tradition

Hunters behind the new world-record whitetail haven’t let egos or antlers get between them.
a compound bow hunter standing beside a polaris ranger
Every day, often first thing in the morning when you're doing chores and before you head to work, grab your bow and shoot just one arrow. Chandler Shewmaker / Heartland Bowhunter

Smaller bucks have torn apart camps, but the hunters behind the new world-record whitetail haven’t let egos or antlers get between them.

In 2015, Virginia bowhunter Luke Brewster started hunting his family’s property in eastern Illinois. Instead of condemning Brewster as an interloper, the neighbors next door welcomed him as one of their own. All five hunters—Brewster, brothers Justin and Brent Cearlock, and their brothers-in-law Ron Wagoner and Josh Barrett—pooled their acreage (about 200 huntable acres) and didn’t think any more of it. Justin started sharing trail camera photos with Brewster, including images of a buck that eventually landed on their target list in 2016: Mufasa.

In 2017, Mufasa returned for the fourth year in a row. Cearlock had a shot opportunity on Mufasa, but hit an unseen branch, causing a heartbreaking miss. In 2018, Brewster found himself staring down the same deer from his own treestand.

This is the third and final chapter of their story, and instead of focusing just on the biggest whitetail buck ever taken by a hunter, it examines the hunters who made it happen. More important than record-book bucks are the traditions surrounding the hunt, and the guys who put them in place over the years. That’s why Justin, Brewster, and their buddies resolved to never let a deer come between them. 

The crew has teamed up with Polaris RANGER to help share this story of Mufasa, and how hunting him brought a group of hunters even closer. When the hunt was over, they implemented habitat projects and other strategies to improve their deer camp, and ensure their tradition endures for years to come.

Long after the hunt was over, the guys even forged a new relationship. Though a big whitetail outfitter operated right next to the farm where Brewster killed Mufasa, both groups had hunted for years without speaking to one another, each figuring the other for a rival.

But once the hunt for Mufasa concluded, the outfitter, Johnny Davis, revealed he had found the sheds from 2016, and the two parties finally connected over a deer they’d both pursued.

To watch more episodes of Respect the Game, which focus on the habitat that grew the world-record deer and the story behind the buck, check out our coverage here.

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