Big deer are difficult to kill. It doesn’t matter if you’re hurling lead or slinging sticks with strings, there’s nothing easy about it. It’s an accomplishment when you kill a mature buck of any size, but it’s especially great when they sport monster-buck racks. Here are the stories of seven legendary whitetails that once roamed the American wilderness.
A Second-Chance Stunner Hunter: Kyle Maahs Buck: 186 2/8 inches (gross green score) Date of Kill: Nov. 23, 2019 Location of Kill: Crawford County, Wisconsin Firearm Used: Savage .30-06 Springfield
Kyle Maahs captured a 6½-year-old giant on camera in December of 2018. Then, in October of 2019, he shot the deer with a bow, but it wasn’t a lethal wound. Fortunately, the buck showed back up.
He’s hunted the property for five years, and he’s familiar with how deer maneuver the landscape, and felt confidant he’d have another encounter with the massive whitetail.
On Nov. 23, it was very cold and frosty, but wind was almost nonexistent. He slowly picked his away across the landscape, which consisted of very rough terrain with large river bluffs.
Once settled, he began looking around, hoping to see the stud he’d been dreaming of for the past couple seasons. At first, he didn’t see anything, but kept a watchful eye anyway.
He was sitting in a big valley. Behind him was a ditch. To the left and right were more ditches. To the front, a hillside towered above him. It was quiet for quite some time, then, he heard something. Leaves crunched.
“When he came in, he stopped behind two trees and I had to wait two minutes,” Maahs said.
He then took the 60-yard, quartering-away shot, and it soared straight through the vitals. The deer ran a ways, then fell over.
“The buck was one-of-a-kind,” Maahs said. “I was very fortunate to get him. The hunt was full of mixed emotions.”
His friends were in awe of the buck’s size. They couldn’t believe how massive and wide the rack was.
“He means a lot,” Maahs said. “With countless hours in the stand, I worked hard for him.”
A Real Missouri Monarch Hunter: Kenneth Reynolds Buck: 174⅛ inches (green gross score) Date of Kill: Nov. 20, 2019 Location of Kill: Texas County, Missouri Firearm Used: Thompson/Center 7mm Rem. Mag.
“I had been watching this 6½-year-old deer for two years,” Reynolds said. “I hunted it all [of] bow season and was able to seal the deal during rifle season.”
Getting to that moment was a journey, though. He’s a self-taught deer hunter of 25 years, and he’s hunted the area he tagged this buck for six. Therefore, he knows how deer use the farm.
“I used my trail cameras to locate the area the deer had moved to and ended up setting up on the ground at the edge of the woods,” Reynolds says. “It was a lot of work determining which direction they were traveling and adjusting the locations of the cameras accordingly.”
On Nov. 20, 2019, the weather turned cold and foggy. Shortly after daylight, the fog lifted and the wind picked up.
Reynolds sat on the edge of a woodline and CRP field. The CRP sprawled out behind him and to the right and left. A cut fence row funneled the action in front of him.
Eventually, deer started moving. Three does, a small 4-pointer, 8-pointer, then another 4-pointer eased by his treestand location. Then, the big one walked out.
“The buck came out of a small thicket and stopped broadside approximately 40 yards from me,” said Reynolds. “He then put his head down, and I took my shot.”
It dropped in its tracks, and Reynolds walked over to him.
“It was exciting, as it was the largest buck I had ever shot,” Reynolds said. “Hunting has always been my passion. It provides meat; it’s an amazing stress reliever to be out in the woods watching wildlife; it’s incredible to watch the deer grow over the years and the changes in their antlers; it’s time well-spent with family and friends, and a tradition that I will pass on to my son one day.”
A Monster Mystery Deer Hunter: Jamie Zolinski Buck: 189⅞ inches (green gross score) Date of Kill: Nov. 14, 2019 Location of Kill: Gimli, Manitoba, Canada Firearm Used: .30-06 Springfield
In an age where trail cameras dominate the landscape, hunters generally know about the giant bucks they kill. That isn’t always the case, though, and such held true for Jamie Zolinski’s Manitoba buck. He’d never seen it before Nov. 14.
While he didn’t know the deer, he certainly knew the area. “I grew up spending every summer and weekend in this area,” Zolinski said. “My father had property a mile from where I shot this deer. I eventually bought 80 acres of property a mile from his old property and built a house. But the first thing I built was a treestand."
On the day of the hunt, the weather was overcast with light snow. He hunted until about 11:30 a.m., and went in for lunch. He returned around 1 p.m. The skies cleared up soon after.
The area is full of pines and poplars. Shooting lanes run in all four directions, and plenty of deer moved through each one. Three big deer eased in and out of view throughout the day, but none of them were the giant he was looking for. He even saw some deer sparring and heard some grunting.
Then, around 2:40 p.m., the giant stepped out, trailing a hot doe.
“The sun was glistening off one side of his antlers, and I counted 10 [tines] on one side,” Zolinski said. “At that point, I took the safety off and waited for what felt like hours. He wouldn't come out and was behind a pine tree. All of a sudden, the doe bolted. As the buck turned, I had a 3-second window where I’d have a clean shot. Sure enough, he turned, and I squeezed the trigger. He dropped on the spot.”
Zolinski said it took a lot of patience to kill this particular buck. “Anyone can kill a shooter. However, it’s not about killing a buck, but being able to enjoy being in the bush. Deer hunting is the one time of year I take holidays. I prep all summer, cutting trails, clearing brush, etc. I reflect on things my father taught me about hunting, and it brings me back.”
A Big Bluegrass Buck Hunter: Dee Owen Buck: 190 inches (green gross score) Date of Kill: Nov. 18, 2018 Location of Kill: Bullitt County, Kentucky Firearm Used: Remington Model 742
Dee Owen loves targeting big deer, but he didn’t have any history with this giant. He didn’t even know it was around. Still, he grew up hunting, and knew what this time of year can bring.
On Nov. 18, the weather turned clear and cold and had little wind. The terrain consisted of rolling ground with big hardwood trees, towering cedars and thicker cover.
“Just before daylight, I heard and smelled deer around me, but by daylight, they were gone,” Owen said.
Once the sun rose, deer movement was fairly slow. Then, that changed at once. A giant stepped into view.
“He came in from the left side walking parallel to me, but slowly getting further away,” said Owen. “I figured he was following the deer that came through before daylight.”
Eventually, the buck entered a shooting lane, and Owen dropped him in his tracks just 70 yards away.
“I’m definitely blessed to have harvested this once-in-a-lifetime buck, and it was especially sentimental using my deceased father’s gun,” Owen says. “To get it on my property where I was raised, which has been in my family many generations, is very sentimental.”
“The deer was definitely the talk of the town,” he continued. “Once word hit the streets, many people wanted to see it.”
A True Missouri Monster Hunter: Wendell Steele Buck: 238 6/8 inches (green gross score) Date of Kill: Nov. 21, 2019 Location of Kill: Clay County, Missouri Firearm Used: Browning A-Bolt .270 Winchester
Missourians are certainly accustomed to seeing big deer, but few are prepared when they face a 240-inch buck. Still, Wendell Steele was.
Nov. 21 was Steel’s second time hunting this particular area. His 30-plus years of experience created a bank of knowledge he commonly drew from. That experience pulled him toward a wooded creek bottom with adjoining CRP and crops.
It had rained the previous night, so the woods were damp and quiet. Temperatures hovered in the 30s. Conditions were dang near perfect.
Steele decided to hunt from the ground, and deer started moving soon after settling in. Three does ran by with a giant buck chasing them. He stopped it at 70 yards, settled the crosshairs, and pulled the trigger. His round connected, and the deer sprinted about 40 yards before falling over.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Steele said. “I feel blessed to harvest a deer of this size.
Obviously, the deer received a lot of attention, both locally and nationally. It’s a buck of many lifetimes. Steele says he always enjoys spending time in the great outdoors, but this hunt was a little extra special.
A 4-Year-History Stud Hunter: Garret Light Buck: 198 4/8 inches (green gross score) Date of Kill: Nov. 16, 2019 Location of Kill: Bollinger County, Missouri Firearm Used: Savage .300 WSM
The story of this 6½-year-old buck begins in 2016. The buck had great potential, and Garret Light wanted to see him live at least another year or two. It had a ripped ear, so it was easy to identify and follow.
In 2017, it was a 150-class deer. By 2018, it blossomed into the 160s. Then, in 2019, it finally closed in on that 200-inch mark.
On Nov. 16, it was cold and frosty. The sun illuminated the landscape, but little wind stirred. Most of the ground where Light hunted was cattle pastures and timber. A creek runs through the center of the farm.
Once in the stand, he started glassing for deer. In front is a food plot with wheat, radishes and winter peas, with thick, hilly timber towers to the right and left. Cattle pastures sprawl out to the rear.
It didn’t take long for deer to begin doing their thing. A multitude of does meandered around in the food plot, and action remained steady.
After a while, Light received a text. He looked down at his phone, and when he looked back up, the huge buck was halfway through the food plot.
“He was at a trot when I saw him moving through,” Light said. “By the time I got him stopped and settled my gun, he was at the edge of the food plot about to enter the woods.”
He took the broadside, 135-yard shot, and the deer disappeared inside the timber.
“I saw steam come out of the buck, so I knew I hit him pretty good,” Light says. “I found good blood and marked it, but I waited a couple of hours to try and find him.”
While waiting, he heard a shot come from the neighboring property (in the direction the buck had ran). His heart sank.
“I thought that maybe my shot had not been lethal and somehow he made it to the neighbor’s property,” Light said. “Nevertheless, when my dad arrived with my sister and nephew, we started the track. At first the blood was great, but as the deer headed uphill, the blood went away. We looked and looked for more blood. Finally, we found it. It became evident that blood had poured out of both sides of the deer. I became more and more confident as the blood increased. Then, I looked up, and there it laid—the biggest rack I’ve ever seen in person.”
Overall, the buck ran about 150 yards and died. Many folks say it is the biggest deer that has ever come from the area.
A Friendly-Gesture Deer Hunter: Tony Arnold Buck: 171⅜ inches (green gross score) Date of Kill: Nov. 17, 2019 Location of Kill: Deerfield County, Indiana Firearm Used: Ruger American .308 Winchester
Tony Arnold had been hunting a piece of land for two seasons. He knew there were good deer in the area, but didn’t know a Booner called it home.
On Nov. 17,2019, the weather turned cold and breezy. He eased into a treestand location on the edge of a hillside. In front of the stand, an opening stretched out about 60 yards. It was pretty open to the right and left, too. A large bedding thicket sprawled out behind him.
As the hunt unfolded, he saw small bucks chasing does. Later, a shooter buck pushed a different doe, but it never presented a shot.
Then, the big one appeared. Arnold heard leaves crunching behind him. He turned to look, and spotted the giant. It trailed a doe all the way in to 60 yards. It stepped into an opening, and Arnold pulled the trigger.
“He ran about 50 yards and went down in sight,” said Arnold. “I sat for 20 minutes to collect myself and replay what had just happened.”
“It’s the biggest buck I have killed,” Arnold continues. “I’m grateful to my friends—Reid Wurtz and his family—who invited me to hunt. They were just as excited as I was, and couldn’t believe how the mass ran all the way to the ends. More than a year later, I am still overwhelmed with emotion.”