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Bowhunting's Superbucks: How Some of the Biggest Bucks in North America Were Taken

Bowhunting's Superbucks: How Some of the Biggest Bucks in North America Were Taken

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Bowhunting's Superbucks: How Some of the Biggest Bucks in North America Were Taken

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5 ore
Sep 1, 2012


Bowhunting's Superbucks is a compilation of thousands of hours afield and a lifetime of experiences from dozens of trophy record holders. These top-rated bowhunters share their tactics and stories of how they arrowed some of North America’s top-scoring, giant whitetail bucks. Advice from these seasoned hunters is the best information you can get to help you get a superbuck on your next bowhunting trip.

Each hunt is written in the bowhunter’s own words, with personal memories of the hunt. Also included in each story are details about what equipment was used (type of bow, arrow, release, and sight), date and time, tactics used, weather conditions, sun and moon phase, type of terrain where the hunt took place, and whether it was on private or public land. Additional information on the hunter includes years of bowhunting experience, number of bow-killed deer, favorite hunting tactics, and more.

This is a Bowhunting Preservation Alliance book.
Sep 1, 2012

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Bowhunting's Superbucks - Kathy Etling


People have admired deer for the size of their racks almost since the first hunters were able to drag themselves into an upright position and hurl a spear in the animal’s general direction. The desire to take a buck with a big rack is almost atavistic. In fact, I’d wager that the desire has been passed along in our human genes, among those of us who hunt, until that desire is an integral part of who we are as people and as hunters.

The human desire for a challenge is also in our blood. When some task or area of play becomes too easy for us, our intellects cry out for something more difficult. A challenge creates stress, and stress, at least within reasonable levels, is necessary to keep a human being functioning at his or her highest level. Stress and challenge create the means through which we grow mentally and physically. Stress and challenge create the drive and desire to excel, a word that crops up several times within the pages of this book. For if there is one thing that superbuck archers are about, it’s the pursuit of excellence.

That excellence is most apparent when we view the caliber of the bucks that these bowhunters have harvested. Left unsaid, far too often, is the acknowledgement of the degree of excellence required of the man or woman who confronts a superbuck on his own ground, with some of the most primitive of weapons, and departs a winner.

That degree of excellence isn’t obtained overnight. Simply deciding to become a superbuck archer isn’t enough. A lot of preparation and thought must go into it. Sacrifices invariably must be made. Months and seasons and years may pass with nothing to show for the dedication. And then, in one magic instant, for some of us it will all come together and a magnificent animal will be lying on the ground for us to marvel over and honor for the rest of our human lives.

We admire these great-hearted creatures–the superbucks–for their antlers. And those antlers have spawned numerous systems of scoring them, based upon the method that was used to take the deer and the configuration of its antlers.


The Boone & Crockett Club (B&C) has long been considered the gold standard of antler-scoring systems. The Club recognizes huge antlers taken by hunters, regardless of what weapon was used. It also recognizes any qualifying intact rack, with skull plate attached, which may be picked up by someone in the field.

Illinois archer Jim Hensley shot this 25-point bruiser of a buck from his tree stand during an afternoon’s hunt. The nontypical buck scored 234 4/8 Boone & Crockett points. Photo courtesy Randy Templeton.

Firearms hunters are able to harvest trophy-class animals at a much greater distance than bowhunters, and since Boone & Crockett recognizes animals taken by a firearm, the Club’s minimum qualifying score is very high. If this score weren’t set at a high level, the number of entries would be too huge to consolidate within a single records book, as Boone & Crockett does every few years.

The Club first recognized outstanding trophies in 1932; its first competition for outstanding trophies was held in 1947–the first time that a series of measurements were used to rank trophies by a score. In 1950 the system was refined still further and the scoring system as we know it today was the result. Whitetail deer and mule deer that qualified as record-book heads were listed in the 1952 record book, the very first edition, based upon the comprehensive scoring system.

When the system was first developed, Boone & Crockett’s minimum scores were much lower than they are today. In 1950 the minimum score for a typical whitetail was 140 points after the 60-day drying period; today it’s 170. In 1950 the minimum score for a whitetail with non-typical antlers was 160; today it’s 195. Even with these relatively high minimums, quite a few bucks qualify each year.

Today’s mule deer Boone & Crockett qualifiers with typical antlers must score a minimum of 190 points; non-typical qualifiers must score 230.

A deer with a few abnormal points can be scored as a typical by Boone & Crockett, but the overall length of these points will be deducted from the rack’s gross score, which is the raw total before deductions. This yields the rack’s net score. A point must measure at least one inch in length, and its length must exceed its width at one inch or more of length.

Trophies with many abnormal points are scored as non-typicals, and it’s in the scoring of non-typicals that Boone & Crockett has come under fire. Non-typical simply means that a rack looks different than most other racks of deer from the same species. Points may come off the main beams–and even the tines–in any direction. The result may be a rack that is quite weird looking. To try to counteract some of this potential strangeness, long ago Boone & Crockett decided to judge a rack for its symmetry, even in the non-typical category. What this means is that any non-typical is judged to have a typical frame of eight or 10 points, for example, in the whitetail category. A non-typical mule deer rack will also be scored based upon its typical frame.

Non-typicals that are off-balance, or non-symmetrical, with more antler growth on one beam than the other, will be penalized under the Boone & Crockett scoring system. Boone & Crockett awards points to a buck’s rack–or, more properly, does not take points away–based not only on the rack’s mass, height and width, but also on its overall aesthetics.

Another controversy is encountered under both the Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young (see below) scoring systems regarding a rack’s inside spread. If the inside spread is greater than the length of the longer main beam, only the length of the longer main beam will be added to the score. An extremely wide inside spread won’t gain anything for a rack, but neither will it count as a deduction, as it once did.

Both the Boone & Crockett Club and the Pope & Young Club require a 60-day drying period before a rack may be officially scored for recognition. Any rack that may rank exceedingly high in the record books, particularly one poised to become a new world’s record, must be submitted for judging by a panel of measurers before it will be recognized. The panel’s decision will always supersede any individual measurer’s previous determination.


Founded in 1961, the Pope & Young Club (P&Y) is named for Arthur H. Young and Dr. Saxton Temple Pope, both of whom were noted archers and conservationists. All animals recorded in the Pope & Young record book have been taken through the use of archery equipment only. A buck may qualify for both Boone & Crockett, which recognizes all legally taken trophies, and Pope & Young if it had been taken by an archer. Animals taken through the use of firearms, however, are not eligible for listing in Pope & Young.

With electronic and other high-tech gadgetry so prevalent on today’s marketplace, and with the protection of a tradition being one of the reasons for the formation of the organization, Pope & Young Club officials have ruled that any animal taken by the use of electronic devices for attracting, locating, or pursuing game or guiding the hunter to such game, or by the use of a bow or arrow to which any electronic device is attached will not be permitted entry into the record book. In addition, a bow shall be defined as a longbow, recurve bow or compound bow that is hand-held and hand-drawn, and that has no mechanical device to enable the hunter to lock the bow at full or partial draw.

The Pope & Young Club once refused to recognize animals that were taken by the use of bows with a greater than 65 percent let-off, using the A.M.O. standard method of measurement. That has changed. Effective January 1, 2004, the Club began accepting entries taken with compound bows that have let-off greater than 65 percent, provided that the bow is legal in the state or province where it is used. Each such entry will be listed in the record book with an asterisk (*) to denote the greater amount of let-off.

The Pope & Young Club is also planning to celebrate those records that are taken by archers who use recurve bows, longbows and selfbows. The Club in the future will publish traditional-only record books, with the first scheduled to be available in 2007. Traditional entries, however, will still be listed in the Club’s all-time record books.



The philosophy of Buckmasters’ Full-Credit Scoring System is to measure and record whitetail deer antlers without forcing the antlers to conform to a criterion of perfect symmetry. This Full-Credit Scoring System deducts nothing; it simply measures every inch of antler and classifies it accordingly.

The Buckmasters system differs from other scoring systems in the following ways:


PERFECT: Every typical point on one main beam has a matching typical point on the opposite main beam, and with no more than one percent irregular inches of antler in its total score. A Perfect rack always has equal and even numbers of typical points, and is the rarest of all antler configurations among mature, trophy-class whitetails.

TYPICAL: Refers to a rack whose total inches of irregular points does not exceed 5.5 percent of its total score. A rack whose irregular points constitute from 1.1 percent to 5.5 percent of its total score is classified as Typical. In addition, any typical rack with an uneven number of typical tines, even if there are no irregular inches of antler present, will still be classified as Typical. A nine-point typical rack, for example, with five points on one side and four on the other, would automatically be classified as Typical, even if it contains no irregular inches of antler. The Typical category is the most common antler configuration among mature, trophy-class whitetails.

SEMI-IRREGULAR: The term for a rack whose total inches of irregular points range from a minimum of 5.6 percent to a maximum of 10 percent of its total score.

IRREGULAR: The term for a rack whose total inches of irregular points exceed 10 percent of its total score.


Safari Club International, with its headquarters in Tucson, Arizona, is another record-keeping organization. There are a remarkable 17 different subspecies of whitetail recognized in the United States, and 30 subspecies recognized in North America, and Safari Club takes this into consideration when judging racks for their record book because its officials believe it is unfair to judge a Minnesota whitetail with one that was taken in Florida. To that end, the Club has established seven categories that attempt to take regional differences as well as subspecies differentiations into account. The six categories with which archers in the United States, Mexico and Canada should be familiar include northwestern whitetails, northeastern whitetails, southeastern whitetails, Texas whitetails, Coues whitetails (also classified separately by the other scoring organizations) and Mexican whitetails. Various minimum scores apply depending on where the deer was harvested.

As you can see, there is more than one way of scoring a superbuck. An animal with a truly splendid rack may rank high when scored by every scoring method. Others may not. But it’s good to know that these methods exist to provide exceptional whitetails and mule deer with the recognition their wondrous antlers deserve.

253 1/8 Net B&C Non-Typical 26-Point Iowa Whitetail;

Iowa State Record Non-Typical Archery Whitetail

How could something that started out so wonderfully right turn out so horribly wrong? That’s the question that Iowa teenager Brian Andrews and his family are still asking themselves two years after young Brian, then 16, did the almost unimaginable. In November 2003, the youth, in his first season as a bowhunter, shot the Iowa state record non-typical archery whitetail.

Consider that for a moment. A rookie bowhunter, who had never taken any deer before, bagged a buck with one of the largest racks to ever come from a state known for producing whitetails with huge racks! What were the odds?

The huge buck was well known to the Andrews family. Brian’s father, Randy, had spotted him on four previous occasions. I’d always see the buck near the same area, the elder Andrews said. I’d spotted him twice in 2001 and two more times in 2002, always near this one spot. I hunt there a lot–with guns, too–but I’d seen the buck just once when it would have been legal to shoot him. That was during firearms season, but the buck stayed well out of range of my shotgun.

Randy Andrews began hunting 33 years ago. Three years later, he was introduced to bowhunting by an older friend, with whom he often duck hunted. The friend even took Andrews to a shop where the younger man could buy a bow and get fitted.

Randy Andrews, through the years, has had plenty of hunting experiences, so the first time he spotted the giant whitetail he knew immediately that he was in the presence of greatness. The buck was with two does, he said. All three deer were milling about and feeding in a boggy area not far from a corn field. I watched them from a distance of about 200 or 300 yards. Andrews had first seen the buck 30 minutes before dark and waited until he was no longer able to observe the animal before he finally left the area.

A week later, Randy Andrews spotted the buck again an hour before dusk. The buck was crossing the field next to a stand where I often hunted, he said. His nose was to the ground, like he was trailing a doe. Both 2001 sightings took place during the first 10 days of November.

Despite his resolve to place a renewed emphasis on hunting the big buck both during the remainder of archery season and gun season, Andrews did not spot the animal again, and neither did any other hunter that he knew.

First-year bowhunter Brian Andrews was 16 when he arrowed this 253 1/8 net Boone & Crockett Iowa superbuck–the state’s top-ranked archery non-typical whitetail.

The big buck may have been gone, at least from the Andrews’ sight, but he certainly wasn’t forgotten. My wife’s cousin, Phil Fangman, was driving to work one morning and spotted the buck, Randy recalled. "We work together at the county road department, and when Phil got to work he told me what he’d seen. We drove together back to where Phil had seen the deer, and when we crested this one hill, there he was: standing with a doe not more than 50 yards away from the pickup.

I could not believe how big the buck’s rack was, Andrews continued. I kept asking, How big do you think he is? I answered myself and said, He’s got to be over 200 points. Points stuck out everywhere–drop tines, stickers, every kind of point possible. The buck let us watch him for two or three minutes before he finally had had enough and slowly trotted off.

That sighting took place in December 2002, just 150 yards distant from where Andrews had last seen the buck in 2001.

It was two days before shotgun season, Andrews exclaimed. Phil, Brian and I were all excited about possibly seeing the buck on Saturday, which was opening morning.

When Saturday dawned, Brian Andrews was waiting in his favorite gun-hunting stand located in a fenceline that bordered the field where the buck had always been spotted previously. Randy Andrews was also hunting in the same fenceline.

I looked up and noticed the buck, with seven does, in the same boggy area where I’d spotted him in 2001, Randy recalled. "The deer took off and headed directly toward Brian. The spot where he hunts is a natural deer crossing.

I waited, but I never heard a shot. I finally walked up to him and asked, Didn’t you see him?"

I saw seven does, but no buck, Brian replied.

The buck must have slipped away without anyone seeing him, Andrews said.

The opportunity to take the monster non-typical had come and gone in an almost wraithlike manner, much like the buck’s disappearance on that cold December morning.

Randy and Brian Andrews, as well as their many bow-hunting friends, now knew that each of the big buck sightings had occurred within 500 yards of the boggy swale where Randy had first seen the animal two years before. They settled down to wait for the 2003 hunting seasons and, possibly, another chance of seeing–and perhaps taking–the buck with the spectacular horns.

That spring, the family wasn’t too surprised to learn that two farmers who lived not far from the Andrews home had found the big buck’s sheds in their fields. So far, so good, the Andrewses thought. The big whitetail was still sticking fairly close to his home base.

In October, yet another avid bowhunter spotted the big buck, and was so impressed by the buck’s humungous rack, he promptly leased 100 timbered acres not far from where the Andrews family hunted.

As word spread, the competition for the big buck began to escalate. Still, Brian and Randy believed that the buck’s habitual use the nearby bog and fields might eventually work in their favor.

The 2003 archery season would be Brian’s first as a bowhunter. The youngster was so new to bowhunting, he didn’t even own a bow and had borrowed one instead from his sister Molly’s boyfriend. Brian Andrews then practiced with it until he felt confident of his skill at distances within 20 yards.

The land hunted by Brian and his dad consisted of about 160 acres, only 10 of which are timbered. The timber forms a narrow corridor that leads to a larger timbered tract, and the balance of the property has been set aside as part of the Conservation Reserve Program. That land grows mostly prairie grass and multiflora rose. A brushy draw bisects the CRP ground.

Brian had started deer hunting as soon as he was old enough to do so. The young man knew enough about big bucks to understand that his best chance to take the non-typical would probably be early in the season, before the animal had been spooked by human scent and possibly other archers.

But when Iowa’s archery season started on October 1, the teenager had a full slate of school activities and homework assignments staring him in the face. Young Andrews was able to bowhunt just a few times that month. When he went out, the only deer he spotted were using the corn field to the west of his stand. The only deer to wander past within bow range was a spike buck.

The deer gradually became more active, and on November 1 the teenager passed up shooting at a nice eight-pointer.

While Brian Andrews waited in his stand for a buck to come close enough for a shot, he’d noticed that most of the deer he’d seen had been moving about farther into the timber, where they were out of his range. He finally decided that moving the stand to where he’d been seeing most of the deer might be a good idea, particularly with the peak of the rut about to begin.

One evening Brian told me he’d been thinking about moving the stand, Randy Andrews said. "Two days after their conversation, Randy Andrews decided to act on his son’s hunch. He moved the stand farther into the timber, where Brian had said he thought it would work best.

Randy liked the new stand’s location well enough to hunt there himself. He didn’t see the big non-typical or much of anything else, so when Brian again decided to bowhunt the stand, his father had no objections.

I hunted the [newly-positioned] stand for the first time after school, on November 5, Brian said. I first spotted a tall, wide 10-pointer, perhaps in the 150 class. I tried calling to the buck, but the closest he’d come was about 50 yards.

Randy Andrews minced no words when discussing the big non-typical with his son. I told him that I thought the buck was so smart that no one would ever kill him, Andrews said. I further stated that the buck probably would die of old age, and we’d never know what happened to him.

Brian Andrews disagreed. He’ll screw up sometime, the son remarked, referring to the big buck’s seemingly charmed life. Little did the teenager realize how prescient his words would be.

The next day, November 13, Brian had decided to bowhunt after school. The rut was in full swing, and he’d even considered getting permission to leave classes early that day.

After school I drove to where my Dad was working so that I could trade my car for Dad’s truck, the younger Andrews recalled. Dad told me that he’d noticed that the bucks were running hard that day, and were really beginning to chase does.

By the time Brian arrived back home it was 3:45. He hurried to get ready, put on his Scent-Lok suit, applied a scent-eliminator spray, and then headed toward the recently relocated stand.

As he walked, Brian mulled over his chances of seeing the big non-typical. He knew about the big rubs on oak trees six inches in diameter that he and his father had discovered. Those rubs seemed to scream big buck. The youngster was also aware of some nearby fresh scrapes three to four feet in diameter. The huge whitetail might have made them, too. But in his heart, Brian Andrews suspected that the 10-pointer he’d seen might also have been responsible for making both the scrapes and the rubs.

It’s possible that even Brian Andrews was unaware just how perfectly positioned his stand now was. It had been placed in a tree growing along the ravine that just about bisected the CRP land. That ravine, like the fenceline, was used as a runway by whitetails traveling through. The patches of multiflora rose and the scattered timber provided enough cover to make the animals feel safe as they moved from one area to the next.

When the teenager reached the stand at 4 p.m., he hung out a few white oak scent wafers, then squirted Mrs. Doe Pee’s Special Estrus scent around the base of the tree as well as on the main trail that ran past the stand.

Brian climbed into the stand and waited. He soon spotted his first deer of the day–a spike running through the CRP land. The teenager waited a couple of minutes, then began to call with the Primos Big Can.

I next spotted a doe walking along the edge of the timber, and then two more does came out, Brian said. I called again at around 4:30. I started with another estrus bleat, waited about five seconds and bleated again. I then used the Primos 5-in-1 call to make some buck grunts.

Five minutes later, something made the archer glance over his shoulder. I saw THE buck, Andrews said. He was 30 yards away, with his nose to the ground, and he was trotting right at me. I got ready to shoot.

As the buck approached Brian’s stand, the young man grunted with his voice. The buck stopped just seven yards away, Andrews explained. His nose still was to the ground as he sniffed where I’d sprayed the scent. I waited until he turned broadside.

Brian drew, placed the sight pin behind the shoulder and triggered the release. The arrow drove into the buck’s body. The animal responded by kicking it into overdrive and racing toward the top of the hill. When the buck cleared the hilltop he disappeared from view.

I thought I’d made a good shot, Brian stated. I’d seen my arrow pass through the buck and stick in the ground. When I climbed down and retrieved it, it was covered with blood.

The big buck’s homebody habits had come back to haunt the animal. He’d once again been spotted within 500 yards of the boggy swale where Randy Andrews first saw the animal. Only this time, the big non-typical’s luck had failed him.

Brian used a cell phone to call his dad, who was refereeing a basketball game.

I wasn’t able to call him back until halftime, Randy Andrews said.

A great shot means nothing if the animal cannot be found. Once he’d climbed down from the stand, Brian didn’t even try to find the animal. He simply returned home, told his story and then waited for his father to help him search for the buck.

At 10 p.m., however, despite having been joined by Brian’s mother, Karen, and his sister, Molly, the search was called off. The young archer and his father agreed to begin the search anew the next morning.

Molly actually had found the spot where the blood trail resumed, but I really didn’t think the buck had gone that way, Randy explained.

Needless to say, Brian Andrews–and his father, too–tossed and turned that entire night, thinking about the amazing buck that might, or might not, be lying dead not far away.

The family arose early the next day. Randy and Brian were joined by Phil Fangman, who had answered the phone when Brian called his father the night before, so he knew all about the teenager’s bow-hunting adventure.

The trio picked up the blood trail where Molly had

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