Lessons Learned from 15 Freaky 200-Inch Bucks

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Huge whitetails are captivating. They’re so uncommon we rarely get to see, observe or shoot one, let alone learn from it. So when we read and hear stories of monster bucks, it’s important to dig into them and see what useful information we can glean. After a decade of writing hundreds of big buck stories, I’ve learned there’s always at least one lesson behind a dead deer.

So check out the morals from these 15 freaky 200-inch bucks, all of which were taken during the past few seasons, and which you can read more about thanks to Realtree.com’s Rack Report writers.

Dustin Huff's buck is the largest typical ever harvested in the United States, and it's second in the world to the Milo Hanson buck. Image courtesy of Dustin Huff

1. The Dustin Huff Deer

This past season, Dustin Huff arrowed an Indiana deer that almost dethroned the Milo Hanson Buck. Scoring 211-4/8 inches, the buck was only about 2 inches becoming the world-record typical. That’s pretty cool. But what’s also interesting is Huff wasn’t previously aware of the deer. On Nov. 4, it just showed up, and Huff was there to take care of business. The lesson? You never know what might show up during the rut.

I had no idea he was even there, Huff said. The first time I saw him to when I shot him … two minutes.

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2. The Zach Mixer Whitetail

During the 2021 season, Zach Mixer battled unfortunate events, including trespassers, cattle incursions and running over his bow. Still, on Nov. 12, 2021, he shot a massive buck — all thanks to sleeping in. As with the Huff buck, Mixer had no idea the deer was around. Still, the primary takeaway is that you can fill a tag even if you slip into a good rut stand later in the day. During the rut, just hunt when you can. Odds are high at that time of year.

We both stood speechless for a few moments, taking in the size of the deer, Mixer said. It was a humbling experience. I hoped I would have the chance just to see a buck of that caliber, let alone get a shot at one. The hunt was perfect. It was the perfect, climactic ending to an almost disastrous season. It was even better that I got to share it with my dad.

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Shane Barker downed this deer after spotting it several days in a row. Image courtesy of Shane Barker

3. The Shane Barker Buck

We always assume a buck is gone forever after you miss it. That’s rarely true, though. Shane Barker’s hunt for his 205-plus-inch Illinois whitetail illustrates that. In fact, he missed the deer in 2020 but got another crack in 2021. Further, he spotted the buck several times during a few days in the rut, and it was with the same estrous doe for two of those. So never assume you won’t get another shot at a missed buck. And stay after a buck-and-doe pair during the rut. The deer might not be far from where you last saw them.

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4. The Ricky Daugherty Deer

It’s much more difficult to gain free hunting permission than it used to be. Still, it’s possible. And it might relinquish a world-class buck. Take the Ricky Daugherty deer, for example. Daugherty spotted some deer in a field, knocked on the landowner’s door and got permission to hunt there. He posted some trail cameras, and a huge buck showed up.

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I couldn’t believe the size of the buck on my camera, he said. I probably showed it to way more people over the next few days than I should have.

Nonetheless, in time, he tagged the buck, thanks to stopping on a whim to ask for hunting permission.

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Bonnie McFerrin shot this deer on a 90-degree day. Image courtesy of Bonnie McFerrin

5. The Bonnie McFerrin Monster

Bonnie McFerrin needs no introduction, but her huge Texas whitetail from 2021 is one for the ages.

This is the largest whitetail I’ve taken with my bow, and I could not be happier, she said. When he stepped out and presented me with a shot, I was excited but also focused. I have hunted for 20 years and have spent a lot of time in the woods. I never imagined I would get an opportunity to take such a gorgeous deer..

The buck prompted many lessons. First, it was shot Oct. 4, and is one of many bucks that show how lethal the early season can be. Further, taken on a 90-degree day, it shows that hot days aren’t necessarily bad for deer hunting. If a deer is on a pattern, it will likely continue, even if the temperature isn’t ideal.

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6. The Kyle Culbreth Buck

Kyle Culbreth hunts whitetails in many states, including Ohio. In 2020, he shot a massive 8-½-year-old whitetail but couldn’t find it. Thinking the deer might have run onto neighboring tracts, he knocked on doors and asked landowners if he could search for his deer. His efforts went unrewarded.

Surprisingly, the next spring, a shed hunter recovered his deer. Hearing that Culbreth had shot the buck, he reached out and graciously gave the deer to him.

I later found out that I even knocked on the shed hunter’s door, but he wasn’t at home at the time, Culbreth said. I was in shock and overwhelmed with emotions. I’ve hunted for many years and have dreamt of a deer of this caliber. I am truly grateful, and it will be the most emotional hunting experience I likely ever have. Most hunters probably will never even see a 200-inch deer, let alone get a shot at one.

True indeed. And the lesson is that there’s always hope, and people still do the right thing.

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This buck, taken by Corey Richmond, was seen at least five miles away from the point of harvest. Image courtesy of Corey Richmond

7. The Corey Richmond Monster

In 2020, Corey Richmond arrowed an Adams County, Ohio, buck that opened some eyes, and not just because of its rack. That was only part of it. The realization that the deer had at least a 5-mile range was shocking, too. After tagging the deer, Richmond learned from other hunters that the buck traveled at least that far. It was especially surprising for a habitat-rich area where the buck need not have traveled much to fulfill its needs. Still, it did, showing again that whitetails roam great distances even when you think they wouldn’t.

I called my wife right after I shot him, and by the tone of my voice, she thought I was hurt, Richmond said. I was shaking, and my voice was cracking. I told her I got the big one. She was thrilled. Then I called my buddies and brothers, and they all knew that I had done something special.

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8. The Mark Luster Monster

Few typical whitetails breach the coveted 200-inch mark, but Mark Luster’s 2020 deer did.

It’s not often that one thinks they shot a 190-inch typical, and it actually grows once you put your hands on him, he said. I was speechless. It wasn’t farmed with thousands of private acres. It was a permission piece seeing a fair amount of outside pressure. To finish the job — after shooting and losing him the year before — was a flood of emotions that I wasn’t prepared for. Hunters across America dream of seeing a 200, let alone killing one. To have a chance at a 200-plus-inch typical is so far out of reach that we don’t even dream that big.

There were many takeaways from this deer. First, Luster knocked on a landowner’s door to get permission. Second, aggressive calling and rattling worked. Third, pinch points are king. And fourth, just-off winds are absolute killer.

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Brian Butcher's huge nontypical is a testament to how well

9. The Brian Butcher Buck

In 2019, Brian Butcher arrowed the Kansas state-record nontypical.

My intentions were geared toward an early observation hunt, he said. I didn’t have any real expectations. All I did was spend some time in the stand and stayed focused. I think about the hunt and shake my head every time. I’ve hunted countless days, and it never works like this. We were in there trimming limbs two-and-a-half hours before I shot this monster. He came in and presented the perfect shot for me on my first hunt of the year.

Interestingly, Butcher didn’t know the buck was there. Further, he shot the deer a couple of hours after being there with a four-wheeler and cutting limbs. And given how high the deer ranks on the all-time nontypical list, it goes to show how well cluster bucks score.

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10. The Mike Reed Monster

Midwest Whitetail co-host Mike Reed is big-buck slayer, and his massive whitetail from 2019 was no exception. After passing the 4-½-year-old buck, he regretted the decision and decided to send it if he crossed paths with the deer again. Fortunately, he did. But that’s when things got interesting.

The fact that he got a second chance at such a buck is cool. But after the shot, the buck’s blood trail crossed the blood trail from a coyote Reed had shot minutes before seeing the big whitetail. That created a world of problems during the recovery. Eventually, he spotted the buck in the river. The real lesson is to keep searching for downed deer, but do so in a safe manner.

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Leo Van Beck downed this incredible public-land whitetail. Image courtesy of Leo Van Beck

11. The Leo Van Beck Buck

In 2019, Leo Van Beck arrowed a huge whitetail on state ground, which provided further evidence that hunters can shoot top-end deer on public land. It might take a selectively aggressive tactical approach, but it’s possible.

Everyone was just as excited as I was, Van Beck said. There was a sense of awe putting my hands on that deer for the first time. I was speechless. This was a gift from God. Plus, my dad and uncles taught me to hunt, and they deserve credit for this deer, too.

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The Sullivan buck has brow tines for days. Image courtesy of Devin Sullivan

12. The Devin Sullivan Deer

Devin Sullivan shot a massive whitetail in 2019 on part of his family’s farm.

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I was on my way back home from the store, and I saw the buck standing alone out in a field, he said. He took off running toward our woods. So I went home, grabbed my gear and headed out to my treestand. After about an hour-and-a-half, I spotted the buck walking through the timber. He wasn’t coming my way, so I grunted at him, which brought him trotting in my direction.

The hunt shows that you can spot a buck in passing and have time to slip into position to hunt the deer. During the right circumstances, you can get between a buck’s position and where it’s going to produce a shot opportunity. That’s especially true for gun hunters.

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Ryan Carrier arrowed this whitetail on a very hot day. Image courtesy of Ryan Carrier

13. The Ryan Carrier Whitetail

Ryan Carrier shot a massive Saskatchewan buck several seasons ago, and it’s also a deer we can learn from.

It really means a lot, because no matter how much time, preparation, blood, sweat and tears you put into it, there’s still no guarantee of success, he said. It’s very rewarding to have it all come together, especially on a deer that puts you in the coveted 200-inch club.

The takeaway is that whitetails are constantly changing patterns. But Carrier tagged his buck before it altered its behavior. Striking within your window of opportunity is crucial, and Carrier knew that. Further, it’s another example of how hot temperatures rarely slow down early-season movement.

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14. The Jason Eiring Giant

Jason Eiring arrowed an enormous deer in 2019. As with so many hunts, the deer hunt supports many talking points. First, the buck was taken at lunchtime Oct. 30, which isn’t even during the primary rut. Second, aggressive calling works, as it took a grunt, snort-wheeze, doe estrus bleat and another snort-wheeze to pull the buck close enough for a shot. Eiring made good on it and recovered the deer several hours later.

(The outfitter) suddenly turned around and pumped his fist, and we all knew it was time to celebrate, Eiring said. I’m so thankful that God gave me this opportunity, and that he helped me hold it together to harvest the buck of a lifetime. It was an emotional moment as I put my hands on Hollywood’s antlers and thanked him for his life.

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15. The Dan Odom Deer

Dan Odom thought he shot a huge deer during the 2018 season. Unfortunately, despite thinking he hit the deer well, he couldn’t find any sign that he’d connected on it. The tracking job was perplexing.

I almost gave up on looking for the deer after scouring the area and finding no signs of a hit, he said. I was literally seconds from calling it a clean miss when I spotted what appeared to be a bedded deer.

After recovering the buck, Odom learned the deer had crossed a major highway many times for a week or so before the successful hunt. So you never know where a buck might be during the rut. And never stop searching for a deer you think you hit. You might find the deer, even after hope is lost. Odom sure did.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>