Brian Damery’s Illinois Giant

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Many whitetail hunters remember 1993 as a tough year for overall deer movement, and harvest records from that fall tended to bear out that impression. From one region to the next, it simply wasn’t a good season for seeing a lot of bucks. Despite this, when the dust had settled, 1993 proved to be an incredible year for top-end typical bucks.

It’s well known that Milo Hanson shot his 213 1/8-point Boone and Crockett world record in western Saskatchewan on Nov. 23 of that year, and he justifiably got a lot of the headlines following the season. But far away in central Illinois, Brian Damery connected on a giant typical that’s equally impressive. In fact, it happened only four days before Milo got his historic trophy.

Brian, then age 28, was working in the fertilizer business and residing in the small town of Blue Mound. He’d begun bowhunting at the age of 16 but never really got into it until he’d turned 25. Since then he’s taken it very seriously and primarily considers himself a bowhunter, though he does hunt with a shotgun during Illinois’ short slug seasons.

This story really began in early 1993, when a neighboring landowner’s dog dragged up a big shed antler. The landowner later crossed paths with Brian through the fertilizer business and showed him the antler. Brian was impressed enough to ask to borrow the shed so he could show it to his father-in-law and a couple of other friends. They scored this right antler, which had a 28-inch main beam, and came up with a total (gross) score of 85 inches. Doubling that figure would give the buck a gross score of 170, and that was with no spread. With even a 20-inch inside spread, he likely would have grossed around 190, and it was apparent from the curve of the shed that the rack had been much wider than that!

This was a fresh shed, found near the end of March, so Brian assumed the odds were good that the buck would be around for the 1993 season. He obtained hunting permission from the landowner where the shed was found and began scouting during the summer, hoping to get a glimpse of what he knew was a monster buck. But despite this effort, he never managed to see the deer.

As the Oct. 1 bow opener neared, Brian intensified his scouting but only managed to find some huge tracks, which he assumed belonged to the buck. He hoped to take the buck with his bow and hunted hard the entire first week of bow season. Brian regularly saw bucks, but the giant managed to elude him day after day, with not so much as a simple sighting. Was he really here?

Work commitments mounted, and Brian was unable to hunt much during the remainder of early bow season. He knew some other hunters were also in the area, and he could only hope they wouldn’t get “his” buck.

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A couple of days before the Nov. 19 opening of slug season, Brian decided to move his bow stand across a creek to a spot he felt could be better. He noticed there were many vines on this new tree he’d chosen, but he gave little thought to them.

On opening day of the gun season, however, Brian gave a great deal of thought to those same vines. Climbing into the tree before dawn, he innocently came into contact with them and soon realized they were poison ivy! Before the hunt had even started, Brian’s face and hands were itching relentlessly, and soon one eye had swelled shut. He was in no shape to hunt and had little choice but to go to the doctor.

After receiving some medication, salve and a shot, Brian decided to hunt, regardless of the discomfort. He finally crawled into his stand at noon. The wind was howling, and as he spotted another hunter across the field from him, he concluded that indeed this was not starting out to be one of his best gun seasons.

Brian’s stand had been placed along a line of brushy timber overlooking a tilled corn field and a hay field dotted with a few round bales. Although he’d never seen the buck that had grown the big shed found on the farm, he nevertheless felt this area was one of the most likely spots for him to be living in; it was only a quarter-mile from where the shed had been found.

About 1 p.m., as Brian was glassing, he caught sight of moving antlers and couldn’t believe his eyes. The giant buck had just stood up from his bed in a grassy waterway in an open field about 600 yards from him! The rack looked so big that Brian nearly lost his composure, but he could only sit and watch, with nothing between him and the buck but open field.

Brian soon saw that there was a big 8-pointer, as well as a couple of does. Apparently, based on the bucks’ actions, one of the does was in heat, and all of the deer were there as a group.

For two agonizing hours Brian watched the group of deer and the other hunter, who still hadn’t seen the buck or other deer. Finally, at 3 p.m., Brian convinced himself that the deer wouldn’t be coming his way. They hadn’t moved far at all during this time, but Brian decided his best bet would be to get down and try to get closer, in hopes that they would come part of the way to him.

Brian eventually did get somewhat closer, but with the sparse cover and poor wind direction, he finally concluded around 3:30 that he would slip out of there and leave them alone until the next morning.

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Needless to say, that night included little sleep; Brian couldn’t get the huge buck out of his mind. Not surprisinglya, the next morning he was in his stand a full hour before daylight.

About 10 to 15 minutes after dawn the hunter again spotted the group of deer, but this time they were in the hay field, slowly working toward the same waterway where they had bedded the previous day. After about 15 minutes, Brian was sure of their direction and knew they weren’t going to pass anywhere near his stand. He’d have to make a move.

There was a thin strip of willows and brush along a hedgerow, so the hunter began belly-crawling in hopes of cutting off the buck before the deer could get into the waterway. Brian had crawled with his head low for about 200 yards before he heard antler

s thrashing a willow bush not far ahead of him.

With his heart in his throat, the hunter slowly raised his head, hoping the buck would be within range of his 12-gauge pump, which was loaded with rifled slugs. Suddenly, the 8-pointer walked across an open willow run, never seeing Brian as he passed.

The grass here was only a couple of feet tall and offered scant cover for Brian to crawl to a final patch of weeds between him and the big buck, which now was following the doe toward the grassy waterway. Brian knew the buck was close, and he hardly dared to raise his head above the cover. He lay there in 6 inches of water for more than 20 minutes, hoping the buck would pass within range.

After what seemed like hours of waiting, the hunter finally saw the buck walking broadside at 75 yards. It was now or never!

As Brian fired, the buck bolted, but instead of going the other way, the deer ran straight at him! Brian short-stroked the pump action and jammed the empty shell back into the chamber. In the excitement of it all, he then stood up, trying to clear the action.

By this time the big buck had run to within 20 yards of Brian, who still couldn’t fire. The buck veered to the side and was running at 50 yards when the hunter finally got a bead on him again. He missed cleanly, but when the buck was at 80 yards and still running, Brian dropped him with his third shot. (As it turned out, his first shot had been a killing one, but that was only after-the-fact knowledge.)

This was certainly a mature buck, estimated to be 5 1/2 years old with a dressed weight of 210 pounds. But the real story is the rack. This Macon County buck is unquestionably one of the largest-framed typicals ever taken, and he has the highest gross typical score ever recorded anywhere in the world.

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As it turns out, after the drying period and an official scoring by Dave Boland, the giant had a gross typical score of 231 1/8 points (inches). After deducting the side-to-side differences for asymmetry, the net typical score was 222 7/8 points, which would have shattered even Milo Hanson’s new world record by nearly 10 inches.

Unfortunately for Brian, the presence of abnormal points knocked his deer’s final score way down the ladder. All five of the Damery buck’s abnormal points are typical deductions, but the double brow tines hurt him the most. His extra brow on the right side is 6 4/8 inches, so had it never grown (or been broken off), the net score would have been 206 6/8 – a half-inch above James Jordan’s longtime world record, which the Hanson buck broke. And, had the Damery buck not grown the “extra” 7 4/8-inch brow tine on the left, he’d have netted 214 2/8, which would be even higher than the final score of the Hanson buck.

No matter what the Damery buck’s net score might have been with a bit of luck, he still nets out at 200 2/8 typical, which places him firmly among the top handful of bucks ever scored.

What sets the Damery buck apart from perhaps all others is the incredible combination of inside spread (28 3/8 inches) and main beams (32 4/8 and 32 0/8 inches). The spread is one of the widest of any record buck, and the beams certainly are among the longest. To have both amazing features on one rack is perhaps unheard of, even among world-class deer.

Although several of the Damery buck’s tines lean forward at a sharp angle, thus reducing the overall height of the rack, they add up impressively on the score sheet. Thanks in large part to their presence, the right antler grosses 104 1/8 typical, which is one of the highest such totals on record. The left antler grosses 98 5/8, which is still easily world class. What’s more, all but two of the eight circumference measurements on the rack are over 5 inches, the largest going 8 2/8 between common-base points. Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest typicals ever taken.

I’ve long felt that Illinois is one of the top picks for a potential world-record typical, and Brian Damery’s buck only reinforces that notion. In the record book, there still are fewer than a dozen confirmed 200-inch net typical whitetails, and Illinois has to its credit two of them. Mel Johnson’s 204 4/8-point Pope and Young world record by bow (shot in 1965) further proves the state’s potential for growing great typicals. And, for all we know, an even bigger one still could be walking somewhere in the Prairie State!

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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 >>