The Huff Buck: The Inside Story of the Second Biggest Typical Whitetail


While Dustin Huff sat in his treestand last November, all he was hoping to do was kill a deer big enough to beat his personal record of 134 inches. He’s been hunting the same 185-acre hog farm since he killed his first squirrel there when he was 10. He’s 27 now and grew up just about a mile down the road. While hunting the farm with his 7-year-old nephew earlier in the 2021 season, Huff killed a doe and his nephew got a five-pointer.

As a kid, Huff helped vaccinate hogs on the farm and baled hay. When he was 15, he started writing country songs. Three months after graduating high school, he moved to Nashville where he still wrote songs on the side while working for UPS. After three years, he said goodbye to the big brown delivery truck and started touring full-time, playing in a different state every weekend. Today, Huff is a bonafide singer/songwriter, and he travels back to Nashville from his Indiana home at least once a month for work.

When the last week of October and first week of November roll around, he takes some time off for hunting. On November 4, 2021, the Indiana woods on the farm had been very quiet. As evening settled in, Huff was about to call it a day when he saw movement down in the creek bottom about 70 yards away. A big buck had his nose to the forest floor, and for a second, Huff honestly thought it was a moose. Gaining his senses, he watched as the buck started to come his way.

It stopped at 40 yards. Huff reached for his crossbow, which three years ago he bought used for $300. He made a perfect shot, and the mechanical broadhead did its job. Huff watched the deer stumble and go down. A few months later, in an interview with Michael Waddell, Huff was asked what “history” he had with the buck. Had Huff been watching it grow over the years on his trail cam? Huff replied his history with the buck was all of about two minutes.

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In his mind, Huff thought he’d killed a solid 170-inch deer. Once the landowner saw it, he disagreed and said it might score a high 160—maybe. It took six guys to drag the buck out of the woods to the truck, and Huff snapped a couple of photos. Rightfully proud of the deer, Huff sent those photos to some friends. Around 2 a.m., things started to blow up.

Big Buck Blitzkrieg

That evening they hung the deer from a basketball goal, and a buddy put a tape to the antlers. When the totals started to come in, the numbers just kept getting bigger. A Google search later, and Huff thought he might have a new Indiana state record. That night, he sent a tweet and some photos to fellow country musician Luke Combs. At 2 a.m., presumably after a show, Combs called Huff for the details. Once he hung up, Combs tipped off the writers at The Meateater, who broke the story the next day. The headline read, “Photos: This Buck Might Crush the Indiana State Record.” It crushed the state record, alright. In fact, it is second only to Milo Hansen’s world record. The next day, Huff’s phone and Facebook page lit up.

“After that article, people were calling—from the news, on Facebook, and people wanted me to do podcasts. That went on for about a week,” Huff said. “I just kinda took it in stride, and it was all just crazy.” He was asked to do endorsements and go to deer shows. “I’m like ‘What’s a deer show?’ I didn’t know there was a deer business.”

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With all the notoriety, Huff’s prayers had been answered—literally. “In music, I’ve always prayed for a big break. The big break was this deer,” he said. The deer impacted his music career through sheer notoriety and name recognition. He’d hear from folks about how they were turned on to his music after hearing about what is now known as the Huff Buck. He plans to go on tour soon with his guitar and the deer, but those antlers that will be next to him are going to be replicas.

The Huff Buck Moves to Ohio

In the beginning of the big buck media storm, some people reached out to Huff about buying the antlers, and he initially turned them down. “But then I got to thinking,” he said. His dad needed money for stem cell therapy, and that doesn’t come cheap. So, Huff put a number out there just to see what would happen.

One person who contacted Huff was antler collector Keith Snider, who will be the first person to admit that he might have a bit of an obsession with antlers. “My wife would call it an illness,” he said. Snider has been collecting whitetail antlers since he was eight years old. “Folks collect salt shakers, cookie jars; I’ve never been into that stuff.” Today, his basement in Ohio is wall-to-wall whitetail racks. It’s what Cooperstown is to baseball. Words don’t do it justice, but this video might give you some idea. Snider was drawn to this buck for its size, but the story attracted him as well.

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“He [Huff] is out there just hunting,” explained Snider. “He’s not worried about killing a big deer. He took me back to hunting as a kid when I would go hunting. And if someone killed a doe, everyone would say how lucky they were.” Things are different now, though, said Snider. Thanks to better management, there are more deer, bigger deer. “The best whitetails are in our future.” To understand what Snider is talking about, check out the companion article, Indiana’s Big Buck Revival.

Eventually, Snider and Huff struck a deal, and the antlers now live in Ohio. Does Huff have any seller’s remorse? That’s a quick no. He’s still got the cape and some pretty good replicas. He’s always wanted some property of his own in Indiana, and he’s been looking around with his girlfriend. And there’s a new guitar, a Gibson J-45, that he’s finally going to pull the trigger on.

Snider says that if he was to ever part with the antlers, he’d want them to be on display for the public to see. For now, though, he has no plans to part with it. “Regardless of who owns it, it’s Dustin’s deer,” Snider said. “It will always be his deer.”

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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 >>