Learn Buck Behavior During the Rut


No matter how much deer hunters prepare and strategize, often success comes down to one simple tenet: be in the right place at the right time.

Perhaps this is no more evident than when hunting during the rut, when deer travel patterns become unpredictable and, to many, downright mysterious. Luke Brewster of Bristow, Virginia, had only a few years of bowhunting experience under his belt, but he knew that when hamstrung with limited hunting time, the rut is when you need to be on stand as much as possible.

Screen Shot 2019 03 18 at 11.25.11 AM Learn Buck Behavior During the Rut
The Brewster Buck. (photo courtesy of the Pope and Young Club)
World Record: The Largest Nontypical Whitetail Buck Ever Taken
From left to right, Pope and Young measurers Stan Zirbel, Gil Hernandez, Kyle Lehr, Ken Witt, Ricky Krueger, Jack Reneau and Eli Randall with the new world record nontypical whitetail, harvested by bowhunter Luke Brewster in Edgar County, Illinois. Photo courtesy of the Pope and Young Club.

On Nov. 1, 2018, Brewster pointed his pickup west and drove 10 hours from his home in Virginia to Edgar County, Illinois, to hunt a piece of land owned by his father, Jim Brewster. There the Marine Corps veteran met up with three other hunters, locals who had permission to hunt the Brewster property. All three are veteran bowhunters who had been mentoring Luke on the finer points of successful stick-and-string hunting. Brothers Brent and Justin Cearlock and Ron Wagoner also do most of the hunting grunt work like putting in and maintaining food plots, hanging stands and using game cameras to monitor deer on the property.

The primo buck that all of the hunters were after had been nicknamed Mufasa, or the Lion King, by Wagoner. The group had been collecting photos of Mufasa for five years, watching the buckxe2x80x99s rack metamorphosize from a huge typical to a jaw-dropping, nontypical structure. It turns out that this isnxe2x80x99t all that uncommon among mature bucks.

xe2x80x9cIn general, bucks do produce more nontypical points as they age,xe2x80x9d said Dr. Grant Woods, a well-known deer biologist. xe2x80x9cMost bucks Ixe2x80x99ve followed through research or on trail cameras for my personal hunting have an antler configuration that includes more nontypical points as they mature. This may be due to genetics, injuries, etc.xe2x80x9d

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Whatever the reason, Mufasaxe2x80x99s antlers reached to the sky, stretching out into a freaky configuration that included several thick droptines. The morning of Nov. 2, 2018, Brewster climbed into a treestand situated next to a popular doe bedding area. His morning hunt was uneventful, with only a few does spotted. That afternoon, Brewster had to move to a stand farther south to give another hunter a crack at bagging Mufasa in the area where the buck had spent considerable time, based on game camera photos. His stand for the second half of the day was in a creek bottom deer travel route, with a heavily hit scrape a mere 26 yards away. As a soft rain fell, Brewster looked to the east and saw a doe bound off, frightened by some unknown danger. A moment later, Mufasa appeared to freshen the scrape. Brewster released an arrow at the monster buck and drew blood, then waited half an hour to trail his wounded prey.

Finding half of the arrow slathered in blood, Brewster surmised that hexe2x80x99d done lethal damage to the deer. He followed a short blood trail to the new world nontypical record. Upon inspecting the rack, Brewster noticed a fresh break in the left antler and what appeared to be a missing portion of bone. Sure enough, after retracing the blood trail, he found the other part of the left antler, broken off when the wounded buck ran into a tree. Due to a new rule instituted by the Pope & Young Club in 2016, Brewster was able to count the broken portion of the rack in the overall measurement.

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xe2x80x9cIt is up to the decision of the measurers, but if a broken portion of antlers matches up perfectly to the rack, it can be included in the measurement,xe2x80x9d said Rick Mowery, communications and marketing manager for Pope & Young. xe2x80x9cBut it has to match up perfectly, like you often find when gluing back together a broken jar or pottery.xe2x80x9d

The broken droptine would have reduced the overall measurement by about 20 inches. While it still would have been a new world record nontypical harvested by a hunter, being able to include it in the overall measurement of 327-7/8 inches and 39 points means it far surpasses the next-largest hunter-harvested nontypical whitetail, a 47-point, 312-inch buck taken by Stephen Tucker with a muzzleloader in Sumner County, Tennessee, in 2016. The Brewster buck blows the doors off the previous Pope & Young record, a 294-inch, 39-point nontypical bagged by Michael Beatty in 2000 in Greene County, Ohio.

Brewsterxe2x80x99s success proves that all of the time and effort spent planning a hunt, capturing photos of mature bucks and studying deer movements mean little if youxe2x80x99re not in the right place at the right time. Thankfully Brewster was, and this victor will forever enjoy the spoils.