The Biggest Bucks of 2023

Each fall the editors and writers of Outdoor Life hear about hundreds of giant bucks that have been taken by hunters all over the continent. With each trophy buck comes a unique and thrilling story. For us, these deer stories never get old. 

That’s because they’re about much more than inches of antler. They’re about the series of highs and lows that each hunter experienced before tagging the buck of a lifetime. The cool part is that most of these hunters are not professionals or elite hunters. Most of them are everyday deer hunters who got one golden opportunity and made the most of it. 

Here’s a look back at some of the biggest bucks we covered this year from all regions of the country. 

The Jason Thomas Buck

Jason Thomas with the giant, 12-point buck he killed in central Ohio. Courtesy Jason Thomas

An Ohio whitetail made news this fall when photos of the giant deer killed by Jason Thomas hit social media. Thomas hunted the buck from the ground, according to his own account: “I made it back to the cornfield and crawled more than 200 yards toward where I thought the deer was bedded. I carried my crossbow, my pack, and the small folding stool. By 12:30 p.m., I was in position and roughly 50 yards downwind of his bed. Now all I had to do was wait and hope my plan would pay off. Two hours later, I watched the buck saunter down the middle of the washout. He was headed my way and closing fast. When the buck got to 30 yards, I eased into a half crouch and raised my crossbow to prepare for a shot, but then he turned and faced directly at me. It seemed he hadn’t busted me because he came even closer through the cornstalks.”

The typical 12-point could be a new Ohio record. It has a 22 ½-inch inside spread, 26- and 29-inch mainbeams, and tines pushing 14 inches, according to Thomas. Scorers with Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records gave it a green score of 208 5/8, which makes it the new No. 1 in Buckmasters’ Perfect category for all weapons. Thomas plans to have a panel of Boone and Crockett scorers measure the rack after the 60-day drying period. Read the full story here.

The Hardy Shed Buck

Mike Reitz shot this massive Wisconsin nontypical from five yards. Mike Reitz

This buck isn’t a state record, but it is a bit of a local legend. Mike Reitz shot the deer with a 20-year-old PSE bow while hunting out of a brush blind. The buck was later rough scored by Pope and Young Ethic magazine editor and co-founder Steven Ashley. It green-scored 212 and 4/8 inches gross nontypical. Interestingly, the buck is responsible for growing the “Hardy Sheds” which, were found in 2022 about five miles from where Reitz later killed the deer in 2023. According to Reitz, that set of antlers scored 236 inches even. Without counting the spread, the sheds scored 219 7/8 inches, according to a video uploaded to Youtbue last year. The sheds are shown to have 28 scorable points, with 18 on the right side, and 10 on the left. It was quite possibly the biggest pair of shed antlers found in the state last year. Read the full story here.

Oklahoma 230

Ethan Kile gave his buck an unofficial green gross score of 229 7/8 inches. Courtesy Ethan Kile

On the opening day of Oklahoma’s bow season, Ethan Kile tagged a buck that he’d chased all through the 2022 season. He shot the enormous buck on a small, 40-acre parcel of private land in Gavin County.

“Friends and I unofficially scored the buck via the Buckmasters system at 229 7/8 gross inches, with 30 antler points you could hang a ring on,” Kile tells Outdoor Life. If the official score comes anywhere close to that 230-inch mark, Kile’s buck would be among the top 10 archery bucks ever taken in Oklahoma. Read the full story here.

Maine’s Great 8

Tim Elsenheimer with the giant 8-point buck. Courtesy Tim Elsenheimer

Not all record bucks have scores in the 200s. This giant, old 8-pointer taken by Maine hunter Tim Elsenheimer had a green score of 180 1/8 inches, with a net score of 176 1/8 inches. According to the Maine Skull and Antler Club, Elsenheimer’s buck should go down as the biggest 8-pointer ever taken in the state. The current state-record 8-point, taken in 1973 by Don St. Pierre, scored 168 6/8 inches. Read the full story here.

East-Texas Giant

Reili Brewer with the giant, 31-point whitetail. Courtesy Rickey Brewer

Reili Brewer sat through a cold, rainy day while hunting this enormous buck that her dad had scouted on the Red River Army Depot. The only people allowed to hunt the army base are military personnel, veterans, base employees, policemen, teachers, and service officials. Eventually the buck came out to feed on acorns and Reili made a 40-yard shot. With a green score of around 240 inches, this 31-point buck stands to set a new state record for the highest-scoring whitetail ever killed by a youth hunter. Read the full story here.

Empire State 180

Jeremy Williams with the 12-point buck he tagged on Nov. 18. Courtesy Jeremy Williams

A 180-class buck in New York state is a rare occurence. So when Jeremy Williams got a crack at this buck during archery season, it’s understandable that he was a little anxious. “I was shaking so bad I missed him clean, sending my arrow three feet over his back,” he says of his first encounter with the deer. But during gun season he made the best of a second chance and killed the deer at close range. The buck has a classic, wide 12-point spread with a green gross score of 181 1/7 inches. Williams says there’s a chance it could be a new Tioga County record. Read the full story here.

South Dakota Moose

Shauna Woodward with the buck she nicknamed “Moose.” Courtesy Shauna Woodward

This deer might not have a record breaking score, but it does have a truly unique rack. South Dakota hunter, Shauna Woodward nicknamed the buck with palmated antlers “Moose” and eventually shot him with her bow in a cedar grove. 

Woodward says Moose was looking a little ragged from the rut and only weighed an estimated 175 pounds. The buck’s unusual palmated rack was still in tremendous shape, though, with at least a dozen points. The estimated 6.5-year-old deer hasn’t been scored yet. A taxidermist who is doing a shoulder mount will eventually take the measurements, but Woodward says the numbers aren’t that important to her. Read the full story here.  

Iowa’s Public Land 210

Vandenburg with his biggest buck to date. Courtesy J.D. Vandenburg

While Iowa is known as a big buck state, it’s not like there are 200-inch deer hiding on every public property, in fact there are diminishingly few. That makes JD Vandenburg’s buck all the more impressive. “It was the last Saturday of bow season and I expected the parking area to be full, but surprisingly there were no vehicles. Still, the number of empty Hot Hands wrappers strewn around was a sign that it had been hammered during the rut, and on my way in I passed a couple of tree stands, a mock scrape, then a Shoot-n-See target hung from an oak tree,” he writes for Outdoor Life. 

Eventually Vandenburg shot this incredible buck, which would score more than 200 inches. “If I had to pick out one thing about him that blows my mind is the fact that he’s a main-frame seven. And none of his tines are short. I’ve shot 8-pointers with shorter tines than his last point. It’s just hard for me to believe that a deer like that exists—let alone that I’d get a chance to encounter him.” Read the full story here. 

PA Record

Autumn Pierwsza and her dad Erik knew a big buck was hanging around their hunting property north of Pittsburg. Pierwsza, a 16-year-old who has taken several bucks, just needed a chance at the deer in range. She got that opportunity on October 9 and made a great shot on the deer with her crossbow. The buck will rank as Pennsylvania’s No. 1 buck taken by a woman with a crossbow, according to Buckmasters scorer Will Leonard, and number three for crossbow bucks in the state. Autumn’s buck will be mounted, and Erik is delighted that she and her two sisters are dedicated hunters. Read the full story here. 

Alleged Poaching Cases

Unfortunately, not all of the noteworthy bucks taken this year have happy stories to go with them. The hunters who killed the following two deer are facing serious poaching allegations and formal investigations. 

The CJ Alexander Buck

CJ Alexander says he killed the buck with a crossbow on a 30-acre plot of private land but the location at which the buck was killed is now under question. Sierra Smith

Crossbow hunter CJ Alexander says he killed this phenomenal buck on his sister’s 30-acre property in Ohio. The state’s Buckeye Big Buck Club secretary Mike Rex gave the buck a green score of 206 7 / 8 inches. If that score were to hold up to a B&C scoring panel, Alexander’s buck would become the No. 3 all-time typical whitetail ever taken in North America, and the No. 1 typical whitetail in Ohio. However, amid poaching allegations surrounding the deer, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has confirmed that they confiscated the deer from Alexander’s possession and have launched an investigation. Read the full story here

The Hollywood Buck

Jason Walters reportedly shot this massive nontypical buck and then sent the photos to a Virginia deer hunting Facebook page. Dozens of people identified the deer as the Hollywood buck, a well-known deer with distinctive antlers that lived in and around the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. The trouble? Hollywood Cemetery lies roughly 70 miles northeast of where the man, Jason Walters, claimed to have shot his buck. People began contacting the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, accusing Walters of poaching it from Richmond city limits. Two additional bucks Walters claimed to have killed have also been identified by locals and wildlife photographers as living in the cemetery. Read the full story here.

The post The Biggest Bucks of 2023 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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