Bigger deer fell in 2009, but none garnered as many headlines. BTR scorer and taxidermist Rick Busse says the Stephens Buck was either 5 1/2 or 6 1/2 years old. Its field-dressed weight was 215 pounds.
By Tony Seals
Photo by Rick Busse
On Nov. 30, opening day of Ohio's 2009 firearms season, Brian Stephens harvested an outstanding buck while hunting his 180-acre family farm in the southwestern portion of the state. The 40-year-old software developer has enjoyed spending quality time with friends and family while hunting for whitetails and small game on the farm since he was 12.
Brian says the group has taken some nice bucks from this property over the years, but nothing comparable to the one he shot.
He first spotted the behemoth just after daylight as it followed a doe through thick cover within 50 yards of his favorite ladder stand at the base of a thickly wooded hillside. The place - where the corner of a CRP field cuts into the woods - is a perfect funnel.
"The buck stayed in the area for about 20 minutes, but it never offered a clear shot. I was sick," Brian said.
He saw seven more bucks that morning, ranging in size from a little forkhorn to a nice 10-pointer. They all paraded past his stand on the heels of a doe.
"I was never tempted," he said. "After seeing that giant buck, I wasn't about to shoot anything else."
He left for lunch at about 11:30 and returned to the stand around 1:00. Within minutes, he spotted a large coyote sneaking past the stand and shot it.
Two hours later, the commotion made by a group of nine does being harassed by a small 3-point buck stole Brian's full attention. He watched the deer for a few minutes before looking away. Seconds after he turned his head, Brian spotted the huge buck he'd seen earlier. It was following a fence line, coming straight toward him.
"It was 250 yards out and closing fast," Brian said.
The buck entered the edge of the CRP field 85 yards away to investigate a large scrape. Knowing he had to make his one shot count, Brian carefully settled the crosshairs on the broadside buck's vitals and squeezed the .50-caliber muzzleloader's trigger.
As the white smoke began to clear, Brian was afraid he'd missed the buck of his dreams. He saw it running off before, much to his relief, it stopped after 100 yards and fell over dead.
The hunter decided to regain his composure by enjoying an apple and a bottle of water while he waited for 30 minutes before getting down to eyeball his trophy. He could easily tell the animal was big from his treestand, but he was rendered almost speechless when he finally reached the buck.
"The rack was huge, bigger than anything I have ever seen," he said.
The shot was spot-on; the 250-grain bullet center-punched the buck's heart.
After finally snapping back to reality, Brian had to decide what to do next. Due to recent thefts on the farm, he was hesitant to leave the buck in the field out of fear someone would find and steal it. But he ultimately rushed back to the farmhouse to get his vehicle.
Moving the antlered boxcar was far from a one-man job, but with a little persistence and a lot of elbow grease, he managed.
With the buck removed from the field and lying on a utility trailer, Brian placed a tarp over it to surprise his father, along with the rest of the half-dozen hunters when they returned from the evening hunt. And surprised they were.
After a close examination of the trophy, Brian's father and others felt confident they had videotaped that particular buck just before the beginning of the 2007 firearms season. They'd filmed it less than 100 yards from where the big buck went to ground.
The rack appeared to have grown by about 100 inches in two seasons.
Editor's Note: For more information about and photographs of this eye-popping whitetail, log onto www.stephensbuck.com.
• Hunter: Brian Stephens
• Official Score: 225 3/8
• Composite: 249 6/8
-- Reprinted from the August 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.