Big Buck 411 Blog

Sorry, Little Brother

Sorry, Little Brother

By Mike Handley

Greg Shembarger is the reason I seldom use the phrase “buck of a lifetime.”

At 21 years old, the deer hunter from Berrien Center, Michigan, has already taken numerous bucks deserving of that designation, and I suspect there are many more in his future.

He was but a teenager when he dropped his largest in 2019, an Illinois bruiser that scores one tick shy of 238 inches. He was hunting that day with his dad, Jeff, in Fulton County, the same lease that yielded him a nearly 180-incher in 2012 and a 154-inch 9-pointer a couple of seasons later.

Greg’s latest is No. 2 on his all-time list, and he didn’t have to leave Michigan.

The Shembarger family uses trail cameras to inventory the bucks that traipse through the properties they hunt. In 2018, they retrieved photographs of a notable up-and-comer — adolescent in body, but with an above-average rack.

When the 10-pointer gained another four or five points the following season, they suspected the deer was the offspring of a giant they’d named Explosion years earlier, a whitetail that really packed on the inches with every new rack.

“We figured Firecracker was 2 1/2 years old the first year we got pictures of him,” Greg told Richard Smith, who’s writing the story for Rack magazine.

Although the deer might’ve easily surpassed the 150-inch mark in 2019, as a 3-year-old, the family decided to give him a pass. When Firecracker’s 2020 rack gained another 30 inches, however, they revoked it.

Had it not broken off most of its left antler before opening day that year, Greg’s grandfather would’ve ended it with an 80-yard shot.

The buck’s fifth (2021) set of antlers was an amazing 40 inches bigger.

Greg really wanted his little brother, Jeffery, to shoot the deer, mainly because Greg had already smoked a buck of a lifetime. The brothers hunted together for much of the season, the elder happy to play the role of cameraman.

They were not together on Nov. 23, however, when Greg chose an elevated box blind. As luck would have it, Firecracker followed a doe into a shooting lane 145 yards from the setup, a fatal mistake.

The deer’s last rack scores 212 inches!

— Read Recent Blog! Thanks, Brother! Cory Anderson considers his 11-pointer, which scores 175 7/8 inches, a gift from his brother.

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