Michigan's Top Bucks Of 2009

It seems the quality of our bucks gets better every year. Check out these trophies from last season and see if you don't agree. (September 2010)

John Benedict took the state's top-scoring buck, this 24-pointer from Tuscola County that measured 202 0/8 points.

â–  Photo by Richard P. Smith.

The highest-scoring whitetail known to have been taken in the state during the 2009 season was a 24-point non-typical from Tuscola County that was bagged by bowhunter John Benedict from Auburn Hills on Dec. 29. The impressive rack has 12 points per antler, a gross score of 209 1/8 and nets 202 even. That score is high enough to put the deer in eighth place among non-typical bow kills in the state, according to the eighth edition of Michigan Big Game Records.

The buck is the highest-scoring non-typical bow kill on record for Tuscola County, but even if gun kills are considered, it's still No. 3.

Benedict's name is not unfamiliar to anyone who has been paying attention to who collects Michigan's biggest bow bucks. His name has been at or near the top of the list a number of times during recent years because he targets the biggest bucks he can find, and he's a skilled hunter. He's also an expert at obtaining permission to hunt private land where whoppers live.

John had seen the trophy whitetail he got last December a number of times over the years, but mostly after dark. On the evening of Dec. 27, while hunting the property where the buck spent some of its time, Benedict saw what he thought was the buck just before dark. It spooked and ran toward some fields.

When going in the direction the buck had taken, John found a heavily used deer trail. Thinking that trail would be a perfect place to try to ambush the buck, he found a fallen tree nearby and cleared out a place to hide among its branches. He also trimmed a few branches to make a couple of clear shooting lanes to the trail.

John returned to his natural blind before daylight two days later.

"I was sitting on the trunk of a downed tree with a good cluster of branches for cover in front of me," Benedict wrote. "The wind was in my face, and the trail was already visible. Just as it got light enough to see, three does crossed the road from near a house that I could barely see through the trees. They were on the trail I was watching, so they would pass within 10 yards of my nest. I was concerned that they might see or wind me and scare the buck off, but they passed without notice.

"The buck stood on the far side of a road when I first spotted him. He was potbellied, swaybacked, and sported a huge non-typical set of antlers. My heart raced as he trotted across the road and into the woods a few yards, and began to browse on the sparse branches along the trail. His pace was much slower than the does that had preceded him, and he was a lot more wary.

"I got the bow up and into position when he was still 50 yards away. I had a good place to rest the limb so keeping it near the shooting position would not tire my arm, and I could use the bow as part of my concealment. The buck came directly down the trail into my first kill zone, but he was so close that movement was impossible.

"So I let him pass, and he continued to browse his way into my second kill zone," John continued. "The shot was quartering away, so I aimed behind the ribs toward the far shoulder. The arrow hit a little low, the deer bucked high in the air, took two jumps down the trail, and piled up."

The Rage broadhead on the end of Benedict's arrow sliced through the buck's heart. The whitetail weighed 186 pounds and was at least 5 1/2 years old. That deer may not have lived much longer, however, if John hadn't killed it. He said it had been gut shot with a .22 caliber bullet that probably came from a poacher's gun.

THE HARTLINE BUCK

Steve Hartline of Marcellus bagged another monster non-typical with 16 points in Cass County, using a muzzleloader during firearms season. No less than four of those points were drop tines. The rack has an official gross score of 206 2/8 and nets 198 3/8, according to Commemorative Bucks of Michigan.

The minimum score for entry of non-typical racks in Boone and Crockett's all-time records is 195 and it takes at least 185 to make the honorable-mention list. The Hartline Buck scores high enough to rank in the No. 4 spot among non-typical muzzleloader whitetails in state records. The buck is the second-highest scoring non-typical on record for Cass County, but is the highest scoring gun kill in that category because the No. 1 non-typical, scoring 219 6/8, was taken with bow and arrow by Bruce Heslett in 2000.

Hartline got his Boone and Crockett buck from a thicket where he has hunted for 10 years. His previous best buck from that spot was a 149-inch 8-pointer with a 21-inch inside spread that he nailed with bow and arrow on Halloween in 2005. He said the second tines on that whitetail's antlers were 13 inches long.

He also tagged an 11-pointer that measured 120. And two days before the 2009 firearms season opened, Steve arrowed a smaller 10-pointer from the thicket with a new bow.

By the time gun season begins, most cornfields in the area where Hartline hunts are cut, eliminating them as cover for whitetails. That was not the case in 2009. Most nearby cornfields remained standing during the first days of the gun hunt.

Those fields were cut on Nov. 20, which played a key role in Steve's success on his "Book" buck. Hartline talked to a farmer who was combining corn from a field near his thicket deer stand. The farmer told him that he saw two big bucks leave the corn as it was being cut. One went toward Steve's hunting area and the other went in a different direction.

Steve questioned the farmer about specifics regarding the antlers of the buck seen heading toward his hunting area, but the farmer is not a hunter.

"It was a great big buck," the farmer told him. "It had a great big rack." That was enough to get Steve excited about hunting.

The morning of Nov. 21 was wet, with light drizzle falling, which made for quiet walking. He headed for his stand an hour and a half before daylight to allow plenty of time for things to settle down after he got in position. As he approached his stand, he heard deer running through the thicket, which he assumed to be a buck chasing a doe.

Even after he climbed onto his stand, he continued hearing deer around him. He saw the big non-typical at 8:15.

"I heard two shots to the west," Steve

said, "so I faced that way for about five minutes in case a deer was coming from that direction. Then I looked behind me and to the sides. I saw him to the southeast. He was sneaking through the thicket and had his antlers tangled in some vines."

A bullet through the top of the shoulders dropped the whitetail in his tracks. Steve was hunting with a .50-caliber Knight Legend rifle that was loaded with 90 grains of Pyrodex and a 240-grain .44-caliber Hornady bullet. The rifle was sighted in for 100 yards, but the buck was only 40 yards away when Hartline shot it.

"When I shot the buck, I knew it had a drop tine," Hartline said, "but I didn't know it had four. When I saw it had four drop tines, I was so excited I couldn't pick its head up for 10 minutes. I didn't want to leave the deer because we've had some bucks stolen in this area. I finally contacted one of my friends by cell phone and had him pick me up with the deer."

The longest and shortest drop tines are on the right antler. The longest was 8 4/8 inches and had dried velvet on the end. The shortest extending from the bottom of the right beam measured 1 2/8 inches. The drops on the left antler were 4 1/8 and 5 2/8.

Hartline said he never saw the exceptional whitetail until he shot it, but it had to be the brute the farmer saw exit the cornfield as it was being cut. He said he talked to a bowhunter who had been hunting the deer 2 1/2 to 3 miles to the west from where he killed it. The bowhunter had trail camera photos of the buck, but he never saw it while hunting.

THE BLANCHARD BUCK

Donald "Doug" Blanchard from Twining bagged the highest-scoring typical antlered buck known taken in Michigan during 2009, according to CBM, and he got it with bow and arrow. The 12-pointer he arrowed in Washtenaw County on the morning of Oct. 27 had a gross score of 179 0/8 and nets 174 3/8. That puts the buck in 10th place among typical bow kills for the state and in fifth place among typicals from Washtenaw County. The Blanchard Buck is the second-highest scoring typical bow kill for the county.

Blanchard had been hunting the buck for three years before he finally got it. He obtained trail camera photos of the whitetail each of those years. During 2007, the buck had a volleyball net tangled in one of its antlers, so Doug referred to it as the Volleyball Buck.

Doug made a mock scrape along a creek bottom in his hunting area during September of 2007, using Ruttin' Buck scent. He set up a trail camera overlooking the scrape and that's where he got his first photos of the Volleyball Buck.

"I hunted him hard in '07," Doug said, "but I never saw him while I was hunting. I was still getting pictures of him with the trail camera at the scrape up through Thanksgiving and into December, but all of the photos were taken after dark. His movements were primarily nocturnal, so that's why I wasn't seeing him during shooting hours."

The buck's antlers had 11 points in 2007 and the rack would have probably scored in the 130s. Doug made a mock scrape in the same location during 2008 and started getting trail camera photos of the whitetail again. The deer's antlers had 12 points that year and would have scored in the 150s. The fact that some of the trail cam images were captured during daylight gave Blanchard some hope of seeing the buck that year.

Doug did see the buck while hunting during 2008, but only once, and at a distance of 180 yards. He watched the buck breed a doe on Halloween. While shed hunting during the spring of 2009, Doug found the buck's right antler, so he knew it had made it through another hunting season.

Blanchard reopened the mock scrape in the same location during September of 2009 where he had photographed the buck in the past; his efforts were rewarded.

"Sure enough, in mid-September he took over my scrape and made it his again," Doug said. "I was getting pictures of him every day, sometimes multiple times in one day. The one thing that was different, and gave me some great expectations of getting a shot at the deer, was that almost all the photos were taken in the daytime.

"When bow season opened, I was excited to get in the woods, but, as luck would have it, I couldn't hunt on the morning of Oct. 1 because I had to work. I hunted that evening with no luck, but did pull the card from my trail cam and discovered the buck had been under my tree stand at 8:30.

"I hunted every day I could and never got another glimpse of him until Oct. 27. When I found out I didn't have to work that morning, I raced to my tree stand and set up. At about 7:45 a.m. I had a nice 8-pointer come through at about 5 yards, but I passed him up because it was the Volleyball Buck or none.

"At 8 a.m. a big doe came to the scrape and then wandered off," he continued. "At 8:30 a.m. I finally saw the buck I had been waiting three years for. He came straight in, facing me, and did his thing at the scrape. As he started walking away, I stood up, drew my Mathews bow and released my arrow tipped with a Rage Broadhead when he was 18 yards away.

"When I saw the arrow hit him, I thought it was low, so I started cussing myself, but I made a better shot than I thought. The buck took off running for about 25 yards and stopped. He looked back in my direction and then fell over dead.

"That's when the shaking started," Doug recalled. "I sat down and tried to call some of my buddies that knew about the buck I was hunting, but my hands just wouldn't work. After about 25 minutes I was able to climb down from my climbing tree stand and walk the 45 yards to my buck."

The whitetail had a dressed weight of 225 pounds and was aged at 6 1/2. If the buck's antlers were in the 150s during 2008, it added at least 20 inches of antler in 2009.

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