Missouri's Big-Buck Roundup

Missouri's Big-Buck Roundup

Did you get your trophy last season? Well, these Show Me State hunters certainly did. Here are the stories of some of the biggest deer taken in Missouri last year.

By Tony Kalna Jr.

It's hard to believe that in just two months hunters will be taking to the woods for the opening of Missouri's archery season in October. I'll be one of the first in the woods, sweating and swatting mosquitoes and flies and dreaming about the upcoming rut.

I've told myself year after year that I am not going to hunt the early season, but rather will wait until the weather cools down and the bucks start rubbing and scraping as the peak of the rut approaches. Why, then, year after year, do I continue to climb into a tree stand on opening day when I know that I have literally hundreds of days left to bowhunt, and at least 26 days for deer-hunting with firearms?

The answer is in the stories of these amazing bucks killed during last year's deer seasons and the hunters who killed them. You simply never know when one of these brutes will offer a broadside shot beneath your stand, and I want to tilt the odds in my favor. More time on stand equals a better chance at least to see an awesome whitetail like these lucky hunters bagged during the 2002 Missouri deer seasons. Read on to relive their exciting hunts and see photos of some of the biggest bucks taken in the Show Me State last year!

THE KING OF CRAWFORD COUNTY
Everyone goes into the deer woods with great expectations and dreams of killing a once-in-a-lifetime trophy buck, but I doubt that most ever expect it to happen.

Kelly Tucker of House Springs is just like most of us. He too went out into the deer woods with those same hopes and dreams but his became a reality on Nov. 16, 2002, opening day of Missouri's firearms deer season.

Angie Kostecki's monster non-typical features an 11-inch third antler growing out the middle of its head! Photo courtesy of Angie Kostecki

Tucker is no deer-hunting amateur by any stretch of the imagination. With 28 years of deer hunting experience under his belt, he has a little bit of knowledge to bring to the table when it comes to chasing whitetails.

He would put all of his knowhow to use this year when he picked a spot to hang his tree stand in the vast timber of the Mark Twain National Forest in Crawford County.

If you have ever hunted the big woods of the national forest, you know that every ridge, ravine and tree can look alike, and with so much of an area to choose from, it's hard to decide where to pinpoint a place to hang your stand.

Tucker decided on a ridgetop that looked exceptionally good for deer and where he had success in the past. The year before he bagged a nice 6-point buck here and decided to give it another try in 2002.

While bowhunting the area during the first weekend of November, Tucker made a mock scrape beneath an overhanging branch near his stand. He doused the scrape with some estrous-doe urine and left, hoping for the best when he returned on opening day of firearms season.

The big day finally came, and although Kelly didn't do any good on opening morning, his friend shot a nice 8-pointer about 200 yards away. Tucker left the woods to help his buddy get the deer out of the timber and get it checked in.

By the time he got back in the woods it was approximately 2:30. Before he climbed back into his stand, he checked the mock scrape he'd made two weeks prior, and to his surprise, the fake scrape had been torn up and reopened by a real buck! The limb above the scrape was ripped up as well! Tucker was pumped; his adrenaline was flowing. He quickly climbed into his stand for the afternoon hunt.

It was nearly two hours before Tucker saw a deer. At about 4:30 a buck appeared about 50 yards away and began to approach the mock scrape. The hunter knew it had a decent rack, so he raised his Savage .30-06 and fired.

At the report of the rifle, the buck ran over the hill but quickly looped around to give Tucker a second shot at a distance of 30 yards. This time the buck ran about 20 yards and collapsed just out of sight over the hill. He knew the deer was down by the sound of thrashing leaves as the buck expired.

"When I got down to find it and came to it, I couldn't believe it," Tucker said. "It had an amazing 19 points!"

Tucker was elated. His big woods buck, which field-dressed at 175 pounds, would finally net 188 4/8 inches as a B&C non-typical. The buck's rack was truly like a king's crown; sporting a 23-inch inside spread, it had over 24-inch main beams on each side! Its 11 4/8-inch G3 was the headgear's longest tine.

SCOTLAND COUNTY'S SUPER-BUCK
Deer hunting as an autumn tradition has a firm hold on Missourians. Each year, scores of hunters and their families take to the woods in hopes of tagging a whitetail. The Evans family of House Springs knows all about family deer hunting traditions. During the 2002 November portion of the firearms deer season in Missouri, a seven-member family crew met to hunt a private 500-acre farm in Scotland County, near the Iowa border.

The farm is composed of lots of CRP fields and grown-up hayfields; a big ravine cuts through the middle of the property. The ravine is where the majority of the 100 acres of timber on the tract is at and where lots of deer pass through.

Dave Evans, the patriarch of the family, saw only one doe on opening morning. The rest of that morning he listened to his relatives shoot deer and helped them field-dress their whitetails and get them back to camp.

In a 45-minute span, Dave's brother Dan shot an 8-pointer, his son killed a big 11-pointer, his son-in-law Eric shot an 8-point buck, and his other son Bo killed a 6-pointer! To say the least, Dave was very busy with cleaning and dragging chores.

With venison hanging from the meatpole after all that hard work, you'd think that Dave would be satisfied - but not so. Like any red-blooded Missouri deer hunter, Dave, ready for an afternoon hunt, got back into the woods at about 1 p.m.

This time however, Dave opted to hunt from his son Mitch's stand. Mitch is the deer scout of bunch, and since his son had already killed a 187-pound 11-pointer from the same stand, he thought it must be a hot place.

It was 4 p.m. before Dave saw a deer, but he couldn't make out whether it was a buck, or how big it was, so he let it disappear into the thicket near the stand. Just as he turned his hea

d the other way, Dave spotted another deer. This time he could see the tips of antlers but nothing else.

The buck was steadily walking in an incredibly thick patch of weeds, and when it momentarily paused under a big pin oak, Dave fired one shot from his Remington .270. The buck disappeared, apparently collapsing in the high weeds with the shot.

When Dave climbed down from the stand and walked over to the buck, he was astounded. One of the first things you notice about this buck is its huge body size. The deer field-dressed at a whopping 221 pounds! His super-buck had 15 points and a 21 1/2-inch inside spread. The rack also featured massive bases, 7 1/2 inches on the left and 6 1/2 inches on the right; its main beams measured over 23.5 inches each! At press time, this buck has yet to be officially measured.

PIKE COUNTY PECULIARITY
Just 21 years old, and with only five years of deer hunting experience, Tim Gunter, a student from Manchester, bagged a trophy buck of a lifetime while hunting the family farm in Pike County.

Tim and his dad Larry make it an annual tradition to hunt the 40 acres of Pike County real estate near New Hartford that they have affectionately named Indian Creek Farm.

Larry and Tim had both seen lots of deer sign and lots of deer prior to firearms season, so they both had high expectations for the season opener. They would not be disappointed, either, as Tim shot a nice doe and his Dad killed a button buck on opening morning.

The next morning, Tim climbed back into his portable stand perched some 30 feet off the ground overlooking the woods below, which were dotted with tree rubs and ground scrapes.

A little after 9 a.m., Tim heard a deer approaching his stand on the ridge coming up from Indian Creek. It was a nice doe, about 50 yards away, and as he admired her beauty, he heard another deer come running in. To his amazement, a big buck stopped within 80 yards of his stand to give the doe a good look.

The doe was getting nervous and started to move away from Tim's stand. Not waiting to see what would happen next, the young hunter just raised his Remington .30-06 and fired, dropping the deer in its tracks.

When Tim climbed down from his stand and walked over to the fallen buck he was in awe as he counted a total of 22 points, 17 of which are scorable. Tim Gunter's peculiar buck from Pike County later field-dressed at 217 pounds. He has yet to have it measured, but it is sure to measure up enough inches to make the state's record book!

MONTGOMERY COUNTY'S MONSTER UNICORN BUCK
Sometimes big things come in little packages, and Angie Kostecki is a good example of this old adage. I'm not sure of her exact height or weight, but guessing, I would say Angie is no taller than 63 inches and can't weigh any more than 105 pounds in a rainstorm. Despite her petite frame, deep inside is a deer hunter of gigantic proportions!

This little dynamo from Festus bagged a huge non-typical that must be one of the most unusual I've ever seen in some 30 years of deer hunting and 12 years as a full-time outdoor writer.

Angie, who has been deer hunting for three years now, gets in there and gets right after it with the guys. She doesn't expect anyone to find her a hunting spot - she can find her own place; she just likes to be left alone in the woods. She claims to have more patience than all the other hunters in her camp.

Two weeks before the season, Angie took her sister to her boyfriend's Uncle Jimmy's 100-acre farm in Montgomery County. Her objectives were to shoot some squirrels, to get her sister interested in deer hunting and to scout for deer for the upcoming season all in one trip.

As the two sisters ventured deeper into the woods, they jumped a big buck in the thickest and nastiest part of the farm. Angie decided then and there that this was the place she wanted to come to on opening morning.

The big day finally arrived. Angie made her way through the tangles of brush to get to the place in which she'd seen the big brute two weeks prior. Having sat in the woods since before first light, she finally spotted two does at 7:30 a.m. They came within 25 yards of the diminutive huntress, but she remained motionless, and they eventually left.

A little later Angie noticed that there were a bunch of rubs and ground scrapes not far from where she was sitting, so she changed her position slightly to get a better view of the buck sign.

This proved to be a great move, because at 9:30 she heard a deer running through the thicket. It was a big doe that all but literally ran over Angie. She had to get up on her knees to avoid being trampled!

Being a little exasperated by the close call with the doe, Angie remained on her knees but kept her calm. Then, almost immediately after the doe disappeared, the huge buck came running in and stopped just 15 yards away.

Angie had never killed a buck before, but she knew she had a real trophy standing at point-blank range in front of her. She didn't panic, however - a lot of hunters would have - and simply raised her scoped Marlin .30-30 and fired.

With the echo of the rifle discharging, the buck kicked up his hind legs and bolted out of sight. Angie was now very excited. She immediately got on the two-way radio. Uncle Jimmy responded and she told him that she just shot a big buck. He made his way to her, and though they looked for the big buck for an hour and a half together, they saw neither hide nor hair of the mystery buck that Angie had shot at!

Angie went back to the house with Uncle Jimmy, but she couldn't stay there. She went all the way back to her hunting spot and began looking for the giant buck by herself. To her surprise she found the magnificent buck crashed against several small trees.

The adrenaline kicked in, and Angie started screaming and yelling in excitement at the top of her lungs. She yelled so loudly that hunters on the adjoining farm heard her and, thinking someone was in distress, came over to investigate. When they saw that she was simply elated, they congratulated her and promptly put the buck on the back of their 6-wheeler, carrying the deer and Angie back to the farm house.

Upon arrival Angie was met by her fiancé, Mike, who had just brought back a respectable 8-pointer to the house that he shot. However, when everyone saw Angie with her trophy, you could have heard the celebration in the next county!

"It was the greatest feeling ever! Everyone was going crazy hugging and congratulating me. I'll never forget it," Kostecki said. "I want to give special thanks to Mike's Uncle Jimmy Hurst for allowing us to hunt on his farm."

Angie's magnificent Montgomery County monster featured a total of 17 points! However, the most amazing thing about this buck was

a third, entirely separate 11-inch antler growing right out of the middle of the buck's forehead to make it appear to be a unicorn buck!

The rack featured a 17 6/8 inch inside spread and a tip-to-tip spread of only 6 5/8 inches. The G1s were phenomenally long, with the right one at 11 1/8 inches and the left at 10 4/8 inches. G2s were 12 6/8 inches and 13 inches, G3s 9 6/8 inches and 9 5/8 inches, and G4s 3 3/8 inches and 2 inches. The unicorn buck had a 23 4/8-inch main beam on its right and a 22-inch one on its left. The rack had 40 2/8 inches of abnormal points and netted an amazing 204 2/8 inches non-typical!

Everyone is telling Angie that she will never kill another big buck like that one, and that she's just set herself up for a lifetime of letdowns with smaller bucks. However, this little huntress with a big heart doesn't let that discourage her. "Someday I'm going to get one even bigger," Kostecki said.

I'd bet that, someday, she will, too.

SUMMARY
If the stories and photos of these four amazing bucks don't give you symptoms of deer-hunting fever, you'd better check your pulse to make sure that you're still alive.

You never know when or where one of these brutes will appear, so plan now for this year's Missouri deer seasons!



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