Three Michigan Monster Archery Bucks
October 12, 2018
A number of amazing bucks were bagged by hunters in our state last fall with both bow and arrow and firearms. Here’s the story behind three of those giants, all of which were archery kills. Two of the three were taken with compounds and one was brought down with an arrow from a crossbow. The latter of those is actually a new state record among typicals taken with crossbows, according to state record keeper Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM).
Seventy-eight-year-old Cary Shear from Ann Arbor arrowed the monster 12-pointer with his crossbow in Washtenaw County on November 11, 2017. That rack has a gross score of 185 2/8 and nets 175 5/8. The previous state record typical crossbow buck was bagged by Trent Smith in Allegan County during October of 2016. That 10-pointer netted 175 2/8.
Andy Harpster from Allen and Chase Burns from Luther both scored bucks that qualify for the Pope & Young all-time record book for archery deer. Both bucks were taken with compound bows and had 11-point antlers. Harpster connected on private property in Hillsdale County on October 19, and Burns found success on public land in Lake County on November 2. The Harpster buck has a gross score of 182 5/8 as a typical and nets 167 2/8 after subtracting 15 3/8 inches for differences in measurements from one antler to the other. The Burns Buck grossed 178 4/8 and nets 171.
THE HARPSTER BUCK
Andy Harpster had been getting trail camera photos of the buck he downed last fall since 2014. Harpster saw the impressive buck twice while hunting during 2015, once each during firearm and muzzleloader seasons, but was unable to get a shot at the giant either time.
Harpster has a trail camera monitoring a mock scrape by one of his tree stands and that’s the camera on which images of the big buck were captured during 2014 and 2015. He normally only got one or two photos of the buck each year. The camera captured the whitetail’s image on October 15, 2014, and November 19, 2015. The same camera photographed the buck on October 14, 2016.
Then the mature buck disappeared from view. Andy didn’t see it while hunting during 2016 and did not get any more photos of it on camera. He assumed the buck was dead, having been killed by another hunter.
Fast forward to October 16, 2017, Andy’s first bowhunt of the year. He decided to climb into an observation stand on property he has permission to hunt that is a half mile from land he owns and manages for deer. A huge field separates the two properties. Harpster said he wanted to see what deer were moving where and he had a spotting scope with him, so he could see detail from a long distance.
A doe, her fawn and a yearling buck were in a field about 100 yards away at 4:30 p.m. when the big 11-pointer joined them. Andy was pleased the buck was still alive. He then tried to lure the exceptional whitetail within bow range, but it wouldn’t come any closer than 60 yards.
The bowhunter said he’s confident about placing arrows accurately out to 60 yards under normal circumstances. He didn’t feel comfortable taking a 60-yard shot at the 11-pointer when he saw it on October 16, however, because he was shaking badly. The buck’s antlers were bigger than they had been the year before and the anticipation of possibly getting a shot at a deer of that caliber gave Andy a case of buck fever.
When the buck walked away, it set course for the property Harpster owns. He watched the deer walk out of sight in that direction.
The next morning, Andy checked the trail camera overlooking the mock scrape on his land and a photo confirmed the buck had been there at 7:30 p.m. the previous evening. He wished he had been in the tree stand overlooking that scrape then, but he was in that stand on the afternoon of October 19. About 4:30 p.m. a doe appeared first, headed toward one of Andy’s food plots. Then the bowhunter spotted the 11-pointer in the woods behind the doe 40 yards away and grunted to try to get it to come closer.
Instead of coming closer, the whitetail started walking away. Andy ranged an opening the buck was headed for at 47 yards and grunted loudly to stop the buck angling away. Harpster quickly took aim and released. He was shooting Easton Arrows with full metal jackets and 4-blade Muzzy Broadheads out of his 70-pound pull Browning Bow.
“I had to kneel down to take the shot to avoid a limb that was in the way,” Andy explained. “I wasn’t shaking this time, so I felt good about the shot, but the heavy arrows I shoot are slow. The buck heard the arrow release and started to leave. He dropped down to turn and the arrow hit him in the neck. The arrow went up the neck and shattered the skull. He dropped on the spot.”
Chase Burns has been hunting the same large chunk of state-owned land in Lake County for 28 years with his brother, Chance. During recent years, their hunting party has included mutual friend A. J. Holmes. They hunt with both bow and arrow and firearms. Hunting pressure is lighter on the public land during archery than gun season, according to Chase.
“One of us usually always shoots a decent buck,” he added.
The trio normally hunt from baited stands, and they put out trail cameras to get an idea of what deer are in the area.
“We first got the big buck I eventually killed on camera during late October,” Chase said. “The three of us hunted hard after we got the photos, hoping one of us would get a shot at him, but we never saw him while on stand. We ended up getting photos of the buck on three different cameras.
“I only saw the buck once before the day I shot him. It was a rainy Saturday and I decided to check the cameras during midday. When I walked in to check one of the cameras at 1:00 p.m., I got a glimpse of the buck. He was in bow range, but I didn’t have my bow and arrows with me. Even if I would have had them, I don’t know if I could have gotten a shot at the deer.”
On November 2, Chase got up planning on going hunting, but it was raining again, so he decided not to hunt to avoid getting wet. At 9:30 a.m., he went to check their cameras. After checking one of the cameras, he was driving down a dirt trail to the next spot when he saw a group of deer and one of them had a big rack. Burns realized the buck was chasing does.
He continued driving along the woods road until he was far enough to be out of sight and hearing of the deer, then parked his truck and got out with his bow and arrows to see if he could cut the buck off. The rainy conditions made for quiet walking and Chase made sure he had the wind in his favor, too.
Burns spent an hour and a half trying to maneuver within bow range of the distracted buck without spooking him. He saw the whitetail a couple of times, but it was never close enough for a bow shot. Chase wanted to hunt from a stand later that day, so when it was obvious his chances of sneaking close enough to the buck for a shot were slim to none, he decided to head back to his truck.
While walking back to his truck, his cell phone vibrated and when he answered it his father asked, “Did you have any luck this morning?”
At the same time, Chase spotted the big buck he was after no more than 15 yards away, stomping a front foot. Burns hung up on his father and knelt down, hoping he might be able to get a shot at the deer. Fortunately, he still had an arrow on the string.
He came to full draw with his 70-pound-pull Mathews No Cam Bow, thinking about shooting the buck in the chest, but then the deer turned to leave and Chase put his arrow through the whitetail’s left shoulder. When Burns had earlier given up on getting a shot at the whitetail and started walking toward his truck, he no longer tried to be quiet. I suspect the buck he was after thought the sounds of Chase walking was another buck trying to encroach on his hot doe and the deer came to investigate, planning on chasing the competition away.
“I’m not a trophy hunter,” Cary Shear said. “I hunt for the meat. But if a big buck comes along, I don’t have a problem shooting it.”
That’s exactly what happened when Shear got the state record 12-pointer with his Barnett Wildcat Crossbow. He was hunting a food plot from a tree stand when a doe came out of the woods, walked across the food plot and entered a cornfield.
“The buck came out of the woods on the doe’s tracks and he was following her,” Shear explained. “When he stopped at 38 yards, I took the shot. He was ready to head the other way after the doe. I knew if I didn’t take that shot, I wasn’t going to get one.
“I think that buck was lost. I had never seen him before.”
The doe that buck was following was most likely in heat, and that’s what attracted him to the area. Cary said he doesn’t use trail cameras, so the whitetail could have been in the area and might have been primarily nocturnal until the day he saw it. The bolt from Shear’s crossbow scored a great hit, so the buck only went about 80 yards before dying.
“It was daylight when I shot the buck, but I waited a half hour before I started to follow the blood trail. I had to use a flashlight then. After following the blood trail for 50 yards or so, I had difficulty figuring out where it went, so I simply shined the flashlight in the direction he had been going and I saw this big white blob that was his belly.”