As usual, some monster bucks hit the ground in Michigan during the November firearms deer season. And, not surprisingly, most of the whitetails with the largest antlers were tagged in southern counties that are part of Region 3. Here's the story about how, where and by whom three of the largest typicals were taken with centerfire firearms in our state during the 2016 season.
Each of that trio of bucks had antlers large enough to quality for all-time listing in national records maintained by the prestigious Boone and Crockett Club, with a minimum score of 170 required, as well as state records kept by Commemorative Bucks of Michigan. CBM provided the scores for these deer as well as information about the three largest typicals and non-typicals on record for our state.
All three of the top gun season bucks for 2016 came from the southernmost tier of counties, two from Monroe County and one from Berrien, but trophy bucks can and do pop up anywhere in Region 3.
THE CHAPMAN BUCK
Jeremy Chapman from Taylor bagged a 13-point typical on property he owns in Monroe County on the morning of Nov. 16, 2016. The rack had a gross score of 181 0/8 and netted 171 1/8. That score puts Chapman's buck in sixth place among typicals for Monroe County, according to the 10th edition of Michigan Big Game Records.
Although Chapman had owned and hunted the parcel for three years, the 13-pointer was the first buck he'd shot on the land because he passed up all of the other whitetails he saw to allow them to get older. And, he collected trail camera photos of the buck he eventually tagged each of those three years.
Jeremy's brother had the opportunity to shoot the same buck during 2015 when it had 11 points, but he decided to pass him up, and Chapman is obviously pleased his brother made that decision.
"After the morning hunt, we texted each other to meet back at the camper," Jeremy wrote in an account of his hunt. "As you walk out of our property, there is a gate that you have to walk by. As my brother was walking by the gate, he looked into the woods to the left and he was looking eye to eye with a beautiful buck that was lying down about 40 yards away. My brother chose to pass on the buck. Since that day, this deer earned his name as 'The Gatekeeper.'"
Based on the photos Jeremy collected of the buck over the years, it had a 9-point rack during 2014. Assuming the whitetail was 2 1/2 years old that year, he would have been 4 1/2 last fall. Since the buck had 11 points during 2015, his antlers added 2 points from the year before and he did the same thing between 2015 and 2016. The whitetail had a typical 12-point frame with a split G-2 on the right side by 2016.
Nov. 16 was Jeremy's first day of hunting during the 2016 firearms season. He flew home from a trip on the 15th. Due to the fact that his flight didn't arrive until late, Chapman overslept on the morning of the 16th and he didn't make it to his tree stand until 7:35 a.m., which is about 30 minutes after legal shooting time. The first deer he saw was a button buck that appeared at 9 a.m.
"I was bored so I decided to play with the button buck with my grunt call," Jeremy wrote. "He would trot away and I would grunt loud because it was windy and he would come right back. I did this two or three times. The last time, he was about 15 yards from me and I shifted my weight, making a noise. He heard the sound and looked up. After seeing me, he took off in a hurry.
"Twenty minutes later, The Gatekeeper came walking in. I truly believe that because I was grunting at the button buck he heard me and came to investigate. He came walking out of the thickets quartering away. I had my shotgun lying across the shooting rail of my tree stand. Every time he would take a step forward and put his head behind a tree, I would move a little to position my gun for the shot."
The buck was 40 yards away when Jeremy dropped him with a slug from his 12-gauge Beretta mounted with a Nikon scope.
"I had no idea the deer was a Boone and Crockett buck," Chapman commented. "What's unusual about the rack is the beam tips are crossed. The tip-to-tip spread is a negative number (-1 3/8)."
The inside spread between the beams is only 13 7/8 inches. The third tines on both sides are more than 11 inches long and the fourth tine on the left side is an even 11 inches. The fourth tine on the right side is only 10 1/8 inches long, resulting in 7/8 of an inch in deductions. The non-typical tine on the right side is 5 5/8 inches long.
THE ARNY BUCK
Brian Arny from Coloma bagged an impressive wide-racked, heavy-beamed 11-pointer in Berrien County on the morning of Nov. 27 that has a gross score of 181 1/8 and nets 172 5/8. That buck ranks fourth among typicals from that county. Arny got trail camera photos of the buck during 2015, but never saw the deer while hunting. That all changed last fall. Brian's father saw the Booner during early October while bowhunting, but it was too far away for a bow shot.
It was Nov. 11 before Brian got a look at the trophy whitetail with his eyes. After hunting that morning, Arny was in his vehicle preparing to leave when he saw the buck in the road. After the deer walked into a cornfield, Brian parked his vehicle, grabbed his bow and arrows and sneaked up to where he last saw the buck. The 11-pointer exited the corn behind him and spooked.
Brian was back in the area the next day. The monster was one of five bucks he saw while in his tree stand that memorable morning. The 11-pointer even chased a hot doe past Brian's stand and within bow range a couple of times, but it went by so fast no shot was possible. Brian mouth-grunted to try to stop the buck, but it ignored him.
That was the last time Arny saw the whitetail before gun season opened. He spent the first days of firearms season hunting out of the family's traditional deer camp at Irons. When he returned home on the 20th, he was concerned someone else might have shot the big buck, but his camera had captured a photo of it the day before, and so Brian was optimistic about still having a chance to put his tag on it, but work and illness prevented him from hunting again until the 27th.
The morning didn't get off to the best start. Brian climbed into position in his tree stand before daylight. After reaching the stand, he dropped his orange hat. After retrieving that, he dropped his gloves and headlamp. It was light enough to see by the time Brian got settled in his stand with all of his gear.
"A few minutes later, I saw movement across the field to my left," Arny wrote in an account of his hunt. "I glassed with my binos and saw that it was a really nice buck. I quickly got my scoped Ruger .44 Mag up and ready. The buck was 160 yards away and walking down the treeline. I practice at 200 yards with my Ruger so I knew I could make that shot.
"I wanted him to stop before taking a shot, though. To my surprise, before I could shoot, he turned right and started across the open cornfield coming toward me. He stopped at 113 yards and turned broadside. I put the crosshairs on him and pulled the trigger and he went down like a ton of bricks.
"When I started across the field toward my buck he looked bigger and bigger the closer I got. There was no ground shrinkage is this case. More like growage! I sat down next to the buck, staring at him for at least 5 minutes. I was so thankful that I was able to shoot a deer of this caliber. It's a once-in-a-lifetime buck!"
Both of the buck's main beams were about 25 inches long. The G-2s and 3s on both antlers were 9 to 10 inches long and the bases of the beams were more than 5 1/2 inches in circumference. The inside spread was 23 4/8 inches.
THE WOOD BUCK
Michael Wood from Carleton got our state's highest-scoring typical for 2016, according to state record keeper Commemorative Bucks of Michigan, also in Monroe County, on the morning of Nov. 25. The 12-pointer had a gross score of 186 7/8 and netted 178 6/8. That buck is the second-highest scoring typical on record for the county. A Massive 10-pointer that Michael Kelly shot during the 1997 firearms season scored 184 5/8, according to CBM records.
Wood said he was still in bed that morning when he got a phone call from his stepmother, who doesn't live far away and owns land where Michael normally hunts whitetails. He hadn't planned on hunting that day because it was his wedding anniversary.
Wood's stepmother told him there were a couple of deer behind her house, if he wanted to bring his two sons over to see if they could get one of them. Michael's two sons are 8 and 10 years old. The 10-year-old shot his first buck, a 6-point, on opening day of gun season. Realizing the boys were still asleep, and so was his wife, Michael decided to check out the deer situation himself.
Not long after settling into a ground blind, Wood saw the antlers of a huge typical 100 yards away. All he could see were the antlers and they were the biggest he had ever seen.
"Five seconds after I saw the big one, a 10-point steps out of the woods to my left and he's bigger than any deer I've ever shot," Michael said.
Wood was tempted to shoot the 10, but decided to wait on the chance he could get a shot at the bigger buck. The fact that Michael had already filled a buck tag with an 8-pointer during bow season played a role in that decision. Soon after passing up the 10, the bigger whitetail chased it away. Then two more bucks appeared and they also were chased out of sight by the Booner.
"The last time I saw the monster buck he was chasing another buck going away from me," Wood remembered. "I thought I would never see him again. I thought I missed my chance."
At that point, Michael thought he made a mistake by passing up the 10. Five minutes later, a doe appeared about 90 yards away, crossing a field in front of the blind, and the big buck was behind her. By then Wood had calmed down and he had his scoped 12-gauge Remington Express on a rest. A well-placed Hornady SST slug cinched the deal on Michigan's biggest typical for 2016. Passing up the 10-point paid off after all.
The 12-pointer was 5 1/2 years old and had a dressed weight of 220 pounds. Michael couldn't have asked for a better anniversary present.