There is, arguably, nothing more majestic in the Missouri outdoors than a mature whitetail buck. The beauty and grandeur of a trophy rack is something to behold!
The definition of a trophy buck is relative, I suppose. But for the purposes of this article we are talking about rocking-chair type racks. Those trophy bucks that haunt your dreams at night and keep you in the stand during the worst weather conditions.
Missouri is nationally recognized as one of the premier states to hunt trophy whitetails. We are famous for the "Missouri Monarch," the current No. 1 Boone and Crockett non-typical buck found dead on Nov. 13, 1981, by Dave Beckman in St. Louis County. That record-breaking buck featured 44 scoreable points, a 25 1/8-inch inside spread, and netted 333 7/8 inches.
On the typical side of "Planet Antler" the Show Me State is recognized for being home to the No. 3 typical of all-time, taken by Larry Gibson from Randolph County in 1971. The beautifully symmetrical 12-pointer measured 205 inches.
The three bucks featured in this article do not quite measure up in inches to those world-class Missouri bucks in the trophy archives, but they represent some of the top bucks taken in Missouri in 2016, and would be considered a trophy by any of our deer hunters.
KEVIN MCCART BUCK
Kevin McCart of St. Louis began deer hunting when he was in 4th grade under the tutelage of his father Tom McCart. Today, as a 40-year-old firefighter he continues the tradition of deer hunting without his dad who passed away two years ago. McCart is no stranger to killing mature bucks with several Pope and Young deer to his credit, including a 140 class 10-pointer.
McCart has been leasing about 600 acres in Scotland County with a couple of buddies since 2013. The land includes approximately 200 acres of crops with the rest in CRP, brushy ditches and timber.
McCart took vacation time before firearms season to do some serious bowhunting, but despite his best efforts was unable to connect with a good buck.
After work during firearms deer season, McCart packed his gear and left for his lease at 6 Tuesday morning. After a 3-hour drive he arrived at the cabin and surprisingly found his buddies hanging out at camp. McCart didn't spend much time chit-chatting; he just changed into his hunting clothes and headed off into the deer woods.
The weather was warm that day, with temperatures in the mid-60s and a southwest wind. McCart made a beeline for a giant pin oak tree that overlooked a brushy draw coming out of the cropland on the neighboring property and leading up to their CRP ground. According to McCart, the deer like to bed on the sidehills in the tall CRP. His vantage point would keep the southwest wind in his face and he would be between the crops and the hillside bedding area waiting for a big buck to come along.
By the time he sat down near the pin oak at the corner of their property it was 10 a.m. Over 1 1/2 hours went by before McCart saw a 150-class 11-pointer stand up in the CRP about 140 yards away. After nearly five minutes of watching the buck make a scrape at another pin oak tree, it finally turned and began walking up the CRP right toward McCart. But because of the tall grass and the lay of the land, the deer ended up getting behind the hunter and he never got a shot.
Frustrated, McCart turned back around and focused his attention on a second buck that ran down the hill and was now working the scrape the first deer had made. Finally, buck No. 2 began making his way up the hill through the CRP toward McCart. He was on the same trail the first buck was on. After catching just glimpses of the buck and watching the grass move where the deer walked, McCart was afraid that he wasn't going to get a shot at this one either. But then the deer turned off the trail and started walking right in front of the waiting hunter. At just 25 yards McCart bleated at the buck and it stopped. The Savage .270 bolt-action echoed across the CRP and the buck took off over the hill. Twenty minutes later McCart found the massive deer just 50 yards from where he'd shot it.
McCart's buck is a main-framed 8-pointer that scores 156 as a straight-8, but after adding the additional points the buck grossed 171 5/8 inches as a non-typical with just a 13-inch spread!
"The best part of this hunt is that I killed that buck with the gun my dad gave me just three years before he passed away," McCart said. "I sat there for about five minutes after I shot the buck just thinking about Dad."
ADAM WOOD BUCK
Adam Wood. 34, of Grain Valley has been deer hunting for nearly a quarter-century, killing his first deer at age 10. Even before he could hunt, his dad Robin Wood carried him into the woods to tag along. The passion for deer hunting instilled as a young boy by his father has remained with Wood and probably played a role in his killing a buck of a lifetime last year.
Wood had been watching a ghost buck on his Grandpa Bill Foley's farm in Benton County for the past several years. His grandpa got to see those pics of the big buck before he passed away two years ago.
The big non-typical was nicknamed "Sticker" the first time they got photos of it on trail cameras. The wily old deer managed to elude hunters for several years and had only been sighted by hunters twice during daylight hours in seasons past before 2016.
Wood's grandpa's farm is only 35 acres and 15 percent of that is pasture. The remainder of the property is in timber but there is a 1,200-acre cedar thicket on the adjoining property. Wood believes the cedar sanctuary is what kept that big buck in the area.
Wood didn't have much time to hunt this past fall because he had a newborn son in October. He was choosy as to when to take the time to hunt, waiting for the most perfect conditions to hunt Sticker and that opportunity came on the second Saturday of the firearms season last year. That day was the perfect storm so to speak with a 20 degree drop in temperatures with a passing storm front that got the deer up and moving.
Wood was up in his ladder stand before the sun came up. The stand was located in the corner of the property overlooking a creek bottom and a patch of hardwoods that adjoined the cedar thicket.
The night before Wood passed on a really nice buck because he had more trail cam pictures of Sticker this year than ever before and he was going to hold out for his dream buck.
On Saturday morning, Wood didn't have long to wait for his much-anticipated chance at Sticker. At around 7:20 Sticker came running in front of Wood's stand at about 60 yards chasing some does. The buck was at a dead run and didn't give the hunter time to get nervous, but it also didn't leave him much of an easy shot.
Wood had only a small window through the cedar trees through which he would have a chance at the fast-moving trophy. He swung ahead of the buck and had his rifle aimed at the opening. As soon as the deer ran into the gap Wood pulled the trigger on his Savage .270 bolt-action rifle. It took a second running shot before Sticker was down for good.
The excitement and emotion of the hunt began to overwhelm Wood. He began shaking so much that he could not get down from his tree stand. The neighbor and friend of Wood's actually came over and helped him get down out of the stand.
Wood's buck features an amazing 22 scorable points and netted 194 5/8 inches as a Boone and Crockett non-typical. At press time it is believed to be the biggest buck ever killed in Benton County.
"The best part of me killing Sticker is that I got to share watching this buck with my Grandpa before he passed and he encouraged me to to stay after that buck before he passed away," Wood said. "He told me that I was gonna shoot him one day and I did."
ANSON MUNZLINGER BUCK
Anson Munzlinger is a 7-year-old deer hunter from Columbia. He started hunting in 2015 and killed two does during his first season. Even though Anson actually started hunting at the early age of 6, his father Mark has been carrying him into the deer woods since he was 2.
The Munzlinger's have a rich history of deer hunting in their family. They mostly hunt Anson's Grandpa Kent Munzlinger's 600-acre farm in northeast Missouri's Lewis County. The farm is a mix of crops, woods and rolling hills. According to Mark, deer season is like a family reunion for the extended Munzlinger clan.
The dynamic father/son hunting duo took to the deer woods during the first day of the 2016 early firearms youth season last year. The morning hunt was spent in Randolph County at Anson's other grandparents' farm, but they didn't see any deer.
After a short break, the Munzlingers headed back to their other farm in Lewis County. They were both nestled high up in their buddy stand by 2:30 that afternoon. The weather was so warm they were hunting in camo T-shirts and lightweight camo pants.
From their stand, they could watch a food plot of clover surrounded by hardwoods, but the plot was just 30 yards off a big cornfield.
As the daylight began fading, the Munzlingers spotted a small 8-pointer that walked beneath their stand. It meandered on behind them into the thick timber about 40 yards away.
A few minutes later they noticed a sapling shaking as a buck rubbed it, right where the little buck had disappeared. All they could see was the top of the tree shaking as the buck rubbed it. They assumed it was the small buck they saw earlier and didn't pay it much more attention.
However, Anson spotted the buck that was doing the rubbing as it stepped out of the timber and into a ditch at about 48 yards. He couldn't find it in his scope but could see it with his eyes. The deer walked around a bend in the ditch and that's when Anson's dad grunted and rattled at the deer.
"I didn't tell Anson that it was the big buck that we've been after up there because I didn't want him getting nervous," said Mark Munzlinger.
The big buck continued on up the ditch and walked right into their food plot. Mark asked Anson if he could see the deer in the scope and if he had the crosshairs on the shoulder. Anson answered yes to both and his dad told him to go ahead and shoot. Almost instantaneously Anson pulled the trigger of his Savage youth model .243 and the buck bolted into the timber.
Anson and his dad thought they heard the buck crash but they stayed on stand for about 15 minutes before climbing down and looking for it.
"We didn't find any blood so we just started going to where we heard him fall," Anson said. "Dad spotted him right away."
Both Anson and his dad were excited and overwhelmed with joy.
"It was so enjoyable to be with my son and see him shoot that buck after we've been after it for two years," said Mark. "It's something that neither of us will ever forget."
Anson's buck had 14 points and green scored right at 186 inches. An official score is coming soon.
With a quiver in his voice and tears in his eyes, young Anson Munzlinger summed it up best by saying, "I just wanna thank my dad for taking me out there and Grandpa Kent for letting me hunt on his farm."