For the second year in a row, Michigan has a new No. 1 blackpowder buck. Here's the story about the big typical from St. Clair County.
By Richard P. Smith
For the second year in a row, our state record for a muzzleloader buck was broken in Michigan in 2002.
During December 2001, Richard Peet from Plainwell collected a 17-pointer in Van Buren County that nets 192 2/8 inches, setting a new mark in the non-typical division. Last fall, Eric Kwasnik from Port Huron connected on an impressive 11-pointer in St. Clair County that nets 175 3/8 inches, establishing a new state record among typicals.
The previous state-record blackpowder typical was a Macomb County 12-pointer shot by Djura Drazic during the 1998 firearms season. Those antlers measured 172 4/8 inches. That buck still ranks as the highest scoring typical from Macomb County.
Kwasnik's new record whitetail is also St. Clair County's No. 1 typical. Two other bucks from that county, that were entered previously in state records that are maintained by Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM), have antlers large enough to exceed the minimum of 170 inches for national records kept by the Boone and Crockett Club. Both sets of antlers score 171 0/8 inches. John Pierce tagged an 11-pointer during 1995 in the county with that score. James Hurd killed a 13-pointer in 1998 that ended up with the same tally.
Although Eric Kwasnik's buck is at the top of the list of typical muzzleloader kills, the rack ranks somewhere between 30 and 40 among all typical gun kills in state records.
Eric Kwasnik's buck has a final score of 175 3/8 typical inches. Photo courtesy of C.B.M.
Taking a buck with such a large rack during 2002 was a pleasant surprise for Kwasnik. He had been hunting the area where he got it for a number of years and had never seen the trophy-book animal before the day he shot it on Nov. 27. The best buck to his credit with a firearm before last fall was an 8-pointer that he took with a shotgun during 1996. He said those antlers would score about 110 inches.
He took a larger 10-pointer with bow and arrow in 1994 that nets 122 inches and is listed in the state records. That whitetail was 3 1/2 years old and was arrowed about 40 miles from where he got the Booner last fall. Interestingly, Kwasnik missed that 10-pointer at a distance of 20 yards on the evening of Nov. 3, but it obviously wasn't spooked enough to cause it to change its behavior because he got it from the same tree stand the next evening. The buck was practically underneath Kwasnik's stand when he arrowed it on Nov. 4. The missed shot the day before probably didn't scare the buck at all.
Last fall was Kwasnik's 13th year of deer hunting. He started when he was 16 years old and had gotten his driver's license, allowing him to go hunting on his own. Prior to that, he said he didn't have anyone to take him hunting.
Kwasnik got his first buck with archery equipment at the age of 16. It was a 7-pointer. He's taken four more bucks with bow and arrow since then. During recent years, he's been concentrating on hunting trophy bucks. He passed up a 6-pointer and small 8-pointer during 2002 before hitting it big.
While bowhunting during October 2002, Kwasnik shot what he thought was an 8-pointer with bow and arrow. However, when he recovered the buck, he discovered it only had seven points. One antler had three tines instead of four.
A storm front that moved through the night before Kwasnik got his record deer probably played an important role in his success. Enough snow fell to put a thick layer of the white stuff on the ground, and the temperature dropped. Kwasnik said the snow ended about 5:30 a.m. and the sky cleared.
"It was the best day for deer hunting the whole season," he said. "It was crisp and cold. The temperature was in the 20s. The deer were really moving.
"I decided to hunt from a stand I hadn't hunted from yet during 2002. I've had good luck hunting undisturbed stands on the first time I use them and that spot just felt right to me. I rotate between 11 different stands, depending on wind direction. Based on wind direction that morning, I had three stands to choose from. There was a west wind.
"I stayed up all night watching The Weather Channel," Kwasnik continued. "I knew there was a good chance the snow and cold would cause deer to be active. I wanted to make sure I chose the best stand possible."
He obviously did. Kwasnik said the stand he hunted the morning of Nov. 27 was on the edge of a woods and semi-open field. He likes to position his stands high to increase visibility and to reduce the chances of being detected by deer. The stand he climbed into that day was 20 to 25 feet from the ground.
Kwasnik showered before going hunting, as he usually tries to do, and donned a Scent-Lok suit. His deer-hunting motto is, "The best scent is no scent."
Kwasnik saw the big buck about 8 a.m.
"He came to the edge of the field," he said. "He was kind of cautious. I saw he was a big buck. I figured his antlers would score in the 150s.
"I got the .50 caliber muzzleloader I was using up to my shoulder after I saw him to be ready when he walked into the field. When he came out into the open he was quartering away at a distance of about 65 yards. He was walking slowly when I shot.
"The buck took off running when I shot," Kwasnik continued. "Seconds later, I was sure I heard him drop, but I didn't want to take any chances. After I climbed out of the tree, I ran to my truck to call my partner to help me track the deer. He arrived about an hour later.
"There was about 4 1/2 inches of snow on the ground, so it was easy to follow the buck's tracks. There was plenty of blood, too. The deer left a good blood trail. He ran back the way he came for about 125 yards and then collapsed. He was right where I thought he would be.
"When we got to the deer, I said, 'Wow! What a nice buck!' My buddy and I figured the antlers might score as high as 160. It didn't occur to us that it might be big enough for Boone and Crockett or a state record.
"That was the first snow of the year. The snow and cold had the deer moving later than normal and that worked in my favor."
Kwasnick's muzzleloader was loaded with 150 grains of Pyrodex Powder (three 50-grain pellets) and a saboted bullet. The gun was mounted with a low-power variable scope (1X-3X) and he had it set on 2 1/2X when he shot the trophy whitetail. The ri
fle was sighted in to hit about an inch high at 100 yards, so it was right on at 150.
The buck had a dressed weight of 172 pounds without a speck of fat on him. The whitetail had obviously been heavily involved in the rut. Kwasnik estimated the deer's age at 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 years old.
"One guy rough-scored the antlers from my deer at 173," Kwasnik said, "but I took that score with a grain of salt because I wasn't sure if he measured the rack right. I was astounded when the antlers were officially measured and ended up scoring as much as they did. I'm very happy to have taken a new state record."
The antlers have a gross score of 179 5/8 inches. The rack has a typical 10-point frame with a 2-inch non-typical point. Both beams are exceptionally long at 27 3/8 inches. The inside spread is 19 1/8 inches.
The total length of the typical points is 74 3/8, for an average of just over 7.4 inches per tine. Total antler mass derived from eight circumference measurements came to 33 3/8, for an average of a little more than 4 inches each. The antlers are closely matched with only 2 2/8 inches of deductions for differences in tine lengths and circumferences from one beam to the other.
(Editor's note: For more reading about Michigan's biggest bucks, refer to Books 1, 2 and 3 of Great Michigan Deer Tales. Each of the books contains chapters about other record bucks taken with muzzleloaders. The books can be purchased from bookstores as well as some sporting goods stores and gift shops. Autographed copies can be ordered from Smith Publications, 814 Clark St., Marquette, MI 49855. Book 1 is $15.50 postpaid and the other two are $16.50 each. The three-book set is $40.
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