October 17, 2019
By Lynn Burkhead
For Virginia bowhunter Luke Brewster, his journey into the sport of bowhunting whitetails began as a simple pursuit, one originally designed to put some venison in the freezer along with a chance to spend some peaceful, soul-nourishing time in the woods.
That might be the way Brewster’s journey began, but it wouldn’t be long before the humble, quiet young man would find himself on a collision course with the biggest non-typical whitetail that a bowhunter has ever seen.
A veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and spent a couple of tours of duty in Afghanistan, the Virginian has long enjoyed being in the outdoors. “My dad (Jim) black-powder hunted for whitetails and I’ve gone fishing with him a lot over the years,” said Brewster, who lives in Bristow, Va. with his wife Krista and daughter Allison.
After his discharge from the service, Brewster received an invitation to go deer hunting with a friend. While he didn’t get a chance to fill a tag that first morning, he did see a doe and was quickly hooked on the sport. “Hunting is therapeutic to me,” said Brewster. “When I first got out of the Marine Corps, I went fishing with a lot of my buddies. Then one of those buddies invited me to go hunting at his mom’s property, so I grabbed my Dad’s rifle, went out, and quickly fell in love with how peaceful and quiet it all was.”
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Desiring more of that solitude, it wasn’t long before Brewster was exploring a growing interest that he had in chasing whitetails with a modern stick-and-string. “After that (first) morning, I started looking at bows, went to a few archery shops, shot a few different brands, (and purchased one),” recalled Brewster. “Some of the workers were nice enough to teach me the fundamentals of shooting a bow, which I found to be very similar to being behind a rifle.”
On to Deer-Rich Illinois
After finding consistent success on the target range with his Hoyt RX-1 compound, Brewster was ready to transfer that success into the deer woods as he waited high up in a new Lone Wolf treestand with his bow in hand. It wouldn’t be long before he would do so. “That first season, I shot two does with my bow,” he said. “And then (in 2017), I was able to shoot my first archery buck. He was only a 2 ½ year old 10-pointer, but I was pretty happy with him.”
If solid shooting is one part of Brewster’s journey to a world-record whitetail, another involves the ability to make annual treks into the deer-rich Midwest, long a mecca for some of the country’s biggest bucks. Thanks to family ground in the region, the young Virginia bowhunter was soon pointing his pickup truck west toward Illinois. “The first year (2015) I went to Illinois was three years ago when I went out to my dad’s family farm,” said Brewster. “He’s got quite a few acres and has a farmer that does the farming.”
As Brewster ventured west, he met Brent Cearlock, Justin Cearlock, and Ron Waggoner, friends of the family who quickly became Brewster’s deer-hunting mentors as he continued his journey toward a fateful encounter with the sport’s benchmark buck. “My dad gave the sons-in-law of this family friend permission to hunt and they allowed me to hunt the same land,” said Brewster. “They live there in the area, run around all year putting trail cameras and treestands up, stuff like that.
They Call Him ‘Mufasa’
“After I met these folks, they kind of took me under their wings,” he added. “They showed me how to hunt deer in the Midwest, which is a lot different than hunting in the big woods (of) Virginia.” The four hunters quickly became good friends who not only shared common deer hunting ground, but also the whereabouts of a giant buck that began to frequently show up on that hallowed Midwestern turf. Nicknamed “Mufasa” by the group, a growing collection of information and trail cam photos helped them piece together clues concerning the progress of a buck that turned from being a good wallhanger into a whitetail that would rewrite the deer hunting record books.
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“He was a typical with a kicker point back in 2016, but he was definitely a good-sized buck that year,” said Brewster. “But (in 2017), he definitely became a shooter.” And then some, very likely becoming a genuine B&C book buck that year. “We don’t have any trail camera pictures of him in velvet since he always popped up in late October or early November after the local crops had been harvested,” said Brewster. “But two years ago, he dropped his antlers early and we figured that he might have gotten injured somehow or maybe even hit by a car. (In 2017), he started turning into this big non-typical. We were really excited when we started getting pictures of him (that) year.”
But that excitement pales when compared to the buzz that was generated within the group of hunters when the first 2018 trail cam photos of Mufasa were secured in late October. “I remember being at work and it was Ron, I think, who sent out some pictures in a group text,” said Brewster. “I turned my phone off and started laughing because I was thinking ‘Oh my gosh, there’s no way he grew all of that!’”
With a mind-boggling array of non-typical points going in multiple directions, that disbelief concerning Mufasa’s world-class size is understandable. So, with a tremendous level of excitement fueling him, Brewster helped his pregnant wife pass out candy on Halloween evening, then loaded up his bow and hunting gear and pointed the truck west to rainy Illinois.
After getting into town in eastern Illinois’ Edgar County, it wasn’t long before Brewster and his hunting pals were getting ready to head into the woods on the morning of Nov. 2, 2018. But that first morning hunt proved uneventful and the group met in town for breakfast around 10 a.m. to draw up plans for the afternoon hunt.
“We talked about some stand placement changes, got caught up on what was going on at each property, looked at maps of our ground on onX, and ordered breakfast,” said Brewster. “You know, I just realized what the breakfast I had that morning was called by the local café – it was called ‘The Bigger One Breakfast’ with eggs, sausage, hash browns, two biscuits, and gravy.”
Deer of a Lifetime
After leaving the café, Brewster got to his hunting ground, donned his Realtree ScentLok hunting duds, and found his way to a different stand than he had hunted a few hours earlier. After settling into his Hunter Safety System harness, he made a couple of practice draws with his bow, then pulled his Vortex rangefinder out of the pack to check potential shot distances.
“There was a scrape 26 yards to my east and I remember thinking about that specifically, putting that distance in the back of my head,” said Brewster. “I ranged a few other spots on the deer trails, one at 30 yards and another at 35 yards. Then I settled in for the hunt.”
For a while, all was quiet in the wet woods save for the sounds of a rain-swollen creek running nearby. But that all changed later in the afternoon when the deer hunting opportunity of a lifetime presented itself.
“I turned to my east and I soon as I did so, I saw a deer jumping through the thicket, kind of bounding away,” recalled Brewster.
Worried that the doe might have somehow smelled him, Brewster slowly raised his binoculars and saw two more does easing through the thicket. And then suddenly, there was one of the biggest bucks that history has ever seen.
“I looked up and just three or four steps away from a scrape was Mufasa,” said Brewster. “I was blown away when I saw him, and my jaw just dropped to the ground. I was just stunned that he was standing there. I sat there a second and then I thought ‘I’ve got to snap out of it.’”
After quietly bringing his bow to full draw, Brewster took aim at the massive whitetail standing not even 30-yards away.
“He pawed the dirt two or three times and licked at a branch above him,” said the Virginia bowhunter. “I’ll be honest, he looked so big that I thought my arrow might just bounce right off of him. I tried not to focus on the rack, though, and just put the pins on my Spot Hogg sight right where I wanted. I went through my mental checklist, made sure the bubble was level, hit my anchor point, made sure there were no branches in the way, and prepared to shoot.”
Aiming with the gap between his 20- and 30-yard pins, Brewster touched the trigger on his release and let the Black Eagle Spartan arrow and the 100-grain Grim Reaper Whitetail Special broadhead combination fly. As the arrow crashed home, the massive non-typical buck bolted off, disappeared from sight, and produced a large crashing sound a second or two later.
After waiting a half-hour following the shot, Brewster climbed down and was able to find his legendary buck only 40 yards away, securing a bowhunting big-buck tale that may never be topped. “I took a picture of him, sent it to the guys, and sat down, just in awe as I looked at him,” said Brewster. “I picked up his rack and I just couldn’t believe what I was holding. It felt like a dream.”
Dream Come True
The giant non-typical is a dreamy buck for sure, sporting 39 scorable points in a 14X25 configuration. Initially receiving a 60-day entry score of 320 5/8 inches net, panel scoring by Pope and Young Club and Boone and Crockett Club measurers on March 1, 2019 in Omaha, Neb. upped the final numbers of the Brewster buck to a staggering 337 1/8 inches gross and 327 7/8 inches net.
Those final figures put the Brewster buck more than 33 inches ahead of Mike Beatty’s previous Pope & Young Club world record non-typical buck, a 39-point Ohio archery kill in 2000 that measures 294 0/8 inches. What’s more, the Brewster buck is also now the largest whitetail ever killed by a hunter anywhere in the world, topping Stephen Tucker’s 47-point Tennessee monarch , a Nov. 2016 buck that scored 312 0/8 inches.
In the rarefied air at the top of the Boone and Crockett Club record book, Brewster’s buck falls behind only the 333 7/8-inch B&C world record Missouri Monarch buck, a 44-point non-typical pickup entry that was found dead near St. Louis in 1981, and the 328 2/8-inch Hole in the Horn non-typical, a 45-point 1940 pickup entry from Ohio. That makes Brewster’s giant Illinois whitetail the third biggest buck of all-time.
What does Brewster do for an encore now that he’s tagged history’s biggest bow buck? “I’ve still got some space to fill in the freezer,” he laughed, adding that he’ll be happy with a smaller, mature buck this fall as opposed to his world record brute from Illinois last autumn. “For me, I just enjoy being outdoors,” he added. “I just got lucky having that deer come by my stand that night.”
Maybe so, but in Brewster’s case, it seems like there was a good mixture of luck and skill that all came together on a patch of eastern Illinois deer hunting ground last fall, Midwestern turf where a bowhunter made good on the archery shot of a lifetime.
Not bad for a humble man from Virginia entering the deer woods to seek a little peace and quiet.