September 29, 2021
By Josh Honeycutt
While states like Kentucky, Maryland, Montana and Nebraska were first out of the gate, Missouri came on strong when its archery deer season opened in mid-September.
Since then, several big whitetails have fallen, including these three bucks taken by Philip Blanford, Alex Bittick and Clint Schwach.
Here are there stories of those giant bucks taken between Sept. 15 and 18.
Philip Blanford's Droptine Tank
Date: September 15, 2021
Location of Harvest: Richwoods, Missouri
Score: 175 4/8 inches
Blanford first spotted this 6- to 7 ½-year-old buck in July while brush-hogging a spot for a new food plot. He put up some trail cameras and started getting photos regularly. The buck stuck around, and Blanford started planning, putting together a solid tactical approach and waiting anxiously for opening day.
Sept. 15 brought 86 degrees and moderate winds. Blanford settled into his blind and scanned his surroundings, which consisted of cedar trees, overgrown fallow fields, scattered oaks, a pond and his food plot.
As the afternoon sun burned toward the horizon, the bugs and frogs in the pond started making a ruckus and a few raccoons showed up to play and munch on acorns. After a while, the raccoons drifted off and Blanford heard something right outside the blind.
"I couldn't believe it," Blanford said. "I heard something brush the side of the blind and then heard a stick snap to the right of me. I thought it was the raccoons because they had run out behind me. I kind of leaned up and looked out and saw it was a deer. At this point he was about two feet from the blind, walking away."
The deer walked directly toward a white oak tree that had been dropping acorns all evening. The buck walked around it, slurping up acorns, and finally turned and walked into the food plot.
After several tense moments, the buck stopped 15 yards from the blind and Blanford took the quartering-away shot. The buck ran about 60 yards, stopped, wobbled, and fell. Blanford immediately texted his friend, Kevin, who was hunting nearby.
"It was a very big surprise," Blanford said. "Even after having him that close, I knew he was a good deer but didn’t know just how good until I got my hands on him. He is an amazing deer and the biggest of my life."
Alex Bittick's Tall, Tight Trophy
Date: September 18, 2021
Location: North-central Missouri
Method: Compound bow
Score: 168 3/8 inches
Alex Bittick first started following the buck known as Split-G3 in November of 2019. It was a nice deer then, but blossomed into a giant 5 1/2-year-old this year. Bittick spent the preseason making plans and working hard to put himself in the best possible position come deer season.
Saturday, Sept. 18, brought hot weather, but the perfect wind for the spot he wanted to sit.
"I sweated the entire walk through the chest-high soybeans and continued to sweat in the stand until the sun got behind a tree," Bittick said. "I thought to myself many times that was not going to be the night."
Bittick and a friend were perched in a pair of treestands positioned near one another in a small, five-acre finger of timber just off the 100-acre soybean field. Standing corn sprawled out in the distance.
"There's a creek on the side we hunt, and I was just off it in this little corner that gets shaded in the evening," Bittick said. "All the other beans were turning, but there's always green left in this corner until the end of September because of the shade."
Around 4:30 p.m., a 3-point buck and three does walked into the open. They were followed by a spike, a 4-pointer, a 5-pointer and more does. An hour or so later, another 5-pointer and a 6-pointer showed up. Thirty minutes after that, a 130-inch 9-pointer and a small fork-horn came out. The younger deer pushed the 9-pointer to within 40 yards of their treestand. Bittick told his friend to get ready for a shot on the 9-pointer and turned to look at the smoke coming off his ThermaCell to gauge the wind direction. When he turned back around, to his surprise, Split G3 stood 50 yards away. It then proceeded to walk straight toward Bittick and his buddy, directly behind the 9-pointer.
"I immediately told my friend that was my target buck," Bittick said. "He was trying to hang his bow up to film me shoot him. I told him I wasn't worried about film. I wanted to try to double with him on both bucks."
Within seconds, Split G3 and the 9-pointer walked to within 30 yards. Bittick and his friend drew their bows and settled their pins, and Bittick stopped both bucks with a quiet bleat.
"We both let arrows fly," Bittick said. "I 10-ringed Split G3, but the 9-pointer dropped on [hearing] my shot, and my buddy shot just over his back. This was the biggest deer of my life, and I've put in so much hard work over many years managing properties. I'm still in shock about it all. Memories I won't ever forget.”
Clint Schwach's Massive Monarch
Date: September 16, 2021
Location: Warsaw, Missouri
Method: Compound bow
Score: 162 1/8 inches
Clint Schwach's history with this 6 1/2-year-old whitetail nicknamed "Wide Open" dates back to 2019, when he first started paying attention to the buck.
"I passed him a couple of times during the 2020 season hoping he would make a jump," Schwach said.
His restraint paid off, as the deer grew even bigger this spring and summer. He almost had an opportunity to arrow it on opening day, but a miscommunication between him and the farm manager led to an incident where Wide Open was walking toward Schwach just as the farmer was driving up the hill. Needless to say, the big deer left in a hurry.
Things changed on Sept. 16. Schwach moved in to kill the buck. The temperature was around 85 degrees and the wind was out of the southeast at about 5 to 10 mph. This gave him bulletproof access to a stand he had hung the day before among rolling pastures, wooded draws and a big creek bottom. Schwach hoped to catch the buck on its way to feed for the evening. As the sun started to set, the winds died down and some nearby cows started bellowing. Birds chirped and crickets sang a harmonized symphony in the background.
Eventually, a doe and fawn walked right under the treestand and ate leaves off a tree branch Schwach had cut the evening before. The fawn was very vocal, and he captured great video of it bleating. After they moved through, two nice 3-year-old bucks, a full-velvet 8-pointer and a full-velvet 10-pointer all filed past.
Then, right before dark, four other bucks appeared about 150 yards through the timber.
"I spotted him coming down the draw with some other bucks I recognized from trail camera photos," Schwach said. "He was bringing up the rear."
The giant came all the way to within 20 yards and offered a great shot opportunity. Schwach put the arrow where it needed to go, and the buck ran about 80 yards and tipped over.
"I am pumped to have gotten a shot at this buck this early in the season," Schwach said. "Last year I spent nearly two entire months chasing two different bucks and ended up shooting them both in December on this same ranch. I don't want to say it was easy, but it feels extremely good to get the job done early after hours in the field filming, running cameras, checking weather apps, watching movement and game-planning. He is my biggest Missouri whitetail and my second-biggest bow kill. I hate that the chase is over, but I enjoyed all two days of it. What an awesome animal."