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10 Giant Bucks from 2023, and the Lessons Learned From Hunting Them

10 Giant Bucks from 2023, and the Lessons Learned From Hunting Them

Posted 2024-06-07  by  Brian Lovett

Realtree's Rack Report highlighted more than 50 big bucks last season, but these were among the biggest, and with good lessons to remember for this fall

If you followed’s 2023-24 Rack Reports, you saw some awfully big bucks — more than 50, actually.

Reading about the hunts for these deer offers entertaining eye candy and a glimpse into the world of remarkable whitetails. But it also provides lessons that every deer hunter can use.

So because everybody loves big deer and wants to create Rack Report-worthy moments of their own, here’s a look at 10 of the most notable bucks from this past campaign, plus some takeaways for future seasons.

Image: Owen_Reigler_rack_learn

An October cold front helped get Owen Reigler’s monster buck on its feet. Photo courtesy of Owen Reigler


Rack Report Details

Score: 213-3/8 inches

Date: Oct. 7, 2023

Place: Iowa

Weapon: Bow

Midwest Whitetail’s Owen Reigler followed this buck from 2019 through 2023. In February 2023, he and some friends found the buck’s sheds. For the next few months, he studied the buck’s past habits and formulated a plan, and he planted food plots near bedding areas. In July, the buck appeared on camera and was spending lots of time on Reigler’s property.

Reigler’s first few sits during archery season didn’t produce, but then a cold front moved in. On Oct. 6, Reigler saw the buck at last light when it entered a food plot. However, the deer spooked.

On Oct. 7, Reigler set up at the edge of a plot in an elevated blind. Soon, several does and small bucks entered the plot. Then, the Loch Ness Monster appeared, feeding along the edge of the plot, but it remained too far for a shot. Then, another buck entered the field. The bigger deer postured aggressively and began walking toward the small buck, passing within bow range of the blind. Reigler drew and shot, sending the arrow through both lungs. A tracking party quickly located the deer.

  • Takeaways: Consistent observation and year-round scouting let Reigler anticipate how the buck might act during various conditions. And strategically placing food plots near bedding areas boosted his odds of encountering the deer early or late in the season, when the buck was likely to focus on food.

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Image: Drew_Egli_rack_learn

Drew Egli’s first buck topped 200 inches. Photo courtesy of Drew Egli


Rack Report Details

Score: 215-⅜ BTR

Date: Nov. 15, 2023

Place: Stark County, Ohio

Weapon: Hoyt Maxxis

Drew Egli started bowhunting in 2023, knowing some big deer roamed farms near a property he could hunt. And on Nov. 15, he got off work early and headed to a stand.

About 5 p.m., Egli heard movement in some nearby corn. Then a monster buck stepped out 7 yards away, passed the stand and disappeared into tall grass. Shocked, Egli blew on a grunt tube, and the buck emerged. The deer then stepped into an opening at 12 yards, and Egli drew his bow and shot. The deer jumped, ran to a field and then slowly walked away.

Egli called a buddy and gave the deer some time. Later, he and his friend found the arrow and some blood. They followed a steady blood trail but walked 2 miles without finding the buck. More friends arrived, and they heard the deer crash in front of them, still alive. The party backed out, waited several hours, resumed the search and then quickly found the deer, dead from a liver shot.

  • Takeaways: Some folks might credit beginner’s luck, but Egli applied several tried-and-true hunting principles during the 2023 season. Friends showed him trail-camera pictures of big deer at neighboring properties, so he knew he was hunting a good area. Further, he hunted hard throughout the season, even though he’d only seen some does and young bucks. And on Nov. 15, he put himself in a good position and made the shot at the moment of truth. Basics? Sure, but you can’t kill a big buck unless you’re on stand at the right time in a good area and take advantage of opportunity.

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Tucker Shepard army-crawled through corn to make the shot on his first buck — a 206-inch Ohio giant. Photo courtesy of Tucker Shepard


Rack Report Details

Score: 206 inches

Date: Nov. 18, 2023

Place: Henry County, Ohio

Weapon: Savage 350 Legend rifle

Tucker Shepard is an avid duck hunter, and he’d only taken one deer — a doe — before Ohio’s 2023 youth deer season. But based on a tip from his uncle, Shepard and his brother knew a big buck was in the area, so they hunted a small section of woods amidst a 300-acre cornfield owned by his family.

The hunters saw a few deer about 30 minutes before the end of shooting light, but then left and drove to the opposite side of the field. There, they saw three deer about 150 yards away: two does and a giant buck. Shepard parked the car, and he and his brother army-crawled through the corn toward the deer. When they got within 75 yards of the deer, Shepard slowly rose to his knees and fired. The buck turned and walked away, headed toward the woodlot Shephard had hunted earlier.

Shepard and his brother returned home and rounded up a search party. Four hours later, they headed to the woodlot, and Shepard found the deer in a thick, nasty area, hit through both lungs.

  • Takeaways: As with Egli’s buck, basic hunting principles played a critical role with this deer. First, Shepard and his brother had received a hot tip from someone they could trust. When hunting big deer, that kind of recent intel is gold. Second, Shepard seized the moment and made an aggressive move toward the deer to get within sure-killing range. Thanks to sound woodsmanship, he didn’t get busted while doing so. A classic tactic? Perhaps not, but it netted a buck Shepard will likely never top.

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Benjamin Harvey’s huge Ontario buck was so memorable that it earned two nicknames during the three years he pursued it. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Harvey


Rack Report Details

Score: 205-3/8 inches

Date: Oct. 1, 2023

Place: Ontario, Canada

Weapon: Archery

Benjamin Harvey had three years of history with this buck, watching it grow from 160 inches in 2021 to a giant in 2023. The buck had survived some shot attempts by other hunters, so Harvey’s family nicknamed it “Lucky,” and later called it “Big Time.”

It was warm on Oct. 1, 2023, and Harvey almost didn’t hunt. But he settled in along a large field and later saw a nice 10-pointer. Then the big deer appeared, stood motionless for 10 minutes and worked toward a 3-acre food plot.

Harvey drew and took a 27-yard quartering-to shot. The buck ran off but died within sight.

  • Takeaways: Years of scouting and a solid plan with perfect execution killed this buck. Harvey had observed the deer for several seasons and knew its home range well. He used that to quickly locate and pattern the buck. And having the deer walk past him within spitting distance on the edge of a 700-acre field indicates precision stand placement. Also, Harvey made a critical decision in 2022. The buck was about 190 inches but broke off a main beam, so Harvey stopped pursuing it that season. That let the deer grow a fresh, giant rack in 2023.

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A patient approach helped net Hunter Brandon his huge Illinois buck. Photo courtesy of Hunter Brandon


Rack Report Details

Score: 218 inches

Date: Oct. 9, 2023

Place: Central Illinois

Weapon: Savage 220 shotgun

13-year-old Hunter Brandon knew which deer he wanted to hunt in 2023: a massive 6-by-6 he and his dad, Jeremiah, had seen for a couple of years. So on Oct. 7, during Illinois’ youth season, they took a stand near the last place they’d received a photo of the buck. No dice.

Not wanting to bump the deer, Hunter and his dad hunted an observation stand a few hundred yards from the buck’s main area for a day or two, hoping to see the deer. Again, nothing. However, the next morning, the buck reappeared on camera near the stand they’d hunted the first day. Hunter had been scheduled for wrestling practice that day but indicated he’d rather hunt.

On stand that afternoon, Hunter and his father saw a large set of antlers moving out of cover about 150 yards away. Tall grass prevented a shot. But Hunter and his dad used the heavy cover to stalk 100 yards toward the buck. The deer had moved into some standing beans, so the hunters waited until the buck put its head down and then covered the final 10 yards.

Hunter waited for a solid shot and fired. The buck ran 200 yards into cover, but the hunters found it quickly.

  • Takeaways: Obviously, several seasons of scouting and a serendipitous trail-cam image let Hunter and his dad fine-tune their pursuit of this buck. But they also made two tough critical decisions during the youth hunt. First, backing off and hunting an observation stand so they didn’t bump the deer must have been difficult, especially with limited time to hunt. Did it help? That’s tough to say, but they certainly didn’t spook the buck. Second, quickly making a bold move and using cover to stalk the deer paid off big-time. Many hunters probably would have watched the buck and lamented a lost opportunity. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that Hunter had a rock-solid rest and waited until he could see the buck’s shoulder before making a tough shot.

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Image: Kaylee_Rogers_learn

Kaylee Rogers waited for a better shot opportunity before taking her 215-inch Kentucky giant. Photo courtesy of Kaylee Rogers


Rack Report Details

Score: 215 gross

Date: Oct. 15, 2023

Place: Nelson County, Kentucky

Weapon: rifle

The Rogers family captured a great buck on trail camera in 2020 and watched him turn into a monster over the next few years. In 2023, the deer fell into a fairly predictable pattern, so the crew moved stands, installed new blinds and used cameras to track its movements. 14-year-old Kaylee Rogers got her first crack at the deer during Kentucky’s two-day youth firearms season.

Kaylee didn’t hunt the first evening, but her dad, Derek, watched the buck near a blind for an hour. On Day 2, Kaylee and Derek were ready, and the buck appeared on schedule.

But there was a problem. The deer was 200-plus yards away, and Kaylee wasn’t comfortable shooting at that range. So she waited, but the buck disappeared, and Kaylee feared she’d missed her chance. However, the deer then reappeared about 100 yards from the blind, and Kaylee fired her 6.5 Creedmoor. The buck sprinted toward cover but soon went down. After being officially scored, the buck should rank in the top five of Kentucky deer taken by female hunters.

  • Takeaways: Smart, persistent scouting killed this buck, but Kaylee exhibited another important trait during the tense moment of truth: thoughtful patience. Few adults would have passed the first shot opportunity, even if they weren’t comfortable or hadn’t practiced shooting at that distance. But Kaylee did, and she was rewarded with a better shot — one that connected and will be remembered forever.

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Image: Ryan_Ederer_rack_learn

Ryan Ederer watched his Kentucky buck become a 200-plus-inch brute from 2020 to 2023. Photo courtesy of Ryan Ederer


Rack Report Details

Score: 210 inches

Date: Sept. 14, 2023

Place: Grant County, Kentucky

Weapon: Hoyt Ventum

In 2020 Ryan Ederer and his wife, Jodi, were hunting when they saw an impressive young buck. “No go,” Ryan said to Jodi. “Let’s hold off on this one.” They did, and “No Go” exploded into a 200-inch deer by 2022.

Ryan missed the buck that year but was ready in 2023, and No Go was even larger. Ryan planted soybeans and surrounded them with an electric fence, opening the plot just before the season. No Go liked the beans. Ryan set several stands and blinds around the field and only hunted spots with favorable wind conditions. Finally, on Sept. 14, No Go appeared during daylight and walked within 20 yards. Ryan made a tough shot. The massive buck had apparently just shed his velvet.

  • Takeaways: Again, no surprises: Long-term scouting and vowing to let young bucks walked produced the chance of a lifetime. But Ryan also planned and executed a focused food plot strategy. Moreover, setting multiple stands and only hunting when conditions were ideal — something that’s tough when the prospects of a 200-inch deer tempt you — created the perfect opportunity.

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Image: Ray_TenPas_learn

Ray TenPas hunted just one afternoon to take his velvet-racked Kansas buck. Photo courtesy of Ray TenPas


Rack Report Details

Score: 215 inches

Date: Sept. 11, 2023

Place: Neosho County, Kansas

Weapon: Thompson Center .50 cal muzzleloader

81-year-old Ray TenPas of Wisconsin has hunted Lil’ Toledo Lodge in Neosho County, Kansas, for 11 years, taking nine great bucks. In 2023, he tried his luck at a stand in a spot where a velvet-racked monster had been sighted.

TenPas hunts hard. In 11 years, he’s only missed two morning hunts at Lil’ Toledo Lodge. But that day, his guide suggested they hold off until afternoon so they didn’t risk spooking the buck. TenPas settled in at about 1 p.m., anticipating a long sit. However, the buck appeared just before 5 p.m., and TenPas made the broadside shot. The deer had 23 scorable points and 32 total projections. It was still in velvet because it had no testicles.

  • Takeaways: Consistent time on stand is a virtue, but sometimes, perspective rules out. It’s tough to say whether hunting this deer in the morning might have been risky. However, you can’t argue with the results. Further, TenPas heeded his guide’s advice — something many experienced hunters might not have done when chasing a trophy deer.

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Image: Isaiah_Carpenter_rack_learn

Isaiah Carpenter almost gave up on this buck, but a well-timed October hunt sealed the deal. Photo courtesy of Isaiah Carpenter


Rack Report Details

Score: 200-⅜ inches

Date: Oct. 30 2023

Place: Morrow County, Ohio

Weapon: Diamond Infinite Edge Pro

Isaiah Carpenter had pursued a giant whitetail for three years, but the buck always gave him the slip. In fact, the buck’s rack had begun regressing, and Isaiah wondered if he’d ever get the deer. He actually started hunting another property.

But on Oct. 30, Isaiah’s dad, Ryan, suggested he give the big buck another try. Isaiah slipped into a stand near thick bedding cover, waited 30 to 45 minutes, and then hit a grunt tube a couple of times. At the sound, the buck stood from the bedding cover 60 yards away, directly upwind of the stand. Then the deer walked toward the sound of the grunt. It eventually stopped broadside, and Isaiah made the 20-yard shot. The buck ran but fell within sight.

  • Takeaways: Calling deer doesn’t work all the time, but it remains effective during the right conditions. And in this case, the prompt of some soft grunts sealed the deal on an old deer that had seemed unkillable.

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Image: Charles_Gholson_rack_learn

Charles Gholson figured he had one shot at this public-land Missouri buck, and he made it count. Photo courtesy of Charles Gholson


Rack Report Details

Score: 160-plus inches, green

Date: Sept. 15, 2023

Place: Central Missouri

Weapon: Prime Rize

Three years ago, Charles Gholson found a small, seemingly overlooked chunk of public ground. He scouted it intensely and videoed some mature bucks, including this deer. The next year, the buck was still there. Gholson planned to hunt the spot on the 2022 archery opener but could not because of a death in the family.

In 2023, Gholson located the buck again and decided to hunt the property opening day. He carried in his gear, found a good tree, set up and waited. Just before daylight, he heard a deer walking, and then saw the buck on a levee 20 yards from his stand. With the buck silhouetted against the sunrise, Gholson finally had enough light to shoot. When the deer stopped, he released his arrow, and it found its mark. A buddy was hunting nearby, so Gholson waited. By the time he got down, he’d seen 10 bucks since daylight. His deer was right where he’d seen it drop.

  • Takeaways: This buck might not score as high as other deer in this roundup, but it’s one heck of a public-land trophy. Gholson scouted the area intensely, knew the land intimately and had a great idea of how deer used the landscape. On the day of the hunt, he planned for a semi-aggressive morning observation sit. He used the thermals along a creek to his advantage, setting up on the back side of a bedding area. The result was a five-minute hunt. But that doesn’t reflect the work and planning that went into this buck.

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