The story of the top whitetail ever shot is as great as the deer.
When 15-year-old Tony Lovstuen pulled the trigger of his muzzleloader on the afternoon of Sept. 29, 2003, he ended the reign of a buck that already was world famous. The Iowa non-typical had become known to the hunting world through Ron Willmore and Brian Lindberg’s article in the Feb. 2002 issue of North American Whitetail magazine, in which trail camera photos and shed antlers of the then-living buck were shown. The magazine dubbed the deer “Iowa’s Walking World Record,” and the name was fitting. With a potential score of nearly 300 inches on the Boone and Crockett system, the Monroe County giant would indeed have been a world record if taken with either a bow or muzzleloader.
Tony’s dad, Doug Lovstuen, grazed the buck’s neck during the 2001 gun season, and the next summer, trail camera shots showed that the right antler was stunted. Before long, that side of the rack actually fell off. But by the summer of 2003 the deer’s rack was bigger than ever, as confirmed by more trail camera photos. Doug and his cousins, Steve Angran and Mark Murphy, decided it was time to pool their efforts to hunt the animal, which spent most of his time on their family’s land.
By then, plenty of other hunters in the area were also looking to make whitetail history. Fearful that the deer would be shot by a neighboring hunter or poacher, get hit by a vehicle or break an antler while rubbing, the family recruited Doug’s son, Tony, to pursue him during September’s special youth season. This early season allows a youth accompanied by an adult to hunt deer with a bow, shotgun or muzzleloader prior to the regular archery season.
On Sept. 29, Tony accompanied Doug and Mark to a ground blind in one of the buck’s favorite areas. That evening a small buck stepped out, followed by the one they wanted. Tony’s 70-yard shot hit the buck in the midsection, and he was recovered the next day.
The 38-point rack received a “green” B&C score of 322 4/8 — far above the existing hunter-taken world record of 295 6/8 — and soon the hunting world was abuzz with the news. The Jan. and Feb. 2004 issues of North American Whitetail had the first photos and details of the hunt, bringing the remarkable story full circle. Although a panel of measurers later reduced the Lovstuen buck’s final score to 307 5/8, that was still enough to make him the “world’s biggest hunter-taken whitetail.” That designation and the events surrounding the deer’s life make him a trophy for the ages.