There are some great deer hunters out there today for sure, many from the current who's who of modern outdoor heroes and probably even more guys who hold down everyday jobs, flying beneath the media radar and tagging monster whitetails year-in and year-out. The question is, who's the best?
When faced with such a decision, what criteria should be considered? Does the guy who shot a world record buck because he happened to be in the right place at the right time deserve the title, or is it the guy who heads to the woods and somehow manages to shoot the biggest deer in his county every year? Is it the hunter who hunts his own local woods and learns the area better than the deer itself, or is it the one who travels around the country wisely seeking out those places that harbor the biggest, baddest trophies in the record books?
And speaking of record books, many hunters don't even enter their deer, making it practically impossible to know they exist. And finally, is it necessarily someone we've all heard of, such as an outdoor TV celebrity? My money says the "best deer hunter" is probably some guy who works in a factory, fixes cars, frames houses or farms and that few, if any of us, have ever heard of.
Unfortunately, we don't know the latter, so we offer you a slate of candidates to consider for the title of "best deer hunter ever" and invite you to offer your own candidates for the whitetail nation to ponder. Let the arguments begin.
Michael Beatty's 294-inch non-typical monster killed in Ohio has remained the record bow kill buck since 2000. Beatty called the buck in using a Primos doe bleat call and then had to track the deer, leaving it overnight and finding it the next morning. The buck was a beast and Beatty proved his hunting chops in the way he hunted it and finished the hunt until he found his trophy.
If any modern TV show-hosting deer hunter deserves consideration as the 'greatest deer hunter ever, ' Mark Drury has to be included on that list. Drury, founder of M.A.D. Calls and who with his brother, Terry, has been a pioneer in modern outdoor TV helping pave the way for the Michael Waddell's, Lee Lakosky's and many others who are realizing or still aspiring to achieve their hunting show stardom, was first and foremost, a hard hunting fool. His call company was among the most innovative when he was developing it, and under his leadership was among the first outdoor companies to use hunting videos to promote their products. Mark has tagged a slew of giant bucks including a 191-inch, 11-point nicknamed Skyscraper; a 194-inch, 14-point with a bow; another 194-inch buck with a Thompson-Center; and a 195 1/8-inch buck taken with PSE bow in 2010, perhaps his biggest bow buck to date.
Before there was Fred Bear archery and compound bows, there was Melvin Johnson and his recurve, which together took the largest bow-killed typical in history — a 204 4/8-inch Illinois buck. It is a record that has stood since 1965. It remains the fourth largest typical ever recorded as taken by a hunter, and because it was taken at a time when few people pursued whitetails with archery equipment, the feat remains impressive and puts Johnson on this rarefied list.
Lee Lakosky may honestly be known more for his smoking hot wife, Tiffany, on their program, The Crush with Lee & Tiffany, but a chemical engineer by trade and one hell of a land manager, Lee's skills can stand on their own as a legit big buck hunter. A native Minnesotan, Lee was so focused on growing and hunting true trophy bucks, that he convinced his then new bride Tiffany to make the move to Iowa — the one state it seems any purely dedicated big buck hunter moves to to set up shop (residents are guaranteed tags each year!) He's the author of Hunting Mature Whitetails the Lakosky Way and has successfully managed the land he hunts and taken some serious monsters as a result. His largest buck to date is a heavy-racked eight-point he arrowed and measured 196 7/8-inch. He and Tiffany named the monster 'Mr. Gnarles Barkley ' because of his sick size.
Like his enthusiasm or not, Stan Potts has been a part of the big buck scene on outdoor television since its infancy and has the street cred to show for it, with a whopping four 200-inch-plus whitetail bucks taken in his lifetime. He has also arrowed the second largest typical ever taken in Illinois. At one time he killed what was the largest whitetail ever taken on camera. Stan is part of the North American Whitetail team and has hunted for and hosted numerous outdoor programs with a big game/whitetail focus. He's spoken to hunters all over the nation to share his tips and tactics, but it's his ability to put the smackdown on monsters that even exceed those killed by other TV personalities that could earn Stan the title of 'best deer hunter ever. '
Saskatchewan hunter Milo Hanson has to be considered simply because he holds the most coveted title in the whitetail world — his 1993 213 5/8-inch typical remains the world record. The buck was pushed out during a series of drives in which Hanson actually missed the buck two separate times before finally connecting. For the record, Hanson also has another buck in the 170s listed in the B&C records.
Larry Benoit, along with his sons, Lanny and Shane, have become a household name since Bryce Towsley's book, "Hunting the Benoit Way," printed in 1998 and featured Larry's unique tracking and stalking methods of hunting for big bucks. Larry gained local and regional fame as a Maine deer hunter who found success — a.k.a. big bucks — every year in the expansive and fairly low deer density woods of Maine. Their methods have been among the most read by ardent deer hunters seeking to learn the Benoit Way, and it all began with Larry, once known as the 'whitetail king ' in his hey day. No doubt he is still worthy of the title for his accomplishments and contributions to deer hunting.
Tired of hearing about dudes on outdoor TV yet? (Sorry, their records are just out there for the world to see.) Well, this guy was a TV star in his own right, but long before there was any such thing as outdoor TV programming. In fact, it was even before there was cable TV or compound bows. Howard Hill was known as 'the world's greatest archer. ' He was also quite possibly the world's greatest hunter by default. Besides being the only person ever to win 196 successive archery tournaments, he could shoot prunes off a person's head at 60 feet and did many other trick shots at live events and on TV. He starred or advised on a number of Hollywood movies and was a book author and one of archery's first writers of the sport who wrote Hunting the Hard Way, in which he shared his methods for making many of the shots that he did. While filming Tembo in Africa, Hill successfully hunted lions, leopards and other dangerous game including the taking of a full-grown elephant with his recurve. Hill hunted game around the world, and while it may be a stretch to give him the honors here — he only killed seven whitetails in his life, but also took as many as 27 mule deer, 36 blacktail deer and several other sub-species of deer — it's conceivable he still deserves the title by default of his 'greatest ' hunter and archer status — at a time when archery equipment was still extremely crude by today's standards.
Although he may be known more today for hosting Whitetail Freaks with his wife, Kandi, Don Kisky, an Iowa farmer, was oft quoted for years before his TV fame for his skill at taking monster bucks. A long-time Realtree pro-staffer, Kisky's top 10 bucks all gross more than 170 inches each, with his largest being a 213 4/8 beast.
Adam Hays may not be a household name like Stan's, but it should be. The current field producer and co-host of Intrepid Outdoors, Hays is an Ohio hunter who hunts mostly land that he is able to get permission on near Columbus and has taken three 200-plus-inch bucks over his 39 years of bowhunting. He locates them, observes them, determines their patterns and then kills the type of big bucks that most guys will never even get to see in their lifetimes. More incredibly, he has had the opportunity or near-opportunity to kill other 200 inchers, but one he couldn't quite get the shot on and the other had busted tines that would have dropped its score. Can you say 'bad ass? ' Hays has definitely earned that title.