With North America’s annual whitetail buck harvest numbering in the millions, it takes an insanely big rack to rank No. 1 among hunter kills for a given year. So imagine what size beast it might take to set the all-time mark in that category — and not just beat the record, but surpass it by over 5 percent. That, fellow hunters, is the very definition of “world class.”
As unlikely as such a buck seems, during the Illinois bow season someone actually got one that big. The fortunate bowhunter was Luke Brewster, a 30-year-old resident of Virginia. Luke’s amazing non-typical is far and away the world’s all-time No. 1 hunter-taken whitetail ever, including those shot using firearms. No wonder North American Whitetail magazine made this giant the subject of an exclusive cover story in its Spring 2019 issue.
A special deer deserves special coverage, and no whitetail in hunting history is more special than this one. With that in mind, NAW presents this detailed series on Luke’s trophy, from background on the deer and the hunter, their historic meeting on Nov. 2, 2018, and an inside look at how Luke’s life has changed since his achievement was officially recognized. We invite you to join us in celebrating this bigger-than-life buck and the events that led him to the top of the record book.
In the deer-hunting world, it was the bowhunting shot heard round the globe — an arrow released by Virginia bowhunter Luke Brewster last fall as he sat in a deer stand in a patch of eastern Illinois woods.
When the smoke cleared from Brewster’s shot on Nov. 2, 2018, deer-hunting history would never be the same again — not to mention the hallowed record books maintained by bowhunting’s Pope and Young Club and the Boone and Crockett Club.
Brewster accomplished what no other hunter had ever done, downing a stunning 39-point non-typical buck nicknamed Mufasa, a world-class whitetail that would end up being panel scored at 327 7/8 inches net.
That score made the Brewster Buck the new P&Y world record non-typical, shattering the previous benchmark by more than 33 inches! Incidentally, that 294 0/8-inch previous world record buck was taken in Greene County, Ohio on Nov. 8, 2000 by bowhunter Mike Beatty.
In addition to its top place in bowhunting annals, panel scoring also made the Brewster Buck the largest whitetail ever tagged by a hunter using any type of weapon. In fact, Luke’s buck ranks No. 3 all time in B&C’s book, which includes whitetail racks picked up, deer that are found dead, or bucks that are taken by hunters. In the B&C record book, only the 333 7/8-inch world record “Missouri Monarch” — a buck found dead outside of St. Louis in 1981 — and the 328 2/8-inch “Hole in the Horn” buck, the world’s #2 buck found dead in Portage County, Ohio in 1940, are bigger than Brewster’s Illinois buck.
Not a bad turn of events for a young man who only started bowhunting a few years ago.
Brewster, who at the time of his hunt was a 30-year-old former U.S. Marine Corps member who had spent two tours of duty in Afghanistan, actually picked up the sport of bowhunting a few years ago with an intention of spending some more soul-nourishing time afield as he sought the healing qualities found in a quiet deer stand.
“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 their newborn baby girl Allison. “But I didn’t pick up deer hunting on my own until after I got out of the Marine Corps."
After fishing with some buddies following his discharge, Brewster was invited to go deer hunting on family ground belonging to a friend. While the trigger remained unpulled that morning, the sight of a doe, the peace and quiet of the woods, and the whole overall experience was enough.
After that first deer hunt, Brewster was quickly drawn to the stick-and-string. He started looking at bows, found one, learned the principles of effective bow shooting, and began dialing in his form and getting his groups tighter.
“Ever since I picked it up, I was obsessed with it,” he said. “I would go to the community center near my dad’s with a bag target and stretch out my range. I was surprised by how good I was at it since I was able to quickly get and keep my group’s pretty tight. Honestly, I think what I learned on the rifle range in the Marine Corps helped me out."
Building on consistent repetition, Brewster found his arrows rarely missing the 10-ring on an archery target, something that prepared him for his brush with hunting fate last season.
“That first season, I shot two does with my bow,” he said. “And then this last year (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 the move toward archery hunting is one layer of Brewster’s deer hunting story, so too is the siren call of the trophy-rich Midwest. Thanks to a family connection there, the young Virginia bowhunter was soon pointing his pickup truck westward when fall rolled around on the calendar.
“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. There’s also about 40 acres of wooded land. My family has some friends out there and my dad reached out to one. The first year I went out there, I met the guys that my dad have given permission to hunt his farm."
Those guys were Brent Cearlock, Justin Cearlock and Ron Waggoner — veteran bowhunters and helpful men who quickly became Brewster’s deer hunting mentors and a key component in the tale of bowhunting’s biggest whitetail.
“My dad gave the son-in-laws of this family friend permission to hunt and they allowed me to hunt the same land,” said Brewster. “They live there in the area and run around all year putting trail cameras and treestands up — stuff like that.
“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 back in Virginia. Things like only hunting certain stands with the right wind, how to keep your scent from alerting deer, stuff like that. They took me around, showed me where all the stands were at, and we quickly became really good friends."
That first season in the Midwest, Brewster had what he thought was a textbook encounter with a good buck. But after his shot was a bit off them mark, a spotty blood trail from an apparent single-lung hit along with a vast open field led to a tracking job that had an unsuccessful conclusion despite a diligent search by the four men.
“I called my dad after I lost that deer and I felt really bad,” said Brewster. “I had the blues for quite awhile afterwards. But these guys are really some good friends and they picked me back up and convinced me to get back in the game."
An overseas security contracting job — and meeting his wife-to-be — kept Brewster from returning to Illinois in 2016, but he was chomping at the bit and ready to go when the 2017 season rolled around. Somewhere toward the end of his weeklong hunt that year, the 10-point mentioned above strolled into range.
“It was the same creek bottom that I (eventually) shot Mufasa in,” he said. “The 10-point came in one day, started making a scrape and rubbing on a tree, and headed east right into my shooting lane. I grabbed my bow, ranged him at 25 yards, and started thinking about whether or not I should take him. He made me happy, so I decided to shoot and I started getting excited with a little bit of buck fever and some shaking."
After cutting the shot, the buck piled up roughly 45 yards away and gave Brewster an easy recovery of his first bow buck.
“It was a pretty cool experience walking up to him, knowing that he was lying there, and I wouldn’t have a hard tracking job,” he said. “I was pretty grateful for the experience and sat there and looked at him for a good amount of time, thanking him for providing venison for me and my family. That’s the way my dad was, just trying to put meat on the table."
With a successful archery hunt for a buck now behind him, Brewster was prepared for what future deer hunting seasons would bring his way. What he didn’t know just yet is that those autumn seasons would bring an encounter with the world’s most stunning deer — a whitetail that must be seen to be believed.
In part two of our Brewster Buck Revisit series, we'll take a look back at the appearance of a buck known as Mufasa. From showing up on the scene as a promising young typical, to turning into a record-book non-typical, to becoming a legendary buck the likes of which the hunting world has never seen, this deer-hunting story is as good as it gets!