By Lynn Burkhead
For Virginia bowhunter Luke Brewster, his journey into the sport of bowhunting began as a simple pursuit. As we’ve examined in our Brewster Buck Revisit online series, the sport was one that originally was designed to put some venison in the freezer along with a chance to spend some peaceful, soul-nourishing time in the woods.
It then turned into a means of spending time with a group of friends who shared a passion for bowhunting whitetails — outdoor brethren named Brent Cearlock, Justin Cearlock and Ron Waggoner. Their budding friendships and outdoors passion were fueled over a several year period as the group watched a particular whitetail grow and grow — and then grow a lot more — in the eastern Illinois woods.
While all of the above might be the way that Brewster’s journey began, it wouldn’t be long before the humble, quiet young man would find himself on a collision course with the biggest non-typical whitetail that a bowhunter has ever seen. The buck — nicknamed Mufasa — eventually scored a staggering 337 1/8 inches gross and 327 7/8 inches net. Those figures put the Brewster Buck more than 33 inches ahead of Mike Beatty’s previous Pope & Young Club world record non-typical, a 39-point Ohio archery kill in 2000 that measured 294 0/8 inches.
In addition, the massive buck taken on Nov. 2, 2018 is also now the largest whitetail ever killed by a hunter anywhere in the world, topping Stephen Tucker’s 47-point Tennessee monarch — a Nov. 2016 buck that scored 312 0/8 inches.
In the rarefied air at the top of the Boone and Crockett Club record book, Brewster’s 2018 buck from eastern Illinois falls behind only the 333 7/8-inch B&C world record “Missouri Monarch” buck — a 44-point non-typical pickup entry that was found dead near St. Louis in 1981 — and the 328 2/8-inch “Hole in the Horn” non-typical, a 45-point 1940 pickup entry from Ohio. That makes Brewster’s harvest the third biggest buck of all-time.
As exciting as all of that is now, it was still nothing more than a dream inspired by a game camera when Brewster arrived in eastern Illinois on Nov. 1, 2018. As he settled in for a fitful night of sleep after a long rainy drive, his bowhunting pal Justin Cearlock pulled some camera cards, went home, and got plans situated for where everyone would be the next morning.
When dawn approached the next morning, fatigued by the long drive and situated near the dividing line for Central and Eastern Standard Time Zones, Brewster’s fateful day on Nov. 2 didn’t get off to the start he was hoping for.
“Actually, my alarm didn’t go off on my phone since we’re right on the time change line,” he recalled. “But I still got to my Lone Wolf stand just before daylight for the morning sit on my dad’s land. I didn’t see any bucks that morning, but I did see three does around me — including this old nanny doe that was acting all goofy, looking around and stomping her hooves. This stand is in a perfect spot on my dad’s acreage since it’s a big doe bedding area. During the rut, the bucks come by and check this bedding area for a doe in estrous.”
When late morning arrived, Brewster climbed down from his stand, met up with his friends and went into town for breakfast. And that’s when the wheels of hunting fate would finally begin to steer the young bowhunter towards his fateful encounter with Mufasa.
“We talked about some stand placement changes, got caught up on what was going on at each property, looked at maps of our ground (with) onX and ordered breakfast,” said Brewster with a hearty chuckle. “You know, I just realized what the breakfast I had that morning was called by the local café — it was called ‘The Bigger One Breakfast’ with eggs, sausage, hash browns, two biscuits and gravy.”
Since Brewster had hunted a choice stand that morning, others in the group had first dibs on afternoon stand sites situated close to where Mufasa had been sighted in recent days through trail-cam photos. After stand selections for the evening hunt were complete, Brewster drove back to the hunting ground, got his camo ready, and prepared to head in for the rest of the afternoon.
But that’s where hunting fate intervened once again as he surveyed the conditions and considered the stand options at his disposal for the evening sit.
“I ended up changing my mind about where to go and actually went to (a stand) quite a way further south,” he said. “It was in the same patch of woods and I just had a good feeling about it for some reason. I’m really not sure why I changed my mind other than the good feeling I had, but I decided to go there to that stand location.”
A few hours later, that fateful decision would prove to be the most important choice of Brewster’s young bowhunting career.
“I walked through a crop field, staying away from the edges,” said Brewster. “I was trying to stay as far away from them as I could, and I walked to the stand in an L-shaped path. At first, I had some trouble finding the stand and I actually went past it despite having a waypoint on the map. But when I got there, all of the deer runs in that creek bottom, they were so beaten down that it almost looked like a cow trail through there.”
After securing himself with his harness and ascending the climbing sticks roughly 20 feet up into the tree, Brewster settled in and made a few practice draws to see what he could get away with in the stand. Then he pulled his rangefinder out and selected a few spots to measure for shot distances.
“There was a scrape 26 yards to my east and I remember thinking about that specifically, putting that distance in the back of my head,” said Brewster. “I ranged a few other spots on the deer trails, one at 30 yards and another at 35 yards. Then I settled in for the hunt.”
For awhile, all was quiet in the wet woods save for the sounds of the rain-swollen creek running nearby. But that all changed later in the afternoon when the deer-hunting opportunity of a lifetime suddenly stepped into view.
“I turned to my east and I soon as I did so, I saw a deer jumping through the thicket — kind of bounding away,” recalled Brewster.
Worried that the doe might have somehow smelled him, Brewster slowly raised his binoculars and saw two more does slowly easing through the thicket. And then, there was the “Bigger One” buck if there ever was one.
“I looked up and just three or four steps away from the scrape was Mufasa,” said Brewster. “I was blown away when I saw him, and my jaw just dropped (toward) the ground. I was just stunned that he was standing there. I sat there a second and then I thought ‘I’ve got to snap out of it.’”
Reaching for his Hoyt RX-1, Brewster didn’t have enough time to get a case of buck fever as one of the biggest whitetails in hunting history stood less than 30 yards away. Confident that the buck couldn’t see or smell him, Brewster slowly sucked the bow back to full draw and prepared to send an arrow downrange.
“He pawed the dirt two or three times and licked at a branch above him,” said Brewster. “I’ll be honest, he looked so big that I thought my arrow might just bounce right off of him. I tried not to focus on the rack though, and just put the pins on my Spot Hogg sight right where I wanted. I went through my mental checklist, made sure the bubble was level, hit my anchor point, made sure there were no branches in the way and prepared to shoot.”
Aiming with the gap between his 20- and 30-yard pins, Brewster touched the trigger on his release and let the arrow fly. At the shot, the massive non-typical buck bolted off, disappeared from sight and produced a large crashing sound a second or two later.
And that crashing sound started the clock on the longest few moments of Brewster’s life — an interminable wait as he pondered the outcome of a fateful bowhunting shot — the likes of which no other bowhunter had ever seen.
What he didn’t know as he sat there and pondered it all was that bowhunting history had just been made. And that he, a humble Virginia bowhunter named Luke Brewster, was the author of a new chapter that would soon turn the hunting world and its hallowed record books upside down.
And then some I might add, thanks to a mind boggling non-typical buck nicknamed Mufasa.
In part four of our Brewster Buck Revisit series, we’ll take a look back at the wait endured by Brewster, the search for and recovery of Mufasa, and the fast-paced journey to world-record status!