By Lynn Burkhead
As we’ve been examining in our previous installments of a Brewster Buck Revisit, bowhunting whitetails started as a way for Virginia bowhunter Luke Brewster to spend some peaceful time in the deer woods.
It then became a way of spending time with a group of friends who shared his growing passion for bowhunting whitetails, an eastern Illinois family comprised of Brent Cearlock, Justin Cearlock and Ron Waggoner. As the group’s bond grew, their attention soon became riveted to a special whitetail that grew to enormous dimensions over a several year period.
In the third installment of this exclusive North American Whitetail online series, Brewster had just released a shot on the stunning buck nicknamed Mufasa, a 39-point giant non-typical whitetail that would soon shatter the Pope and Young Club world record!
As we pick back up here, Brewster admitted last fall that despite the crashing noise he heard after his shot on the afternoon of Nov. 2, 2018, he was far from confident in the moments after his fateful arrow was released toward the giant buck.
“It looked like I might have hit him just a little bit high and as he ran off, I thought I could see the arrow kind of pin-wheeling around,” he said. “I remember thinking ‘Oh no!’ and getting sick to my stomach for just a second.”
After hanging up his Hoyt RX-1, Brewster waited a few minutes before letting the group of bowhunting brothers know what had just happened.
“I was shaking pretty bad, so I didn’t text the guys for about five minutes,” he said. “I was excited, pumped, sick, all at once. I just kept replaying it all in my head, thinking about the shot. I was sick to my stomach, just a cocktail of emotions.”
As Brewster sat there for half an hour, the plan in his mind was to go back to his truck, meet up with his hunting buddies and go from there. But after letting his bow and pack down, he admits he couldn’t stand it and eased over to the spot Mufasa had been standing.
“I’m looking for some blood, but my contacts were starting to dry out and I was having trouble focusing,” he said. “I thought ‘At least look for the arrow,’ which I did, and I found it pretty easily. It was broken in half and I found the portion with the fletching and about 12 inches of it all covered in blood.”
As Brewster eased forward some more, he started picking up a blood trail on the ground and in the vegetation above the turf that was still damp from rainfall the day before. As he looked ahead and scanned the nearby terrain, he suddenly saw a flash of antler sticking up from the ground.
“I could see his rack sticking up and I remember thinking ‘There’s no way — there’s no way that’s him!’, Brewster explained. “But I pulled my binoculars out and looked over there and it was him. I pulled my phone out, texted the group a picture of my arrow, and then I said ‘Guys, I see him, he’s down.’ And then I walked up on him.”
Lying still only 40 yards from where the shot had taken place, Brewster admits to being in total shock at finding Mufasa so easily.
“I took a picture of him, sent it to the guys, and sat down — just in awe as I looked at him,” he said. “I picked up his rack and I just couldn’t believe what I was holding. It felt like a dream.”
It is important to note here that Brewster soon noticed that Mufasa was missing a couple of drop-tine antler points. As he waited on his friends to arrive on scene, a quick back-tracking job produced a significant clue as to the cause of the loud crashing sound he heard after arrowing the giant buck.
“I noticed a fresh break in the antler that was completely white along with another older break,” said Brewster. “I retraced my steps, walked the blood trail backwards, and came to a tree that he had run into. There was a pretty good gash in it and there lying at the base of the tree was the broken antler. I grabbed it, brought it over to where he laid, and it was a perfect match.”
After his hunting group had gathered, there were a lot of hearty backslaps, photos taken, and the story told of how Brewster had just downed Mufasa.
“I was so happy that I had made a good shot and that he died so quickly,” said Brewster. “It was just a little bit high, but at 26 yards, the exit wound was perfect and came out on the opposite shoulder after I had gotten both lungs and the top of his heart.”
Since the deer fell close to the property line, Brewster and his buddies texted the adjoining landowner to make sure that their retrieval of the buck was okay.
“We just wanted to cover all the bases, to make sure that we did everything right,” he said. “We called him and talked to him and he said that we could go get the deer.”
After field dressing the buck and getting him chilled down and secure in a locked shed overnight, a local game warden showed up to the property the next day as a photo session took place.
“He was really cool,” said Brewster. “He said this deer had caused quite a ruckus and that he had been getting e-mails all morning about it. He had come to check everything out.”
At some point after that, Brewster visited a taxidermist to see about getting Mufasa mounted. While he knew he had taken a monstrous deer, the enormity of what he had accomplished began to sink in just a little bit more.
“He (the taxidermist) asked what I wanted to do with the buck, and I said a shoulder mount,” said Brewster. “He was like ‘No, no, I don’t think you really know what you’ve done.”
As a photo or two hit social media sites, the admittedly private hunter began to gain virtual overnight nationwide celebrity status as news of his historic buck and the story of his amazing bowhunt for Mufasa began to leak out.
“Within 28 hours of the buck’s harvest, I was shown field photos of Luke with the deer,” said longtime North American Whitetail editor Gordon Whittington. “My immediate reaction was, ‘That really looks like a new world record.’ Nothing happening since then caused me to waver from my initial reaction. Of course, until a rack is officially measured you can’t be sure what the tape will say, but this rack scores as big as it looks.”
After the 60-day drying period was complete, the non-typical Brewster buck received an initial net score of 320 5/8-inches, a score that was officially announced in our Outdoor Sportsman Group booth on Jan. 10, 2019 in Louisville, Ky. at the annual ATA Trade Show.
Finally seeing the Brewster Buck in person just before the start of the ATA Show — the buck’s massive 39-point rack was actually on display in the OSG booth — confirmed what Whittington and his associate editor, Haynes Shelton, already knew.
“As soon as I saw the first two profile photos of the rack, I knew this deer was one of the best whitetails ever taken by bow,” said Whittington, also a longtime fixture on the NAW television show. “He turned out to be even bigger than that.”
That news became apparent later in the spring of 2019 when Mufasa was panel scored by a group of official measurers with the Pope and Young Club and the Boone and Crockett Club.
When the March 1, 2019 panel-scoring session in Omaha, Neb. was complete by measurers Stan Zirbel, Gil Hernandez, Kyle Lehr, Ken Witt, Ricky Krueger, Jack Reneau, Eli Randall and Panel Chairman Ed Fanchin, the final score of the Brewster buck had been upped to a staggering 337 1/8 inches gross and 327 7/8 inches net.
As you might expect, Brewster was a little overwhelmed by the news.
“I headed to Omaha with a good feeling but still a tad nervous on how the scorers were going to make calls,” he said in the P&Y news release. “I knew it was scored very conservatively on the initial entry form by measurer Tim Walmsley, but you never know. After a day and a half of waiting in anticipation, Eli Randall informed me of the new panel-verified score. I was sent into shock once again as the score increased 7 2/8” from the original entry. Unbelievable. All I can say is that I’m very blessed.”
Indeed he is, something that Shelton confirmed by putting the Brewster buck into even more historical context.
“In history, only two free-range whitetails exist with bigger non-typical racks than Luke Brewster’s deer,” said Shelton. “The first of those is the famous Hole in the Horn buck, which measures 328 2/8 B&C and was found dead on a railroad in Kent, Ohio in 1940. The next is the Missouri Monarch, a buck that was found dead in 1981 near St. Louis and scores 333 7/8 B&C. Obviously, all of these bucks are incredible specimens that deserve our respect and admiration. I’m just thrilled that we can celebrate another one being added to the list.”
With all of this world record talk noted above, it’s important to note here that this is a humble man — a military veteran who insists he was only at the right place at the right time when deer hunting’s version of lightning struck in Illinois.
Two things help confirm that — the first being Brewster’s concern for his military colleagues who have fought for America’s freedom and security on overseas soil. As a disabled vet himself, the Virginia hunter hopes to spearhead an effort to get more of his brothers out into the woods for the healing properties and peace and quiet that he has found.
“I’ve had a lot of friends from the Marine Corps reach out to me,” said Brewster. “They want to experience the deer woods, and some are even considering buying a bow and learning how to do it. So, they’ve reached out to me (in recent days). I’ve told them that it’s not going to be easy, that there are lots of days where you will see nothing, but you’re out there enjoying the outdoors and being at peace.”
A second note about Brewster’s character comes from his genuine concern for a band of hunting brothers in eastern Illinois, guys that he says helped him be in the right spot at the right time when one of history’s best whitetail bucks came calling.
“I really felt bad for the other guys (after I got Mufasa),” said Brewster. “I know they were excited to be chasing him and had put in a lot of hard work. So, I kind of felt bad for taking the deer. I know everyone wanted to be the one who put a tag on it.
“I’m blessed to have them as friends, such good people to take me in like they have,” he added. “They are the guys that have been doing all the work all year long from food plots to hanging stands to checking cameras. I feel just so blessed for them to take me in like they have. This buck was the result of teamwork and without them, there was no way I would have ever put this buck on the ground.”
Brewster knows that one day, despite the enormity of the buck dubbed Mufasa, someone else might venture into the woods and take an even bigger whitetail.
“My advice to other hunters out there is just to keep at it because I’m proof that crazier things have happened,” said Brewster. “I’m just a regular guy who had a good opportunity to go hunting in Illinois. And if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody.”