Bill Metzler, Montana

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it sometimes is also the downfall of a big whitetail. Bill Metzler of Hartville, Ohio, saw that in 1994, while hunting in Montana's Flathead National Forest.

The kill occurred in a high-country clearcut, just after a blizzard had dumped three feet of snow in the mountains. Bill had been tracking a bull elk up a steep ridge at an elevation of 7,000 feet, and along the way, he'd seen some tracks that looked to have been made by a big mule deer. As Bill squatted against a Ponderosa pine to rest for a bit, he heard antlers scraping against and snapping low pine branches in the nearby woods. The hunter could see a whitetail's legs and rump but nothing more.

With his legs having lost all feeling, Bill realized he'd have to stand up to keep from falling over. When he did, he snapped a twig underfoot and sneezed loudly. The rut-crazed buck, which had been turning to disappear back into the woods, suddenly decided to investigate the unnatural noise — and in so doing, he walked right out in front of the rifleman at a range of only 30 yards.

Bill shot the buck at 9:30 a.m., and it took him until 3 p.m. to get the trophy back to his vehicle. But transporting the enormous animal would have been far more difficult and time consuming had the route not been all downhill. "I was able to ride him like a sleigh while holding onto his rack down the mountainside," the hunter says.

The 10-pointer had a 22-inch spread and beam circumferences of up to 7 1/8 inches, but his body mass is what Bill remembers most. The dressed weight was 285 pounds, and his neck was 31 1/8 inches in circumference when measured at the throat patch!

"This truly was a magical day and pure luck," Bill says. "However, I earned this buck through hunting in sub-zero temperatures everyday for weeks and then an unbelievably long drag to get him to my truck."

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