Skip to main content

Mike Miller Buck: 215-Inch Arkansas Monarch

It was October 7, 2012, and a cold front had pushed through the eastern Arkansas Delta, dropping the temperature into the mid-50s. The low country heat had hovered in the 70s and 80s for the previous weeks, and this was the break that Mike Miller, of Marion, Ark., was waiting for. Just 10 days prior, a familiar old buck had shown up on his trail camera, but, this year, the beast had sprung into an entirely new category of whitetail. The buck was a giant.

Perhaps this was the break that would mark a new era in Mike's hunting career and his life. In a symbolic sense, it was a much-needed break for Mike after a decade of fighting for his life. He didn't know it, but he was about to lay down Arkansas' largest buck of the 2012-13 hunting season.

Two years earlier, in 2010, Mike had seen a narrow-racked buck with numerous stickers while hunting one of his favorite stands, located within 40 yards of the St. Francis River in Cross County. The buck passed through a shooting lane just minutes after Mike had shot a high 140-class class 9-pointer with his slug gun.

The unique buck got a free pass that day, but the image of the young deer stuck in Mike's memory. He didn't get any trail camera pictures of the deer that season, but in 2011 he recognized the buck as it tripped the trigger of his Bushnell camera more than once. However, the buck, which was an impressive 180-class whitetail at the time, was like a ghost, only appearing at night and randomly at that.

It was also during this time that Mike continued to live with the after effects of a body ravaged by leukemia. Diagnosed in 2002 at the age of 30, Mike fought for his life as the cancer relapsed three times after intense rounds of chemotherapy. During the struggle, the cancer spread through Mike's bone marrow and into his spine, and his family began to fear for the worst.

In 2004, the doctors suggested a stem cell transplant in an attempt to save Mike's life. This is a long and grueling process that is complicated by the difficulty in finding a perfect donor. However, God had figuratively given Mike an ace-in-the-hole — an identical twin brother! Mark was more than willing and was the perfect match for the life-saving treatment.

Growing up in Eastern Arkansas, Mike had always loved to hunt, even before he got sick. The doctors told him that he would likely be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life after the stem cell transplant. However, by God's grace, Mike is able to walk on his own today and has been cancer-free since 2004.

However, the side effects of the battle have weakened him significantly, particularly in his physical stamina and eyesight, but this hasn't kept him out the woods. Though his brother Mark is very much involved in his hunting, Mike scouts and hunts on his own. He has just been forced to find a new pace.

October 2012

In 2012, the Arkansas bow opener fell on September 15, and Mike didn't have a target buck picked out for the season. It wasn't until late September that the narrow-racked-sticker buck would appear for the third year in a row. However, his 2012 appearance was notably more dramatic than the last two. Gnarly antlers filled the frames of the trail camera pictures, and Mike knew the buck had exploded.

He was hunting a large piece of private farm property located inside the levy of the St. Francis River. The property was owned by a close friend, and Mike had hunted it for the last 20 years. Much of the cleared ground inside the levy is now in CRP, planted in water oaks and overcup oaks — the perfect habitat to incubate the maturation process of a low-country monarch.

Mark knew that Mike was having a difficult time shooting his Mathews bow from elevated positions, and he suggested that he shoot a crossbow in 2012. Then, as if by providence, Mike won a drawing for a $1,000 Bass Pro Shops gift card at a bass tournament in May 2012! Mike used the money to buy a TenPoint Turbo XLT crossbow. Unbeknownst to him, the second time he would carry it to the tree, he would drop the string on a giant.


Mike had built a box stand along the timbered banks of the St. Francis River overlooking a 15-acre CRP field where he had seen the big buck the year before. They had strategically cleared three shooting lanes, each approximately 10 yards wide, through the CRP and planted them in Mossy Oak Biologic's Full Draw blend. Mike could see 200 yards in three different directions from the stand.

In late September, Mike dumped several hundred pounds of culled sweet potatoes, a crop grown in eastern Arkansas, within bow range of the box stand. Hunting over bait is legal in Arkansas and is a common practice that is misunderstood by many. Killing a mature buck over supplemental feed is a significant challenge, period — just like any other style of fair chase hunting.

Unknown to many, deer absolutely love sweet potatoes! The first pictures of the buck appeared in late September 2012, just days after the potatoes hit the dirt.

Mike had hunted the sweet potato stand the day before, on October 6, and had only seen one deer. He planned to hunt another stand on the following day, not wanting to pressure the "Sweet Potato Buck." Mike is not a novice hunter, and he understood that pressuring the deer would be a major mistake. However, because of the recent rains and Mike's inability to walk long distances, he chose to hunt the stand that evening because of the ease of access. A high-pressure system had moved in and the evening just felt right.

Mike didn't know it, but as he drove onto the property and unloaded his ATV that afternoon, the buck was making his first-ever daytime appearance in front of his camera. At 4:07 p.m. on October 7, the camera snapped a picture of the giant, trash-horned buck munching on sweet potatoes within 20 yards of the stand while Mike was less than a mile away getting his gear ready!

The deer on the property are familiar with human activity because of all the farming activity in the area. Mike uses this to his advantage and out of necessity, when he drives his ATV to the stand and parks within 40 yards. Behind the stand was a significant drop-off leading to the river. Mike parks out of sight and downwind of the stand.

Mike likely bumped the big deer back into the CRP when he drove in, but the familiar sound of the gas engine didn't spook him very far. Mike climbed into his box stand at 4:20 p.m.

"It was about 5:30 p.m. when I heard two bucks sparring in the CRP," Mike recalled. "Within a few minutes, a lone buck popped out into the shooting lane 100 yards away and made his way down the lane in front of the stand. Following the young buck was a second deer, and they made their way into the potatoes."

By now, it was 5:45 p.m. and Mike noticed more movement about 200 yards away, straight in front of the stand. "My eyes aren't that good, but I thought I saw a deer stick his head out of the CRP and look directly down the shooting lane toward the stand," Mike said. "I was beginning to doubt myself after several minutes of the deer not moving, but then I saw his ear twitch. The deer then stepped out into the shooting lane followed by two more bucks and cautiously started to walk towards me. When he got to about 150 yards, I could tell that it was the big buck."

The Sweet Potato Buck took his time covering the 150 yards down the open shooting lane.

"The buck was so cautious that I dipped my head and would occasionally look under the bill of my hat as he came in," Mike said. "My crossbow was in my lap and I was afraid to move it."

Finally, after a grueling 15 minutes, the buck made his way into shooting range, cautiously approaching the sweet potatoes while munching on the Biologic. However, Mike's bow was still in his lap! The big buck had the two other smaller bucks with him and three pairs of cautious eyes had him afraid to move.

"I was sitting there with the buck in range but afraid to move," Mike explained. "About that time, I heard gravel popping. A truck was driving down the levy several hundred yards in front of the stand. Every one of the deer stopped and turned to look back towards the noise, and when they did, they all turned broadside at 25 yards. I pulled up the crossbow and shot!"

The two-blade Rage broadhead hit slightly high but behind the shoulder. The shot looked good to Mike. He listened as the buck busted out into the CRP but never heard him fall. Immediately, Mike texted his brother Mark, who was hunting on the farm some distance away. Mark warned Mike to stay in the tree until he and Lance, a friend and the landowner, got there.

After they arrived and Mike climbed down, they immediately found the crossbow bolt stuck in the ground. "The arrow wasn't coated in blood like you would like," he said. "We started looking around and we couldn't find any blood. Finally my brother found a speck going into the CRP.

It took him 30-40 minutes to trail 40 yards; the buck wasn't bleeding at all. Finally, we got up to a spot 100 yards into the CRP and found where the buck had stopped and there was a pool of blood. From there, he ran another 50 yards and piled up. The shot was a little high and he had to fill up with blood."

When the brothers and Lance reached the giant buck, they couldn't believe their eyes. First of all, the buck had superb mass and the rack was covered in points! The brow tines were extremely tall and the buck had two droptines! However, the most notable trait was the buck's main beams crossed each other in front. The buck was obviously mature, with a live weight of 219-pounds, 21 scorable points and a net non-typical score of 215 6/8 inches.

The flood of emotions that overtook the men as they admired the buck was overwhelming, especially, considering all the factors that played into the overarching picture of the hunt. The first and most significant factor was that Mike was still alive and healthy enough to hunt after his struggle with leukemia.

Secondly, it was extraordinary that a buck of this caliber even existed in the area Mike was hunting. The region is known for big deer, but this was by far the biggest they had ever hunted. Third, the buck, previously only seen at night, made his first daytime appearance in 2012 that very day! Finally, Mike was able to share the recovery with his twin brother, who had played a significant role in saving his life.

During Mike's treatment, he spent 356 days in the hospital and had more than 50 spinal tap chemotherapy treatments. "I was just a normal 30-year-old," Mike recalled. "Played golf, softball and hunted. Never went to the doctor and never got sick! I didn't even really understand what leukemia was until I was diagnosed with it. My world changed over night."

Despite the doctors' predictions, Mike has overcome tremendous odds and gives all the credit for his life, his current stable health and the Sweet Potato Buck to God. Mike's body may be weaker than it once was, but his mind and heart are strong and his attitude toward life is extremely positive. He is passionate about his family, his hunting and his faith. A 200-inch-plus whitetail has never fallen to a more deserving hunter.

Kyle Heuerman

Any serious whitetail hunter knows that it's not often that we get a second chance on the buck of a lifetime, or even a first chance for that matter. But luck was on the side of Kyle Heuerman and his girlfriend Jennifer Weaver when they put an arrow through this 196-inch Illinois brute. Read the full story.

Joe Franz

We estimate he was 7 1/2 years old. That's based on photos from 2010, when he clearly wasn't over 3 1/2. When I got him he weighed over 300 pounds on the hoof, as suspected. Official B&C measurer Glen Salow came up with a 'green ' gross score of 258 7/8 inches. After the 60-day drying period, he again taped the rack. This time he got a gross non-typical score of 261 3/8, with a net of 230 7/8. The gross score evidently makes this the highest-scoring wild whitetail ever harvested on professional video. Read the full story.

Jon Massie

Jon's no stranger to free-ranging whitetails across the central plains, having guided a number of clients to trophies and harvesting many big ones himself. In fact, going into 2013 he'd shot two net Boone & Crocketts: one a non-typical scoring over 200, the other a typical from public land. With such success behind him, Jon felt all of his hunting dreams already had come true. At least, he did until a buck he'd never seen showed up on one of his trail cameras. Read the full story.

Tom Boyer

Knowing I couldn't even come to my knees without breaking the little concealment we had, I decided to lie on my left side, using my left elbow for as solid a rest as could be achieved within the slight incline of the old fencerow. But when I shouldered the rifle, the sight of the crosshairs oriented at a 10-4 o'clock angle was definitely a different look from the normal 12-6 position we all practice from. Even so, I didn't figure that would matter if I aimed at the right spot and squeezed off a clean shot. I settled the crosshairs where I needed to place the bullet and steadied the rifle. Whispering 'fire in the hole ' while floating the crosshairs on the spot, I gently squeezed the trigger until the recoil removed the buck from my view. Read the full story.

Teddy's Buck

With a whopping 40 inches of non-typical growth, he has a gross Boone & Crockett score of 215 3/8. The rack's 21 6/8-inch inside spread certainly helps to show off its unique character. He was just a special deer, and very much a result of patience in both management and hunting. Read the full story.

Ryan Sullivan

Ryan Sullivan was only 19 when, during the 2013 season, he arrowed an Arkansas buck of gigantic proportions. Like many of his fellow Arkansans, Ryan is a deer and duck fanatic. For several years, however, he gave up most of his duck season to lock horns with the world-class buck. Read the full story.

Junior Key

Junior's outstanding whitetail is the biggest ever recorded from Monroe County, and he ranks as one of the Bluegrass State's top bucks from the 2013-14 season. This great non-typical also is the latest member of Kentucky's all-time Top 30 list. Read the full story.

Mikell Fries

At 16 yards, Mikell took aim at the giant and released his arrow. In an instant, the shaft had passed through him. The deer instantly whirled and ran out of sight . . . but then, within seconds the archer heard him crash to the ground. 'I remained in the stand for several minutes to gather my thoughts and calm down, ' Mikell says. 'I'm sure the entire encounter only took a few minutes, but it seemed an eternity. ' Read the full story.

Bill Robinson

Three double-digit tines of 10 2/8 to 13 5/8 inches, plus 7 1/8- and 9 3/8-inch brows and a 21 3/8-inch inside spread, add plenty to this regal crown. Put everything together and you have a gross 9-point frame score of 193 6/8. That's as big as it sounds. Typical asymmetry and 11 6/8 inches of abnormal points total 25 1/8 inches of deductions, so as a typical, the deer nets 'only ' 168 5/8. But the 8×5 rack's total gross score of 205 4/8 is much more reflective of its stunning size. Regardless of score, the Robinson buck is clearly a marvel of nature. Read the full story.

Nick Drake

The action was fast and furious right from the get-go. At daybreak a doe busted through the cedar thicket with an eight-point suitor following close behind. The doe, however, wanted nothing to do with her pursuer and jumped into a nearby pond in an attempt to flee the buck. This, however, wasn't the last of the action. Nick continued to watch several bucks harass does throughout the morning, but chose not to take a shot at them. Read the full story.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Ripcord Arrow Rests Rejuvenates Lineup with Three New Models

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Don't Sleep on Conventional Trail Cameras

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Browning Trail Cameras Announces Cellular Innovation for 2024

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

ATA 2024 Core SR First Look from Bowtech

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Browning OVIX Camo: Ultimate Concealment for Any Time, Any Place

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Air Venturi Avenge-X Classic PCP Air Rifle Reviewed

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Primos Edge Carbon Fiber Tripod Shooting Sticks

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Bowhunting Aoudad in Texas with Browning OVIX Camo

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Bowtech CP30: A Better Bow Made For The Whitetailer

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Browning's Exclusive OVIX Camo Gives You Complete Concealment

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Start to Finish Success for Ultimate Season Bucks

North American Whitetail's Blake Garlock shares his strategies for trail-cam use during four distinct times of the year,...

Year-Round Deer Scouting with Moultrie Mobile Edge Cellular Trail Cams

North American Whitetail Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the North American Whitetail App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top North American Whitetail stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now