October 17, 2022
In Kansas City, Missouri, bowhunter Josh Heuser kept a close eye on one special buck for five years —a whitetail that ultimately is destined be one of the Show Me State’s best bow-kills of all time. Josh first saw the buck when it was 1 1/2 years old, and each year he watched the giant grow bigger. In 2021, the buck was mature, but Josh deemed him not a target.
“By then I’d watched the deer for a long time, and he definitely was a shooter” Josh recalls. “But that year his rack was broken on one side, so he was off limits.”
“Louis,” as Josh nicknamed the deer, survived the 2021 season and returned during the summer of 2022. Even early that summer, it was apparent Louis was about to blow up in size and become a world class non-typical. So, Josh made scouting for the buck a real priority. “My buddy and I saw him in person one evening this summer,” Josh remembers. “We put a few cameras up in there. My family and I drove out there every night to watch for him, and we watched him for 47 days in a row.”
It’s unbelievable how many times the colossal buck was frequenting Josh’s hunting property in daylight. The fact the buck was so visible left the bowhunter hopeful he’d get a shot at the once-in-a-lifetime trophy. Missouri’s archery season opens in mid-September, and Josh hunted a few times early in the season but didn’t have any luck. Josh’s cellular trail cameras provided consistent intel that the buck was moving through a thicket of cover on the property.
“I was planning to hunt on Sept. 27, if I could get free,” Josh says. “The buck was on trail camera that day while I was at work, so I knew there was at least a chance he would still be in the area that afternoon. The problem was I was at work. I’m a union laborer, and our concrete truck was running late. So, my boss wouldn’t let me off early to go after him. Even my boss sensed I was in a grumpy mood that day!”
After finally getting off work, Josh raced to his spot and got to the property at 6:15 p.m. He had prepped a stand that was completely ready to hunt, so he sprinted straight to it. However, an unfortunate surprise awaited him. “I couldn’t find my stand,” Josh says. “Someone had stolen it. I had no other choice but to seek out a tree I could climb for the evening hunt. I settled on a hackberry tree with a limb I could stand on and hunt about 12 feet up.” Josh broke limbs until he had three holes to shoot through, and he made that tree limb his home for the evening. It didn’t take long, and Josh saw the giant non-typical out in the CRP.
“I spotted Louis at about 200 yards out,” Josh says. “I spotted him walking in the CRP towards me, but the wind was totally wrong. When he got to about 100 yards, he stopped in his tracks, turned around and walked away. I thought it was over, because he definitely got my scent. I looked up to the sky, and I was praying, ‘Please, God. Make this happen.’”
As soon as Josh finished his prayer, Louis turned around and was heading right for Josh, as if he had no care in the world. As Louis closed the distance, Josh readied himself for a shot. When the monster buck got to 52 yards, it stopped perfectly broadside. “I held my 40-yard pin a bit high and shot,” says Josh. “Upon impact, he dropped in his tracks, because the arrow struck him forward and high in the shoulder. I quickly followed up with a second shot to ensure he didn’t get anyway.”
Josh called his wife and a few friends to tell them the news, and he never even walked up to Louis until everyone arrived to help. For Josh, it was a bittersweet moment of celebration and overwhelming emotion after several years of hunting the incredible animal. “I climbed down out of the tree and just cried all by myself,” Josh remembers.
Josh sat in the truck for about an hour replaying what had just happened, and when his friend showed up, they all walked up to Louis and just stood in silence, staring at him. Josh says that the moment was surreal.
It took only a few short days for news of Josh’s trophy to spread like wildfire online and on social media. Though until now Josh hasn’t provided any formal interviews with the media, the hunter’s photos have been shared by hundreds of deer hunting pages as speculation continues about the buck’s potential score and overall ranking among Missouri archery bucks.
Shortly after Josh harvested the buck, North American Whitetail contributor and certified Boone & Crockett measurer Cameron Coble arrived on the scene to “green” score the antlers. Because the B&C record book requires a 60-day drying period to account for antler shrinkage, this scoring session was unofficial and does not reflect a final score. However, it was the first time the rack had been taped according to official B&C rules and regulations — and this is the first time the score has been shared anywhere online or on social media.
Preliminary scoring indicates Josh’s buck has 36 scoreable points, with a “green” gross score of 263 2/8 and a net of 254 3/8. The rack contains a staggering 79 1/8 inches of abnormal points alone. The right and left main beams measure 25 6/8 and 23 3/8 inches, respectively. Perhaps most impressive though are the staggering mass measurements, all of which are over 5 inches. The largest circumference measurements are 7 2/8 and 6 0/8 inches.
This preliminary “green” score puts Louis tentatively at No. 4 all-time in Missouri archery non-typicals. Currently, Randy Simonitch’s 269 7/8 net from Pike County (taken in 2000) ranks No. 1, followed by Jake Dierking’s 267 net and Sean Barry’s 260 1/8 net, respectively. We won’t know for sure where Josh’s tremendous buck falls in this lineup of Show-Me State giants until the 60-day drying period ends and the rack is eligible for official scoring.
Until then, be on the lookout for the full story of Josh’s epic hunt in NAW magazine’s December/January issue. And stay tuned online and on social media for further updates on this incredible whitetail.