October 31, 2022
Giant public-land whitetails are few and far between in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Heavy hunting pressure and dense Popple forests make finding one difficult. Tim Bannen managed to locate a buck, then spent three years homing in on the exact spot to tag it while bowhunting. Over that time, the deer grew into a very unique trophy.
The buck first appeared in trail camera pics in December of 2019, showing no hint of what he would become. Later images helped Tim fine tune his core area, but he still needed more time to be the deer of a lifetime.
By 2021, the buck was worthy of more attention. “He was beginning to develop an interesting look, but still hadn’t reached full potential,” Tim says. “I hunted him but tagged another buck that was too good to pass.” Then gun season opened, and Tim was out of the woods.
A morning drive by revealed 11 vehicles within 500 yards of the area where the deer had been. “All I could do was pray he managed to elude a barrage of bullets and survive another year,” Tim remembers. Fortunately, he showed up on the trail camera again after the season closed!
How he eluded so many hunters is a real puzzle. But the big surprise came when he grew his new, and very different, set of antlers during the summer of 2022. The buck had blown up, putting on crazy mass and adding two major flyers on his left G2. “It was totally unexpected, but I was more determined than ever then,” Tim says. “And he was still in the same area.”
Tim has friends from Ohio he swaps hunts with every fall. He has taken some great bucks hunting with them there. So, he invited them over to hunt the Michigan opener. The plan was to cover as much of the area as possible, and maybe one of them would get lucky.
On opening morning, the monster buck was spotted by his friend, Eric Dew. He watched it feeding for over 20 minutes, but the slammer managed to stay out of bow range. That sighting fired up the camp, and Tim decided to get on his stand extra early the next morning.
An hour into his sit, a single doe drifted in and began feeding. Then, she changed her focus. Something else was coming.
Tim glanced around and caught a quick flash of antler, then the rack of his target came into view. Things were happening fast. The bruiser was already broadside at 17 yards. “I took one look at that rack and stopped staring,” Tim says. “I was worried that if I kept looking, I would make a bad shot.”
His nerves still got to him, and the arrow hit just a little off the mark. The buck bounded two times and disappeared into a thicket. “And then, I made a rookie mistake,” he explains. “I knew better, but I went looking and pushed the buck.” That error led to a long day, a mile-long chase and a cell phone lost in the process. But Tim is not complaining since he made the recovery.
The buck green scores 182 4/8. The rack is boosted by incredible mass measurements.
“I am overjoyed that it all worked out, and that my friends were there to share the hunt with me,” Tim says. “It is definitely a hunt I will never forget!”