Olivia Miller Buck: 183-Inch Iowa Hoss

miller_buck_fYou might find this story hard to believe. For my part, I find it hard to decide how to tell.

Spring 2011 found me stomping the woods in my family's Iowa hunting area, looking for bone. In an area in which I'd found numerous sheds over the last 15 years, I picked up a small one from a deer that looked to have tremendous potential. Although it appeared to be from the buck's second (or possibly even first) rack, the antler already had a nice split G-2 tine and six typical points. Even in a trophy state like Iowa, that's a buck with apparently great potential.

The following fall, I was scouting for a good deer for my young daughter, Olivia. In the process of doing so, I saw this deer one evening. And wow — what a jump he'd made! He'd gone from around 120 inches (assuming the previous year's sides had matched) to an estimated 160. He had really long tines and a super-white rack.

I tried to get trail cam photos of the buck, just to confirm his size, but to no avail. We never hunted him that year, but I knew I'd be shed hunting the area again come spring.

Now let's fast-forward to Jan. 5, 2013. That's when Mattie, my shed-hunting Labrador retriever, and I went for our first pilgrimage of the year. The second shed we found was one of the sheds off that buck from the year prior. It was a little broken up, but clearly the buck had made a huge jump from the previous year. I was determined to find the remaining side.

After numerous shed forays over the next two-plus months, in March Mattie found and brought me the other side, totally unassisted. It was shed No. 82 for the year and a dandy. And that's the reason this deer became the "80-80" buck: the matching antlers were found 80 days and 80 sheds apart.

miller_3I was now on a mission to help Olivia bag this fine deer. We already had permission to hunt the area the buck called home, but after finding out we also could plant a food plot, I liked our chances even more. Late July found us pushing some dead trees off the selected area and then tilling, fertilizing and planting.

Even though rain was scarce, the plot took off. The day I planted, I also hung a couple stands and brought in some dirt, mineral and cherry flavoring. I was hoping to get some trail camera photos of the deer if he was in fact using the area as his summer range.

I didn't want to put the mineral onto the ground, because it would be in the soil within the area we were going to hunt, and that constitutes illegal baiting here in Iowa; so, I cut off a blue barrel and mixed up the concoction in it.

Apparently it was too late in the year for much mineral use. Deer really never even touched the mixture until I dumped some apples next to the barrel. But finally, after about a month, I was shocked when I got the first pictures of the buck we were chasing. At that point, he was still in velvet. With only a couple weeks until youth season, I pulled the barrel and made sure there were no apple remnants in the plot.

As we got no hard-antlered photos of 80-80 on that plot after pulling the barrel, our hopes weren't too high. Still, we had to try the area.

The first day, Sept. 21, we didn't hunt. The wind was wrong for the location. The second day brought a perfect southerly breeze, but no bucks; we only saw about a half-dozen does and fawns. However, the third evening of the season was one to remember.

I picked up Olivia from school about 5:15 p.m. We were rushed for time but made it to the stand and got settled in at about 5:45. Shortly after that, my daughter enjoyed chicken and rice with some crackers and Gatorade. (I found out there's no way a growing 8-year-old can make it until 8 p.m. to eat dinner.)

At about 6:25, the only buck I had recent photos of — a forkhorn — came walking right down the trail to the food plot. As the velvet-racked youngster fed in the plot, he seemed really nervous and kept looking about. Sure enough, several minutes after that buck had appeared, I saw long, white tines coming. It was him!

I looked him over really well ( even though it honestly didn't matter) to see if anything was broken. All three of his sheds I'd found had been badly busted. But his rack was unscathed.

He proceeded down the same path and entered the plot at about 100 yards away. Quickly and quietly I helped Olivia raise the gun onto the shooting rest. (She was recovering from a broken arm and still had it in a cast.)

Camera rolling, my daughter found the buck in the scope. I raised the magnification to 9X and cocked the hammer. Olivia assured me over and over that she had the buck in the crosshairs and was "steady as a house."

At the shot, smoke filled the air — but for only a moment. I heard the bullet hit the deer and immediately we could see him favoring /dragging his offside foreleg. The buck ran 40 yards off the plot and bedded.

I was hoping it was over right there but after about 10 minutes, he stood, walked 10 yards or so and bedded again. Although he wasn't dead, I knew he must have been hit hard. We watched the spot for the remaining 45 minutes of light and backed out.

miller_2It was a long night for Olivia and me. She shed a few tears, not knowing if the deer had expired. I assured her it wasn't really right to pray for a big deer, but that it would be all right to pray that the deer wasn't suffering and that we'd either have a quick recovery or that he'd quickly heal and be no worse for wear. That was our last discussion before Olivia fell asleep for the night.

After good searching light in the morning, we quickly found both blood-stained beds — but no deer. Fortunately, there was a faint blood trail, and we had to follow it only about 40 yards before seeing the huge buck lying dead in his final bed.

And that's when the celebration began.

I normally don't try to score bucks from trail camera images, but in the case of this one I'd done so. Based on numerous velvet photos, I'd come up with a conservative gross score of 188 inches. Prior to the kill I'd shared the photos with a very few folks, and all felt my rough score was too low.

As it turned out, they were right. I hadn't expected the tine length to be so great. The tremendous G-2 tine on the right antler was 14 4/8 inches, and the fork off the left G-2 measured 9 4/8. Total gross bone was 200 1/8, with a net of 183 5/8 non-typical.

This score proved high enough to earn Olivia's buck second place in his category at the 2014 Iowa Deer Classic. And the deer won the coveted "People's Choice" award among all on display there. It was a fitting end to a deer story neither Olivia nor I ever will forget.

For Your Information

miller_1The hunt for this great Iowa whitetail is featured on Primetime Bucks 18, the latest annual big-buck DVD from Hunter's Specialties. With 26 kills and 3 1/2 hours of intense footage, the DVD is another winner in this long-running series.

A "Big Buck Profile" on Olivia's deer also will be shown on North American Whitetail TV later this fall. For details on each week's episode, visit The Sportsman Channel.

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.

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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 'œgreen' 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.

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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.

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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 'œfire in the hole' while floating the crosshairs on the spot, I gently squeezed the trigger until the recoil removed the buck from my view.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 'œI remained in the stand for several minutes to gather my thoughts and calm down,' Mikell says. 'œI'™m sure the entire encounter only took a few minutes, but it seemed an eternity.'

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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 'œonly' 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.

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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.

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