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Rex McMorris Buck: 189-Inch Illinois Bruiser

Rex McMorris Buck: 189-Inch Illinois Bruiser

mcmorris_buck_1All serious deer hunters in the Midwest are well aware of how cold it was toward the end of the 2013-2014 hunting season. Adjectives such as "frigid," "arctic" and even "polar" got a lot of use by anyone trying to fill an empty tag.

Rex McMorris didn't have to deal with a lot of that nasty weather in the field that year, but only because he was too busy to hunt much. Due to his work schedule, the avid central Illinois hunter didn't even get to venture afield during the first gun deer season, which spans three days in November. For that matter, work also kept him from doing much bowhunting, which he really loves. With December looming, all Rex had to show for his entire hunting season was a couple of does.

But things suddenly were looking better for the second gun season, which was set for Dec. 5-8. A few days prior to that Thurs.-Sun. season, Rex found himself laid off work. Of course, getting laid off isn't typically a good thing — but in this case, it did have its bright side. Rex finally would have some time to gun hunt his Tazewell County spot after all.

By this time the weather had turned downright brutal. In fact, by the second day of second gun season Rex barely even could stay on stand until the end of legal shooting light, even though he'd waited until 3 p.m. to begin his afternoon watch.

"When the temperature is only 5 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind is blowing, a couple of hours is about all I can stand," he notes. "I made it until dark but was just about frozen."

It didn't exactly boost Rex's confidence when the 2-hour sit resulted in his seeing not even one whitetail. But that really didn't surprise him. Deer in a  large portion of the Midwest had taken a pretty good hit from epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in early fall. Rex himself had found several dead deer earlier in the season.

As he got back to his truck at dark on Dec. 6, the odds he was facing suddenly hit home. Between EHD, cold temperatures and the fact that it's already halfway through the second gun season, I might be crazy even being in a tree, he lectured himself.

Rex didn't even ponder going out again the next morning. But at around 2:30 p.m. that Saturday, he looked at his wife, Jolyn, and said, "I'm going deer hunting."

Her immediate response was somewhat predictable. "Are you crazy? You almost froze yesterday . . . and it's not any warmer today."

Rex's response as he headed for the door was to utter the classic line, "You can't shoot them from the couch." But even as he said it, he didn't realize just how monumental his decision to hit the woods would prove to be.

Fortunately, Rex didn't have to drive far to his hunting location. He arrived at the small piece of private property at 3:15. Using his climbing tree stand, he managed to get set up in the timber near a field by 3:30.

Within minutes, Rex saw a doe running toward him, acting as if she were being chased. This is a good start to what might be a really good day of hunting, he told himself. The doe hesitated for just a few seconds at a distance of about 80 yards, then took off.


"I immediately picked up my shotgun (a Remington Model 870 in 12 gauge) and focused on what might be coming behind the doe," the hunter recalls.

And so he waited. And waited. And waited some more. Eventually, 45 minutes had gone by since the doe's hurried passage, and yet nothing more had happened.

Just as Rex finally started to relax, he heard limbs breaking where the doe had stopped earlier. Not knowing what had caused the noise, the hunter tried his grunt tube and can call but still couldn't determine the source of the disturbance.

Roughly five minutes later, as Rex was scanning the area deer typically come from, he again heard limbs breaking. Looking in the general area of the noise, he saw a deer heading away from him up a ridge — and immediately knew it was a shooter buck.

From that point forward, Rex didn't look at the antlers; he simply grabbed his gun and started trying to find a hole to shoot through.

"I thought he was going away from me to follow a doe," the hunter recalls. "But instead, he started toward me on a ridge parallel to my location."

Rex finally found a clear shooting lane at 60 yards, well within range. But since the buck didn't appear to be spooked, he thought he might lure him even closer. Rex grabbed his Primos can call and hit it once. The buck stopped and looked his way, then changed direction. Then he headed directly toward the stand!

The buck kept walking, looking for the doe he thought he'd heard. Finally, at a range of just 20 yards, the giant stopped and looked up at the hunter. He did a couple of head bobs, trying to get a better look at whatever was hanging on the side of the tree.

"I could tell the buck was getting nervous and decided it was time to take the shot," Rex says. The buck now was slightly quartering toward him, so he put the crosshairs on the crease between the shoulder and the neck.

When the slug gun went off, the buck collapsed to the ground. Rex immediately pumped another shell into the gun, never taking his eyes off the buck in the process. But no follow-up shot was necessary. The buck was still down and from the looks of it, going nowhere.

After watching for a couple of minutes to make sure the whitetail really was dead, Rex got out his cell phone and called his wife. His first comment to her was, "I got a decent buck down." In retrospect, that might have been the understatement of the year.

Rex's next call was to his hunting buddy, Scott, to solicit help dragging the buck to the truck. Then the hunter sat back and waited — 25 whole minutes — before getting out of the tree.

Why so long? "After shooting the buck and watching him for several minutes, I started shaking and needed some time to calm down before coming out of the tree with my climbing stand," the hunter explains.

When Rex finally walked up to the buck and got a good look at the antlers, he began to realize just how big they really were. Now somewhat in shock, he tagged and field-dressed the deer.

"It was a good thing I only looked at the rack once (before the shot), and that it was from 80 yards," he says. "Or I might have completely lost it."

mcmorris_chartWhen Scott arrived, they proceeded to drag the huge buck to the edge of the field, then got the truck. They later determined the buck weighed 195 pounds field dressed, even though it was well past peak rut. The men took the deer to Mike Reatherford Taxidermy, where the trophy was preserved as a shoulder mount.

Rex wanted to have his deer scored at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic, which was set for late February in Springfield. However, by then he was working again, and he couldn't get off to go to the event. Fortunately, a month later he heard about the nearby Elmwood Outdoor Show and was able to take the buck there to be measured.

Tim Walmsley, an official Boone & Crockett measurer, scored the giant 6X6 typical. His reaction was succinct: "Awesome buck."

No kidding. The tall, massive rack has a gross score of 194 3/8 as a typical 6x6, with a net score of 189 4/8. The symmetry is as exceptional as the antlers' size. Put it all together and you have what evidently was the state's highest-scoring typical buck of the 2013-4 hunting season.

In Conclusion

Rex McMorris is an experienced and dedicated deer hunter. But sometimes it takes a little extra dedication when the temperature is in the single digits and the chill factor is well below zero. As Rex's wife put it: "Are you crazy? You almost froze yesterday."

Well, sometimes "crazy" isn't such a bad thing!

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.

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