You can hunt whitetails and mule deer from the first blush of fall until the dead of winter. But November is the month most synonymous with deer hunting. It marks the heart of the rut, for one thing, and it’s when most gun seasons open around the country. As a result, it’s also the month when the majority of bucks taken hit the ground—including giant bucks. With that in mind, here are some of the biggest whitetails and muleys from the 2019 deer season’s best month.
Buck #1: The Redemption Buck
Georgia whitetail nut Chad Brooks bought a 57-acre block of timber in Illinois in late 2017, and by the time his family started hunting it in 2018, they’d been hearing stories of a big, elusive 10-point that had the beginning of a drop tine. During the gun season that year, Brooks’ son Hunter had one chance at the buck, but the deer had slipped past him and was moving uphill and away. “He chose not to take the shot, and I told him I was proud of him,” Brooks says. “My sons, Hunter and Tyler, were excited for the shotgun opener this year, and another chance at the buck, which we’d named “Redemption.” I was sitting with my wife and hoping she would get her first deer, when I got a call from Hunter, who said he’d shot the buck. For years this buck had slipped by hunters and people had missed shots. Who would have thought my son Hunter would get a second opportunity?” You might call it…redemption.
Buck #2: Southern Illinois Slammer
As long as we’re on the kids-killing-Illinois-giants theme, here’s Devan Sullivan and his incredible buck. Just look at those brow tines. After a three-year campaign, Sullivan finally connected on this southern Illinois monster that he knew well. “It’s a blessing to be able to harvest such an animal, and to be able to do it at 18 years old,” Sullivan says. His buck has 17 scorable points and green scored 229-4/8. “I put a lot of hours into this deer, and it finally paid off!”
Buck #3: The Two-Stand Stud
Iowan Beau Jensen had been watching this buck for three seasons, and has sheds from two. “Last year I passed him when he was 4½ years old and about 170 inches,” Jensen says. “This year he just exploded. I sat for him a few times before the rut with no luck. But on the morning of November 4th, he came by me at about 80 yards and downwind, but because of rising thermals he didn’t smell me.” So Jensen got out of his stand and moved to different set about 200 yards away. But before he started hunting, he took the stand out of the tree it was in and re-hung it on the downwind side of the same trail he’d seen the buck walking that morning. “Just after 3 p.m., the deer came back and gave me an 18-yard shot.”
Buck #4: Canada Colossus
“I’ve had this buck on camera for three years, and I have two sets of sheds off of him,” says Saskatchewan hunter Austin Avramemko. “I was originally planning on hunting him with my bow this year, but wasn’t able to make it out.” Fast-forward to November, and Avramemko and his father decided to hunt a new area, where he didn’t think he’d see this buck. “I was looking in the bushes and sloughs and happened to see this big rack sticking out. We walked to the fence line, and the buck either had a doe on his mind of thought he was hidden. I shot once and dropped him where he stood. I didn’t even know it was him until I picked the buck’s head up to show my dad and I saw the small drop tine on his right side and kicker on his left.”
Buck #5: Wade for It…
“This buck is everything I could have ever dreamed of,” says South Dakota hunter Mariah Theel. “My husband and I spotted him bedded in thick grass across the river from us. We were able to sneak up on a ridge without him having any clue we were there, as he was rutting hard with a doe near him. I took one shot from 300 yards, which went through both lungs. I was so proud of myself for making a perfect shot from that distance, I couldn’t believe it.”
After the shot, Theel’s husband found a spot in the river where the water was only knee-to-waist-high instead chest-high. He crossed over and dragged the buck back across. “We’d never shot one across the river, so we didn’t have a game plan for what we would do,” says Theel. “Now we know, ha!”
Buck #6: Missouri Public-Land Monster
Dallas Heath used Google Maps to take this public-land stud in a place he’d never seen before. “I am active duty Air Force stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, which is nestled in the Mark Twain National Forest and covers roughly 63,000 acres.” On the night of November 19th, Heath checked the wind and the weather, and then scoured Google Maps for a good morning spot. “I came across a saddle on top of a ridge that had a cedar thicket on one side and a steep drop-off on the other—a perfect pinch point.” The next morning, Heath followed the pin he’d dropped on the map to the spot and found a huge downed oak tree to use as a backrest. Before long, he heard the crunch of leaves and looked up to see antler tips moving toward him. “I raised my shotgun and waited for the buck to move into my shooting lane, and just like mature bucks do, he stopped three steps short. As he took those final steps, I took a deep breath, settled my crosshairs, and squeezed the trigger.” The buck never took another step.
Buck #7: Bedroom Bruiser
Finding mature whitetails, and access to hunt them, can be a challenge in New Jersey. But bowhunter Rob Stenger used a careful game plan to tag the biggest buck of his life last month. “I’d only received permission to hunt this spot in August and had little time to scout,” he says. “So I hung a camera and hoped for the best, but the first card pull showed only one doe.” As November arrived, he decided to give it another shot. With high pressure and cold temps on the 13th, he left work early, walked in with a hang-on stand, and pulled the card. “I found a scrape and a rub line between two bedding areas and hung my stand.” As he sat, he checked the card. “I was thrilled! Bucks started showing up around the 24th of October, including a dandy 9-point with some beautiful character.” With only minutes of shooting light left, Stenger heard rustling, grunted a few times, and the buck came right to his tree. “Sure enough, it was the big 9.” He drew his bow and made a perfect shot at 10 yards. “When I walked up on him, I stared in shock at one of the largest bucks I’ve ever harvested. And a lesson: I’ve over-hunted spots in the past and I believe this buck taught me that waiting for the perfect conditions can make a huge difference in taking a mature deer.”
Buck #8: Buck at First Sight
We originally thought that T.J. Larson killed this giant Wisconsin buck at the beginning of November, but we just learned that is was actually October 29, so we are calling it close enough. Larson first got trail-cam pictures of the buck two years ago, but he’d never seen him from a stand—until the day he tagged him. “I sat all morning and then moved to a stand closer to a bedding area that afternoon,” Larson says. “Around 4:15 I saw movement about 80 yards to my right and instantly knew it was a shooter. He stopped at about 15 yards away but in a spot with no shooting. I was shaking so bad from the excitement I could barely pull my bow back, but the buck eventually turned to my left and walked into a lane. He ran about 60 yards at the shot, and then tipped over. Just to see a deer that size is a miracle, and somehow the first time I put eyes on him when hunting, I shot him at only 15 yards away.”
Bucks #9 & #10: Kansas Double
Joel Maxfield, product manager for Mathews Archery, and his wife Janice left their Wisconsin home for a week-long bowhunt in Kansas in early November. Janice kicked off the action and set the big-buck bar pretty high when she arrowed a tall-racked whitetail on November 9th, on only her second sit. Joel passed several bucks in the ensuing days and then, on the morning of November 13, had his chance. “The wind kept me out of the tree that morning, so I went out checking other properties,” he says. “I glassed this buck walking across the open prairie after daybreak. He walked into a grassy draw and didn’t come out. Having grown up in Minnesota’s open farm country, we hunted whitetails by crawling up on them along fence lines. So, I hiked out there and found him bedded under a lone tiny cedar and, after a little sneaking, I worked to within 32 yards. It was just a fun, old-school hunt for me. My buck wasn’t as big as Janice’s, but I’ve gotten used to that.”
Buck #11: Sunshine State Stud
This pretty 10-point may seem a little outclassed by the other bucks in this gallery, until you consider that it was shot in central Florida, where a 130-inch whitetail is equivalent to a Booner in the Midwest. Actually, 130-3/8 is what Felicia Halley’s buck taped out at. “My husband and I saw this buck’s potential and decided to pass on him last year,” Halley says. “This year the deer seemed to know how to avoid me. I hunted him several times, but he would arrive just before sunup or just after sundown.” Finally, on November 19th, with gun season and the rut in full swing, the buck entered a field and walked toward Halley for more than 200 yards to approach a doe that was standing 50 yards to her left. “I grunted, he stopped, and I took my shot. I was so nervous that I couldn’t wait more than a few minutes to search for him. To my relief he made it only a few yards into the woods. He is truly amazing, and I feel honored to have watched him grow and have the opportunity to harvest him and nourish my family with him.”
Buck #12: Last-Day Monster Muley
OK, we’re going to play the “we just found out about this October buck” card just one more time because it true, and because this whopper muley deserves to be shown off. Texas firefighter Ray Smith and his twin brother Clay had booked a Colorado elk hunt when the outfitter told Smith that he also had a deer tag available. “So, during the day when the elk bedded up, we’d hunt mule deer. On the first day, we saw a giant buck that we agreed was a 200-incher, and suddenly my focus changed.”
They checked the same area each of the next three days with zero luck. On the fifth and final day of the hunt, they checked the spot again and saw the buck laying 15 yards down the bluff they were standing on. He jumped up and ran about 100 yards, but the hunters we were able to cut him off. Smith spotted the buck in thick brush, found the deer’s shoulder in his scope, and took the shot. “He jumped like he’d been hit but disappeared again into the brush. When I walked to where he’d been standing, I looked to my right and laying 20 yards away was the biggest buck I’ve ever seen while hunting.”
Bucks #13 and #14: Father-Son Double
David Lindsey makes it a mission every fall to focus on one buck and hunt him exclusively. This year his buck was called “Toad,” due to the deer’s 300-plus-pound frame and his desire to eat, which almost got him killed on three different occasions. During late October, the buck disappeared but showed back up a couple weeks later working scrapes. David made his move and hunted him every day until he arrowed the 173-inch 5-1/2-year-old Iowa giant on November 17.
Meanwhile David’s son, Jeff, had his sights set on an Illinois buck. “One of our top bucks this year was a really old deer we called ‘Midnight,’” Jeff says. On the second afternoon of the shotgun season, Jeff shot the buck at 124 yards with his muzzleloader, as the deer was munching on Deer Radishes. “We believed the buck to be 7-1/2 or 8-1/2 years old based on the last four years of pics.”
Buck #15: The Local Celebrity
It seemed everyone knew about a giant southeastern Minnesota buck named “Kong”—except the guy who actually killed him. “As soon as I got him out of the woods, word spread and my neighbors started showing me pictures,” says Tim Johnson. “I never even knew he was around.” Kong decided to work a rubbed-up trail Johnson was watching on the second day of Minnesota’s firearm season. “He just walked in and gave me a 35-yard shot,” Johnson says. “I’ve had a couple my boys’ bucks mounted, but I guess maybe it’s time for me to get one done.”
Buck #16: Hoosier State Houdini
Josh Wagenbach knew there was a monster whitetail haunting his Indiana property, but gathering intel on the buck was no easy task. “He somehow dodged my trail cameras,” Wagenbach says. “The neighbors didn’t have any pictures of him all year, and I only had a few. I really wanted to get him with a bow but was never was able to seal the deal. I had him once at 10 yards—but I was walking back to the truck and didn’t have an arrow nocked. I figured I’d never see him again.” But after days of hunting the gun season, Wagenbach eventually spotted the buck again on November 30th as it bedded down where the timber met a Biologic food plot. “It took me two hours to sneak up on him,” he says. “But I made the shot and finally had him on the ground.”
Buck #17: Georgia Giant
After weeks of chasing a buck he’d named “Trashy,” Andy Ganas decided to invade a thick bedding area he’d been trying to avoid. “I started getting daylight pics of the buck almost immediately,” he says. On the morning of November 26, Ganas took a stand in the bedding area. “I heard fighting, snort-wheezing, and bucks chasing all morning,” he recalls. “Finally, Trashy came walking in to freshen a scrape, and I gathered my composure as he turned broadside at 26 yards. Then I completely blew the shot.” The arrow flew high and the buck hopped off as Ganas let out a grunt with his mouth. “To my amazement, he stopped at 40 yards, then worked back a little closer. I knew he’d be on high alert, so I held my 30-yard pin low and released. This time my shot was perfect, and I tagged my third P&Y buck in the state of Georgia.”
Buck #18: Second-Buck Booner
Jonah Boston had already tagged a 158-inch 5½-year-old bow buck on his grandparent’s farm in Greene County Illinois this fall. But rumors of an even bigger deer were in the back of his mind when the shotgun season rolled around. “As the sun began to sink on opening day, I watched a doe emerge from the timber and look back,” says Boston. “Then I watched one of the biggest deer I have ever seen chase her in and out of the soybean field. The buck was at 120 yards, and I had only minutes to make a decision. I took the shot, but missed.”
After an uneventful second day, changing winds forced Boston into a different setup for the third afternoon. He was watching does feed nearby when he caught movement in his peripheral vision. “I looked to my right and only 15 yards away, the same buck I’d missed opening day was staring straight in my direction” he says. “The buck blew and trotted out to 40 yards and stopped.” Boston made good on his second chance. “Now at the age of 16, I have a buck that some people hunt their whole lives just to see.”
Buck #19: X-Bow Beast
Drury Outdoors pro Steve Frantz leased a 160-acre Illinois farm this summer and immediately started getting pictures of a monster whitetail he called “Dynamite.” But the farm had poor access, and he played cat and mouse with the buck to no avail. Then Frantz decided to get aggressive, moving his stand to a ridge where he’d seen the buck with a doe. The bold move paid off. “About 3 p.m. or so I heard a deer walking out of a creekbottom toward me and my camera man, Muscles. I looked and all I could see was antlers that looked like baseball bats coming through the timber. He walked about 10 yards into a small lane and I took my shot, which hit him right behind the shoulder a little quartering to me. He ran 50 yards, stopped, and walked off. We backed out came back in at 7:30 p.m., and there he was another 50 yards or so away.”
Buck #20: Personal-Best Brute
Realtree Pro Josh McDaniel has taken some huge bucks in this time, but none quite like this one. McDaniel posted the photo above on his Facebook page after tagging the Hoosier State monster last month. He’d first seen the buck two years earlier, just before Thanksgiving, and had been hoping for another encounter ever since. On November 17, McDaniel spotted the deer walking into a shooting lane at150 yards, raised his muzzleloader, and killed the biggest buck of his life. The huge non-typ has 19 scorable points and grosses 220-7/8 B&C.