The odd monstrous non-typical is walking in every state, but without question your odds of seeing one are best if you live in the Midwest, or own or lease ground there, or travel there to hunt. This region has the most soybeans and the best genetics for growing big, bad freaks. Some Midwestern states don’t allow gun hunting until after the November rut, and even then much of it is limited to slug or muzzleloader. This allows a good number of bucks to live past 4 or 5 years and begin to sprout antler junk.
You can hunt anywhere in the Midwest and have a fighting chance of encountering a freak, but your odds go up if you hunt ground with limited hunting pressure. This might be a working farm with a good mix of soybeans, corn, brush and marsh, and where just you and a few others hunt. Or a well-managed, private tract where just a few hunters pass young bucks and harvest a handful of older deer each year.
Or it might be a more unique place: A state forest, regional park or military base that offers, through a public draw, a limited number of hunting days and archery permits each fall. Look for these opportunities.
Minnesota bowhunters Scott and Susie O’Konek did just that. Back in 2009, they applied for and drew tags for a 2-day bowhunt on Camp Ripley training base near Little Falls. Officials offer only about 6 days of deer hunting total on the 50,000-acre base each year. A place with that little pressure is bound to hold a few monster bucks, but Scott put that thought in the back of his mind. His goal was for Susie to kill her first deer with a bow. He’d shoot the first decent buck he saw, if he saw one.
The first morning out, Scott got Susie set up, and then he ran his climber up a tree a short distance away. The sun rose, and he saw a buck nosing a doe. Scott’s arrow was spot-on, and soon he and Susie were sitting in disbelief in the drizzly October woods with a massive 27-pointer that scored 227 3/8.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever see a buck like that, much less shoot one,” Scott said. “I was just in the right spot at the right time.”
And that is how it goes with these magnificent animals. Not all that many 5-year-old, belly-sagging bucks with stickers, daggers or drops on their racks roam America’s woods, but a few lurk here and there. Enough of the mystical beasts to make us hunt hard, and dream.
Top 10 States Non-Typical Bucks 2000-2016
1. Illinois 360
2. Iowa 270
3. Wisconsin 270
4. Ohio 243
5. Kansas 230
6. Missouri 205
7. Kentucky 182
8. Indiana 168
9. Minnesota 128
10. Texas 111