Luke Brewster might live in Bristow, Virginia, but the 30-year-old former marine returns to hunt whitetails in Illinois whenever he can take a break from his current job. The almost 10-hour drive is grueling, but worth every mile behind the wheel.
“I am a deer hunter from the Land of Lincoln, living elsewhere in America,” he says flatly. “My wife, Krista, indulges my obsession during those few months when it takes all of my attention.”Luke chases deer on his grandparents’ farm, and he hunts with friends, primarily Justin and Ron.In 2018, Luke headed westward on Thursday, Nov. 1, eager to hunt the rut. It rained almost the entire trip, which he took as a good sign.
“I knew the deer wouldn’t be moving, and, even better, the woods should be quiet the following day,” he said.
“I arrived late that afternoon. After my buddy, Justin, got off work, we checked some trail cameras and discussed our strategy for the next day.”Friday’s start was delayed because the alarm on Luke’s phone did not work.
“The family property is just a few miles west of the state line, where the time zone changes,” he said. “My phone had not yet picked up a new tower, so it was still on Eastern time.”Before meeting his friends for a midmorning breakfast at the Main Street Cafe, he saw a few does en route to their bedding area. No bucks.After eating, the men hatched plans for the afternoon.
“Deep down, we were all after a deer we’d named Mufasa, a true monster that lived on or close to the property,” he said.
“Justin and Ron do all the legwork on the farm. They set stands, put out cameras, and plant food plots. They kept tabs on Mufasa.”Luke’s bow stand – for which he had only GPS coordinates – was just over a half-mile from those of his buddies. Before walking to it, he dressed and sprayed himself with a scent eliminator. He also applied estrous doe scent to his boots.Because it was 51 degrees, he worried about breaking a sweat during the long trek across a muddy cornfield to the stand well concealed in an Osage (or hedge apple) tree.
“I saw nothing the first three or four hours,” he said. “I was looking mostly to the west, into the wind. For some reason, maybe a slight noise, I turned eastward and saw several does moving through a thicket.
“I raised my binos for a closer look. The does were acting silly, stepping high and bobbing their heads. Since the wind was blowing from me to them, I thought maybe they were smelling me.”Soon after Luke lost sight of the does, he glanced left and spotted Mufasa heading toward a scrape.
“I had pre-ranged the scrape at 26 yards. He was maybe 25 or 30 yards beyond it, but for sure heading for it.
“I was stunned,” he added. “I thought I was hallucinating. I thought, Oh, my God. It’s him!
“My brain was flashing alerts to my consciousness: It’s him. It’s HIM! I gotta do something. Now!
“Afraid he would see me in the stand, I moved very slowly as I hung the binos and reached for the bow on the hanger. Mufasa was at the scrape. As he was pawing the dirt, I tried very hard not to look at his incredible rack. But how do you not look at it?
As if I were in slow motion, I finally got my bow in hand, arrow nocked. Attaching the release with an unsteady hand was a challenge.
“Meanwhile, Mufasa raised his head to examine an overhead licking branch. I stared, transfixed. I had to stop looking at the antlers and concentrate on the body,” Luke continued.
“Mentally, I ran through my checklist: Full draw, good anchor, hold between the second and third pin, remain calm, and release. That quickly, the arrow disappeared into the deer. I heard that telltale ‘Thwack,’ but thought I had hit high and forward.
“As the buck bolted from the scene, he snapped off the arrow protruding from the exit side, and I saw the nock end of the shaft pinwheeling. Thinking I must’ve hit the shoulder blade, I began worrying about shot placement. I was starting to feel a little sick about it. The seconds felt like minutes, and the minutes seemed like hours.
“At one point, I put the bow aside and grabbed the binos. The animal was long gone, but I needed to see if I could spot blood or any part of the arrow.
“After what seemed like several hours, I was calm enough to call my buddies to tell them I had shot Mufasa. They were also in disbelief.
“We discussed whether I should stay in the stand or get down and search for blood. Another option was to leave the area and go back to my truck. We agreed on the latter.
“I couldn’t stand the wait or the suspense, however, so I walked over to the scrape to see if there was any sign. I couldn’t resist at least taking a cursory look. Meanwhile, my contact lenses were drying out, and I couldn’t focus. Nerves, I suppose.
“Anyway, I was rubbing my eyes to get the water flowing,” Luke remembered.
“I walked about 10 yards in the direction he fled, and came upon lots of blood and a portion of the arrow, also covered in blood. My worries abated at that point,” he added.The deer had crossed a nearby creek. Scanning the other side, Luke saw antlers on the ground.
“I immediately called my buddies to let them know I had eyes on Mufasa. He was at least down, if not out,” he said.Luke nocked another arrow and cautiously approached the fallen whitetail, which was indeed dead.
“I put the bow down and stood there in awe. Complete shock,” he said. “I took a picture of his head, basically, and then texted it to about half of my contact list, including my wife back home. I can’t begin to describe the feelings I was having at the time. I was completely wrapped up in the moment, the craziest feeling I have ever had!
“Upon closer examination, I noticed a drop tine was broken off the left side. Since I didn’t notice it missing when I shot, I decided to backtrack.
“Once across the creek, I followed the sparse blood trail until I found the tree he had run into, which broke off the point. I was surprised to find there were actually two that came off together from the bottom of the beam,” he said.
Because the broken points fell into place perfectly and had not been repaired or re-attached prior to being measured, they are considered legitimate, scorable points under BTR rules. Ron and Justin arrived in time to share the excitement with hugs and high-fives. After many phone calls to a multitude of friends, they helped drag the deer back to Luke’s truck.Back at the house, the guys spent several hours counting points and trying to guess what the antlers would tally.
“I got very little sleep that night,” Luke said. “I was just too excited to even close my eyes, sure the dream would end if I did.
“Saturday morning, I met the guys for breakfast. Afterward, we drove to Kibler’s Taxidermy in West York, Illinois. After the deer was skinned and caped, we took the carcass to a meat processor.”The 41-pointer is the hands-down largest free-ranging whitetail ever recorded, a world record in every respect.
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