The biggest, oldest, and real monster bucks are in a class all their own. To tag one of these Big Racked Monsters, you must hunt them as if they were a different species.

All kinds of deer, elk, or big racked critters get that way because they are survivors. To get big, you must have some age, genetics, and health. Survival is key. Avoiding a crowded world, fragmented habitat, threats, close calls, and finding sanctuaries allows these critters to live a full life. Their genetics get passed on to the next herd.

Not every hunter can tag these trophies. Most hunters rely on luck. “Even a Blind squirrel will find an acorn every once in a while!” To consistently score on big bucks, hunt differently than everyone else. So many hunters never change. Hunting today is actually easier. The range finders, optics, quality weapons and ammunition, technology, maps, and learning videos should make us all better hunters.

Great hunters are students of the sport! If you are not learning, you are leaving deer tags on the table. Men learn through hands on and being visual learners. I could tell a new hunter my best secret hunting tips a hundred times, but I only need to show them once. Girls figure it way easier.

White tailed deer are abundant today. Most hunters will stumble into a few during their lives. Racks and mounts in their living rooms, Man Caves, and sheds are evidence of this. For other hunters, these “trophies” are often passed up on.

During one hunting season, a couple of us got together and leased a “Trophy Deer Sanctuary. This Island woods was in the middle of prime hunting. There were all the ingredients for success.  We all shared the property unselfishly until gun season. On opening day, I hunted an edge that was a soybean field away from another private area. In the morning, 2 nice bucks came across the field and passed within several yards of my stand. Both were 2 ½ year old 4×4 bucks with racks just to the width of their ears. Our agreed limit required that the buck’s antlers be wider than the ears. This Sanctuary rule was set by the owner of the property. We all agreed to until… Two shots rang out. Both non-trophy bucks bit the dust. Our one buddy decided that it was ok for him to shoot what he wanted. When the landowner discovered what had happened the lease experiment was over. Our sure proof plan to be Trophy hunters failed.

If every true hunter were honest, the best tag filled was not there’s. It belonged to a sibling, friend, kid, or student that they mentored. Too many kids do not have a “Hunter” in their lives. Divorce, stress, working parents… there are plenty of excuses but few solutions. Hunting is about solving problems, using your wits and senses, following limits, rules, and laws, safety, and fellowship. All of these themes are like a menu that every parent wants for their kids. Giving the gift of hunting is a generous and amazing gift. My BIGGEST and BEST trophies are hanging on the walls of my students.

My son Kyle harvested his first buck using the same 30-30 Winchester rifle that I used. We sat together one evening as a 6-point buck came out of the willows chasing a few does.  We had spent hours practicing shooting, safety, rules, hunter safety, and hunting. This was the moment of truth. No participation trophies would do. Either hit or miss. At 150 yards, the buck stopped. “Take him” I said as I glassed his first buck. Suddenly a doe stepped in front. Kyle did not shoot. Whew, that was a close one. As the doe cleared, the buck started to walk. “BOOM”, the rifle went off and I could see that the buck was hit. It ran a short distance and piled up. When we got to the buck my son yelled” this is the most exciting thing I have ever done!” He dressed and dragged his critter without complaint. 17 other rookie hunters have done the same, using this rifle. It is my luckiest TROPHY rifle, but I only shot one deer with it that was my First Trophy!

True ethical, honest Trophy hunters are a rare breed. Not every hunter is as dedicated and willing to sacrifice smaller critters to attain their goal. Not all bucks grow into trophies. We all make our own trailheads and choices. A trophy is more than big antlers and meat. Trophies are stories and memories that we earn and share.

Real hunters hunt!  Fred Bear, the Father of many Archers, felt that hunting from a tree stand was unfair. Real hunters stalked and hunted their prey. Tracking, wind, camo, and skill was required to fill his tags. Marksmanship was also a factor.

It is not so much the buck that is the trophy, but more about the story that makes it trophy class. You can buy a mounted trophy, shoot a farm fresh game farm trophy for the right price, or maybe celebrate a great trophy with someone you taught how to hunt.

What do you think?

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, see his trophy stories at