The biggest buck killed in Arkansas last year appeared in daylight just once, and Don Kittler of Carlisle was waiting.
The giant non-typical whitetail scored 207 7/8 on the Boone and Crockett scoring system, winning the 25th Big Buck Classic by a wide margin over a record class of trophy entries Sunday at Barton Coliseum. Usually, the Big Buck Classic contributes about three bucks to the B&C All-Time Awards book. This year's edition contributed six to the All-Time book.
Kittler, 54, a farmer, killed the show winner on Nov. 17 at 5:05 p.m., on a property he leases for his individual use near Hickory Plains. He dropped the buck with one shot to the neck at about 140 yards with a 257 Weatherby rifle. He said he knew it was exceptional, but was surprised it scored so high. "I knew it was a good one, but some fellows I hunt with said it's a little better than I thought it was," Kittler said.
Kittler said he was unaware that the buck was on the property until about mid-October, when one of his game cameras started getting photos of it, always at night. By November, he said he had about 100 photos, but again, they were almost all nocturnal.
"Opening day of gun season he was on camera about 15 minutes before I drove in there," Kittler said. "That was the closest to daylight as I saw him until I killed him."
That was on a calm, clear day near dusk. Kittler said his stand was in the middle of a logging road that's about 500 yards long. He said he could see about 300 yards one way and 200 yards the other way. Kittler created a mineral lick on a stump to attract deer. Only one camera near the lick regularly photographed the buck, so Kittler said he anticipated the direction from which it would approach.
"He was hanging pretty tight to one area, and he came out to get him a bite to eat," Kittler said. That was the first day that Kittler didn't hunt morning and evening. He got to his stand at about 3 p.m., and even though Kittler had seen the buck in photos, he said he wasn't prepared emotionally for the real thing.
"For an old man like me, as long as I've been hunting, it shook me up pretty good," Kittler said.
Worse, the buck didn't provide a good target. Kittler said it showed him its back. He had to watch it walk another 50 yards before it turned broadside. He dropped it with one shot.
A non-typical rack requires a minimum score of 195 to qualify for the Boone and Crockett All-Time Awards book, and a typical rack requires a minimum score of 170. The other five Boone and Crockett qualifiers were typicals, including one that scored 170 to win the youth division. Bradley Creekmore killed it in the Ouachita National Forest near Mena. It was his first deer. Gunner Jacobs placed fifth with a typical buck that qualified for all-time recognition with a score of 170 6/8. He also qualified in 2013 with a non-typical.
Kittler's buck didn't sneak into the book. It crashed the gate.
"It's luck to ever catch a freak like that walking around," Kittler said. "I hunt Texas a fair amount. He's head and shoulders above anything I've ever seen there."