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World’s best

Gallatin farmer Stephen Tucker gains global acclaim by harvesting record 47-point buck
By Chris Villines 7/31/2017

 

On Nov. 7 of last year, an ecstatic Stephen Tucker poses with the prolific whitetail deer he harvested that morning on one of his family’s leased farms in Gallatin. The 47-point monster buck, estimated to be 3 1/2 years old, has been declared a world record non-typical buck with a rack that measured 312 3/8 inches after the mandatory drying period. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Tucker)
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Life features magical moments that stay ingrained in the minds of those who experience them:

Graduations. Weddings. The birth of children and grandchildren. Stephen Tucker has checked these first two off his list, and the latter will occur this month as his wife, Caitlyn, delivers their first child.

But the 27-year-old Gallatin farmer, who worked at Sumner Farmers Cooperative during high school and whose mother, Karen, is an employee there now, has another unique, life-altering accomplishment, one that places him in rarified air.

He’s a world record holder.

On Nov. 7, the lifelong hunting enthusiast harvested a 47-point buck with a muzzleloader on farmland his family has leased for more than 40 years. After a 60-day drying-out period, a Boone and Crockett panel of four judges measured the non-typical rack and scored it at a gross of 312 3/8 inches, besting an Iowa hunter’s 14-year-old record of 307 5/8 inches. The “official” designation of Stephen’s deer as a world record will take place at the next Boone and Crockett awards banquet in 2019.

“I was thinking that it might be a state record but never thought it would be a world record,” says Stephen, who grows corn, soybeans, wheat, and tobacco and operates a 300-head cow-calf herd with his father, Tommy, and uncle, Steve Tucker. “I’d always wanted to kill a big deer. I guess I went a little above and beyond!”

“What in the world was that?”

Stephen’s odyssey with the behemoth buck began this past September, when he and Steve were exiting the field after a day of shelling corn. There, in plain view from the seat of his tractor, Stephen first saw this once-in-a-lifetime animal — tall, majestic, with a rack of antlers that seemed to go on for infinity.

“Uncle Steve was the first one to see him,” recalls Stephen. “He called me from the combine and said, ‘You’ve got to see this deer. He’s going to come up right in front of you.’ The deer stopped for about 15 seconds before he went off into the thicket. I was like, ‘What in the world was that?’”

He’d caught a brief glimpse of the ultimate prize, a hunter’s dream.

“I knew right then I had to put out some trail cameras and immediately start tracking him,” he says.

He did just that, putting out two cameras in the 50-acre field. It didn’t take long for the buck to start appearing, confirming what Stephen and Steve witnessed was no optical illusion.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Stephen says. “My excitement level was way up there.”

Opportunity almost missed

Stephen could hardly wait for the Nov. 5 opening day of muzzleloader season. He ventured to the farm and already had his blind set up before daylight. His mind raced at the thought of encountering the magnificent animal.

Sure enough, the buck appeared after sunrise, wandering closer and closer to Stephen’s location.

“I was shaking so bad,” he says, “but I finally got steady enough to take a shot.”

He quietly squeezed the trigger. Would this be the moment of truth?

No.

“When I squeezed the trigger, all that went off was my primer,” he says dejectedly. “It was a dry fire. It just snapped, and when it did he went on around the corner and I didn’t see him again. I was so upset.”

Stephen immediately left and met up with his brother-in-law, Morris Holleman, to rectify the problem with the muzzleloader. Once resolved, Stephen returned to the blind that afternoon.

“About 4:45, he appeared at the other end of the cornfield,” says Stephen. “I thought, ‘I’ve got all these does around me so he’s going to make his way over here. I’m going to have to sit here and watch him walk all the way across this field, and I’m going to be a nervous wreck by the time he gets here. I was already shaking.”

But the giant buck stayed at a distance, foiling Stephen’s plan.

“My rangefinder showed that he was 162 yards away, so I didn’t take the shot,” Stephen says. “I didn’t want to shoot at him that far and miss, and I didn’t want to shoot and risk only crippling him.”

Stephen returned the following morning but didn’t sight the buck.

“All I saw were does, and they were acting horrible, blowing and stomping,” he says. “So, I decided not to go back that afternoon. I thought it would be best to let things rest for a while, but I wasn’t giving up.”

Third day’s a charm

Stephen noticed the weather was “a little warmer than usual” when he headed back to his blind before sunup on Monday, Nov. 7. Little did he know at the time that the activity level was about to heat up, too.

“Right before it got good and daylight, I kept hearing something behind my blind, but I figured it was just some squirrels,” he explains. “I looked out and there stood that buck. I thought, ‘Here he is. Don’t blow it this time.’”

As Stephen reached for his gun, the buck began walking, stopping some 40 yards in the distance in open territory. Again, Stephen fired.

And …

“I couldn’t see for the smoke coming from my muzzleloader,” he says. “It filled up my blind. I could hear him running off in the woods but couldn’t tell if it was a good shot or not, though I hoped it was since it was only from 40 yards away.”

Biding his time, Stephen waited some 90 minutes before he, Morris, and two other friends searched for the deer. From what they initially viewed on the trail, however, their outlook was pessimistic.

“For the first 50 yards, there was just a speck of blood here and there,” he says, shaking his head. “I was fixing to quit. We decided to go a little bit further where you could see another cornfield, and the blood trail kind of veered back down in the thicket. We went a few more yards, and I could see him laying down there in the bushes.”

Pessimism quickly turned to elation.

“I can’t describe what went through me then,” says Stephen. “It was a mixture of excitement and shock at the same time. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.”

One of Stephen’s first calls was to his parents. Karen answered to hear her son, full of emotion, sharing the good news.

“He was saying, ‘I got it! I got it!’” Karen says, giving a gesture of triumph with her arms. “We went down there to see it right away. I couldn’t comprehend just how big this animal was until I saw it up close. It was huge.”

Later that afternoon, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) Captain Dale Grandstaff came to the farm and measured the buck for its rack score. The 47-pointer measured 308 inches then before its 312 3/8 measurement after the 60-day drying period. Stephen’s buck is only the sixth non-typical ever harvested at more than 300 inches.

The aftermath

Needless to say, Stephen’s feat has garnered local, national, and even international attention. The story has been included in the New York Times, USA Today, and made the cover of the spring issue of North American Whitetail magazine. Google “Stephen Tucker world record deer” and some 460,000 results are shown.

“I heard a newspaper in England ran a story about it,” he says. “It’s sparked a lot of interest, for sure. But it’s not about me. It’s this great deer that deserves the glory.”

Stephen has also been in demand for personal appearances at shows and special events, where he’s accompanied by a replica of the 47-point rack (the original, rumored to be worth as much as $100,000, is in a safe location). He was a hit at the Co-op Buyers Show in June, where he signed autographs and shared his story with visitors to the MONSTERMEAL® Deer Attractant booth. Stephen recently began using MONSTERMEAL products.

“I’ve got to meet a lot of nice folks and see a lot of cool things,” he says. “What’s really neat is when little kids come by. It’s been fun, a blessing from God, and I think it’s helped some people become more interested in hunting and getting back into the woods.”

One of the Buyers Show attendees was his mother, who’s still beaming about Stephen’s record-setting buck.

“I’m proud of him,” Karen says. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. He’s done something that no one else has done.”

 
 
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