The long wait is over. With early-archery seasons open, or about to open, in most states, the 2023 whitetail deer season is underway, and some huge bucks have hit the ground already. The rut gets all the hype, of course, and I'm looking forward to it as much as anyone. But if you think you need the madness of November to tag a giant, you’re missing a big boat. The first weeks of the season can produce some incredible action, with even the biggest mature bucks on their feet. Our first installment of The Biggest Whitetail Bucks of 2023 proves it. The hunters below all took advantage of this first blush of opportunity to tag a dream buck in the month of September.
Keep an eye on this space, as we'll add more September giants as we hear about them and then follow up with monthly installments through the heart of the rut and well into the late-season to showcase the biggest whitetails of 2023. Here we go.
The Biggest Whitetail Deer of September 2023
Midday Buckeye-State Monster
Ohio has a well-deserved reputation for producing whopper whitetails, and according to his Instagram post, Ashton Jankowski arrowed just such a buck in the middle of last month. Jankowski was hunting the state’s CWD “Disease Surveillance Areas," which has an earlier archery opener than the rest of the state–when he shot the buck at 11:45 a.m. on September 16th. Jankowski had spotted the buck during a midsummer scouting session, obtained permission to hunt nearby properties, and kept tabs on a buck he nicknamed “Casper.” According to Jankowski's post, the giant whitetail green scored 225-2/8 inches.
Buying a new hunting property is an exciting process, but when you know there’s a B&C-caliber whitetail on the place within weeks of signing the deal, it’s even better. That was the case for LeRoy Purrier, when he picked up a matched set of sheds on the 90-acre, southeast Minnesota farm he bought last January. “Pretty much everything I did on the property from that moment on was done with the hopes of tagging that buck,” Purrier told F&S. The 45-year old custom home builder planted food plots, native grasses, and hung stands and blinds in preparation for the 2023 hunting season. As it turned out, that season lasted only a few hours for Purrier when his target buck stepped into a food plot with 40 minutes of shooting light left on opening day. Purrier made good on the 35-yard shot with his crossbow, and tagged a 6X5 with towering tines that grossed just shy of 180 B&C. You can read the full story of Purrier's buck here.
Kansas Muzzleloader Monster
Passing on a 160-class buck is no easy task, but that’s what Kansas hunter John Reichert and his buddies did with this buck in 2022. “He was a dandy last fall, but we knew he could be even better if we let him go, and he managed to escape other hunters,” Reichert said. “When he started showing up on trail cams this year, we knew we’d made the right decision. He was really special.” Though the buck didn’t appear in daylight often, Reichert, national sales manager for Big Tine, felt the buck was not bedding far from his food plots. “Just before the opener, I had him on camera 15 minutes after shooting light, so I was hopeful when I went out on the second day of our muzzleloader season,” he recalled. “When the buck stepped out on that clover plot, I recognized him immediately and never looked at his antlers again.” Reichert took the shot when the buck turned broadside and after a short wait, the hunter was gripping the antlers of a true giant. “I’m an emotional guy and cried tears of joy when I held that rack,” he laughed. The tears were justified as the 14-point buck grossed over 181 inches B&C.
Kansas Public-Land Colossus
Kansas guide and outfitter Jason Cooke turned heads late last month when he posted a photo of a giant nontypical whitetail on Instagram. According to Cooke, he arrowed the mature buck on public land in the southeastern part of the Sunflower State on September 24—and he roughed scored its rack at a whopping 224-4/8 inches. It's unclear if Cooke's green score is based on the Buckmasters or the Boone & Crockett scoring system, but the deer in his photo has massive bases with tons of kicker points and a couple of long drop tines falling off it left main beam. The seasoned guide called it a "deer of lifetime," and there's certainly no arguing that.
Bluegrass State Velvet Icebreaker
Sara Wagoner has hunted the Kentucky early archery season for several years but had never managed to tag a full-velvet buck—until the opening weekend of 2023. “I went out on opening day and saw a lot of deer, but nothing I was ready to shoot,” she said. “On the second day, this buck came in and was feeding with another, smaller one. They finally worked their way into bow range, and I made a good shot at about 20 yards. The buck has 18 scorable points, and while we haven’t had him officially measured, we think he’ll be a 160-class buck. This was my first full-velvet buck, and I was really excited to harvest him!”
Potential Georgia State-Record Stud
Georgian bowhunter Grant Bailey was hunting the micro woodlots of the Atlanta suburbs when he started getting pics of a buck that beat any deer he could pursue on bigger properties out in the country. Bailey arrowed the buck, still in velvet, on September 10th and the amazing typical stands a great chance of claiming the top spot for archery typicals, according to a post by colleague Steve Hill, who wrote: “With 27 ½-inch main beams and a very symetrical rack that tallies only about 6 inches of deduction, the velvet buck’s green score grossed a little over 185 with a net score of 178. The state record archery typical, according to records maintained by Georgia Outdoor News, is a 177 1/8 deer shot by Manny Kaloyannides in 2018. Both Georgia and Pope & Young allow racks to be measured with the velvet on, and that’s what Bailey plans to do after the mandatory 60 day drying period is up.” You can read the full story of Bailey's buck here.
Full-Velvet Perfect 10
Back in 2021, Kansas hunter Keith Marquardt tagged a B&C-class 8-point, a buck we featured in a gallery of October giants. Well, Marquardt is back, this time with a full-velvet giant. “I’ve had this buck on camera for two years,” Marquardt told F&S. “In 2022, he was a promising young deer, and I was hoping he would make it through the year. When I finally got my first trail-camera picture of him this past July, I knew right away who it was. After watching him grow all summer and getting his pattern down, I knew I could get on him early and was hoping he would still be holding his velvet. On the second day of season, he stepped out in full velvet and gave me a perfect 70 yard broadside shot with my muzzleloader.” Marquardt’s perfectly clean 10-point grossed 156 B&C.
Related: The Biggest Bucks of 2022
Game-Over Kentucky Giant
When a giant buck walked under his tree stand on the Kentucky archery whitetail opener, Chandler Barnes knew exactly what deer he was looking at. “I had the sheds from him from last year, when he was a 165-class buck,” Barnes said. “I’d told my buddies I was holding out for him this fall, or eating my tag. I couldn’t believe it when I heard a deer coming in from behind me, then glanced down and saw him. He stood under my stand forever, then slowly walked out in the food plot, where several other bucks were feeding. He stopped at 15 yards and turned broadside to lick his flank and gave me a perfect shot.” Barnes’ arrow flew true, and he quickly recovered the 188-⅞-inch buck. While there are nearly zero downsides to tagging such a giant, Barnes said he probably submarined a big-deer contest he enters with his friends. “Every year, we all chip in $10 at the beginning of the season, and whoever gets the biggest buck gets the pot,” he said. “Some of the guys hadn’t thrown in their money yet, and when they heard about my buck they were like ‘Well forget it for this year!’”
Beats-Working Kansas Buck
Donnie Monroe is no stranger to giant whitetails; we profiled his 230-class Buckmasters state-record muzzleloader buck in this space last year, and this buck was actually running with that one then. Monroe's shed dog found this buck's matched set of antlers this spring, and he was in the same area during the summer. As the season neared, the buck started visiting a pair of ag fields, and Monroe was able to figure out where he was bedding.
"I was actually supposed to be in a meeting the night I shot him, but when I saw the wind was perfect for one of my stands, I begged out of work and my boss said ‘Go get him!’" Monroe told F&S. "I had a bunch of deer feeding by me a little while after getting into my stand, and when a big doe looked back in the timber toward his bed I followed her stare and here he came." The buck walked to 25 yards and Monroe made a nearly perfect bow shot. "When I took up the blood trail, I figured he’d head back to his bedding area, but instead he followed the edge of a steep ravine. When the blood stopped by a steep, 40-foot bank, I looked over the edge and thought, No way! But I made a big loop that got me down on the creek bank and found him at the bottom of that bank, laying in the water. I had to quarter him and cape him out to get him out of there.” Monroe’s 6X7 sported three big sticker points and grossed 172-⅜ on the Buckmasters scoring system.
Indiana Youth-Season Shooter
Many hunters who manage ground compile a “shoot/don’t shoot” list of bucks prior to the season. Indiana deer hunter Dave Ranard had one too, but he had to shred it when a great buck that fell in the don’t-shoot category appeared as Ranard sat with his grandson, Maverick Hudson, during the Hoosier State youth deer season. “Before we went out that day, I told Mav there were three deer I didn’t want him to shoot,” Ranard recalled. “And, of course, one of those bucks–a gorgeous 9-point that’s only 3-½ years old and poised for greatness–comes out and feeds in front of the blind like a cow. I looked at Maverick and realized him getting a buck was way more important than anything that deer would become, assuming he even lived long enough to do it. So I told him to go ahead, and it was the perfect decision. Mav made a perfect shot on the buck, and he was so excited when we recovered the buck and he got his hands on those antlers. I think I have a deer hunter on my hands now!”