Hunting here a year ago was the most difficult we had ever seen due to the exceptional rains during the fall of 2018. On some ranches, we could not get to even half our blinds. Deer didn't come to the feeders, either. But those rains germinated the best crop of winter weeds in memory. So when the spring of 2019 arrived, deer hadn't found that much to eat since Noah's flood waters receded.
As has been discussed on this website numerous times, the size of a buck's antlers is governed in large part by the amount/quality of groceries he gets. Critical times for this process are following the rut, and then later when new horn-growth begins in April. In 2019, things simply could not have been better during these crucial times.
But things turned off dry after the 4th of July. And stayed that way on through the late summer and fall. Without this disappointing six-month dry spell, there is no telling how good the antlers would have been. Even so, some remarkable statistics were summarized when our hunting concluded in late January. The 2019 crop of bucks put four heads onto our 150"-Plus list. There were four from 2008 also on that list.
But all four of the 2019 bucks on that fabled list were way, way above those 150-inchers from 2008. This year's "Buck of the Year" taken by Jacqui Hunter, Lacyville, PA ties for four:five on our All Time Best chart with 162 3/8" on that 18 1/4" ten point frame.
The others of the 150 and up bucks were these:
160 3/8" Ken Austad, La Mesa, CA 18 1/2" 12 pt
157 2/8" Caleb Bennett, Corvallis, MT 19 1/4" 10 pt.
156 5/8" Cliff Milner, Charlotte, NC 19 1/2" 15 pt.
Most any other year, any of these giants would have won "Buck of the Year." Interesting to note, as well, is that none of them reached the twenty-inch wide threshold.
Speaking of width, there was a tie for the widest rack. Both John Newsome, Shumway, IL with his ten-point and Shad Heiner, Morgan, UT with his nine pointer collected 22" wide racks. John's buck came on the first hunt of the season; Shad collected his on the next-to-last hunt of 2019.
Marie Boehler, Mayfield, NY took the prize for the most points with 17 on that 15" rack. Freddy McCall, Pollock, LA collected the heaviest buck that put 193.8 lbs. on our scale. These bucks plus the other top bucks of the season can be found on the right menu under "Home Camp Top Bucks - 2019."
Deer activity around the corn feeders was good until late December. But a mid-December rain germinated green winter plants. The deer craved such food and began to ignore our corn feeders. It only got worse through the end of our hunting in late January.
The most frequent thing our hunters will hear next season will be the first thing we were taught to say in Outfitter School: "You should have been here last year." It is impossible to predict what things will be like next fall. But 2020 will have its work cut out to rival 2019. It was just one heck of a year.
Here are some statistics on this most remarkable season:
Home Camp (includes missed shots and lost bucks)
Regular Price 96.5% success on bucks
Trophy Option 77.3%
First Bucks 100%
McManus Camp 100%
VeteransFirst TimersWord-of-Mouth Referrals
Home Camp 85 38 31
McManus Camp 6 5 1
Home Camp Critters Taken
Bookings for 2020
Word of Mouth Referrals 13.5%
Brand New 1.5%
The most amazing thing about the entire 2019 season was that each group re-booked for 2020 before they left camp. The very, very few open slots that appeared were quickly snapped-up by names on our waiting list.
No doubt, before the 2020 season begins, changes will occur. They always do. Hunts get cancelled for various reasons. Let us know if you would like to be placed on our waiting list.