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The Huff Buck: The Inside Story of the Second Biggest Typical Whitetail

This past November, Dustin Huff shot a massive Indiana whitetail with a crossbow. All he really wanted was a buck over 135.
By PJ DelHomme
huff-field-fb2.jpg

Huff with his incredible Indiana typical whitetail deer.
While Dustin Huff sat in his treestand last November, all he was hoping to do was kill a deer big enough to beat his personal record of 134 inches. He’s been hunting the same 185-acre hog farm since he killed his first squirrel there when he was 10. He’s 27 now and grew up just about a mile down the road. While hunting the farm with his 7-year-old nephew earlier in the 2021 season, Huff killed a doe and his nephew got a five-pointer.

As a kid, Huff helped vaccinate hogs on the farm and baled hay. When he was 15, he started writing country songs. Three months after graduating high school, he moved to Nashville where he still wrote songs on the side while working for UPS. After three years, he said goodbye to the big brown delivery truck and started touring full-time, playing in a different state every weekend. Today, Huff is a bonafide singer/songwriter, and he travels back to Nashville from his Indiana home at least once a month for work.

When the last week of October and first week of November roll around, he takes some time off for hunting. On November 4, 2021, the Indiana woods on the farm had been very quiet. As evening settled in, Huff was about to call it a day when he saw movement down in the creek bottom about 70 yards away. A big buck had his nose to the forest floor, and for a second, Huff honestly thought it was a moose. Gaining his senses, he watched as the buck started to come his way.

It stopped at 40 yards. Huff reached for his crossbow, which three years ago he bought used for $300. He made a perfect shot, and the mechanical broadhead did its job. Huff watched the deer stumble and go down. A few months later, in an interview with Michael Waddell, Huff was asked what “history” he had with the buck. Had Huff been watching it grow over the years on his trail cam? Huff replied his history with the buck was all of about two minutes.
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Huff demonstrates the mass on his buck's left antler. The buck's offical B&C score is 211-4/8 points, making the second largest whitetail in Boone and Crockett Club's record book.

In his mind, Huff thought he’d killed a solid 170-inch deer. Once the landowner saw it, he disagreed and said it might score a high 160—maybe. It took six guys to drag the buck out of the woods to the truck, and Huff snapped a couple of photos. Rightfully proud of the deer, Huff sent those photos to some friends. Around 2 a.m., things started to blow up.

Big Buck Blitzkrieg
That evening they hung the deer from a basketball goal, and a buddy put a tape to the antlers. When the totals started to come in, the numbers just kept getting bigger. A Google search later, and Huff thought he might have a new Indiana state record. That night, he sent a tweet and some photos to fellow country musician Luke Combs. At 2 a.m., presumably after a show, Combs called Huff for the details. Once he hung up, Combs tipped off the writers at The Meateater, who broke the story the next day. The headline read, “Photos: This Buck Might Crush the Indiana State Record.” It crushed the state record, alright. In fact, it is second only to Milo Hansen’s world record. The next day, Huff’s phone and Facebook page lit up.

“After that article, people were calling—from the news, on Facebook, and people wanted me to do podcasts. That went on for about a week,” Huff said. “I just kinda took it in stride, and it was all just crazy.” He was asked to do endorsements and go to deer shows. “I’m like ‘What’s a deer show?’ I didn’t know there was a deer business.”


With all the notoriety, Huff’s prayers had been answered—literally. “In music, I’ve always prayed for a big break. The big break was this deer,” he said. The deer impacted his music career through sheer notoriety and name recognition. He’d hear from folks about how they were turned on to his music after hearing about what is now known as the Huff Buck. He plans to go on tour soon with his guitar and the deer, but those antlers that will be next to him are going to be replicas.

The Huff Buck Moves to Ohio
In the beginning of the big buck media storm, some people reached out to Huff about buying the antlers, and he initially turned them down. “But then I got to thinking,” he said. His dad needed money for stem cell therapy, and that doesn’t come cheap. So, Huff put a number out there just to see what would happen.

One person who contacted Huff was antler collector Keith Snider, who will be the first person to admit that he might have a bit of an obsession with antlers. “My wife would call it an illness,” he said. Snider has been collecting whitetail antlers since he was eight years old. “Folks collect salt shakers, cookie jars; I’ve never been into that stuff.” Today, his basement in Ohio is wall-to-wall whitetail racks. It’s what Cooperstown is to baseball. Words don’t do it justice, but this video might give you some idea. Snider was drawn to this buck for its size, but the story attracted him as well.

“He [Huff] is out there just hunting,” explained Snider. “He’s not worried about killing a big deer. He took me back to hunting as a kid when I would go hunting. And if someone killed a doe, everyone would say how lucky they were.” Things are different now, though, said Snider. Thanks to better management, there are more deer, bigger deer. “The best whitetails are in our future.” To understand what Snider is talking about, check out the companion article,

Indiana’s Big Buck Revival.
Eventually, Snider and Huff struck a deal, and the antlers now live in Ohio. Does Huff have any seller’s remorse? That’s a quick no. He’s still got the cape and some pretty good replicas. He’s always wanted some property of his own in Indiana, and he’s been looking around with his girlfriend. And there’s a new guitar, a Gibson J-45, that he’s finally going to pull the trigger on.

Snider says that if he was to ever part with the antlers, he’d want them to be on display for the public to see. For now, though, he has no plans to part with it. “Regardless of who owns it, it’s Dustin’s deer,” Snider said. “It will always be his deer.”

The Importance of Records in Big Game Management
When you enter your trophy into the Boone and Crockett system, you aren’t just honoring the animal and its habitat. You are participating in a data collection system that started in the 1920s and was refined by Club members in 1950. Today, there are nearly 60,000 trophy records. By establishing a records database more than 70 years ago, the Boone and Crockett Club established a scientific baseline from which researchers can use to study wildlife management. If you’re still on the fence about entering your trophy, we encourage you to read Why Should I Bother to Enter My Trophy. To the best of our ability, we ensure that the trophies entered into the records were taken in accordance with the tenets of fair chase ethics. Despite what some may think, the Boone and Crockett records are not about a name or a score in a book—because in the end, there’s so much more to the score.

The Huff Buck: The Inside Story of the Second Biggest Typical Whitetail | Boone and Crockett Club (boone-crockett.org)
 

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It's hot and humid outside so I decided to catch up a bit- As indicated in other threads Indiana along with Kentucky have been doing extremely well the last decade or so in the record books. So Boone and Crockett has a nice write up with some data on Indiana to go along with this thread-

Indiana’s Big Whitetail Buck Revival

In the near future, we will be hearing more about record-book whitetails coming out of Indiana. Have hunters and wildlife managers there found a sweet spot for the state’s herd?
By PJ DelHomme
in_buckrevival_header.jpg

In case you missed it, a 27-year-old Indiana hunter named Dustin Huff recently shot the second biggest typical whitetail ever recorded. Indiana, it seems, has been on a hot streak the past couple of years in terms of Boone and Crockett entries. In fact, Indiana bucks have taken the top spot for number of record-book whitetail entries from 2019 and 2020. More on that in a bit. But first, what’s going on?

The One-buck Rule

Indiana has what’s called the “one-buck rule.” Like it sounds, it limits hunters to taking only one buck each season. And it’s been a game-changer—in terms of herd health, hunter satisfaction and trophy buck entries.
Prior to 2002, hunters could harvest at least two bucks, and this didn’t allow many bucks to get old. Most hunters would first shoot a very young meat buck, and then they would hunt a mature, trophy buck for their second tag, said Joe Caudell, state deer biologist with Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Caudell’s predecessor, Chad Stewart, explained in an article that in 2001, 56 percent of the bucks harvested were yearlings. Biologists were hearing from hunters that they wanted to see bigger bucks. As a result, the state implemented the one-buck rule as a temporary measure in 2002. The state then extended it in 2007. Then another request came to the DNR; this time it was from state legislators.

In 2010, the deer herd had reached social carrying capacity. Lawmakers began hearing from voters about rising vehicle collisions and crop depredation. The DNR authorized liberal doe seasons, and the plan worked. Not only did hunters knock down deer numbers, it also normalized killing does, which had been somewhat taboo as many older hunters remembered a time with relatively few deer running around the state.
in_buckrevival_entrygraph.jpg

Graph showing combined typical and non-typical whitetail entries into B&C's Records Program by kill date beginning in 1985.

Today, with the one-buck rule, hunters will typically shoot a doe to fill the freezer and then hold out for a trophy buck, passing up the younger ones, said Caudell. Around 70 percent of Indiana hunters shoot one deer, with around 21 percent shooting two deer. Not everyone kills a doe and a monster buck, but Caudell has found that this kind of management has created a healthier herd because there is a more varied age structure with the bucks. “Before the tag change, deer just couldn’t get old,” he said.

Using the Records
Caudell is quite familiar with the Boone and Crockett records. In fact, he became an Official Measurer in 2019. When he produces the state's annual deer report, he uses the Boone and Crockett records, specifically the County Search Tool, to research trends in the state’s deer entries. “If you look at the records from year-to-year, Indiana has been the top Boone and Crockett bucks producer in 2019 and ‘20,” he says. “The upward trend is really noticeable year-by-year.” As of this writing, record entries for the 2021 season are still being entered.

Consider this. From 1980-2002, Indiana hunters entered 209 Boone and Crockett whitetails into the records. From 2003-2020, after the one-buck rule was implemented, hunters there entered 683 B&C bucks. That’s nearly 500 more bucks entered in a shorter time span.
in_buckrevival_beforeafter.jpg


This kind of info is helpful to Caudell and the state because it’s one piece in the wildlife management puzzle. Another big driver in management is hunter satisfaction. “It really is the attitude of the hunters that is driving this change and increase in antler size,” Caudell said. “Our surveys indicate that 45-50 percent of our hunters say body size and antlers are important to them. That’s what they want.”

Using the Boone and Crockett records is one way Caudell is able to show the public that the DNR is giving them what they want. Without those records, it would be harder to measure successful management. “I have to put a plug in here for hunters to have their deer recorded,” he said. “One of the early intents of the records program was to inform biologists and others working in management. These records are just another data point in time, and that’s what biologists like—data over time.”
As for the Huff Buck
huff-field-card.jpg

Did active deer management play a part in producing the world’s second-biggest typical whitetail? “Oh yeah,” says Dustin Huff, the hunter who killed that 211-4/8 typical whitetail. “The one-buck rule in Indiana has really opened things up. We’re no longer a sleeper state. People are passing up the younger bucks.”

Caudell is going to be the last person to take any credit for the Huff Buck. Because Indiana is 95 percent private land, there is little wildlife managers can do to manipulate the actual landscape. “I’m going to give credit to the hunters and landowners who want bigger deer, or whatever their goals might be,” Caudell said. “We put a general framework in place for deer management, but it’s the landowner or a group of hunters that becomes educated on how they want to achieve that goal.”
As to the future of Indiana’s deer, time will tell if they continue to stand their ground with other whitetail powerhouses like Wisconsin and Illinois. In the meantime, Caudell will keep crunching the data to keep deer herds healthy and hunters happy.

Read about Dustin Huff's Buck...
The Importance of Records in Big Game Management
When you enter your trophy into the Boone and Crockett system, you aren’t just honoring the animal and its habitat. You are participating in a data collection system that started in the 1920s and was refined by Club members in 1950. Today, there are nearly 60,000 trophy records. By establishing a records database more than 70 years ago, the Boone and Crockett Club established a scientific baseline from which researchers can use to study wildlife management. If you’re still on the fence about entering your trophy, we encourage you to read Why Should I Bother to Enter My Trophy. To the best of our ability, we ensure that the trophies entered into the records were taken in accordance with the tenets of fair chase ethics. Despite what some may think, the Boone and Crockett records are not about a name or a score in a book—because in the end, there’s so much more to the score.

Indiana’s Big Whitetail Buck Revival | Boone and Crockett Club (boone-crockett.org)
 
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My favorite kind of story is when someone shoots a big buck that they don't even know existed until right before the shot. 😊 😊 😊 😊
Not only that, he just wanted a decent buck and had no clue about the money and publicity that comes with a deer of this caliber. :p (y)

“After that article, people were calling—from the news, on Facebook, and people wanted me to do podcasts. That went on for about a week,” Huff said. “I just kinda took it in stride, and it was all just crazy.” He was asked to do endorsements and go to deer shows. “I’m like ‘What’s a deer show?’ I didn’t know there was a deer business.”
 
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