While hunting with a muzzleloader, Steve Hartline from Marcellus bagged a huge buck with 18-point nontypical antlers in Cass County on the morning of November 21 that could be among the state’s top five black powder kills in that category, if the green score of the antlers holds up. He said the rack has a green gross score of 207 7/8 and nets 197 1/8.

“The woman who measured them told me the antlers have to dry for 60 days before they can be officially scored,” Hartline said. “She said the final score could be as much as 10 inches different than the green measurements.”

Since the rack is of Boone and Crockett proportions, a panel of three measurers with Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM) will do the official measuring and all three will have to agree on which points are typical and nontypical. Steve said the antlers have three drop tines, but one of them could be considered an end of one of the beams. A determination of which category that point falls in will have a bearing on the rack’s final score.

The longest drop tine is 9 3/4 inches long, according to Hartline, and it still has some dried velvet on it. The other two drops are about five inches in length. The hunter added that the antlers are palmated and the inside spread is 21 5/8 inches.

According to the 8th edition of Michigan Big Game Records, there are three nontypicals taken with muzzleloaders currently in state records that score more than the green net score of Hartline’s buck, but the official score of his rack could end up higher than the current tally. The number three buck in that category scores 198 4/8 and was taken in Huron County during 2004 by Josh Fritz. Fritz’s deer had 21 points.

One of the chapters in Book 5 of Great Michigan Deer Tales contains the story about the Fritz Buck and the state’s number two black powder buck taken by Dustin Hotchkin the same year. His Ingham County 17-pointer nets 204 1/8 and was shot during the regular gun season like Hartline’s.

It was 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, November 21 when Steve shot his big nontypical from a Cass County thicket. He was perched in a tree stand overlooking the thicket. Steve had taken a 10-pointer from the same spot two days before gun season with a new bow he purchased this year.

He said he never saw the exceptional whitetail until he shot it. He said he talked to a bowhunter who had been hunting the deer 4 1/2 miles from where he killed it. Steve speculated that the harvest of cornfields was responsible for the buck moving into a thicket where he got it.

Hartline was hunting with a .50 caliber Knight Legend rifle that was loaded with 90 grains of Pyrodex and a 240 grain .44 caliber Hornady bullet. The rifle was sighted in for 100 yards, but the buck was only 40 yards away when he shot it.

“I heard two shots to the west,” Steve said, “so I faced that way for about five minutes in case a deer was coming from that direction. Then I looked behind me and to the sides. I saw him to the southeast. He was sneaking through the thicket and had his antlers tangled in some vines.”

A bullet through the top of the shoulders dropped the whitetail in his tracks. Two of the rack’s three drops tines are on the left antler.

“When I shot the buck, I knew it had a drop tine,” Hartline said, “but I didn’t know it had three. When I saw it had three drop tines, I was so excited I couldn’t pick its head up for 10 minutes. I didn’t want to leave the deer because we’ve had some bucks stolen in this area. I finally contacted one of my friends by cell phone and had him pick me up with the deer.”