The 2012 Michigan deer season proved to be a banner year with several record-book bucks being tagged. Included in this class of mega-bucks is a new state record! On November 2, 2012, twenty-three year old, Robert Sopsich, shot a giant 12-point Oakland County buck that would eventually score 2/8 of an inch higher than the previous record archery buck.
Robert states that hunting is a family activity that he inherited from his father. Robert and his brother, Donny, have teamed up over the last few years and consider themselves to be game managers. During the 2011, season the team passed up forty-two bucks practicing the theory of let them go to let them grow.
According to Sopsich, “We don’t shoot anything less than an 8-point. We shoot does instead of shooting any small bucks.”
In July of 2012, the brothers started getting photographs of a symmetrical 12-point that carried an extra-large set of six by six antlers. The two-brothers were coveting the opportunity of taking this giant whitetail and according to Robert, Donny even bought $1,200 worth of Scent-Lok clothing to improve his chances. Five neighboring hunters were also aware of the big buck and were also actively pursuing it. Two police officers told Robert that they saw the buck on two different occasions on the day before it was shot.
On Nov. 2, 2012, Robert and Donny had planned on going bowling due to getting out of work late but Donny talked Robert into going hunting because he couldn’t get his mind off of the big 12-point. Robert states, “We usually get out around 4 p.m. but on this night it was much later.”
Robert took a route to his stand through a grove of pine trees. While walking to his stand he spotted a big buck. The hunter quickly prepared for a shot and when he came to full draw the buck was walking away at a distance of forty-five yards.
After drawing his seventy pound compound bow Sopsich states, “I took a second to look at him. That was a mistake. I got buck fever and started shaking.”
The bowhunter only uses a twenty yard pin so he aimed the pin at the top of the deer’s back. When he released the arrow Sopsich said, “It felt like an eternity for the arrow to get to the deer. I then heard a thud and the buck took off running away. I wasn’t sure that I hit him or if I did hit him where the arrow hit. He was standing quartering away when I shot.”
Robert took the shot at 6:15 p.m. Since there was a “lot of daylight left” the bowhunter did not want to ruin his brother’s hunt so he walked back to the house. Anxiety got the better of him and he texted Donny; “I think I got the big one – I think I got the 12! It’s Huge!”
After it got dark it started sprinkling. This of course added to the excited hunters already amped up anxiety level. Initially there was no arrow or blood. The brothers went in the direction that the buck ran and found the first sign of blood about thirty yards down the trail.
The blood trail left the thick cover and crossed a field. After a two hour and four hundred yard search, the brothers found the monster at the bottom of a ditch. Robert had successfully taken the targeted 12-point that they had monitored through their diligent placement of trail cameras. Neither brother had physically seen this buck throughout the year and all of their trail camera photographs were taken at night.
The Sopsich family had never had any of their deer scored before but dad suggested that they get this one scored because he believed that it would make the Boone & Crockett (B&C) book. A symmetrical buck needs to have a net score of 170 inches to make the national B&C book. Measurer, Barry Vandyke, measured the trophy buck on January 2, and came up with a score of 182 5/8. This placed it higher than the current state record so panel-scoring was required.
Later in the month at Outdoorama in Novi, the buck was panel scored by Richard Wilt, Mike Heeg and John Ohmer. Their measurements gave the buck a net typical score of 182 1/8 Boone and Crockett points and the official title of State Record for typical bucks taken with archery equipment. The antlers carry heavy mass and have an inside-spread that measures 19 1/8 inch. The buck had a dressed weight of 185 pounds and was estimated by Robert’s taxidermist and a DNR Officer as being a four and a half year old deer.
Sopsich’s buck beat out the previous record by 2/8 of an inch. The Commemorative Bucks of Michigan attributed the previous state record distinction to a buck that scored 181 7/8 B&C points. That buck was reportedly shot in 1985 by Grand Traverse County bowhunter, Mitch Rompola. For those of you who follow the history of Michigan’s record bucks, this is not the buck that made Mitch Rompola infamous in the whitetail hunting community and sparked rumors of a possible new world record. That was a different buck that was paneled scored at 216 5/8 typical B&C points and shrouded in controversy and was never officially listed in any record keeping books. In 1994, another Oakland County Bowhunter, Rock Vore, shot a giant whitetail that scores 180 2/8 B&C points and will now be tied for third in the state record books.
As fate would have it, Robert’s brother, Donny, shot a trophy 10-point from the very stand that Robert had intended to hunt from on the memorable night in which he intercepted the state record buck. When I asked Robert what his reaction was when he discovered that he had shot the new state record he said, “I was really excited, speechless. It was the same felling that I had when I actually shot the buck. It was like, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that I got the 12-point. I can’t believe that I got the State Record!
The 2012 season was a great year for big bucks and ironically a long standing record was broken the same year that the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) disease struck and killed thousands of deer in other regions of the state. Deer hunting has a magical mystique that draws hundreds of thousands of participants out into the Michigan wilds every year. It’s fun knowing that trophy bucks exist and that there is always that chance that we will have our own encounter with a Michigan Monster!