December 01, 2017

During a time of the season in which many hunters refer to as the October lull, social media was going crazy with people liking and commenting on another Hillsdale County buck that could be an archery state record. I say another, because Hillsdale County already has claim to the Archery State Record Non-Typical. In 2004, Aaron Davis shot a monster buck that netted 225 7/8 Pope and Young Points (P&Y).

On Oct. 19, 41- year-old Andy Harpster shot a thick antlered buck with high tines and a twenty inch inside spread, that according to many of his friends who were quick to share his success on hunting social media sites, has an astonishing score of 186 5/8 P&Y. The current Archery State Record Typical was shot in 2012, by Robert Sopsich in Oakland County and scored 182 1/8 P&Y. So, after the sixty day drying period could this actually be a new state record?

Well, a couple of days later I was able to talk with Andy and he told me that the 186 5/8 score is the gross score. The buck will more than likely net in the mid-170 range which still makes the buck eligible for the legendary Pope & Young records and Boone & Crockett Club, or what most deer hunters refer to as being a “Booner.”

Harpster was very familiar with this particular buck and had at least four years of history with the elusive giant before sticking him with an arrow on a late afternoon in October. Andy commented, “Every year for the last four years I would get one or two pictures of him on my forty acres of land. In 2015, I had him at forty yards during muzzleloader season but didn’t shoot because of the thick cover that he was in. I just didn’t want to risk injuring him. I’d rather let him walk than injure him. That’s just the way that I am.”

Andy Harpster’s buck has great mass through his heavy rack, which is a 5×6, 11-point and will score in the mid-170 range.

Fast-forward to this year, and Harpster once again got photographs of the giant buck and shifted some work appointments around so that he could have a couple days off to hunt. Andy said, “On Oct, 17, I went for an evening hunt and saw the buck enter a field at 4:30 in the afternoon. I could hardly believe that he would be out so early in the day. I grunted at him, and he would look my way but wouldn’t move. I then took a folding saw and started raking the tree that I was in. This got him moving in my direction and he walked to within 60 yards of where I was but hung up and wouldn’t come in any closer. He eventually acted spooked and took off in the opposite direction. I watched him as he faded into the distance. Once he left, I got out of my stand thinking that he wouldn’t come back. The next morning, I checked my camera and found a picture of him that was taken a little after seven. He had returned and I was not there.”

“On Thursday, October 19, there was a west wind so I decided to hunt my seventeen acre woods on the west end of my property. I had cut out the soft maples and left only oak trees so I was hopeful that he would be hungry for acorns. Well, the weather predictions were wrong and there was actually a northwest wind that wasn’t as favorable a wind for this stand. Anyways, I wasn’t in my stand for long before a doe came out and was heading over to one of my food plots. Naturally, I watched her and she looked over her shoulder. I looked back to where she was looking and I saw the big buck. I knew the moment I laid eyes on him that it was him.

“He was walking a path through some real thick cover. I grunted at him and he stopped at forty yards and stood in place searching for another deer. When he didn’t see another deer, he started walking away from me. I ranged an opening in front of him and it read 47 yards. I grunted and he kept walking. I then almost yelled a loud grunt and he stopped in a small shooting window. He was now in my hayfield. I took the shot and the buck ducked and I heard a loud crack. He dropped to the ground. I thought that I either hit his shoulder blade or spine due to the loud cracking noise. I ended up shooting him at fifty yards and hitting him high in the neck. I think that my broadhead is actually in his skull. It was the worst shot that I have ever put on a deer and I will never take another fifty yard shot at a deer. I was very fortunate.”

Andy says that he shot the buck at 4:30 in the afternoon. There was no ground shrinkage with this big buck. He is very impressive. As mentioned earlier, he carries great mass through his heavy rack and is a five by six, 11-point.

Harpster is very passionate about hunting and repeatedly voiced his concerns with Michigan’s management of whitetail deer throughout our phone conversation. He said, “The publicity that I have received is actually a little overwhelming. I don’t own a home computer and didn’t post anything about shooting my buck but I allowed my friends to do so when they asked and it has been a whirlwind of text and calls ever since I shot him. I almost wish that he wasn’t so big so that I wasn’t getting so much attention but I have decided that if my story can just get two people to decide to pass on small bucks then it will be all worth it. I strongly believe in the motto, ‘let them go to let them grow.’ If you just want meat, then shoot a doe but let the small bucks go.”

He continued, “I believe that the MDNR manages deer as a nuisance animal rather than a resource. In our area EHD destroyed our herd about five years ago and yet the DNR still allows farmers in our area to get crop permits. Personally, I don’t shoot young bucks and I feel like our state manages for revenue instead of for quality. I’m from New Mexico and out there they have about seventy different regions with different rules for each region. Here, we are listed in Region 3 which includes all of Lower Michigan. My two previous biggest bucks were shot in Illinois and Ohio after only a couple of days of hunting. My Illinois buck was even shot on public land. I believe we have better habitat in Michigan than these neighboring states but that they have better quality of hunting because of better management.”

One thing is for sure when you look at recent history. Hillsdale County as well as its neighboring counties (Branch, Calhoun, Jackson and Lenawee) has the ability to produce world-class whitetails. Andy’s monster buck would be a trophy no matter where it was shot!