After blowing a chance at a nice 8-pointer during bow season, Joe Blugerman from Munith was hoping to make up for the missed opportunity with another buck during gun season. He got that chance on November 25, 2017, and this time things went his way. Not only did Joe bag a buck bigger than the one he missed, he shot the very biggest antlered whitetail on record for Jackson County with nontypical antlers. The 22-pointer has a gross score of 213 and nets 206, according to state big game record keeper Commemorative Bucks of Michigan.
Jackson County has a reputation as one of the best producers of bucks with large antlers in the state. The current state record typical netting 198 came from that county along with a number of other high scoring typicals. When it comes to world class nontypicals, however, the county has only given up a few scoring more than 195 and Blugerman’s is the biggest of those. The previous number one nontypical from Jackson County is an 18-point that Steve Crocker shot during 1989 that measured 201 1/8.
It was November 8 when Joe blew his chance at a nice 8-point with bow and arrow. Even though he’s hunted whitetails for 35 years and taken his share of bucks, he still gets excited when trying to add another one to his credit. That’s a big part of the reason why he continues hunting whitetails.
When Joe first saw the 8-pointer at a distance of 100 yards, it looked like the buck was going away from him. He took out a Can Call from his pocket and tried that to see if he could change the buck’s mind about where he wanted to go. The call had the desired results. The deer slowly circled Joe’s position, gradually getting closer.
Part of the problem is Joe was able to watch the buck for a long time before it finally got into position for a shot. The anticipation of getting a shot kept building along with his dosage of adrenaline and excitement. By the time the buck was in position for a shot, Joe had a full blown case of buck fever and cleanly missed the deer.
After firearm season opened, the only bucks Blugerman saw were yearlings. He said he normally passes up small bucks, preferring to take deer that are at least 2 ½ years old. He has four bucks to his credit that score in the 130s. Two of those were 8-pointers, one was a 9-point and the final one had 10 points.
On the afternoon of the 25th, Joe decided to hunt from a ladder stand he had taken a couple of bucks from previously. Around 4:45 p.m., while standing on the platform, he decided to look behind him for any sign of movement. After looking in that direction for about a minute without seeing anything, Blugerman turned back to watch the terrain in front of him. To his surprise, there was a deer standing broadside 25 yards away.
‘There’s a deer,’ was Joe’s surprised mental reaction. ‘How did it get so close,’ he wondered, not hearing a sound before seeing the deer.
‘Holy cow, it’s a monster,’ Joe thought to himself as the size of the deer’s antlers registered in his brain. ‘He’s looking right at me.’
“The first thing I did is close my eyes. I didn’t want to make eye contact,” he explained. “My gun was hanging in the tree next to me and I didn’t dare move. I would open my eyes every five seconds or so, kinda squinting at him. He would turn his head to look away and then look back at me. I opened and closed my eyes about 10 times.
“I didn’t have a chance to study his antlers. I noticed that the antlers were wide and had a lot of mass. I knew he wasn’t a typical. I was telling myself, ‘You can tell how big he is later after he’s dead. Don’t blow it,'” he reminded himself, remembering the 8-pointer during bow season.
The buck eventually started taking a few steps and when his head was behind a tree, Joe grabbed his scoped 20 gauge single shot Harrington & Richardson shotgun with a rifled barrel and got ready for a shot. When the buck was angling away at a distance of about 35 yards, Blugerman put a Hornady sabot slug through the buck’s lungs.
The buck died near the far side of a nearby river. Part of an antler and the deer’s body were visible above the water, but Blugerman still couldn’t tell how big the buck’s rack really was. Joe called some neighbors for help in retrieving the deer and they brought chest waders for him to wear. The water proved to be too deep for the waders, however, so Joe ended up stripping to his underwear, swimming to the whitetail and tying a rope to it, so it could be pulled to shore.
Joe said the temperature was in the 40s, so the swim wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The water was cold, but air temperatures below freezing aren’t unusual during late November.
Needless to say, Joe was surprised and pleased about the size of the deer’s antlers. He did have plenty of time to find out how big the rack was after getting out of the water and putting his clothes back on. The inside spread of the antlers is 18 6/8 inches. The 11 x 11 rack has a typical 10-point frame with six nontypical points on each antler.
The most noticeable and impressive nontypical point is a drop tine off the right antler. Total length of the 12 nontypical points is 40 1/8 inches. The base of each antler is more than 6 inches in circumference. Circumference of the right antler is 6 4/8 inches and the left base is 6 1/8 inches.
Joe sent a tooth in from his buck to have it aged. That’s done by taking a cross section of the tooth and counting the rings. The southern Michigan buck was 7 1/2 years old. It had a dressed weight of 186 pounds, so its live weight was well over 200 pounds.
For detailed stories about how other giant bucks from Jackson County were bagged, refer to the 6-book series titled Great Michigan Deer Tales, which were written by the author of this article. Each of the books contains at least one chapter about Jackson County’s big bucks. The current state record typical is covered in Book 2. Book 7 in the series will be out by this fall. A special prepublication offer for that book is on the author’s website (www.richardpsmith.com).