Travis Smola
Mitch Vakoch Buck

Almost every young hunter dreams of shooting a monster buck for their first deer–a buck that makes all the other hunters green with envy. These days it’s a little easier for younger hunters to connect on a big buck thanks to the special youth seasons that occur first in many states. However, in 1974, there were no youth seasons in place when then 17-year-old Mitch Vakoch took to the woods and ended up coming home with one of the largest whitetail deer ever taken by a hunter. This monster 43-pointer was so large that it STILL stands as the Minnesota state record for a non-typical whitetail deer nearly 50 years after it was taken.

The monster buck was hunted on a family deer drive in Norman County during the young hunter’s first foray into the whitetail woods ever. To say this guy was spoiled for life after that hunt would be a massive understatement. This is how Minnesota’s largest whitetail ever was harvested in what you could say was the most fortunate case of beginner’s luck ever.

The Hunt

Mitch Vakoch Buck

Travis Smola

Surprisingly, there’s not much to the story of this huge whitetail’s harvest. It’s short and sweet. According to Buckmasters, Vakoch and his family were hunting only about four miles from where they lived and they organized a deer drive with some friends. It was a slow day for the group, but they decided they would do one more push before calling it. Little did they know they were setting up for the greatest deer hunt in Minnesota’s history.

Vakoch was chosen as a stander for this last push. He was hunting with a classic Midwest deer gun, a Remington 870 that he had loaded with slugs. Mitch had not been in position long when someone else in the party shot at a massive buck running through the thick woods. That shot missed, but it ended up working in Vakoch’s favor. The big buck turned and started running directly at the young hunter. In fact, the hunter later recalled it looked like the deer was going to run him over! Mitch waited until the deer was only a few feet away before firing a single shot at the monster buck. The huge deer only made it another 50 yards before piling up dead. Just like that, one of the biggest deer in Minnesota’s history took a permanent dirt nap.

When the party finally examined the buck, they were shocked not just by the antlers, which had a massive club-like drop tine, but the impressive size of the buck’s body. According to Buckmasters, it weighed an estimated 350 pounds! While the buck surprised the hunters, the existence of the deer was known to at least one other unknown person. A long-lost shed antler from the buck amazingly appeared after gathering dust under a workbench in a garage for years.

The Antlers

Mitch Vakoch Buck

Travis Smola

To put into perspective how special this deer is, the massive antlers  scored a gross measurement of 295 6/8 inches and a net of 268 5/8 inches. That this deer manages to achieve that score with an inside spread of just 14 2/8 inches and only one typical tine over 10 inches makes that total even more impressive. Most of the deer’s accumulated score comes from its impressive mass measurements, especially on the right side. The rack features a stunning 118 3/8 inches of abnormal antler.

At the time, the buck was a huge sensation locally, but you’ll rarely hear Mitch Vakoch’s name mentioned when talking about the greatest whitetails of all time. This buck has really flown under the radar. We suspect a lot of that is because hunters weren’t as concerned about antlers back in 1974. These days this buck would be huge news across the Internet in a matter of hours.

The Vakoch buck has had practically no challengers in all the years since the harvest. The next largest deer on the state’s list is J.J. Matter’s 258-incher that was taken the year prior. Plus, Minnesota has only produced one whitetail over 240 inches in the years since then. The famous “Minnesota Monarch” buck would have certainly dethroned the Vakoch buck in the number one spot in the state, and possibly the all-time record books, but that buck is known only from a set of sheds, so the 330+ inch score can never be fully verified.

Currently, the Vakoch buck sits as number 39 in Boone and Crockett’s list of all-time non-typical bucks, which is not a bad place to be. These days the rack is owned by Bass Pro Shops where it can be properly admired and appreciated by a new generation of hunters.

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The post The Mitch Vakoch Buck is Still Minnesota’s Non-Typical Whitetail Record appeared first on Wide Open Spaces.

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