header mule deer articles

Beau Knutson's 284-inch World Record Archery Mule Deer

Since the first time I drew a tag I have had an obsession for big gnarly mule deer. From early summer to late fall all I can think about is out smarting big old muleys. This year started out much the same as every other year, but I had a buck in the back of my mind that I had first seen three years ago. I had come across this deer bedded in a slough bottom with two other bucks: one was about a 190” non-typical in full velvet, another was a 180” typical with dropping beams, and the last was a 150 class youngster. Archery season was open so I backed out and made a plan. I circled back down wind and snuck up behind a rock pile that would easily put me within range. When I got to the rock pile I poked my head out and ranged the deer at 25 yards. They were lying there totally unaware of my presence. I figured my best chance was to draw my bow and step out at full draw.  When I was standing at full draw the 190” velvet non-typical was still lying in his spot while the 180” typical was standing broadside at 25 yards. I made the decision and sent an arrow through the big typical. He was a great deer and I couldn’t pass up the shot. 

Beau Knutson's world record archery mule deer

Perfect patience--that’s what it took to get this deer. The treturous stalk was worth it. This toad tapes out at 284 3/8 SCI and 267 3/8 P&Y, placing it as the new archery world record non-typical muley.

After that day I was all tagged out and didn’t know anyone with a draw tag to go after the other buck so I kind of forgot about him for the rest of the year. The next season I came across the big non-typical while I was harvesting. I was hunting with archery tackle again and every time I found this deer he was bedded in areas where I couldn’t get within 100 yards with my bow, so I had to leave him alone. This was tough to do; he had put on a fair bit of horn and was now in the 215” range. I had many sleepless nights in October and November thinking some lucky hunter would stumble upon him in muzzle loader or rifle season. Luckily, the area he chose to call home was within 5 miles of my house and not that heavily hunted, so I kept an eye on him for the season and he made it through. 

In 2012 I got back on him early in the summer; we just happened to be coming home from my daughter’s ball game and I saw a deer way off in the distance that looked like it had a drop tine. I raced home, dropped off my wife, grabbed the spotting scope, and Mackenzie and I headed back to see if we could find him. We got back to where I had last seen him and there was nothing to be seen. We glassed back and forth and nothing, he had disappeared. We waited for about an hour and finally we caught a glimpse of him sneaking through a low spot trying to get to the other field. At first I thought it was a totally different deer but after he sky-lined himself I knew for sure he was the buck I was looking for, and he had pushed out an 8”drop tine off his right side! 

For the next two and a half months every spare minute I had I would go watch this deer. It was the end of July when he absolutely exploded with horn growth, I couldn’t even think straight from here on! A couple close hunting buddies would ask what he would score and I didn’t even want to hint a number and have them think I was foolish! All I would say is he’s big. Real big! I figured he was going to be in the 220-225” range and with only an archery tag this year I was more than happy to dedicate my time to try to kill this deer with my bow.

I continued to watch him for the next while and in about mid-August he decided to throw me a curve ball and move. He didn’t go far, just a half mile over, but into a lentil field which is a very short crop and I wasn’t sure how I would sneak in on him with the bow. I had no doubt that we would get this deer this year because two buddies drew tags and they would able to hunt him with muzzle loaders. So for the next three weeks I watched this deer move between three or four large cattail sloughs out in the middle of the lentil field. I was kind of frustrated because I honestly thought the chances of making a successful stalk in this situation were zero. 

The night before the opening day of archery season I went out just before dark to glass and see if I could locate him. With no sign I called it a night, went home and rounded up my gear into the truck, and went to bed. I don’t think I slept a wink that night. The alarm went off about 4am on September 1st and I was going out to find this buck of a lifetime. 

I hopped in the truck and headed out, parked, and waited for sunrise with a million things going through my mind as to what could happen and how I would make this happen. At sunup I walked out onto a hill to glass for the buck. Having not seen him the night before, my hopes weren’t set too high. These big old muleys have a knack for disappearing come hunting season. I glassed for about 15 minutes, and there he was, standing about 400 yards away in the middle of a cattail slough. My heart instantly started pounding but I had no idea how I was going to get close enough for a shot. I had virtually no wind, 400 yards of no cover to get to where he was, and the lentils were dead ripe ready to combine—they sounded like I was dragging a string of empty beer cans behind me! There was no way I was going to get within range in these conditions, so I sat on the hill and watched him mill around for a half-hour and once he bedded I pulled out and went back to the truck. 

This decision killed me but I knew it was the only one I had. We were right in the middle of harvests so I went back to work for the day and planned to try again tomorrow. I was working only 5 miles away and all I could think about was this deer. I probably looked as if my dog had died. At 2:30 things started to turn around for me; it started to look like it was going to rain and the wind really picked up. I quickly got myself in my truck and it began pouring rain. I was on route to the field I had seen the deer in this morning. 

I thought just maybe with the wind and rain I might be able to stalk up to the slough and hopefully he would feed past before dark. It rained so hard I could hardly get to field with the truck. I parked at the north end of the section and started hiking toward the slough. I walked about 300 yards to a hill and I could see the slough he was in. It was downhill towards him from here so I couldn’t just walk; I decided to belly crawl down a sprayer track that would lead me to the edge of where he was lying. When I was half way I stopped for a rest. There I was, my gear in hand, covered in mud and soaking wet. “This is fun,” I thought to myself. Then the rain stopped. The big non-typical stood up, looked my direction, shook himself off, and bedded down again. Wow, I thought I was busted! 

Now I knew where he was so I carried on belly crawling. By the time I reached the edge of the slough I was totally exhausted and in shock that I had made it that far without being busted. While I lay there resting I noticed the sprayer track went off to the right and might get me closer, so I continued on my stomach one foot at a time, into the slough where he bedded. I was kind of confused because I thought he should only be about 70 yards from where I was, but I couldn’t see anything. All of a sudden he stood up looking straight away from me for a few seconds and bedded back down. Now I knew exactly where he was and figured if I could get within another 30-40 yards I would be in position for a good shot. 

Another view at this world record non-typical archery mule deer

Another great look at this giant mule deer.

I carried on belly crawling to an opening and couldn’t go any further. I was on my knees glassing the cattails looking for horns when I saw him turn his head toward me. I had watched this deer a lot from 300 to 600 yards away with the spotting scope, but until this moment I hadn’t understood how big this thing was! I hunkered down and ranged him at 52 yards—not a perfect archery range but with the bow I was shooting, it was a shot I was confident with. I sat at 52 yards for three hours waiting for him to stand again, watching him turn his head back and forth. It was killer on the mind; all I wanted to do is throw a little stone or whistle to get him to stand but I couldn’t risk it. I’ve seen that go bad too many times. With about 50 minutes of daylight left the giant finally decided to stand and it couldn’t have been more perfect. He stood up, looked my way, then turned quartering away and put his head down to feed. I drew my bow back while on my knees and once at full draw I stood and put my pin behind his shoulder. He didn’t even lift his head. I squeezed the trigger and the hit was perfect, the deer kicked in the air, spun towards me, and ran by me at 10 yards. He reached the edge of the slough and stopped, standing there looking away; his massive rack started to wobble and down he went. 

Even when I had the horns in my hands I still had no idea how big this deer really was. After the 60 day drying period we loaded up and took it to get scored, we were blown away with what we come up with. The deer taped out at 284 3/8 SCI and 267 3/8 Pope & Young.

Watching that deer’s horns start to sway was an unbelievable sight. I have never in my hunting years had everything work out so perfectly as it did on this day; making a five hour stalk on this incredible buck was truly a great feeling. I guess days like this make up for all the blown stalks in past years!

Get more stories like this!  Subscribe to Hunting Illustrated magazine today.