Illinois

Did this Illinois hunter shoot the largest buck ever recorded in the United States?

Keith Szableswki, a 29-year law enforcement professional from Johnson City, Ill., shot what might be the largest ever recorded buck in the U.S.
Keith Szableswki, a 29-year law enforcement professional from Johnson City, Ill., shot what might be the largest ever recorded buck in the U.S.

Now Keith Szablewski plays the waiting game.

After shooting what he hopes is a 51-point buck in the first weekend of Illinois’ deer season in November, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, he’s waiting to see whether his buck is the largest ever shot in the U.S.

The first weekend of Illinois shotgun deer season was Nov. 16-18.

The largest buck on record now is a 47-point buck taken by a Tennessee hunter in 2016, according to the Tennessean. Stephen Tucker of Gallatin, Tennessee, shot that buck in Sumner County with a muzzleloader rifle, the newspaper reported.

Szablewski, a 29-year law enforcement professional from Johnston City, Illinois, shot his buck on private property in Williamson County, according to WSIL. Williamson County is in southern Illinois, about 90 miles southeast of St. Louis.

“I was just sitting there, and I heard the deer behind me,” he told the station. “When I walked up to him, I looked at it and thought, ‘What a blessing.”

That hunt started like just about any other, he said, according to Farm Week Now. He climbed up into the blind just before 3 p.m. and saw the deer of a lifetime a little over an hour later, according to the website.

“The only window I had was a 12-by-12-square-foot opening that I could see clearly on his neck,” he told Farm Week Now. “I could have shot through the leaves to hit his body, but I’m not going to do that.”

He could see it was big — he just didn’t know exactly how big until he approached the buck. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources responded to his call after the rare kill and recommended that he get the buck scored as soon as possible.

A panel of judges will officially score the buck in July 2019, at the Deer and Turkey Classic trade show in Peoria, according to WSIL.

The Boone and Crockett Club officially judges bucks’ antler points and scores, and keeps record of world-record kills in whitetail, mule deer, elk, moose, and other big game.

It’s unclear whether all of Szablewski’s buck’s 51 points will score. That’s what he’s waiting to find out from the judges.

Matt is an award-winning real time reporter and a University of Texas at Austin graduate who’s been based at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 2011. His regional focus is Texas, and that makes sense. He’s only lived there his whole life.
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