For 20 years, David Blanton, Bill Jordan and friends have shared the joy and despair of hunting record-book whitetails in some of the most remarkable places on the continent. The Realtree Monster Bucks titles have become such a hit that they now comprise the best-selling deer-hunting DVD series of all time.
When asked what it’s like to be a part of such a successful show, Blanton says it is nothing short of “a tremendous blessing from God.” Working on the Realtree videos for the past two decades has been fun and extremely rewarding, Blanton says, but he can’t take the credit for the success.
“Bill Jordan knew that Monster Bucks would make it big, and he selected the right people to get the job done,” Blanton said. “Many of the industry’s most popular hunters made their debuts on the videos, such as Michael Waddell, Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, Greg Miller, Brad Harris and Larry Weishuhn. The list goes on and on.”
While the fun and interesting personalities showcased on the DVDs are a perk, people watch Monster Bucks for the hunts and to gawk at the massive whitetails. Thanks to the trend in deer management and nutrition, the bucks shown on the Monster Bucks DVDs get bigger by the year, and Blanton projects that the most remarkable whitetails have yet to be filmed.
“We are living in the golden age of whitetail hunting, which is reflected in our newer Monster Bucks DVDs,” Blanton said.
“People are becoming better hunters and the bucks are getting more impressive.”
Jordan predicted this trend years ago after witnessing the success of Realtree’s first whitetail-hunting video, Whitetails in the Wild, which debuted in 1991.
“I worked as a cameraman for Whitetails in the Wild,” Blanton said. “I loved filming deer back then and was given permission to film in a kudzu field in the LaGrange, Ga., city limits. I built a blind and ended up capturing the most incredible velvet-buck footage that had ever been recorded. That was my first signature piece of film, which would pale in comparison to what we capture today. But, back then it was something special and people went wild over it.”
After Whitetails in the Wild’s monumental success in 1991, Jordan came up with the idea for the Monster Bucks series.
“We knew going into the Monster Bucks project in the early ’90s that we were going to have to step it up with the quality of equipment we used and the size of the deer we took on camera,” Blanton said. “So, we started out in Saskatchewan because we thought that it was the place to kill big deer.”
Sure enough, it was the place to kill big deer, at least for Milo Hanson who took the world record typical whitetail in Saskatchewan in 1993. Although Jordan and Blanton didn’t tag the world record deer themselves that year, they were able to secure the exclusive video rights to that story, which aired on the second Monster Bucks video (see the footage here. Allow a few minutes for video to load).
“Filming Bill’s interview with Milo was the first unforgettable Monster Bucks experience for me,” Blanton said. “I got to attend the official scoring ceremony, which I am so thankful to have witnessed. The typical 14-point buck netted 213 5/8 points, breaking the world record held since the early 1900s. Milo’s giant buck fueled the trophy whitetail hunting craze, which gave our videos even more momentum.”
As the years passed, many more memorable and widely talked-about Monster Bucks moments were captured on film for all to enjoy.
Largest Buck Ever Taken on Film
No hunt epitomizes the Monster Bucks theme like Spook Spann’s hunt filmed for Monster Bucks XVI. Spann, a professional hunter and landowner, had seen trail camera pictures of a huge buck on his property in Kansas and knew he had to go after it. One afternoon in November, he and his cameraman, L. J. Planer, set out toward his treestand hoping to at least get a glance of the impressive buck. On the way to the stand, they spotted the huge deer 400 yards away with some does in a CRP field.
Spann knew it was the same buck he’d seen in the photos and didn’t want to pass up on any opportunity he was given to take the deer. So they set off on foot after the buck. When they reached the CRP field, they belly-crawled through it to a stand of hardwoods where they waited for the buck to pass by them.
The huge deer slowly worked its way toward them while searching for a doe that had wandered off. When it moved to within 6 paces of Spann, he shot it. The buck took a few steps before crumpling. Once he realized he’d made a successful shot on that enormous buck, Spann cried and screamed with joy.
“The buck ended up grossing 230 3/8 non-typical inches, making it the largest wild, fair-chase whitetail ever taken on camera,” Blanton said. “Spook and the deer are on the cover of the Monster Bucks XVI, Vol. 2 DVD.” (See the footage of Spook Spann’s hunt here.)
One of Blanton’s favorite Monster Bucks moments also happens to be one of the most popular, asked-about hunts in the series. Blanton was hosting a hunt for Monster Bucks VI at the Tecomate Ranch in South Texas with his friend David Morris when he got the opportunity to take the biggest deer of his life on camera.
“We had seen a large deer on a different part of the ranch several weeks earlier when scouting, but I never thought that I’d actually get a shot at it,” Blanton said. The first morning of their hunt, Blanton and his cameraman spotted that same huge deer, but it disappeared in the fog before he got a chance to shoot it.
“I thought for sure that I’d lost my chance at the buck,” Blanton said. “I figured that by the time the fog cleared, the buck would be gone and I wouldn’t see him again.”
But as the fog began to lift, Blanton could see the faint outline of the buck still standing there. Even though he could eventually see the buck well enough to shoot it, Blanton had to wait until the fog cleared enough for the camera to video the kill. After what seemed like an eternity had passed, Blanton got the go-ahead from the cameraman. He took the shot and downed the buck, which grossed 176 inches.
“I was ecstatic,” Blanton said. “I never dreamed that I would be able to take a deer of that size. That surreal moment is forever preserved on film making it that much better. Thanks to Monster Bucks, I can relive that experience anytime I want. I am so fortunate to have that pivotal moment in my life recorded so that my children and my grandchildren can share my experience.”
A Lesson Learned
Blanton says although the big buck was one of his favorite hunts, his most memorable and probably hardest hunt was captured for Monster Bucks XI. Blanton had been hunting Alberta, Canada, for six straight days, logging a total of 66 hours in the stand without any luck. Exhausted and discouraged, he came home for a week to rest, and then returned to Alberta for another try. He again hunted from daylight to dusk for five days without seeing a shooter until two hours before dark on his sixth and last day of the hunt.
“Just when I was beginning to lose all hope for getting a chance at a shooter, I spotted a doe running toward my stand,” Blanton said. “I could tell that she was in heat by the way she was acting, and I knew that a buck was likely not far behind her.”
Sure enough, a 167-inch, 11-point buck followed her in, and Blanton shot him.
“I couldn’t believe that we were able to pull off the hunt at the last moment,” Blanton said. “That hunt taught me to never give up. Success can happen at any moment no matter your mental or physical exhaustion. I was ready to pack it up and head home after 12 days of hunting with no luck. Good thing I held out until the end.” (See the footage of Blanton’s Alberta buck here.)
As anyone who watches Monster Bucks can testify, not every hunt showcased ends with success. In fact, according to Blanton, some of the most popular, asked-about hunts feature misses.
“One of the hunts that people ask me about the most was one I shared with Michael Waddell in Saskatchewan,” Blanton said.
“A nice 150-inch deer came running out of the brush and I missed him with a rifle not once, not twice, not even three times…but four times! People often asked me what caused me to miss that buck that many times, and I just tell them, ‘I’m not a good shot at running targets.’”
Jordan has also missed his share of nice bucks on film. In 2000, Jordan missed two bucks showcased on Monster Bucks X. He missed one buck in Kansas that would have scored close to 200 inches when his arrow hit a strand of barbed wire on a cattle fence. He ended up naming that deer the “Barbwire Buck” and went after him again later that season, but could never get off a shot. The buck was eventually killed by another hunter.
Bill missed another deer in Wyoming nicknamed “Stickers” that may have scored more than 200 inches. (See footage of the Barbwire Buck here.)
“Needless to say, Bill was heartbroken to have missed two enormous bucks in one season, but the misses are part of hunting,” Blanton said. “I think viewers love that we show misses and mistakes. Our missed opportunities remind them that we’re real hunters and we miss deer just like they do.”
Time of Change
With each giant deer taken or missed, the Monster Bucks DVDs grow in popularity, but Blanton knows that as media outlets evolve, so must Monster Bucks.
“The way our society gathers information and media entertainment is transforming so quickly that we must change as well to stay ahead of the game. We are studying and researching how people will most likely acquire the footage going forward and plan to accommodate those changes.”
But no matter how much Blanton and the rest of the Monster Bucks team plan for the future, they know that some things will never change.
“Our basic hunting strategies will always remain the same,” Blanton said. “No matter what, we’ll always hunt food sources, thermal points, pinch points and bottle necks. Most importantly, we’ll always try to hunt in a good wind. So, when you look back over the 18 installments of Monster Bucks, you’ll see that the essentials have remained the same. We study the situation, make a game plan and do our best to tag big deer in a clean and effective way. My hope is that viewers enjoy the footage and perhaps take something away from each DVD that improves their own experience and success afield.”
Monster Bucks videos can be purchased from Realtree's online store. Click here to view the selection, including the new release for 2010, Monster Bucks XVIII.