The Story of Topp’s – A True Midwest Monarch Whitetail
This is the captivating story of "Topp's," a Midwest monarch whitetail deer, as shared by Scott Schauble, an enthusiastic bowhunter and THLETE contributing editor.
Scott's passion for whitetail deer hunting is unmatched. He thinks about it constantly and devotes himself to improving the habitat and overall health of the whitetail herd. Scott is one of those individuals who gives names to the deer he encounters, and this brings us to the tale of "Topp's."
In October 2009, Scott first encountered Topp's when he was just a 2 1/2-year-old buck with a tight-framed 10-point rack. Scott considered him a decent 2-year-old and hoped he would survive the season. Little did he know that Topp's would become a significant part of his hunting journey.
The following year, in October 2010, Topp's appeared again on Scott's trail camera. As a 3 1/2-year-old, his rack showed little promise and minimal growth compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, Scott remained committed to his plan of passing on young bucks, hoping they would mature and develop into magnificent specimens.
October 2011 arrived, and Scott's focus shifted to a 4 1/2-year-old buck named "Stickers." Meanwhile, Topp's, now a 4 1/2-year-old with a tight rack of approximately 145 inches, continued to make appearances. Scott decided to give him a name—Eleven. Throughout the fall, Scott passed on several opportunities to harvest Eleven.
October 2012 came, and Eleven was nowhere to be found. Scott feared that someone had harvested him in late 2011. However, on November 9th, as Scott reviewed his trail camera photos, he was astonished to discover Eleven, now an absolute giant with an estimated 170+ inches of antler. Scott's focus shifted entirely to Eleven, and he encountered him a total of nine times that year, with the closest encounter occurring at 80 yards. Eleven kept showing up on Scott's trail cameras until he dropped his antlers, confirming his survival.
In September 2013, Scott eagerly awaited the opportunity to hunt the true monarch, Topp's. He pulled trail camera cards and was thrilled to find a photo of Topp's in a small food plot on September 29th. Topp's had transformed into a mainframe 12-point buck measuring approximately 190 inches. Scott named him Topp's, as Eleven no longer did justice to his magnificence. Despite hunting hard throughout October, Scott never laid eyes on Topp's.
November arrived, and Scott began exploring previously restricted areas of his farm for rut hunting. On November 11th, during an evening hunt, Scott finally spotted Topp's crossing from a thick CREP field into a small patch of timber. This encounter, at a distance of 50 yards, was the closest Scott had been to Topp's in two years.
The following morning, November 12th, Scott returned to the same stand. After a slow start with no deer sightings, he heard a deep grunt to the north, followed by the sound of deer running toward him. Within seconds, he saw a doe with Topp's in tow. The doe was heading straight toward Scott, offering him the opportunity he had longed for. Unfortunately, the doe veered into the brush just short of Scott's shooting lane, preventing him from taking a clear shot. He decided not to take the risky shot due to poor visibility caused by shadows and limbs. Regretfully, that was the last encounter Scott had with Topp's in 2013.
In January 2014, Scott found solace when he picked up Topp's matched set of sheds. The sheds gross scored at 195 2/8 inches, with an estimated inside spread of 17 inches. It was a small consolation for not harvesting Topp's.
By May 2014, Scott was busy planting food plots and running trail cameras. To his surprise, Topp's remained on the farm during the spring and summer months—an unprecedented behavior for him. Scott watched Topp's grow bigger each month, and his excitement for the upcoming season reached new heights.
However, Scott's focus on hunting was temporarily interrupted by personal challenges. His father-in-law, known as "papa," was diagnosed with brain cancer. Their conversations during those months deeply impacted Scott's perspective on life, happiness, and what truly matters. Papa took a genuine interest in Topp's, and Scott even showed him the sheds he had found. Papa's wisdom and the conversations they shared left a lasting impression on Scott.
On September 30th, 2014, Scott discovered Topp's on his trail cameras, confirming his presence for the hunting season. Excited and determined, Scott hunted throughout October, but Topp's eluded him. November arrived, and Scott ventured into the rut hunting areas of his farm. On November 14th, he retrieved trail camera cards and found that Topp's had been frequenting a doe bedding area on the east side of the farm. Scott carefully chose a stand location nearby, even though it hadn't been maintained for the past five years.
As Scott settled into the stand with limited shooting lanes, he observed young bucks dogging a doe in the field to the west. The activity eventually subsided, and the woods grew quiet. Scott's mind wandered, reflecting on the challenges he faced over the past few months and the determination required for day-long sits in a tree stand. With only 20 minutes of shooting light left, he contemplated his walk back home and the warmth of a cup of coffee.
Suddenly, he heard soybeans rustling in the pod. Looking toward the soybean plot, Scott saw Topp's swaying from side to side, unmistakable with his giant rack. Topp's followed the same path as a doe that had passed earlier. Scott stood up, pulled his face mask down, and grabbed his bow, preparing for the shot. As Topp's cleared the brushy draw, Scott's heart pounded in his chest. Topp's momentarily paused, looking in the direction the doe had gone. Scott silently encouraged himself to remain calm. When Topp's entered the shooting lane, Scott grunted, stopping him. The shot was automatic.
Scott released the arrow, watched it disappear into Topp's rib cage, and observed him vanish into the prairie grass. Overwhelmed with emotion, Scott sank back into his seat, his legs quivering and his heart pounding. After what felt like an eternity, he started the descent from his stand. He retrieved his arrow and cautiously moved toward the last direction Topp's was heading. As he reached the north side of the prairie grass stand, he gazed upon the animal he had pursued for three years—Topp's.
Walking up to Topp's, Scott experienced a bittersweet feeling. He was happy to have harvested him, but at the same time, he realized he would never see Topp's again, wandering the oak ridges and river bottoms of his farm. He would never discover another shed antler or capture trail camera images of this majestic creature. It was genuinely bittersweet.
Scott's journey with Topp's taught him that the harvest is not the ultimate reward; it is the entire journey leading up to it. It was a culmination of years of hard work, becoming a better hunter, and appreciating the moments shared with loved ones. As Scott stoodbefore Topp's, he couldn't help but feel grateful for the memories and experiences they had together.
This story beautifully illustrates the deep connection and emotional investment that can develop between a hunter and the wildlife they pursue. Topp's represented more than just a trophy; he symbolized the dedication, patience, and respect Scott had for the natural world. It was a journey of growth, both as a hunter and as an individual.
In the end, Scott's pursuit of Topp's was about more than just harvesting a magnificent buck. It was about the bond forged with nature, the lessons learned, and the profound impact of those who touched his life along the way. Topp's will forever hold a special place in Scott's hunting memories, reminding him of the bittersweet beauty found in the pursuit of his passion.