Monday, June 17th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Monday, June 17th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Illinois hunter had No. 3 B&C rack in basement for decades before realizing the unique buck he had

Sam Aiuppa holds the rack to the buck he killed in 1991. (Photo courtesy of James Martin)

West Chicago, Ill.  — After a long day of hunting pheasants in LaSalle County, Ill., Sam Aiuppa put the dog away and climbed into a stand along the timber. The hunter from West Chicago replaced birdshot with a slug in his Remington 870 and waited for evening.

It was November 1991, and the peak of the whitetail rut had arrived in Illinois. After 40 minutes or so, a buck sauntered under Aiuppa’s stand. He shot it.

This March, three decades after the fateful hunt, the antlers from that buck created a storm at the 2024 Iowa Deer Classic, where Boone and Crockett measurer Cameron Coble put the Aiuppa rack at 207-7⁄8 net typical, with brow tines comprising 27 inches of the score.

How could a hunter – especially an Illinois hunter – sit on a deer like that and never boast?

Aiuppa told Rack Magazine that he was really more of bird hunter.

“If you want to call it a fluke, I guess that’s what it is,” Aiuppa said. “I wasn’t that much of a deer hunter, even though I used to always buy deer tags.”


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That might explain why he skull-capped the antlers, nailed it to a plaque, and stuck it in the basement back in 1991. More than 30 years later, Aiuppa needed help with an electrical issue at his house.

A friend from his trapshooting club was an electrician and came over to help. Aiuppa showed the antlers to his friend, who “went bonkers.” Rough measurements were made, and the cat was officially out of the bag.

A few years after Aiuppa killed that giant Illinois buck, James Martin was just starting his landscaping business in New York.

The business grew, allowing Martin to pursue other interests, such as whitetail antlers. Through the antler grapevine, Martin heard about the antlers and followed up.

After speaking with Aiuppa on the phone, Martin drove more than 600 miles from his home near Rochester, N.Y., to see Aiuppa’s deer himself.

At 84, Aiuppa is “old school Italian,” Martin said. The two men chatted. Aiuppa told him of the hunt and why the deer stayed in his basement for so long.

“He’s just really into birds and not antlers,” Martin said. “I was thinking the deer might net 205, but when I saw it on the dining room table, I thought it would go higher.” Martin then bought the antlers.

“I told my wife, who is very patient with this hobby, that this is the best deer I’ll ever put in this collection,” Martin said only half-joking. “Why is it tremendous? For one, it’s been missing for three decades. Then there are the sheds that another collector has from this deer. Once the picture of the rack came out, anyone who knew the sheds, knew what the deer was.

“If the sheds didn’t exist and it just popped up out of nowhere from 30 years ago, that would have been weird.”

The sheds of this buck were picked up in the 1990s, presumably while the buck was still alive. A farmer found one of them and tacked it to the side of his barn until a delivery driver offered him cash for it.

According to Buckmasters, that shed scored 98-6⁄8 inches. The following year, James Albring found its last pair of sheds, which scored 95-0⁄8 and 104-6⁄8, according to the North American Shed Hunter’s Club.

This photo collage produced by the Boone and Crockett Club provides a good luck at the rack on the buck killed in LaSalle County by West Chicago’s Sam Aiuppa. (Photo courtesy of B&C Club)

Martin says it was a no-brainer to get the antlers scored by a Boone and Crockett Club Official Measurer.

“It doesn’t matter what score another outfit gives you; it only matters what score Boone and Crockett gives you,” he said.

Dave Boland scored the deer, whom Martin called the godfather of scoring.

“The cool thing about this deer is that when Boone and Crockett scores it, they score it as a 5×5, and it’s got nine inches of abnormal,” Martin said. “And that deer is still able to overcome that.”

The Aiuppa buck doesn’t have a matching G-5 on the left, and those eye guards are more than a foot long.

“Sam and the deer deserve the credit,” Martin says. “This is Sam’s deer, and I’m a caretaker for now.”

PJ DelHomme is a freelance outdoors writer. This piece was reprinted with permission from the Boone & Crockett Club.

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