August 11, 2021
When bowhunter Luke Brewster let the string go on Nov. 2, 2018 as he sat in an Edgar County, Illinois treestand, the result was the arrowing of a giant Land of Lincoln buck known as Mufasa — a whitetail unlike any other deer ever tagged.
With a final net score of 327 7/8-inches, the Brewster Buck would become a social media sensation almost overnight. It had its 60-day entry score unveiled at the 2019 ATA Archery Trade show by Bowhunter’s sister publication — North American Whitetail magazine — and see its final score actually increase by several inches. Then, it eventually become not only the new Pope and Young Club world record for the category, but also the third largest non-typical buck ever entered into the Boone and Crockett Club’s record book and the largest deer tagged by a deer hunter anywhere in North America.
Nearly three years later, Luke Brewster and his buck are household names in the deer hunting industry, rock stars in the hunting world that still get media inquiries, make the podcast rounds, and visit various outdoor shows. For a world class buck of unprecedented proportions — although the Brian Butcher buck from 2019 came fairly close, the honors just keep rolling in for the Virginia bowhunter and his renowned whitetail.
The latest such honor is the famed Ishi Award, presented on rare occasions by the P&Y Club after a particularly noteworthy big game animal is arrowed somewhere across North America. Brewster and his buck became the award’s 20th recipient at the recent P&Y Convention in Reno, Nevada.
Even though the Ishi Award has a sporadic history of being given out, the P&Y Club’s executive director Jason Rounsaville wasn’t surprised that the Club chose to give the award to Brewster at the Club’s recent 60th anniversary convention.
Why? For starters, it’s top spot in the record books. And then there’s the buck’s classic “big buck” profile, one that you almost have to see to believe.
“Luke’s buck has that big frame, (that) monster trophy buck appearance to it,” agreed Rounsaville after the successful convention that drew upwards of 800 bowhunters to Nevada.
But even with its classic looks, there was nothing easy about measuring the Brewster Buck. And for that matter, the process wasn’t any easier for Brian Butcher’s Kansas buck either, which was displayed near Luke’s giant buck at the recent convention in Reno.
“Absolutely, the measuring manual is somewhere around 300 pages long,” said Rounsaville. “And scoring big non-typical whitetails like these two, it’s not something you do after watching a three-minute long YouTube video.”
In the end, Brewster’s buck was the biggest, it became the new world record, and as of last month in Reno, the latest recipient of the Ishi Award.
But as he has done throughout the process, the military veteran and young bowhunter from Virginia took it all in stride, quietly grinned, and seemed appreciative of the honors coming his way.
“Luke is just that kind of a humble guy,” agreed Rounsaville. “He’s so easy to root for and he’s exactly the kind of guy that you would hope would shoot a world record. You can tell that when he walks across the stage and you can tell he’s appreciative.”
In short, the Brewster Buck sits in some of the rarest air found in the loftiest heights of bowhunting. Luke’s big deer is the fourth giant whitetail to receive the Ishi Award and the third time a world record non-typical has been so honored.
The first was Del Austin’s non-typical buck from Nebraska— a North Platte River buck dubbed old “Mossy Horns”—back in October 1962, a giant deer that scored 279 7/8-inches. And the second was Michael Beatty’s massive Ohio non-typical, a 2000 whitetail specimen that scored 294 0/8-inches when it was taken in November of that year.
And as Bowhunter (Link: www.bowhunter.com ) readers might remember, on the typical side of the P&Y record book, Mel Johnson’s legendary 204 4/8-inch world record typical from a beanfield near Peoria, Illinois on Oct. 29, 1965 is the only typical whitetail to ever earn the Ishi Award.
So with all of that Brewster Buck backstory now in place, what exactly is the Ishi Award? It’s simply the highest honor that can be bestowed on a bowhunter and his or her big game trophy, a P&Y Club award that is nominated, carefully examined, and rarely selected by a committee comprised of P&Y Club Board of Directors members.
Some might want to know who Ishi was, the namesake for this prestigious Pope and Young Club honor. Well, for starters, Ishi is a member of the Archery Hall of Fame. And according to a P&Y news release, Ishi was one of the most important bowhunters of all-time, and in particular, a great influencer on the Club’s founders, Dr. Saxton Pope and Art Young.
The P&Y Club notes that the story of Ishi’s influence on the bowhunting world started on the morning of August 29, 1911 when Ishi first encountered the so-called “modern world.” According to the P&Y account of Ishi, that day dawned still and quiet until barking dogs woke up occupants of a meat slaughterhouse near Oroville, California.
When an investigation was made, Ishi was found cowering in a corner of a corral, emaciated from starvation, and pushed to the brink of fear, exhaustion, and malnourishment. Undoubtedly fearing that he might be killed, Ishi was terror stricken as he was taken into custody by people he couldn’t communicate with and then taken to the Oroville jailhouse.
As authorities began to try and figure out who this man might be, communication was impossible, even though some nearby Native American interpreters were brought in. News of Ishi’s capture spread and soon reached the attention of two professors of anthropology at the University of California.
These two men, Professors Alfred Kroeber and T.T. Waterman soon journeyed from San Francisco to Oroville with the hopes of discovering more about this man and his Native American ancestry. After unsuccessfully trying many different tribal tongues, Professor Waterman finally spoke a word in the Yana language and received an instant response from Ishi.
Upon discovering what tribe Ishi came from, the language barrier was now broken, and he could be assured that he was not going to be killed by those around him. As he was reassured, his appetite improved, and he began to adjust to life in a strange, modern world.
As the last surviving member of the ancient tribe of Yana Indians, P&Y notes that Ishi was transported directly from the Stone Age into a complex, modern society as he went back to San Francisco with the two college anthropology professors.
Once he arrived in the area, Ishi was soon given a physical examination by Dr. Saxton Pope, an instructor at the university’s school of medicine. That chance encounter blossomed into a strong friendship over time, and soon, Ishi was showing Dr. Pope and his friend Art Young, how to make and use bows and arrows for hunting.
In the end, Ishi lived another five years before succumbing to tuberculosis. But his encounters lived on through the writings of Pope and Theodora Kroeber, the wife of one of the professors who first befriended him.
He also lived on through the adventures of Pope and Young, who took a keen interest in bowhunting across North America and even across the Atlantic Ocean in the wilds of Africa. As an outdoor sport that was virtually unknown to most Americans at the time—and really, unknown to nearly all in the modern world—the archery techniques that Ishi taught about bowhunting were applied and refined by the two namesakes of the current Club.
The two men would go on to help birth the sport in the modern world with face-to-face conversations and teaching, through shooting demonstrations, and through writings like those found in their timeless books, Hunting with the Bow and Arrow in 1923 and The Adventurous Bowman in 1926.
Ishi’s powerful legacy would also live on in the award eventually named after him, an honor that was first discussed in 1962 not too many months after the P&Y Club was founded on Jan. 27, 1961.
The Ishi Award concept reportedly belongs to some of the Club’s pioneers at that time, men like Dick Mauch, Glenn St. Charles, Fred Bear and Chuck Kroll. The Club notes that the group of men had been searching for an award similar to the Boone and Crockett Club’s coveted Sagamore Hill Medal, which honors the memory of President Theodore Roosevelt, one of the fathers of the modern wildlife conservation movement.
The suggestion of the Ishi Award, an honor named after the man who inspired the “fathers of modern bowhunting,” was quickly accepted by P&Y membership. The award itself was then designed by Fred Bear with assistance from Chuck Kroll. According to P&Y, Bear owned a few pieces of some “…very fine, select grade rosewood which were nearly perfect in color, grain and texture.”
He donated the wood to the Club for it to serve as plaques for what was to become bowhunting’s most rare and distinctive award. Next, specially made obsidian spear points were fashioned by Jim Ramsey of Lincoln, New Mexico. The hand-chipped points, mounted on the rosewood plaque along with an engraved metal plate that features the name of the hunter and details about the big game bowkill, makes the Ishi Award the rarest thing that a bowhunter can hang upon the wall.
Today, with the stick-and-string fire burning as brightly as ever, the award remains the ultimate honor given for those once in a lifetime moments when the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation works again and a bowhunter, a big game animal, and an arrow collide in a moment of time as an archer takes aim and lets the string slip away.
With Brewster’s name and his buck now added to the iconic list, here is a complete listing of Ishi Award recipients down through the years:
- 4th Recording Period (1963-64) — Non-typical Whitetail Deer (279 7/8 inches) — Del Austin
- 6th Recording Period (1967-68) — Typical Whitetail Deer (204 4/8 inches) — Mel Johnson
- 7th Recording Period (1969-70) — Bighorn Sheep (176 3/8 inches) — Ray Alt
- 8th Recording Period (1971-72) — Barren Ground Caribou (446 6/8 inches) — Art Kragness
- 9th Recording Period (1973-74) — Alaska/Yukon Moose (248 0/8 inches) — Dr. Michael Cusack
- 11th Recording Period (1977-78) — Columbian Blacktail Deer (172 2/8 inches) — B. G. Shurtleff
- 12th Recording Period (1979-80) — Black Bear (22 4/16 inches) — Ray Cox
- 13th Recording Period (1981-82) — Cougar (15 11/16 inches) — Jerry James
- 14th Recording Period (1983-84) — Typical Mule Deer (201 4/8 inches) — Bill Barcus
- 15th Recording Period (1985-86) — Dall’s Sheep (164 5/8 inches) — Gary Laya
- 16th Recording Period (1987-88) — Non-typical American Elk (419 5/8 inches) —James L. Ludvigson
- 17th Recording Period (1989-90) — Non-typical Columbian Blacktail Deer (194 4/8 inches) — James Decker
- 18th Recording Period (1991-92) — Canada Moose (222 1/8 inches) — Charles Roy
- 19th Recording Period (1993-94) — Pronghorn Antelope (90 0/8 inches) — Roger W. Clarno
- 22nd Recording Period (1999-2000) — Typical American Elk (409 2/8 inches) — Chuck Adams
- 23rd Recording Period (2001-2002) — Typical Coues’ Deer (130 1/8 inches) — Sergio Orozco
- 24th Recording Period (2003-2004) — Non-typical Whitetail Deer (294 0/8 inches) — Michael Beatty
- 29th Recording Period (2013-2014) — Woodland Caribou (375 0/8 inches) — Jeff Samson
- 30th Recording Period (2015-2016) — Typical American Elk (430 0/8 inches) — Stephan F. Felix
- 32nd Recording Period (2019-2020) — Non-typical Whitetail Deer (327 7/8 inches) — Luke Brewster