Did you know that deer hunting is competitive? And not just in a "ooh, nice one, but take a look at this picture" way.

Meet Don and Craig Danuser, the originators of the big buck tournament at the Lake of the Ozarks. The premier hunting event draws participants from all over the United States and overseas, and is already sold out for November 2021.

Hunters take the stage on 30,000 acres of prime forest and farmland that stretches all the way from Montreal to Brumley, all while looking for that prize winning buck. There is $150,000 in prize money on the line, not to mention the excitement of seeing some of the biggest racks ever presented at the award podium. 

Whitetail Trophy Hunt has been in operation for 33 years and is a family venture for the Danusers, with several family members working to make the trophy hunt enjoyable for hunters.

Speaking of families, the hunt welcomes the contestant's entire family, holding activities for them such as shopping and dining and providing transportation. Hunters and their families are provided lodging at Inn at the Grand Glaize, quite an improvement from sleeping in a deer camp tent! The lakeside resort houses the hunting family with four nights' lodging, buffet dinners, and all of the amenities for the family to enjoy during the tournament. The award night also takes place at Inn at the Grand Glaize, effectively turning it into deer camp headquarters for Whitetail Trophy Hunt.

Starting to sound like one of the many fishing tournaments the Lake of the Ozarks hosts? That’s an apt comparison, and just like those fishing events, these whitetail tournaments have big money on the line. The second week of November pays out over $18,000 to the biggest buck, and in its second year, Whitetail Trophy Hunt has partnered with Show Me Showdown, adding an additional $55,000 dollar bonus to the pot once every five years. The hunt welcomes 220 participants and distributes prize money all the way to 10th place. All placements through 20th place receive free entry to the following year’s hunt, which is quite a prize itself valued at $3,195 and includes all of the food, lodging, hunting, and the hunting license.  

The deer stands in competition are placed in wooded areas with a shooting range of 50 to 250 yards, and hunters are placed in stands based on a daily random, computerized drawing. With good land management and food plot practices, hunters find the guided and protected farmlands to produce some outstanding results taken during each year’s hunt.

As for the Whitetail Trophy Hunt in November, Ryan Askins of Morriton, Ark. took first place honors for 2020.

Don and Craig Danuser aren't just buck enthusiasts though, and they've combined their love for deer hunting and stock car racing into a unique sponsorship opportunity at the Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland. For the seventh year, The Big Buck 50 presented by Whitetail Trophy Hunt, awarded the winning racer $5,000 and a free entry into the annual Whitetail Trophy Hunt. Peyton Taylor of Batesville, Arkansas took the purse this year, as well as last year. Whitetail also sponsors their own stock car, #117 and #17 on the dirt track.

The hunting tournament each November presents a boost in the economy for the tiny town of Montreal. Alamo Arms and Jones Outpost, both in Montreal, enjoy the extra visitors, both providing a needed service. With ammo and reloading supplies in stock, Alamo Arms saves customers in the hunt an hour trip into Camdenton or Osage Beach to replenish supplies. Jones Outpost is a favorite outdoor-lover's restaurant, with the Danuser’s catfish recipe firmly planted on Jones’ menu. Owner Michael Jones says they absolutely see an increase in business for the week that Whitetail Trophy Hunt is in session.

With the 2021 Trophy Hunt already sold out, hopeful hunters can still get on the waiting list—in case other hunters bow-out—by contacting Craig Danuser, or they can just sign up for the 2022 hunt online at www.whitetail.net

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