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Legendary Outdoor Hoaxes

The stories behind the most controversial fish and game record-book entries in history.
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To many of the hunters at the Vermont deer registration station, something was amiss. Yes, the deer about to be checked in last November carried a nice 10-point rack. But when you grabbed the antlers, they shifted mysteriously in your hands. So the hunters alerted authorities.

 

Turns out the 19-year-old amateur taxidermist registering the deer had jacklighted a doe. Then, using epoxy and lag bolts, a drill and a 10-point rack, the kid “built” himself a buck. He fessed up, paid a fine and spent 10 days in jail—not for his antler wizardry, but for illegally taking the doe. 

 

With hoaxers like this, it’s no wonder that both hunting and fishing trophies come under intense scrutiny just as soon as word gets out about a huge buck, bull or fish. Are those antlers real? Did that fish truly weigh that much? The photo shows a monster, but maybe it’s high-tech trickery, a PhotoShop version of epoxy and lag bolts meant to build a tall tale.

 

These days, it’s hard to know what’s real—and what’s a convincing fake.

 

A Buck for the Ages?

When Mitch Rompola announced that he’d arrowed the new world-record whitetail deer, killing it on November 13, 1998, near Traverse City, Michigan, the skepticism was immediate—and it hasn’t stopped since.

 

Soon three scorers would measure out the rack at an astounding 21658 inches net, 3 points more than what was and remains the world record, a whitetail taken by Milo Hanson of Saskatchewan. Hanson’s giant scored 21358, the Boone and Crockett Club’s typical record. But some surmised there was something not quite right about the Rompola buck. To those who saw the photo, its rack seemed far too symmetrical, one side nearly a mirror image of the other. The coloring of the rack looked off, too, and in photos, the buck’s ears drooped. Some suggested that the skin over the skull was slit open and fabricated antlers were slid in—which would explain the ear droop, the symmetry and the coloring. 

 

If the buck was real, Rompola did himself few favors. At first, he supplied photos and interviews. But he soon clammed up, got an unlisted phone number and essentially disappeared. The controversy raged, however, much of it on the Internet. In one month, the Detroit Free Press’s website got more than 200,000 hits on its Rompola story—the paper’s top Web story of 1998.

 

“All Mitch had to do was sign the scorers’ sheet,” says freelance writer Richard P. Smith, and the buck would have been entered into the Commemorative Bucks of Michigan—in the top spot, in fact. But he didn’t.

 

Smith, who chronicled the Rompola saga in Great Michigan Deer Tales, Books 3 and 4, believes the buck was completely legitimate. He has talked with the three scorers, as well as the warden who inspected the buck soon after it was killed. All of them, says Smith, tell him the deer was the real deal.

 

Yet media reports note that Rompola signed an agreement with Milo Hanson’s business associate, whereby Rompola agrees not to refer to his deer as the “World Record.” Rompola also will not enter his deer with Boone and Crockett as long as Hanson’s buck holds the top spot. He signed off on that—for no money—yet passed on the $20,000 two Michigan men put up if Rompola would have the rack X-rayed and entered with Boone and Crockett.

 

All of which makes sense to Smith. “Mitch was so badly hurt by it all, he doesn’t want to deal with anyone on that deer,” Smith says.

 

For a couple of years before 1998, Rompola told many people, including Smith, that he was on the track of a really huge deer, generating interest among outdoor writers and hunting industry sales representatives. And when all his hard work paid off and he killed the buck of his dreams, Rompola suddenly did not want the recognition or the money that would have gone along with the record. Was he scared off by controversy, even though he could have quelled all speculation and rumor by making the deer public? 

 

Possibly. But it does give one pause. 

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from Seth Falan wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Mitch Rompola finally discussed the story about his possible world record whitetail buck killed with a bow on November 13, 1998. His deer was examined by state conservation officers and scorers and has after nearly 10 years, been certified as a factual bow kill.

The buck, which netted over 216 on the Boone and Crockett scale will be certified at the next meeting of the club in 2009 as the new world record. Rompola's buck will replace Milo Hanson's Saskatchewan whitetail killed in 1993.

For years, Rompola and his buck were the center of controversy. Many did not believe his account of the story and since Rompola was seclusive about his kill, many in the industry felt that Rompola killed it in a pen, or even worse, made the antlers himself and attached them to the buck.

Now, as the buck is certified, many who called Rompola a liar are backtracking. Rompola already owns the Pope and Young Michigan record with a 181 inch whitetail killed in the 1980's.

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from 6phunter wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

you can fool some people ,all of the time.And you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. I wonder what the highest scoring jackalope measured? I'M sure some is meant for fun ,it's only when some start believing thier own lies that the tall tales begin .DID I ever mention about the time that while coon hunting one nite I ran into a pride of AFRICAN LIONS ? LOL

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from Fishingfreak wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

I relly love how it says out in front of Bass Pro Shops, "welcome hunters, fisherman, and all other liars" or something to that effect. Maybe some people took it too far.....

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from Bo wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

Steve, you're right, most people that do that never stop to realize that eventually they will forget their story, or in some other way screw up and be found out. They thrive on the attention they think they will get by being a hero of some sort. Kind of like Hap Shaughnessy on The RED GREEN SHOW on PBS, (for those of you not familiar with this check it out, it IS FUNNY!!!)

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from Steve_In_Heber wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

There will always be those who want to draw attention to themselves with false stories -- whether they participate in golf, hunting, fishing, golf or golf ! :o)

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from Seth Falan wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Mitch Rompola finally discussed the story about his possible world record whitetail buck killed with a bow on November 13, 1998. His deer was examined by state conservation officers and scorers and has after nearly 10 years, been certified as a factual bow kill.

The buck, which netted over 216 on the Boone and Crockett scale will be certified at the next meeting of the club in 2009 as the new world record. Rompola's buck will replace Milo Hanson's Saskatchewan whitetail killed in 1993.

For years, Rompola and his buck were the center of controversy. Many did not believe his account of the story and since Rompola was seclusive about his kill, many in the industry felt that Rompola killed it in a pen, or even worse, made the antlers himself and attached them to the buck.

Now, as the buck is certified, many who called Rompola a liar are backtracking. Rompola already owns the Pope and Young Michigan record with a 181 inch whitetail killed in the 1980's.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve_In_Heber wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

There will always be those who want to draw attention to themselves with false stories -- whether they participate in golf, hunting, fishing, golf or golf ! :o)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bo wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

Steve, you're right, most people that do that never stop to realize that eventually they will forget their story, or in some other way screw up and be found out. They thrive on the attention they think they will get by being a hero of some sort. Kind of like Hap Shaughnessy on The RED GREEN SHOW on PBS, (for those of you not familiar with this check it out, it IS FUNNY!!!)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fishingfreak wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

I relly love how it says out in front of Bass Pro Shops, "welcome hunters, fisherman, and all other liars" or something to that effect. Maybe some people took it too far.....

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 6phunter wrote 4 years 48 weeks ago

you can fool some people ,all of the time.And you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. I wonder what the highest scoring jackalope measured? I'M sure some is meant for fun ,it's only when some start believing thier own lies that the tall tales begin .DID I ever mention about the time that while coon hunting one nite I ran into a pride of AFRICAN LIONS ? LOL

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