How I Discovered the World-Record Mule Deer

For about an hour, I held the world-record mule deer in my lap.

Sound impossible? That's what I thought, too, but the proof of my claim is in the video below, the first of nearly two-dozen Record Quest videos that we'll be airing here on outdoorlife.com this fall. The videos are also being broadcast on NBC Sports.

If you think the mounted rack that I use to show how to field judge a trophy is impossibly huge, you're right. But the real story is how I got it in the first place.

The gigantic mule deer--the rack stretches some 33 inches in width, sports 16 points, and totals 233 inches in mass, and for some time held the top spot in the Safari Club International's mule deer rankings--actually belongs to the guy shooting the video. His name is Matt Arkins, and he's a freelance videographer from Bozeman, Montana. We hired him to film these Record Quest videos, and in the course of making conversation, he mentioned that he had a "pretty big buck" in his apartment back in town.

As the editor of Outdoor Life, I get this "I-have-a-big-buck" comment a lot, and I've grown to be a little skeptical. When I asked Matt how big his deer is, he said, "Oh, about 230 inches. It used to be the SCI world record."

That got my attention. During a break in filming, we ran into town (we shot these Record Quest pieces not far outside Bozeman) to look at the rack. When Matt pulled it out of his closet--he keeps it in the closet because he doesn't think the plaster walls in his apartment are strong enough to hold the massive mount--my jaw dropped.

"We have to include that in the video," I told him. So we did. It was cool for me to hold a rack of this dimension, but it was cool for Matt, too, to be videoing his own buck.

Check out the unbelievable forks on this deer. Actually, the rack seems less massive than it really is because of its dimensions. It is so wide, and so tall, and so ridiculously deeply forked that its heft is disguised, but its bases are about 6 inches in diameter, and that mass is carried well out its main beams.

And those sticker points! Let's just say that this is the buck of my dreams, and I'm lucky to have held on to it as long as I did.

But the real story of this buck is the story of how Matt shot it, as a 16-year-old on his first trip out West, hunting around Pagosa Springs, Colorado, for elk. We'll tell that story tomorrow.