In 1998, a 14-year-old hunter from Maryland named Dave Richmond shot what would likely be the biggest whitetail buck of his life. The trophy was tragically stolen from him before he could get it back from the taxidermist. But in a circuitous twist of fate, Richmond eventually recovered his 14-point, 185-inch buck. By that time, however, it was 2012 and he was 28 years old.
Although Richmond cracked the cold case more than 10 years ago, he didn’t share the full story until recently. In November, he posted a roughly three-minute video on TikTok detailing what is surely one of the wildest antler theft stories ever recorded.
Insane story about my giant 185 inch buck that was stolen from the taxidermist! #deer #hunting #bucks #taxidermist #taxidermy #theft #bigbucks #buck #whitetail #wildlife #taxidermylife #whitetailobsessionoutdoors♬ original sound – Dave Richmond
“The whole tale is really amazing,” Richmond tells Outdoor Life. “I was 14 years old when I shot the 14-point buck. 14 years pass, and a 14-year-old kid locates my buck and I get it back.”
A Teenager’s First Buck Is Stolen
The year was 1998. Richmond was raking leaves one afternoon with his dad, Dave Sr., when a huge buck suddenly dashed across their Baltimore County property. It was still early autumn, so Dave Sr. made a mental note of where the deer was headed.
“It ran in front of us at only 20 yards, and it was unbelievably big,” says Dave Jr., who now operates Whitetail Obsession Outdoors, a wildlife and land management company based in the same county he grew up in. “I was just getting into hunting, but dad knew what to do when the season opened three weeks later.”
When the opening day of Maryland’s shotgun season finally arrived, the father and son were sitting near a persimmon tree where Dave Sr. had last seen the buck. The deer was still keyed in on the ripe fruit, and when it presented Dave Jr. with a shot, the teenager shouldered his junior-sized Remington 870 and sent a rifled slug through its vitals. The buck ran about 100 yards and then folded.
Walking up on his son’s first buck, Dave Sr. was stunned when he saw the 14-pointer lying there. (It’s still the biggest deer that Dave Jr. has ever killed.) After weighing the 240-pound deer, they brought the head and cape to a nearby taxidermy shop.
It was just before Christmas when the Richmonds got a call from the taxidermist. He told them somebody had broken into the shop and stolen the boy’s trophy. Dave Jr. was heartbroken—and rightfully so. His first buck had vanished before he could even get it scored or mounted on the wall.
They filed a police report and spread the word about the theft. And while they had their suspicions about the taxidermist’s story, there wasn’t much they could do about it. Life went on, and Dave Jr. carried the mystery of his missing buck into adulthood.
Unraveling the Mystery of the Stolen Buck
Fast forward to 2012 and Richmond was chewing the fat with some other deer hunters in a different taxidermy shop. The story of his missing buck came up, and one of the hunters suggested he make a social media post with a photo of the giant buck that had disappeared long ago. Richmond took his advice, and posted the old photo on a deer hunting page, along with the caption: “Does anybody know anything about this deer I killed as a boy? It was stolen in 1998.”
Richmond could hardly believe it when days later, he got a message from an anonymous hunter: “I know where your deer is.”
The anonymous hunter, who turned out to be a 14-year-old boy himself, followed up with photos of the 14-point buck. It was the same deer. The teenager told Richmond he had seen it in a gun shop in Baltimore County, not far from Richmond’s own house. Richmond called the police to share the evidence he’d gathered, and he got in touch with an officer who happened to be a hunter and fully understood the importance of recovering the buck.
The police officer had already checked the place out by the time Richmond showed up at the local gun shop. “Your deer is on the wall inside,” the officer told him. “Let’s go get it.”
After some back-and-forth with the shop owner, who claimed he’d inherited the mount from someone else, the officer didn’t mince words. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” he said. The owner then turned over the mount, and 14 years after he killed it, Richmond was finally able to take the buck home.
But first, he wanted to make a point. The 28-year-old drove straight to the original taxidermist who had reported the theft back in 1998. Marching into the shop with the mount in hand, he held it up in front of a surveillance camera and told the employee behind the counter that he wanted to speak with the taxidermist. The taxidermist refused to face him.
To cap it all off, Richmond was able to bring the buck to a certified Boone & Crockett scorer, who gave it a final score of 185 inches. This was more than enough to win that year’s Maryland Trophy Deer Contest, and it now ranks as the fourth biggest buck ever killed in the state, according to Richmond.
The buck now hangs on Richmond’s living room wall. And as a token of his appreciation, he gave the 14-year-old tipster a $300 gift certificate to Cabela’s.
“I never quit looking to bring him home,” Richmond says. “The 14-year-old kid in me never gave up.”