On the Record: Milo Hanson

On a cold, crisp morning in November 1993, Milo Hanson killed the largest typical whitetail buck that has ever been officially scored. Over the course of the next few days, the obscure Saskatchewan farmer became a worldwide celebrity, as news of the buck, which ultimately would be pegged at 213 5/8 inches, spread to gun shops and deer camps. That the buck would shatter the previous world record by more than 7 inches was remarkable; that it would come from such an unlikely place as west-central Saskatchewan's grain belt was astounding; and that it would be killed by a farmer with no sponsors or celebrity endorsements--on his own land, no less--was simply unbelievable. Click here for the Video and more Record Quest Coverage >>
But the score held, and Hanson quickly became a well-traveled international superstar, accompanying the Hanson Buck to sports shows and seminars around the continent. He conducted hundreds of interviews and his photo graced the covers of numerous hunting magazines--including Outdoor Life's. He became almost as famous as the deer that forever will be associated with his name. These days, Hanson prefers to stay close to home and his wife, Olive. Together they farm the land north of Biggar homesteaded by her grandfather. They will travel again, they say, but for now their aged dog Lady needs their attention. The years of travel, and the intensity of celebrity appearances, have taken their toll on Milo. He prefers to stay home now and let the attention come to him. And it does, from dozens of starry-eyed whitetail hunters every year who somehow find his place in the maze of wheat fields and lonely gravel roads. Outdoor Life paid the Hansons a visit earlier this year and asked how their lives have been changed--for better and worse--by the Hanson Buck.
I'm fortunate that I killed the buck, but it could have been any of several people. Our local bus driver had seen him--he had even stopped the bus and showed him to the kids. Then my friend had seen him during muzzleloader season but couldn't get a shot. When rifle season started, everybody was talking about this deer. Our newly married neighbor even postponed his honeymoon to hunt that deer, and on opening day he emptied his clip on it, but he missed, so he went on his honeymoon anyway…
My friends and I hunted the whole week, looking for that deer. One of the guys saw him on Tuesday, then again on Friday. The following Tuesday we saw him go into a big willow run with two does. We made a drive and he came out, but the other guy got a shot off, and missed. It was the first time I had seen him, and I mean he looked like an elk. He didn't look normal at all…
Then we pushed the bush and I got a shot and got him. When he was down… I have 29-inch legs and that's how wide he was. I was just shaking. I hadn't had a smoke for three years by then, and one of the guys was smoking. I bummed a cigarette and kept smoking for the next seven years after that…
We brought him home here and hung him up out in the Quonset. Usually when we bring a deer in we'll have a campfire out there and eat our lunch. But that day we just sat in the Quonset and looked at the deer. All of a sudden it felt like a downer. I mean, what are you going to hunt for now? Especially the other guys. They were happy for me, but how do you go back out and start hunting after that sort of deer has been taken? Anything else is, well, it's something less…
Over the next few days people came out nonstop to look at the deer. I started getting paranoid. Maybe somebody would want to steal this deer. I started hiding it. At one point I hid his head in the barley pile. When people would come out to look at it I'd have to dig it out of the grain, and it would have all this barley in its eyes and its ears…
After the word got out, the race was on. Gordon Whittington from North American Whitetail magazine came in, then Jim Zumbo from Outdoor Life came in. It got crazy for a while, everybody bidding for the story. I didn't know there was any value to the antlers, let alone the story…
But then I started to realize there was something to this. Our phone wouldn't quit ringing. Most people were great, but some people tried to take advantage, thinking I didn't know the value of this deer. People would want to trade me a half-ton (pickup) or $25,000 for it. But I wasn't going to sell it. Why would these people want it, anyway? They didn't shoot it…
It consumed our lives pretty well. We didn't have an answering machine then. My son was working on the [oil] rigs at that time and he didn't know what had happened. He could never phone home; our phone was always tied up. We had to put in an answering machine just so we could control some of these calls. At one time, my wife said, 'If this doesn't stop pretty soon I'll break that record with a hammer.' But overall, I'm glad it happened… There was a lot of financial benefit for us. The first six months to a year was terrible, but I had experiences to no end, things I never would have done and places I never would have gone without the buck…
For about eight years, it was non-stop. I was gone through the winters, traveling to sports shows in the States. You'd never know when the phone would ring, or somebody would stop by, trying to make a deal, own a piece of the deer… I never considered selling it. I made over $60,000 a year on it for over 10 years, and nobody ever offered me $600,000. So you do the math. I made money on appearances, and on replicas. There are about 50 replicas out there, from Cabela's to Bass Pro to roadside museums that wanted to display the Hanson Buck…
In all my appearances, people always ask the same question: How much did it weigh? We never even weighed it, but I'd guess around 200 pounds. He wasn't a big deer, body-wise… I met a lot of nice people on the road with the buck. When you get down to it, there are hunters everywhere, and they're mainly just normal, nice people, lots of young families. You know, I held a lot of babies in the first years, and now those babies have grown up…
I think it's genetics that made that buck, but also growing conditions. We have seen some antlers on bucks that look like him, but nothing of that size. That summer before I killed him we had 17 inches of rain, and it was a mild winter the year before. But somehow, that buck stayed hidden. They don't get big if they can't hide…
The next world record is going to come from the Midwest. Wisconsin wants the record back. And Iowa is coming on big-time… I think this buck is such a big deal because it's still the record. You know James Jordan [holder of the previous record] never got any glory for his deer. He died before the record was certified…
Every fall I get nervous that the record will fall. I'm like an old buck before hunting season. I start worrying when I start hearing all the rumors. I don't get nocturnal, but I get pretty scared of all these hunters... If I have any advice for the next record-buck holder, it's not to rush into anything. Nowadays, it's way easier to research things with the computer. You don't want to rush into anything or do anything you're not sure about. You'll get invited everywhere but there are some places you shouldn't go, and probably some people you shouldn't talk to…
I'm still friends with the original crew I hunted that deer with. Did some of them think 'it should have been me?' There were some quiet moments after I shot him, and I'm sure some of the guys were thinking they could have had him. It was sort of sad afterward. Like I always said, it would have been cool to have catch-and-release with that buck, so we could go on hunting him forever…